So, I’ve reached the end of the first week! It didn’t go as I’d expected, though it wasn’t really a failure, in my mind. Sure, I didn’t do as much as I’d thought I’d do, but that’s a problem I have: I always think I’ll do a lot or in a certain way, but then things end up not going as I had invisioned. Struggles of the idealistic procrastinator, I guess?
I’m saying this because, before I started, I had invisioned making a post dedicated to my reading of the novel, another for the reading of the short stories, and a larger post dedicated to the Writing Craft Element of the week, besides posting the two short stories I wrote using the prompts. I don’t think this is that much of an unnatainable goal, even if it’s a lot of work. The problem is that, as time went by, I came to the conclusion that I had no idea of the actual, concrete things I really wanted to talk about. It’s one thing to say ‘Oh, I’ll read the chapters/stories, then I’ll talk about the themes and narrative structures, and maybe it would be interesting to talk about the work as a whole and the author too, in an introduction. And my own thoughts, like whether I would have done something differently…’ and then just… not knowing how to organize my ideas, or even how to start, and what to do if there’s not much to say, or if I don’t know what to say… I’m a mess, I know.
And the fact that I get distracted doesn’t help. This week I had to decide whether or not I was going to a test (I just decided to take the exam after the end of the second semester, because I had no hopes of passing the test and would end up taking the exam anyway), and on Monday I’m having my German speaking evaluation, and that promises to be an experience, as always. But those are just excuses, really. My real problem is that… I’m not exactly lazy, I’m just one of those people who doesn’t start or do things because they’re afraid of failing. And, deep down, that is my true issue and a problem I will have to struggle with through my entire life.
Anyway, let’s stop focusing on my inner turmoil and start focusing on the things I did achieve.
Week 1 Update
Despite all of the above, I did achieve all the goals I had set!
Novel: Read the first two chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and, so far, I’m enjoying! I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn years ago, so I did some mental comparisons of the two books in terms of their themes. Maybe I’ll write some notes down and research a bit and turn this into a post eventually, because I think it would be an interesting thing to do.
I think one of the reasons why making a post on the book this week was a bust is the fact that I do not really take notes while reading. I know, the horror! What kind of reader, of writer, am I if I don’t take notes?! It’s just that, to me, reading has always been about the story. It’s not that I won’t notice the language, the structure, the style, all the other elements that comprise a piece of literature, how else would I have learned how to write, I just like to read a story and see where it takes me. Having to take notes, I feel, would distract me from that. I think I just have a certain… fear?… that it would make reading a chore rather than an enjoyment. And I do love reading. Family legend has it I thought myself how to read!
Maybe I’ll find a way to make things work. After all, this was just the first week, I’m still getting my bearings!
Short Stories: Read two short stories, “Uma Empresa Espiritual” [A Spiritual Business] and “A Janela da Despensa como Argumento Moral” [The Pantry Window as a Moral Argument], from Contos Outra Vez. This is actually a rereading, because I got this book in 2014 but never really got to read all of the stories, and was hoping to do so this time.
I got this book from my High School History teacher, during, I guess I can call it, the Diploma Ceremony (not really Graduation, because we had already graduated months earlier, this was literally just to give us our diplomas). She gave everyone a gift, and to me she gave this book and wrote a really nice message on the first page. I think she was maybe the only teacher to really express any kind of regard for my writing. She appreciated how concise and organized I was in my answers and how I only wrote down the information that was truly essential, instead of writing disorganized doctorate theses. I think she also took a liking on me because I was a loner and an introvert, she sometimes tried to reach out to me but, at the time, I was in a kind of complicated phase (when am I not, really). I still appreciated it, though. And I still do.
Anyway, for these stories I reflected on the way I wrote short stories. I will talk about that next.
Prompts: The prompts I used were:
- On her deathbed, your character’s grandmother whispers that your character must go to 24 Mockingbird Drive. “That’s where it’s buried,” your grandmother says. “You can’t tell anyone. Just go.” Then your character’s father walks into the room, and the old woman falls silent, shooting a warning look at your character. That’s the last time your character alone with his/her grandmother before she dies. Following your grandmother’s instructions, your character mentions the conversation to no one, but looks up Mockingbird Drive on a map...
- Someone must have helped her escape.
First off, I managed to write, in total, 3123 words! 1846 in the first one, 1277 in the second. The reason I won’t post the stories right now is because they still need a heavy dose of editing.
I wrote them after reading the short stories, so a thing I noticed is that both my short stories have sort of open endings. I could continue the first one for the length of another story, while the other has the potential to become something longer, like a novella or a series. The ones in the collection, however, are very self contained, they have a very defined ending. This is something I had noticed in the past, and I’m not really sure how it started, or even if I have been always just writing like this. Of course, it could just be, at least in the case of the first story, that I just didn’t end them (I did have trouble coming up with what my character would find in Mockingbird Drive, so the end can be seen as a sort of cop out). This is something that I will keep an eye on as the month progresses.
Craft Book: A Field Guide to Your Imagination is not exactly a craft book, but I’m still using it because I feel like it speaks about an important topic (plus it’s free). It isn’t divided into chapters, but I did do the first two exercises. I’ve always considered my imagination one of the most important parts of me, because it’s what lets me escape and, as I grew, it helped me visualize situations and put myself into other people’s shoes. I do think that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my imagination and the way I’ve learned to use it.
What really got to me was the second exercise, because it envolved changing a part of my past and imagining how my life would have been. I think about my past a lot. Not because something especially traumatizing happened or anything like that, it’s just… I think it’s not about what happened, but about what didn’t. I feel like, I don’t know, I guess I just always felt that I never had as many experiences as other kids had? That I missed out on something? Not material things, because it rarely was about the material things. Just experiences. Like how everyone who’s a somebody has read Harry Potter and I’m in the sidelines. And I know I can read it now, but it won’t be the same thing. And then I think about how this says something or two about my family, because, come on, this is the girl who thought herself to read, didn’t it ever occur to anyone that I might like reading about magic and wizards and all that? And what if all of this is just me overanalizing things, because if there’s something I’m good at it’s overanalizing, a downside to my imagination.
Craft Element: Since I don’t have access to fancy, expensive writing books (I’ll search in the library, but I’m waiting until February because that when I start classes), I had to scour the internet on anything I could find on Story Form and Structure. Maybe I’ll still make a general post about it in the future, at least as a summary on the topic.
In truth, I’ve already searched and read about this topic throughout the years. I know about the Three Act Structure, the Hero’s Journey, the whole lot, but the main point that has always stuck with me is that, in the end, what really matters is what works for a given story. One shouldn’t try to bend a story to fit a structure, although it’s alright to plan according to one. What’s important is to find what will work for you, maybe even bend the structure to fit what you want to do. Maybe you want to start the story in the middle, maybe not every step of the Hero’s Journey (or another structure) is necessary. What you need is a Beginning for exposition, a Middle for all you action and build up, and an End for the resolution. The best part is that I already do this instinctively, whether I’m writing an answer on a test or a story.
Plans for Week 2
I won’t be changing any of my goals for this week, though I will reflect on how I will update my blog– pursue the idea of multiple posts on each subject, or just one post at the end of the week. If I decide on the first option, I’ll need to think about what kind of content I will include on each post and how to organize things. If I decide on the second, then I suppose it will be like this one (though, hopefully, at least slightly less melodramatic). In that case, I’m actually considering making more frequent updates, so as to not overload one post with all of my thoughts. I’m also going to consider making myself a schedule to follow, instead of just slacking off and then scraping for excuses for why I didn’t do what I had set out to do.
I’ve also decided that I’ll save posting the short stories for another time, once I’ve had the oportunity to edit them (maybe I’ll even take care of that during Camp NaNo in April). This might also have the positive side effect of me having content to schedule to publish when I’m not around, thus guaranteeing that the blog isn’t abandoned for long stretches of time (which I’m supposing will happen around the end of August/beginning of September).
As a reminder, this week I will be searching about Show and Tell. This is one of those elemental aspects that I sometimes need to remind myself of. I think my major problem when it comes to writing comes from Description, which I will be focusing on next week, but I feel that Show and Tell is already related to this. I think my fear of being over descriptive and the fact that I always want to move the plot forward makes me lose sight of this maxim, though I do always strive to Show, and Tell when appropriate. I hope this week will finally crystallize this topic in my mind.
And so begins the week! I’m going to try and write the End of Week post sooner, because I’m posting it a bit too late for my taste. But hey, I’m still figuring things out and struggling with the beast of Procrastination. Maybe I’ll be able to situate myself with the stars and start navigating more smoothly this week.