Category Archives: Fantasy

Novel-Writing Class

About half of our usual group is taking a novel-writing class together this semester. It’s nice, being in a writing class with friends whom you know and trust, friends who have a history of reviewing your work. It makes the prospect of having sixteen classmates and a professor tear a chunk of your novel to shreds slightly less terrifying.

Me, every day of my life. *hides in conveniently located hole in the ground*

I love writing classes. Not for the substance, although obviously I find that helpful and interesting. What I love is what my creative writing professor back at community college told us to expect.

“You’re all writers,” he said on the first day of class. “Other people don’t get that, but everyone in here does. You’re going to become really close as a class, just wait.”

And he was right. For the first couple weeks we sat around silently reading or writing before he entered the room and started class, but one day I started talking to a classmate across the room. When other people came into the room, they joined the conversation. And by the time our professor showed up, we were all talking like we were old friends.

The only difference in our current class is that our novel-writing professor seems a little weirded out about the things we discuss. I feel bad for him, though, because no matter how animated our conversation before class, the moment he starts asking us questions about what Suzanne Collins did well in “The Hunger Games,” all he gets is awkward silence.

(That’s probably just because our age group is not really the target audience for “The Hunger Games,” and although it’s technically well-done we have a lot of complaints about it. Sorry, tributes.)

I love this spontaneous feeling of community, born of the mutual weirdness most writers possess, but the class itself scares me. I started off deciding I would rework a novel that has already been through several years, much brainstorming, and three drafts. It’s had the most work done, after all, and it could use a good workshop.

But I’m writing a story on Tumblr at the same time, just to get myself writing a page every day, and it’s really weird to switch back and forth between two different stories each day. I mean, the oft-redrafted novel is a very modern urban fantasy with a multitude of characters and messed-up personal relationships and stuff like that, but the Tumblr novel is more like old-school fantasy (think “The Hobbit” or “The Chronicles of Narnia”); it’s got a lot of description and a lot of semicolons, and it’s very experimental (for me).

Actually, probably not success. I also use conjunctions. But so did the writers of yore.

I finally figured out a system that worked pretty well for exactly three days: Write a page of the Tumblr story as early in the day as I could, and spend the rest of the day working on the novel for class.

The Tumblr story’s been going very well this way, but the other story… Every time I wrote three pages, I decided those three pages were absolute shite and rewrote them. Then I’d add three more pages, but those three pages turned out to be shite and needed rewriting too.

It was exhausting. I was essentially writing two drafts of a single novel at the same time.

So I decided last night to shelve the rewrite for now and focus solely on the Tumblr novel. I’ll use that for class, though I’m a little worried that my confidence in it will be obliterated by the workshop on March 14 and I won’t feel up to finishing it.

But that’s exactly why it’s on Tumblr. If it’s on the Internet, where people can see it, I’m more likely to keep going. After all, that’s why experts say you should tell people about your New Year’s resolutions: You’re more likely to keep them if you’re accountable to someone other than yourself.

And I have a fan on Tumblr. Just one. But I think that’s enough to keep me going.

Not today, God of Not Writing. Today I will write. Later. But seriously, it WILL happen today.

 

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I was simmering, simmering, simmering!

For my American Literature class, we were assigned to read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” and one of the questions to answer afterward asked us to choose a maxim in the text and discuss it. But come on, it’s Emerson.

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The essay is full of so many that I agree with. I was simmering, like Whitman, and I too was brought to a boil when reading this. It was a kind of feeling I can only get when inspired by another’s writing to the point of using similar elements in my own works.

Not only did I find these to make sense in the realm of reality as it is, but I began thinking about how true these maxims would ring within the rules of my own world (the one I’m in the process of building in a story of mine).

ImageWorld-building. It’s serious business.

If created by a half-decent builder, a world has many different societies. A few of mine happen to be heavily influenced by Europe – especially northern Europe. Further down my world map are the less defined “Tropics,” the areas near the equator. While I was reading Emerson, all I could think about were my darling, developing island people.  The first main characters present in my story come from what I call the “Northern Lands,” and are thusly built, with their land, to a degree of familiarity at current.

In the meantime, I feel that Emerson has come to me at a time that couldn’t have been any more perfect.  My tropical inhabitants are a natural people, but I didn’t want to fall into the Pocahontas/Avatar cliché often associated with those who live in harmony with nature. Such groups are often stereotyped to emphasize the community, and I thought that that was the only way to go, really… until Emerson opened my mind to the divinity of the self. When he mentions the self, he doesn’t mean to be selfish, but to follow one’s intuition, to be oneself, to follow the actions of Jesus rather than doing what some preacher says to do. And, all this must be done while being one with nature. He spoke of the power and spirit of the landscape.

This, I thought, has to be the basis of these yet-developed people of mine.

From there, I began re-reading lines in the essay, taking notes, and furiously scribbling ideas into my notebook. I took some of Emerson and added a tinge of myself. As stated before, these people I am creating belong to a more natural and less industrialized society. This is by choice. “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet” (36). And, rather than emphasizing community, they prefer to follow Emerson’s views on non-conformity. “Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to eat shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater” (21). They find principal, power, divinity, and spirit all within nature as well as themselves. These will be an intuition-driven people who are deeply in touch with “the self.” “Your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must be elevation” (30).

All power and matter can be conjured and manipulated (through equivalent exchange) by the self and not relying on god(s) to perform miracles or preachers/priests to dictate doctrines. Because after all, we are star stuff, aren’t we? We are made up of the heavens themselves.

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However, there is no complete lack of group; there will be a sense of society, as there is in the world Emerson is trying to create: “I shall endeavor to nourish my parents, to support my family, to be the chaste husband of one wife, – but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way” (31). These people will find harmony, a goal only achieved through truly understanding the self, because if you don’t understand yourself, how could you possibly ever hope to understand anyone else? “No man can come near me but through my act” (31).

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance.” Self-Reliance and Other Essays. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 1993. Print.

Thanks for reading my craziness,
Jasmine

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