Journal of an Aspiring Author: Frankenstein’s Monster

I was pretty excited when my 12th grade English teacher started handing out Play-Doh; it was like being back in K-5!  But she didn’t give it to us just to play.  We were to fashion our own creatures.  They would be our very own special creations.

When we weren’t playing with Play-Doh, we were reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which Victor Frankenstein pieces together and then abandons a monstrous-looking person (even though I’ve read the book, I still sometimes fall in to the common misconception that the monster is called Frankenstein).  At the end of the story, Dr. Frankenstein is forced to seek out and try to destroy his rampaging creation.

After we finished reading the book, we were told to mash-up and then throw away our Play-Doh creations.  The objects we had put so much effort and creativity and time in to, we had to destroy.  The point of the Play-Doh exercise: how does it feel to destroy your own creation?  It hurts.

I feel that “creator affection” for most everything I’ve written.  It’s hard to give up on a story; and it’s even hard to make changes to it.  I cling to that phrase or to that scene, and though something tells me that I should change it or chuck it, I don’t want to.  Sometimes there is an “I just don’t know how to improve it” kind of desperation playing into my reluctance, but mostly it’s just a deep love (and pride) for something I’ve made.

Sometimes I face the pain and make the necessary changes, or maybe I decide to put it aside for a while and come back later when I’m a little more detached and sensible of my responsibility to the work as a whole.  The lesson I learned: it hurts to re-write, but it’s better in the end.  My loyalty should be to my book, not to its blemishes.

Talking of love for your creations reminds me of God’s wise love for us, His beloved creations, that keeps Him trying to make us better no matter how much it pains Him or us.  Like it says in one of my favorite children’s church songs, I’m glad “He’s still working on me.

He’s Still Working on Me to Make Me What I Ought to be                                                       By Joel Hemphill

He’s still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He’s still working on me.

There really ought to be a sign upon the heart,
Don’t judge her yet, there’s an unfinished part.
But I’ll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands.

Question: Do you have a hard time editing your stories?  I often save a copy of the original, just to make myself feel better; I’m not totally losing it then.

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Journal of an Aspiring Author: Ignorance Is Bliss

Have you ever met a kid who thought he was going to buy out the entire toy store with one month’s allowance?  Or perhaps you were that kid?

I never thought I could buy out a toy store, but I’m certainly “that kid” when it comes to writing.  I envisioned turning my original story idea into an illustrated short story for children.  I would write the story, and my friend would illustrate it.  I was so excited about it that I started reading up on children’s publishing and publishers before I had even finished the story.  I always dream big- someone was going to publish my little (roughly 5,000 word) fairy tale, and I was going to one-day be a famous author (have you ever compared the number of books in the library with the number of authors that you can name?).  After all, it’s just a matter of decent grammar, knowing how to use quotation marks, and having a good imagination, isn’t it?

It didn’t take too long for me to realize that that one story wasn’t going to get me published, so I decided to write a couple of sequels and have a collection of short stories (my second fairy tale was a whopping 10, 000 words;  the third, 30,000.)  I wrote the stories and was very pleased with myself.  Fortunately, I knew that I still needed a little help (mostly editing for grammatical errors and a few other minor changes, or so I thought).  I did some more work, and through reading blogs, books on publishing, a book on grammar, a book on self-editing and taking an online fiction writing class, I gradually began to realize how far from publication ready my stories were.

I’ve done a lot of re-writing, but I fear that I have much more to do.  They say “ignorance is bliss,” and it is while it lasts.  I’m not as ignorant now.  Now, I’m mortified by my pride in my first drafts.  I sometimes wish that the people who read my stories had told me the truth about them, but, perhaps, it’s best that they were only supportive and allowed time and my own efforts to break the truth to me gently.  After all, it was my inflated dreams that lifted me over each hurdle as I came to it.

A not so random favorite quote: “Why don’t you wish for happiness then?”                 “There’s only one person who’s completely happy … the village idiot.”                               Walt Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People

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Journal of an Aspiring Author: Much to My Surprise

An enchanted bunny rabbit?  How stupid is that! I said to myself after reading the back of my sister’s Netflix movie, in which a little girl and an enchanted stuffed bunny rabbit were going to save the world (well, not exactly, but that’s what it sounded like).  What other ridiculous objects could I give magical powers to? I wondered.  A magical steak knife? A magical napkin?  A magical pen? Okay, you could do a lot with a magical pen.  But what about a magical …?  I mentally went through my apartment and listed the things that it would be rather silly to give magical powers to.  Finally, I remembered the sewing machine I had gotten for Christmas.  A magical sewing machine?  How stupid would that be!  But wait …

Before I knew it I had a beginning and an end of a story.  I had a small group of protagonists and a way to get them somewhere (using period clothing sewn by an enchanted sewing machine) to do some great deed and a way to get them back home, but I had no middle, no actual adventure.  Bummer.

I had never thought seriously about writing a book before (I think everyone occasionally dreams about writing a book), but now I wanted to actually write one.

My elaborate daydreams still haven’t furnished a middle for that story, but they did spark an idea for another story, which, under the influence of an encouraging, picture-book loving, writer-wannabe friend, I turned into a short story.  I’ve never been the same since.

Writing is one my family’s “curses”, but I assumed I had avoided it, since I disliked writing until high school and never thought seriously about writing a book until after college.  I thought every writer was born with a pen in his or her hand, like Jo in Little Women.  Writing is something she always wanted to do.  Not so with me.

Nonetheless, and very much to my surprise, I discovered that I love to write.  More than that, to me it’s something worth every bit of effort it will take to reach the goal of becoming an author (and that will be a lot of hard work).

A not so random favorite quote: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire.

Curiosity question to other writers (or to anyone with a dream):  Is writing a dream you’ve been chasing or a dream that’s been chasing you?

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Trillium

A few springs ago, I hiked to a certain spot I knew of in search of dwarf crested irises, but, instead of blooming irises, I found poison sumac (which I accidentally touched–> biggest blisters I’ve ever had) and, on the bright side, trilliums covered in fairy dust (okay, it was pine pollen, but when I see it in the photo, I think of fairy dust).  I took this picture and made it the desktop background on my computer.  The photograph seemed to be speaking to me; the purple petals in particular seemed more like arms lifted high in praise or arms reaching out in yearning than just ordinary petals.  After staring at the photo for over a year, I wrote this poem about the little trillium:

Little trillium, tall and stately,

For whom do your purple petals reach?

Are they reaching for the soft clouds in the distant sky?

Or for the butterfly that flutters above you?

Little trillium, tall and stately,

For whom do your purple petals reach?

Are they raised in graceful ballerina form

Above your mottled skirt and stockinged leg?

Little trillium, tall and stately,

For whom do your purple petals reach?

Are they stretched out to embrace the bright, warm sun?

Or are they lifted in praise of your mighty Maker?

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One Day of Spring

As a little sunshine and warmth creeps into these February days, my thoughts turn to spring and all the things that it brings.  Whether it’s warmer weather, baseball, spring greenery, or storm spotting, there are many different reasons to look forward to spring.  Spring is blooming time to me, however, and in anticipation of the beauty to come, I have posted photographs from one spring day
in 2010.

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The City

When you’re traveling to an unknown destination, do you ever imagine what it will be like?  Do you look at photographs and picture yourself there?  Or maybe, if you’re like me and don’t travel much the regular way, you just let your imagination roam when you’re doing the dishes or some other monotonous task.   Only this way you have no travel guide and the city you’re on your way to is entirely your own, and you’re whatever kind of traveler you choose to be:

“I took a last drink from the village well and made my way down the dusty road that led away from the village and toward that mysterious city, “the city” according the shopkeeper, which lay at the end of the road.

I amused myself for a while by imaging what sort of city it was.  It might be city of tall buildings, magnificent cathedrals, and rows and rows of interesting shops where the fashionable elite shopped.  I would be pleased with that city.  Yet, it might be a murky city with dilapidated buildings and a lot of grimy children running around crowded, stinking streets.   This was probably nearer the truth.  Or, just maybe, it was an exotic city filled with the smell of spices and the voices of foreigners hawking their wares and of the calls of richly plumaged birds flying about their cages.  Perhaps it was clothed by brightly colored fabrics waving in the breeze as they hung from venders’ stalls and was ornamented by flower markets and gardens such as I had never seen.  Maybe gardenias and roses grew on the sides of the streets as abundantly as weeds did here and maybe orchids of every variety sprouted from every crevice in the stone walls till the air hung heavy with their fragrance and the polished streets reflected their glory.  I would love to see that city.  Perhaps there would be a great enchanter living in this city, and, on beholding me in the street, he would recognize me for who I am, and he would remove my curse and restore me to me my youth and beauty.  Perhaps he would fall in love with me and me with him.”

Alexandria (a character in a unfinished fairy tale) dreams of exotic cities.  What type of city do you dream of?

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