Monthly Archives: June 2013

Stick to the Plan

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goldfishbubble1This week I’ve made some progress on my novel, and as I’ve been working this week, the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered is another idea bouncing around in my head.

Ever since I picked up my old draft a little over a month ago, I’ve had several other ideas. Some of them are for short stories that I would like to write or changes to stories I’ve already written, but I am also having a hard time ignoring the idea for another novel length story.

I am very, very, very determined to finish my novel this time around though, so rather than let myself get too distracted, I have set aside a separate journal where I’ve been keeping notes, writing outlines, writing short scenes, or other ideas all related to the second story that my brain won’t seem to let go.

I know I shouldn’t see this as a problem because inevitably I will face writer’s block, so the overabundance of ideas is a wonderful feeling, but it would be nice if my brain would focus! Sometimes it would be nice if there were a switch, code, or something that would kill the A.D.D. for half a minute.add_full_of_kitty_humor_postcards-r2aecd1ef229d4440849af440b038521e_vgbaq_8byvr_216

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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I am going to keep this review fairly short. A friend of mine who also posts book reviews on her blog has joked at writing one word book reviews. So my one word for this book: haveyoueverwonderedwhatwouldhappenifachildwasraisedinacemetary?

Only kidding.

Cover of

Cover of The Graveyard Book

Have you heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child?” Well, this book is a case study for the expression “it takes a cemetery to raise a child.”

 

I don’t want to write too much about this book because I think you should read it. It’s a great little story, if a bit odd. I enjoyed reading it and had a hard time putting it down. I haven’t read everything ever written by Gaiman like some people I know, but everything I’ve read by him I have really loved. This book was no exception. Of course, if you haven’t read American Gods by Gaiman, read that instead (one of the best books I have EVER read, no joke).

Cover of

Cover of American Gods: A Novel

Like I said, I don’t want to get into the plot, but I will say this about Gaiman’s work. He has a knack for creating tales that are intricately woven together. When I read his work, I feel like if one small bit of it was missing, the tale wouldn’t hold together, and for some reason I think that’s what makes him so brilliant.

So, I can’t write a one-word review, but I can pretty much sum it up in one sentence…

Read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Review of See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid

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see-now-then

I picked this book up because I saw it in the library and recognized the author’s name from a presentation I gave in graduate school. I think I set myself up for failure because I thought the book would be great because it was an author we discussed in my Harlem Renaissance class. However, I didn’t enjoy reading this book and I actually feel bad for saying that. For whatever reason, I thought this book was kind of boring.

I feel bad about that because I think this book qualifies as Literature (note the capital L). I am willing to admit that everything that is considered Literature I don’t necessarily like, or even understand why others might like it. As with any form of Art, it is not going to appeal to everyone.

I can, however, appreciate this book for what it is trying to do, which is implementing some very complex literary elements.

One literary element that this book employs is stream of consciousness. The first time I read a book written this way, I was very confused, but after reading several books over the years written in this style, I have learned to enjoy it. In fact, I think some of the books written this way would be horrible written in another style. If you want to read good examples of stories that benefit from a stream of consciousness narrative mode, read Mrs. Dalloway or The Hours. That being said, I don’t see how the story in See Now Then benefited from this mode.

A second literary device that this novel employed was screwing with the timeline. Typically this sort of thing accompanies novels written in stream of consciousness narratives, but again I don’t see how the story benefited from it. I think this was partly because the story didn’t grab me the way some stories do.

Even though I didn’t ultimately enjoy this book, I do think the author has done something challenging. The novel itself reads more like a poem than a typical novel. Kincaid employs repetition of the phrase “See Now Then” throughout the entire novel, and this adds a lyrical quality to the overall work.

The story is about a family that is not happy. The father doesn’t love the mother, if he ever did. The mother is lost in her own world, and the children are one dimensional creations named Hercules and Persephone. I found the character development lacking. I kept thinking there has to be more to this story. I read till the end though because I refuse to not finish a book if I start it (with one exception, but I’m not telling what book it is).

NO EXCUSES!

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This week I have been splitting my writing time between adding to my story and reading more of The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron. I haven’t added much to my story, but I have made an outline of the next few chapters. I feel like this is good progress; however, I feel a little stalled at this point because I know how I want the story to end, but I need to figure out how to get there from where it’s at right now.

writing-humor

So, while I’m brainstorming and trying to work on certain details, I have spent more time reading, hoping that would generate an idea or shake lose the cobwebs. While I’ve been reading, I came across an intriguing exercise in The Writer’s Idea Book, and even though I am still at the early stages of my novel and have only really been working at it again for a month now, I feel like the exercise is a good use of time.

“List the most common and frequent reasons you give for not spending enough time being creative. Next to each entry on the list, write who is in control of that situation. Now write a short plan for taking back control. It may require some tough admissions and a little creativity, but you’re taking the first step toward opening your creative side.” (page 15).

1)     Time: In control of this: mostly me.

a)     The whole making time to write thing is new to me (sort of). I didn’t have a child when I was in graduate school, so my time was very much my own then. Now, aside from making sure she is taken care of during the day, I actually still have quite a bit of time to do what I want with. In order to take control of this, I just need to make myself set aside the time from other things that I do (like Facebook, video games, etc.).

2)     Distracted by other hobbies: In control of this: again, mostly me.

a)     I spend a fair amount of time cross stitching, and I don’t really want to give that time up. I make gifts for my family and homemade gifts are worth spending the time on. But, I could maybe assign myself a few less projects to do in order to free up some time in the evenings for writing.

3)     Distracted by Zadie: In control of this: She’s 4. No one has complete control of that situation.

a)     I don’t see this as a problem. She is my only child, and I wouldn’t give up my time with her for anything. On the weekends when her daddy is home, I have set aside some time to go into my office with the door shut and she has to leave me alone for a little while. She thinks it’s funny. She says I’m doing homework, but for now, it seems to be working at giving me a little free time.

4)     The voice in my head says it’s a waste of time: In control of this: Not sure.

a)     I wish it were easy to say that I’m just going to ignore that voice, but it’s not that simple. That voice is there for most creative people, and it doesn’t get easier with time. I firmly believe creative endeavors are important. Time spent trying to make something is time well spent, and even if what is created is not that great, the process of creating is a good skill to develop. And, I’ve noticed when I spend time working on my novel or other creative projects, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time afterwards. In fact, it’s the opposite. Creative time makes me want to create more. Every time I add another chapter not only do I feel closer to my goal, but I feel like I’m accomplishing something that matters. And I can’t wait to take a step back and admire the finished product.

So, the moral of this story is… I am not going to make excuses! I am the only one preventing me from reaching my goal!

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