Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, July 27, 2007

Finally, a poem I am happy with

After a week and a half of writing crappy poetry ("crappy" in MY opinion), I finally wrote something that I was happy with: http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/60740810/

At first, I wasn't as affected by the poem. Sure, I wrote it for a "love poem" (which I've been writing a lot of lately), but just how much the poem moved me didn't happen until later. The reason? I later went back to make some changes to it. I wonder if fixing the other poems I wrote which I wasn't happy with would produce the same results, but right now I don't have any ideas on how to "fix" them. Perhaps they are "crappy" in my eyes but not in someone else's. I have not shown these poems to anyone else. It hasn't yet occurred to me to ask anyone to read them for feedback, mainly because I've been so focused on OTHER bigger projects at hand.

Still, this experience has reminded me of the importance of writing junk. As we writers say, "you have to write junk." Really, you HAVE to. You have to get that "junk" out of your system and over with. Get it written and get it out. You have to write the junk to make room for the good stuff. I never really understood how this works. I mean, if something is "junk" then why bother writing it at all? Well, we DO try to improve on it as we write it. So often we write/edit/critique all in one sitting. The kernel of an idea is there and that's all we need to work with to improve on something. We need to get that "idea" out, work with it and improve it.

And if we can't improve it, at least it is THERE. We got it onto paper. We can go back to fix it later...or it may never get fixed at all. Like my one poem I was able to fix. Like the other poems I couldn't fix. The point is, we wrote it. We gave it a shot. We tried to "save" it and improve on it.

But even if we can't improve the junk we write, at least we CAN allow for
more of the good stuff to come our way.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Courageous Blogger Award

My friend Karen at A Deaf Mom Shares Her World http://putzworld.blogspot.com/ passed on to me the Courageous Blogging Award for my Palms to Pines blog: http://palmstopines.blogspot.com/

Later, Stephen Hobson over at Adversity University passed on the award to me for this blog.

Thank you, Stephen! :)

Here is the post:


Stephen said that he thought of people for this award because of taking part in his "overcoming adversity" experiment. In his blog, he talks about how some people had refused to participate, because their stories were too personal. As a writer, I could relate to this. There are MANY personal experiences that I've had which I'd rather not share unless I am compelled to. And sometimes, being compelled to write about something takes very little, if any, encouragement.

I have learned that sometimes, writing about the personal stuff and about the hard stuff can be a very healing experience. It can help us to grow, to understand ourselves better and come to terms with our past. There are, of course, SOME experiences from my life I could NEVER share. Maybe I wrote about them, but I just can't share them with the world. At least, not at this point in time. But, I think, if we are able to separate ourselves from an experience and put it to good use with our writing, then it's all the more worthwhile to take the time to write about it.

This is, at least, the lesson I have learned as a writer. And I hope it is a lesson others can eventually learn and benefit from, as well.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Keeping the past in the past

There is nothing more inspiring for a writer than real life. Real life is where we draw our writing from as a result of experiences, emotions and insights. Today's news can inspire a poem, short story, novel or article.

But what happens tomorrow, when the inspiration fades? When we change who we are? When we grow and learn from our experiences -- and move on?

This is when things can get a little complicated. Of course, we writers know that not everything we write must be published or must go into print. We may feel that way at the time we write something, but if we are unable to get it into print, if there's really no audience or market for that particular life-inspired piece, is it worth it to keep plugging away? Even after 6 months have passed, a year has passed or even a decade?

On one hand, it is similar to "beating a dead horse." That whole experience, issue, emotion or news item has come and gone. There's really no point in "keeping it alive" by bringing out something new about it. Unless that something new actually offers something new.

And on another hand, trying to keep a story "alive" even after so long can be attributed to maintaining/clarifying the truth, meeting a personal need such as validation/closure, and preserving that idea all in the name of entertainment.

There are two pieces of my writing which could serve as examples here. One is an essay I wrote about a very difficult experience I had in 2005. At the time this happened, I was deeply depressed and shocked. The fact that I never met justice for this wrong done to me only added to my depression. I shopped the essay around and got a couple of bites. One such bite remains unresolved and when I later contacted the editor to see if there was still any interest, I had to ask myself: Is it still an experience worth getting into print? In other words, did I write this essay to help me heal my wounds, or did I write it to serve as a lesson I had to learn the hard way but to inspire others with that lesson? I am no longer as upset over this loss as I had been at the time. I have moved on, yes, despite the fact that a small sting exists over it ever happening. But I have accepted this experience. I made peace with it. It's no longer my mission to tell MY side of the story to the world or to get "the lesson" out there to the world.

But I still have to wonder....is it even valuable as a standalone form of entertainment for readers?

I have managed to answer this question with the other piece. Mainly, a whole concept. I am talking about my dream experiences with Jonathan. THAT story is online. The book I wrote, containing several journal entries and dream accounts, was destroyed. I only have one essay left -- one item acting as proof it ACTUALLY happened. But I wrote a novel based on that experience. Now I'm writing more. I even wrote a revised version of the novel (because the company who published it went bankrupt and copies of this book are scarce). And even as I try to do something with these manuscripts, even as I come up with new story ideas with Jonathan (et. al.) in them, I have often asked myself if I am indeed beating a dead horse. Even as someone helped me to understand why I POSSIBLY had those dreams, I am still writing stories with him in them. And I've written poems, too. A lot of my love poems were inspired by those dreams, and by that whole experience itself.

So do I think these stories can stand alone as a form of entertainment for readers? Without my feeling any kind of personal attachment to them? Yes, I do. These stories may all have little details in them which act as a reflection of a real-life event, but...they are not representative of what ACTUALLY happened. They are not first-person accounts. They actually contain embellished and "fluffed up" scenes. They are still fiction. I know what really happened. The person who helped me knows what really happened. And...I don't really need to share the FACTUAL story with the world. It's hard for me to talk about it these days, yes, but I'm not writing these stories to keep that experience "alive" or to continually prove to the world that it really happened.

They are just stories. I'm not as caught up by those experiences as I used to be. I have accepted this experience, too, and I have moved on from it. It's still an important part of my past, true, but it does not rule my emotions or the choices I make in my life as much as it used to. I have done what ALL writers do: I took a REAL experience and turned it into a story. A fictional story. I am no longer as emotionally attached to the experience itself; I'm just writing stories based on that experience.

Still, when it comes to nonfiction, maybe it's best I no longer have an emotional attachment to a piece an editor expresses interest in. Maybe it's best that I can now view this piece of writing from an objective point of view, because it no longer affects me as deeply as it did at the time of writing it. Maybe that emotional attachment is what made the piece good in the first place, but after the writing and the healing have come and gone, it won't influence whether or not I manage to get that piece into print.

So maybe it doesn't really matter if something I wrote 2 years ago or 10 years ago gets into print now. What matters is that there is still a need, still an audience, for it.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Getting stuck in the middle

It used to be that if I got stuck while working on one of my books, I'd move on to another book then come back to the original one later. During the time I worked on the other book, I'd attempt to resolve my dillemma with the original book. And, sometimes, that didn't work out very well. For one novel-in-progress, for example, my character joined an escort service AND got involved in prostitution. I, of course, didn't know how to accurately portray this in my story, since those particular details are not in my past. (I've never even gotten a speeding ticket! Darn, how can I be a novelist with such a clean record?) (Uh, ahem. Just kidding. :) ) I tried many ways to find out that information. Even talking with someone who used to work for an escort service. But, again, it didn't work out, and THAT book remains unfinished to this day. (Even after 300 pages!! Eek! Well, of course I'm going to finish it VERY SOON. After I take care of, oh, say, 16 other books I have on my plate right now...)

One book I've been working on is nonfiction, and, wouldn't you know it, I've gotten stuck in not one but TWO chapters of this book. ARGH!!! It's very frustrating. My problem is limited resources for research.

I've grown more and more skeptical of what I've read on the Internet. I prefer the old standby of getting the facts straight from the horse's mouth. For one chapter, that's taking a LONG TIME, and I'm not even sure I have all the information I need.

For another chapter, all I am seeing about the info I need are rumors and urban legends. Sadly, the urban legends are being reposted on so-called "reputable" sites! Ugh! I've fallen in love with Amazon.com's Reader, scouring passages from books on the subjects. That's only offering me so much, though, and how can I know what even those books say are true?? No, I'd rather seek out the experts and witnesses myself. I'd rather get the facts from PEOPLE and not books, magazine articles or Web sites. Do you know why? Because what goes into print CAN be altered a bit just for the sake of entertainment. I am so serious about this. Stories get sensationalized and fluffed up because if it was true, then it wouldn't sell -- because the truth is NEVER all that entertaining. This is one thing I have learned in the paranormal-writing business. The truth is BORING! And, boring doesn't sell. So things get spiced up a little bit. Words get put into someone's mouth. And, presto! You've got a publishable book or spooky story! (Why else do you think the urban legends win out over the TRUE stories??) I'm not going to let that be the case with THIS book. I want the TRUTH. And I'm going to do what it takes for AS LONG as it takes to hunt down that truth.

I realize this can jeopardize my book's chances of being sold/published. But I'd rather face THAT obstacle then have my name on a book poorly-researched and filled with lies.

So, my problem? Simple: I don't know WHO to seek out to get the truth! D'oh! I'm thinking staff at historical societies and newspaper morgues. It's a start.

All the same, while I'm stuck on THIS book (these particular chapters), I'm not going to work on another book in the meantime. Oh, the temptation is THERE! My muse is distracting me with creating new scenes for ANOTHER novel-in-progress. But, I am drawing the line. I'm saying "no way!" and sticking to working on THIS book!
Until I reach the very end.

Or...until I get soo stuck and there's no other chapters for me to work on anymore that I have to STOP the book-writing altogether and throw myself into getting unstuck.

Yep, that's my plan. :)

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Once upon a rejection

There is an unpublished novel I wrote called "Lost Soul." It was a sort of "revised story" to the November's Child novel. (Yes, you COULD say it is the movie equivalent of a remake. LOL) I spent several years writing, researching and revising this book, until I thought it was ready for submission. I found a publisher who I thought was "perfect" for this book, but they ended up rejecting it. Their reason was that I used names in place of pronouns too often. I was confused over why this was such an issue with them. I mean, look at Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code! There's tons of "Langford's" and "Neveu's" in place of "he" or "she." Still, I went over the manuscript and realized that in SOME cases, they were right.

Some, not all. I tried changing the writing to where I had more pronouns in place of character names. But as I read that over, I felt disgusted with that kind of writing and thought, 'This is stupid.' There was just too many "her mother's" and "her brother's" in there. UGH! So I started thinking maybe, just MAYBE, the publisher had some OTHER reason for rejecting my manuscript. Because, surely, if THAT was the problem, they could've worked with me in FIXING it. Right?? I mean, heck, I've been working with an editor for OVER A YEAR at another publishing house in fixing up my manuscript. (It HAS improved, but there's one more detail which she's asked me to fix.)

Despite all that, I have moved on from that rejection. Sure, it had me confused, but I'm not going to waste too much time puzzling over it. I had a bigger task on my plate, one which kept picking at me and just wouldn't let up.

Something was wrong with the story. Not something that had to do with the writing. Something that had to do with the story itself.

The story was flawed.

Why did I think it was flawed? Why, after spending so many months revising it and researching it, did I have this nagging feeling the story was flawed? Why did I keep feeling that something wasn't right with the story??

That's a good question, one I pondered over again and again. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I KNEW the story was wrong. Even as I worked on other projects, other stories and other books, I still kept coming back to it to see why it wasn't the story that it should be. (I guess you could say that I'm grateful the manuscript was rejected. I am, indeed.)

Finally, after several weeks of thinking it over, it hit me. (In the shower, no less!) The stroy was flawed because it was not new. It was essentially the SAME THING I wrote in November's Child. It wasn't enough to change my character's names. I had to go BEYOND that. I had to change the location, the setup, the other characters and the ages, etc. EVERYTHING had to change. I could STILL keep my key players in the story -- Jonathan, Jovin and Tessie -- because they ARE essential to this whole story in the first place. They are based on real-life counterparts. Just as November's Child sprang from a real-life event. And I realized, too, that certain factors in each of these books must remain in each story. There are 3 books I will write with these characters, but each and every one of those books MUST retain certain factors which reflect real-life significance.

Because, after all, I DID write November's Child as a result of this real-life event. And Jonathan IS the name of a real-life figure in that event. Jovin and Tessie are not the real names of their real-life counterparts, but they ARE important to the story. (And, what's funny is, when I created Tessie, I didn't HAVE a real-life counterpart for her, but I did later in life. It's funny how life is like that. Life imitating art.)

So now I know what to do with this story. And the next one, as well. The next book is already forming in my mind. But I need to fix THIS book first. "Lost Soul." (I don't have a title for the next book. Boo-hoo.) Hopefully I will find a publisher for this book. Or an agent. Whichever comes first. (Yes, I KNOW I need an agent. Yes, I'm going to try to get one ASAP. Just for my novels, though. Not nonfiction or children's books.)

And I think about something else, too. It's not just these books which were inspired by my whole dream experiences with Jonathan. Other things were influenced by it, too. A children's book I recently submitted, titled "The Yellow Rose," has significance relating to my dreams with Jonathan. (The rose represents eternal love.) And many of my poems, even those in my collection of love poems, were influenced by them, too.

Art imitating life.

The bottom line is, sometimes rejections can turn out to be a good thing to happen to writers. And sometimes, it's better not to rush these things when you KNOW that something is wrong but can't figure out what it is. Think on it some more. Let some time pass. The solution to a dillemma will appear right when you least expect it.

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