Saturday, July 31, 2010


This is basically how things are going in my inner world.
(Click to enlarge.)

Because I started out with such a vague idea of what I wanted to write, and my characters all developed as they were being written, going back to the first few chapters in the book is a little bizarre. Everyone's voice has changed so much. Stylistic choices that seemed appropriate at the time now sound totally false.
I am currently having to repair my second chapter with some major editing and rewriting because most of the exposition doesn't sound authentic to the point-of-view character. I am trying not to let this frustrate me too much, but part of me has started to feel like all I did with my first draft is write an elaborate outline and that 3/4 of the actual prose will need to be rewritten.
My husband, who is also a writer, and who's been writing for much longer than I have, has cautioned me not too change too much, but sometimes it's hard to know how much is too much.
Fortunately my grasp on reality is tenuous enough that my characters can (and do) let me know when things are unacceptable.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chapter One Draft Two complete!

I've finished my second draft of Chapter One. Yay! This chapter might still be the weakest of all, even after getting a revision, but at least I've started the process of bringing it up to the level of the rest of the book.
As the writer, it's very hard to know if the chapter is compelling or if it "works". I have no perspective on the matter. Of course I find it interesting (if I didn't, I'd know I was in serious trouble), but it's impossible for me to know what a general audience would think of it. Thus, I am looking for people to read these second drafts as they become available so I can get some feedback.
You don't have to have any experience to be a test-reader, just a sense of adventure. No commitment is necessary; if you decide you hate it after the first 3 paragraphs, please just let me know what you thought and feel free to stop reading.
I am also looking for someone with editing experience to help me out; I'd be happy to barter design or dance services (classes or performance) for some quality editing.
Let me know if you are interested! Send me an email at skbeaman (at) gmail (dot) com-- if you just leave a comment, it will not let me know how to get in touch with you. I am willing to provide hard copies to anyone living in the Triangle; otherwise I can send whatever electronic format works best for you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Source material: the Monstrous Manual

One does not simply become weird overnight. I have cultivated my taste for the bizarre for my entire life, developing my peculiar and particular sensibilities through the consumption of a wide array of counter-cultural artifacts. This entry is the first in a series cataloging my most beloved of those books, films, television shows, and other forms of media.

My parents have played Dungeons and Dragons since before I was born. When I was growing up, they were playing AD&D Second Edition; I never actually played much of it myself until middle school, but that didn't stop me from being obsessed with it. I always knew it had to be pretty awesome, because I wasn't allowed to tell the super-conservative family across the street that my parents played it. These neighbors viewed such activities as satanic. Now, I'm not exactly into Satan, but: righteous.
More specifically, I was obsessed with this book: the Monstrous Manual, released in 1993. I didn't really care that much about the PC races or player classes, or spells, or any of the various settings. No-- they were all much less interesting than the monster manual. I stole this book from my parents in fourth or fifth grade and hid it in my bedroom. It was my precious. Neither of them was DMing at the time, so I guess that's why they didn't notice for a while.
I was not just in it for the pictures, although I admit that was probably what got me hooked in the first place. (They are amazing.) I actually read all of the text for all of the creatures, explaining their habitats and their social customs and so forth.
I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have read this book. Keep in mind that it is a reference guide for dungeon masters, and not really designed to be read cover to cover; whatever. This mattered little to elementary-school Sara.

The section about dragons was always my favorite-- it is enormous, exhaustive, and, naturally, full of awesome pictures of dragons. I was enamored with the metallic dragons, not only because they were of various Good alignments, but also because they were the most intelligent and many of them could assume human forms. Did I, perhaps, imagine that I was, secretly, a dragon in human form? Perhaps. (yes.)
What I didn't realize at the time was that many of the creatures described in the Monstrous Manual are heavily based on (and at times, just plain stolen from) mythologies from around the world. Without knowing it, I was educating myself in that lore-- which ended up helping me later in high school and college!-- while other little girls were playing with Barbies and reading Baby-Sitter's Club or whatever.
PARENTS: Dungeons and Dragons is educational, and great for kids. Especially kids that would rather read Dungeons and Dragons supplements than have a normal social life. Buy them a book today!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Goals for August

Edit five chapters. (Originally this read "edit all of the chapters", but then I realized that would leave me 2 days per chapter. haha, no.) Right now I am using a technique where I read all of the text aloud to myself to see where things get awkward. It's time-consuming, but it helps. I'm currently about a quarter of the way through the first chapter. (There are fifteen in total.)
I'm also trying to use some of the other strategies described in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, which I highly recommend if you, too, wish to edit your fiction.

Get the word count down by at least 5k. I'm going to shoot for less than 110k words by the end of August. Of course, that's still probably too long. I'm not going to stress too much about it, though.

Research how to write a good summary. I am totally dreading writing the summary for this thing, because the plot is... let's not use the word complicated. It's really not that bad. It's just... okay, so it's kind of involved. I'm going to put this off by telling myself I'll read some articles on the topic. Yeah!!

Write a pitch. A pitch is a short pithy attention-grabby paragraph about a novel that you use for your cover letters and stuff. Ghhh. So, at one point in the past, I took a seminar for entrepreneurs through the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC. They made a big deal about the "elevator pitch"-- basically a verbal assault you need to make at all passersby informing them about your business idea whether or not they care to listen. Somehow this is eventually supposed to result in venture capital, or something. I don't know, I hate business and I hate self-promotion. My total lack of interest in marketing has been the Achilles heel of my bellydance career (more on this later) but I am NOT going to let it cripple this endeavor! NO! I am going to force myself to LIKE writing the pitch and I am going to make everyone who hears it need to read my novel lest they perish. At least that's what I'm telling myself now.

Blog regularly. I'd like to think I can do it every other day but I will be happy with myself for doing it once or twice a week.

Read a novel about vampires. I must admit, I have read shockingly few. Anyone have any suggestions?

A little about the book

(This is not my official book blurb thingy; those are supposed to sound good.)
"The Left Hand of Memory" (working title) is a horror novel (mostly) exploring themes of memory, volition, and identity. The book follows two narrators, both of whom have been displaced from their everyday lives and thrown into the machinations of strange people with strange powers. Most of the characters in the book happen to be vampires; please don't hold that against them.
Right now, the book is a little over 115,000 words long. In other words, it's too long for what most publishers want out of a new novelist like myself. One of my main goals is to make it a little bit less chunky-- I'm hoping to at least get it under the 100k mark by the time I am done editing it.
It's written in multiple first person, which is the main reason why I will probably have to come up with another title. I found out recently that "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. LeGuin is also written in multiple first person, so... yeah, I don't really want to set my book up as a counterpoint to hers. I have nowhere near that amount of hubris (or stupidity).
One chapter in the book is set in the late 1800s; the rest is set in the recent past. In the long term, I would love to write more historical stuff in the same vein, as I am a total dork for history, and we all know that vampires can fit right into basically any era. (Am I right or am I right?)
I will write more about what the story is actually like once I figure out how the hell you go about summarizing fiction. I am new to all of this and it is a lot harder than it sounds.

The beginning

I finished the first draft of my first novel yesterday.
I started writing in late April. I started the book with only the vaguest idea of what I wanted to accomplish; I had no plan, no plot outline, and general concepts for only two of my characters. Unsure of where this impulse came from or where it would end up leading me, I didn't tell anyone what I had done until the first chapter was finished. In fact, until just yesterday, I didn't mention the novel to anyone but my family. I wanted to finish it first. It seems like more of a part of my life now that it's "done"-- although, of course, it's just a first draft, so it's really not done at all. I think it's reasonable to come out with my ambitions now that I've reached that first benchmark.
It's been a while since I've written any fiction. I tried to write some short fiction while I was still in college, during my final senior semester, and later made an abortive attempt at a novel set in the same world. The science-fantasy setting these stories took place in focused on the relationship between the inhabitants of two different planets and was supposed to be a commentary on European imperialism. It was my attempt at being intellectual and the result wasn't terribly compelling, even to me. I've had ideas for other stories but never the drive to actually write them down.
Prior to now I've always found that I've been more interested in my ideas for stories than the stories themselves. This time was quite different. I allowed the characters and the story to develop on their own and just tried to channel them onto the page without trying to force them in any particular direction. I tried my best never to think about whether or not what I was writing was any good or whether it was worthy of being written. I know from my other creative endeavors that you need to make your judgemental surface thoughts shut up in order to make work happen. If I hadn't spent the last few years cultivating this ability in my dance career, I never would have been able to write any of this at all, not even the first sentence. My first thought every time I sat down at the computer to keep going was "what am I doing? I'm not a writer." Thankfully, I know my surface thoughts are universally evil and idiotic, and I know quite well not to listen to myself think them.
Much of what I have written so far may be stilted and bad, but I think it's a starting point for something better. I'm hoping with a lot of hard work I can make this pile of words into something that someone might someday want to put in print.
I hope to chronicle this epic journey through this blog.