Oops, I Joined Another Literary Critique Site

I joined another literary critique site, Scribophile, about a week ago.  I posted my short story about three times on Critique Circle, and I wanted some fresh eyes on it before I submit it to literature magazines in August.  One advantage of Scribophile over Critique Circle is that you get reputation points for being a good critter.  I put a lot of effort into my critiques, so it’s nice to be recognized for that quality.

I actually had to use a real name to sign up (they wouldn’t let me use Paper Butterfly), so I used Tessa Brant.  I guess that is my pseudonym now XD  Previously, I was debating the names Ella, Tessa, and Janna, but I felt like a Tessa when I signed up, so that’s who I am now.  It’s still kind of weird when people call me Tessa because I’m not used to it.  I never wanted to publish under my real name because I’m still a bit scared my cyberbully will come after me.  I guess if I ever become popular then my real identity will come out, but I’ll cross that bridge if it ever happens XD  Scribophile is bigger than Critique Circle so there are more writers and critters.  The nice thing about that is that no one person dominates the forums and/or critiques.  Since it is so large there are more writers.  I already found a few other writers that love poetic prose and flailed around like a fangirl 8D

A benefit that both of these sites share is that they are locked unless you have a user ID and password.  This allows you to post your stories without exposing them to the whole internet.  Most literature magazines will not take a story once it has been blog published or published anywhere on the internet.

I think I’ve definitely improved since joining literary critique sites.  It helps to read the critiques of other writers, and then you get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.  I’ve become more critical of my own writing in the process.  I don’t think I’ll be joining more than two of these sites because it’s more than enough to keep me busy.

Research Needed for a Short Story

One of the less fun aspects of writing fiction is research.  The amount that needs to be done depends on what you are writing because some stories necessitate more than others.  It makes for a more authentic story.  This is a list of the research I ended up doing for my 6,000 word story about a man that kills himself.  I don’t want to mention the name of the story because I’m going to submit it to literary magazines in August.  I probably used like 5-10% of the info that I read about.  If you try to cram in too much technical stuff the story sounds forced.

By far the worst scene of the whole story was the car crash.  I hated writing it.  Action scenes are hard to write, and this one was intense.  How do you convey the horror of getting in a car crash and watching your girlfriend die in a fiery cage of twisted steel?!  Ugh.  I gave it my best shot XD  I have a few weeks to distance myself before I submit so I may come back and revise that part.  My favorite scene was probably the intro where he shoots himself.  I guess that sounds morbid XD  I mean I enjoyed writing it.  Perhaps because I have been on the brink of suicide before so it was cathartic to write about it.

List of Research Topics 

1. Pictures of compound fractures (The pictures gave me nightmares D:)

2. Accounts from people surviving near death experiences

3. Accounts from car crash survivors

4. The taste of different vodkas

5. Guns, what they look like and how to shoot one

6. How long can someone survive after a bullet wound to the chest

7. Videos of car crashes (I hated this.  It was awful)

8. Videos of drunk driving

9. Treatment for a gunshot wound

10. What year the Seattle Seahawks were playing the Superbowl (random I know XD)

11. Jail time for manslaughter due to drunk driving (I ended up not using this info)

Fanfiction Culture

I finally finished the tentative final draft of my dandelion/suicide short story.  Originally I was going to start writing another short story about a little girl with an abusive father, but I might write a short fanfic story instead.  Since I’m submitting these short stories of original fiction to literary magazines there is this pressure to make it perfect.  It took me about a week or two to write Short Story D and several months to edit it XD  Granted, I was writing intermittently (more off than on) for the past few months, but it still took a long time to revise.

At one point, I thought I would never write anymore fanfiction because I didn’t want to be in a vulnerable position again.  But my heart still belongs to the characters of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Zack.  I decided I won’t write another fanfic novel, but I will probably write short fanfic stories occasionally as inspiration strikes.  I created a new fanfic profile for myself because I wanted a fresh start.

Cloud Strife

A picture of Cloud 😀  How can you not love this face?!

It’s interesting though because there is a certain culture within fanfiction and it is often in stark contrast to the world of original fiction.  I thought I would point out a few of those differences.

1. Drama, drama, drama

There is so much drama in fanfiction, and it’s hard to segregate yourself from it.  A few years ago I was yanked into the middle of a huge fanfiction war that involved several popular authors.  Even though I  wasn’t directly involved in it, I was friends with people on both sides, and because I’m so emotionally fragile, I was being used as a sacrificial lamb.  I was so upset and disgusted afterwards that I couldn’t write fanfiction for a year.  But eventually I came back only to have history repeat itself. . .

The last fanfiction war I was dragged into was really bad.  Without getting into details, it suffices to say another writer made it her mission to destroy me.  It got to the point that I was so upset I nearly relapsed into anorexia.  That’s when I left and pulled all of my stories down.

Part of the problem was that I could not fight back because she was good at playing the victim.  She was accusing me of pretending to be the victim when I was really a bitch.  And she was blackmailing me and using her profile to attack me.  Even after I left she tried to follow me.  Good god, she and a friend made up multiple identities to contact me and all of my friends because I kept blocking them.  Actually, they contacted everyone I had ever known in the fandom.  And they were still doing this for months after I pulled all of my stories off of my profile and left.  They were so delusional that they were trying to convince my best friends about what a horrible person I was.  Seriously, WTF?  I developed a mild case of PTSD from that incident.

2. Lack of Feedback

The majority of the members in fanfiction communities are readers or occasional writers.  This means that most of your interactions are with people who have no idea how difficult it is to write.  My fanfic novel had about 500 reviews for 30 chapters and 56,000+ hits, which is about 100 hits per review.  Most people that read, favorite, and/or like will never leave a comment.  Writers are more inclined to review a story that they like because they know how much work goes into it.  I’ve noticed that since Archive of our Own became popular, the ratio of reviews to hits is even lower.  No one writes fanfiction just for reviews or attention (or at least I don’t think so), but half the fun of writing fanfiction is fangirling over the characters with other like-minded people.  That was the whole impetus behind my fanfic stories.

3. Constructive Criticism is Poorly Recieved

Very few fanfic writers want constructive criticism.  Even if they ask for it they don’t want it.  I’ve learned that the hard way.  Ironically, it’s only the best writers that are receptive to concrit XD  Hell, some of the fans of a story will criticize you for giving concrit to an author.  And no, I never flamed anyone or gave them a review I wouldn’t want to receive.  I’ve been flamed before myself, so I would never hurt an author like that.  On literary critique sites writers are more open to concrit, but maybe that’s because the sole purpose is getting critiques.

4. Lots of male/male pairings

There’s a lot of slash (male/male) pairings in fanfic.  I like slash and het pairings (male/female) as long as it’s not fluffy romance.  I’m not sure why there isn’t more slash in original fiction.  Maybe this is due to the fact that most fanfic writers are female?

5. Most Fanfiction is Written By Women

That brings me to another point, most fanfic writers are girls, and I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe it’s the perception society has of fanfiction.  I’m sure this various somewhat by fandom, but I’ve seen quite a few and most of the writers and readers are females.  Not that its a bad thing.  Girl power XD

6. Fanfic Writers Aren’t Perceived As Serious Writers

The look people gave me when I used to tell them I wrote fanfiction was a mix of disbelief and bewilderment, as if writing fanfiction was some sort of guilty pleasure.  While it is true that the majority of fanfics are horrible, there are some amazing writers.  Some of them move on to original fiction but others stay because their love of the characters supersedes their love of writing.  In my opinion, being a successful writer is independent of the medium.  There are some incredibly talented fanfic authors, so it’s not just a place for beginners.

The Following Paragraph is Rated M for Sexual Content 

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7. Rape

Because this isn’t an adult blog I’m not going to go into details, but it’s a big problem in fanfic.  It’s one of the reasons I hesitate to recommend it to others.  I rarely see it in the world of original fiction.  Rape happens, but it’s the way that it is dealt with in fanfiction that is upsetting.

I’m Not a Writer but Someone Who Loves To Write

My parents are moving to the other side of the country after living in the same house for about 15 years.  They asked me to come over and sort through my stuff, so I could take what I wanted.  I’m going through my old schoolwork and trapped underneath a mountain of the most vibrant shade of purple prose was a budding writer.  I was using metaphors at ten years old even though I didn’t know what a metaphor was until I was much older, and there were bits and pieces of insightful prose in my high school essays.  It means something to me because I feel like a fraud among other writers because I didn’t spend my whole life writing.  I’m not a writer, but instead someone who loves to write.  A distinction with a big difference.

Unlike a lot of other writers in the blogosphere, I didn’t spend my whole life writing fiction and/or fanfiction.  As a child I wrote lots of stories about ponies, unicorns, and princesses, but after age eight I didn’t write for fun anymore.  I’m not sure why I stopped, but I lost interest in it.  However, I’ve always had a voracious appetite for books.  Margaret Atwood touched my heart in 11th grade.  Her prose was so gorgeous, and I just fell in love with her as a writer.  There’s some neurochemistry beyond my ability to put into words that happens when I come across poetic prose.  It’s just ummmmf * -*

In 12th grade AP English I realized how much I enjoyed writing, but I wouldn’t branch out on my own and start writing fanfiction till I was in my mid-20s.  Last year I made the transition into original fiction, and that’s when I became aware of the fact that I was different from most other writers.  After going through all of my old schoolwork, I realized I always had the heart of a writer so maybe I’m not the black sheep of the writing community like I thought I was.

Here is my high school tribute to my 12th grade AP English Class.  Even then I had a penchant for angst and poetic prose though it would be years before I could write something decent.

I thought about writing a dedication to each individual, but I don’t think that’s necessary. In the big scheme of life names become a blur and memories fade. At the moment high school seems so significant, but in a while it will be just an indistinct memory worn away by time. I wish to address the larger picture. I would like everyone to know that in some way or another they had a positive influence on my life. There are a few of you who have become very close friends and intertwined your lives with mine. I need not mention who you are because I’m sure you already know. Then there are also some of you that have caused me pain, but it doesn’t matter now. . . I don’t wish to dwell on bitter memories because in the end I have benefited from each and every one of you. It was nice because I’ve been in class with so many of you for four or more years now. Since I have moved so much in my lifetime, I’ve never really had a chance to enjoy seeing my classmates mature. Although I had a really difficult time when I started school in this district five years ago, I now feel at ease around every one of you. Surprisingly, English is my favorite class, and at the heart of it is you Mrs. X [name removed for security purposes]. I never really got to know you personally, but in many ways I feel like we have a close relationship. You helped rekindle my love for writing and perhaps I have found a bond with you in that way. There will never be a time again in my life quite like this; a time of decay and a time of growth.  I thank all of you for being such a large part of my life. I will probably never see most of you again after graduation, and your distinct identities will most likely fade into obscurity, but as a group I will remember you. . .

Book Review: October Light

October Light

Genre:

Literature

Why I read this book

I finished this book a while ago so I thought I’d write about it.  To be honest, it took a while to write this review because months after finishing I still have this feeling of ‘What the hell did I just read?’ XD  If you look on Amazon.com you will find readers polarized into two camps, Gardner is a genius or a horrible writer.  I found him to be an innovative author with lovely prose, but I know why others found this book unbearable.

A friend of mine (a brilliant writer) recommended it to me years ago, and I finally got around to reading it.  That’s probably the best advice I could give to newbie writers.  Find another writer you love and ask them for book recommendations.

Synopsis

The basic premise of the story is that an old man, James, living off the land gets stuck living with his once-affluent and now destitute elderly sister, Sally.  They get into a fight about the TV because he thinks technology has destroyed everything that is good with America, so he shoots the TV with a gun and  ends up chasing her into a bedroom and threatening to kill her if she comes out.  Then the rest of the book is spent with friends and family trying to get her to come out.  Yep, three-hundred pages of that.  Although I guess one could say the TV series, “The Wonder Years,” was just about a boy growing up.  But they managed to make 100+ awesome episodes on that premise.

Then there is this side-plot about a man wanting to commit suicide, and he unknowingly gets rescued by drug dealers.  How does this fit in with the main story?  It’s a book Sally reads while locked up in her bedroom.  It takes up about about a quarter of October Light.  It’s also missing pages.  Yes, the book within a book is a tattered relic she finds while in her self-imposed prison, so both the reader and Sally can only read part of this story.  It’s hard to follow the book within a book, and some readers on Amazon just skipped it.  It supposedly mirrors the disconnect between Sally and her brother, but it was hard to make that connection.  Or maybe I’m completely off and failed to see the point of it XD

Would I recommend this book to others?  

It depends on what you are looking for in a book.  This book is not a page-turner, the characters are rather unlikable, and the plot relies too heavily on micro-tension.  However, the prose is gorgeous.  It’s less poetic and lyrical than McCarthy’s, but is beautiful in its own way.  I also enjoyed the insightful bits of philosophy scattered throughout the story.  The characters grew on me over time, but by the end of the book the only character I was rooting for was Jame’s daughter.

I like reading avant-garde books because it often inspires new ideas.  I wouldn’t say it was a fun read, but that’s not why I read it.  It was a good learning experience.  There’s a lot of meaning in this book I feel like I missed, so I will probably come back and read it at a later point in time.

Right now I’m reading Annie Proulx’s novel The Shipping News, along with rereading McCarthy’s The Road and Faulkner’s Light in August.  I have trouble reading just one book XD

Weekend Writing Warriors #11

wewriwa

This weekend I’m participating in a blog hop known as Weekend Writing Warriors.  It’s fun.  It’s something I do sporadically when I have the time.  A bunch of writers share 8 sentences from a story they are writing or have written.  If you would like to participate, here is the link: http://www.wewriwa.com/

This snippet comes from a short story of mine that is about a man searching for redemption in this life and beyond.  The resulting non-linear narrative is about his memories, reality, and delusions as he is dying.  Without going into more detail that’s about all I can say XD  This is actually towards the end of the story.

XXX

He washed up on the shore sopping wet with a mouthful of gritty sand. The moon, pale as milk glass, hid among the clouds. He stood up, brushed the debris off of his clothing, and headed towards the lights of civilization. His parent’s house was only a few miles away.

He looked up at the sky. After Emma died the stars had lost their luster. He saw them now for what they really were, molten spheres of plasma floating in the cold expanse of the universe, millions of miles away from each other, utterly alone. It sent a chill down his spine.

XXX

Work has been kicking my butt physically and emotionally so my writing has been sporadic as of late, but things seem to be getting better again.  This snippet comes from a short story I’ve been working on for a while.  I’ve rewritten it like ten times XD  It’s taken that long to get it right.  It finally has the feel that I was looking for when I originally started writing this piece.  I’m working on the final draft right now so I can submit it to a few literary magazines.

The Start of a Breakdown

When I delved into the world of fanfic years ago I would become engrossed in a story only to see it end abruptly somewhere in the middle of the story.  Then I’d look at the last update, which was months, even years ago.  I remember the feeling of despair knowing that the story would never be finished.  Where did the author go?  How could they leave this totally awesome story?!  Then it happened to me.  At the beginning of 2013 I stopped writing my fanfic story because I didn’t have it in me at the time.  I was terrified after being bed-bound for years that my hip would never get fixed.  I self-medicated with sitcoms and make-up tutorials.  There was no emotional energy for anything else.  I did eventually come back to writing fanfic in 2014 before being cyberbullied and deleting everything off my profile XD   But I digress. . .

History has a way of repeating itself.  I can’t write if I have devoted all my energy to sheer emotional survival.  About two months ago I had an emotional and physical breakdown.  It felt like life was happening to me instead of me controlling my life.  I was given a final warning at work that if I didn’t improve I would be fired.  My problem with pharmacy is that I care too much about everything, and that slows me down.  I’ve started applying for other jobs and have yet to be fired, but it hangs over my head like a dark cloud everyday.  I’ve cried about this more than I’d like to admit.

My hip is still sublaxaing (partially dislocating) anteriorly and not only does it hurt like hell, it means my last hip surgery may have failed.  I have been diligently strengthening my hip, but it’s hard because if my muscles get sore they can’t hold my hip together and it sublaxes.  On the next few days post-sublaxation I struggle to walk and have muscle spasms.  I haven’t talked to Dr. Sink (my last hip surgeon) because I didn’t want to admit that my surgery may have failed.  And if one of the best hip preservation surgeons in the world can’t fix me, who can?  I’ve decided I will contact Dr. Pun (my follow-up hip surgeon) but it’s not the best time to ask for a day off to go see a doctor.  I might be able to coordinate an appointment with her on a day when I have a late shift.  *sigh*

In the midst of the chaos, my husband and I are trying to have a baby.  I know, it sounds crazy right?  But there will never be a good time for me or my body.  I also have no idea how long this process will take.  I’ve been on hormonal birth control since I was 15 to regulate my periods.  Because I’m neurotic and obsessive I’ve been tracking everything XD  A pregnancy will make my body much worse, so it’s not such a bad thing if it takes a while :$  The fetus releases relaxin, which loosens your joints.  For a normal woman this is fine, but my joints are already unstable and loose, so I might end up bed-bound towards the end of pregnancy.

So I’m trying to come back to blogging, reading, and writing.  I think the longer you go without writing the harder it gets.  On the plus side I pulled out my suicide story, dusted it off, and it actually still sounded good.  Usually if I got 2-3 months without seeing my own work I’m horrified at how crappy it actually is XD  I got a new book by Annie Proulx, The Shipping News.  I’m more interested in the prose than the story.  And I’m simultaneously rereading, The Road.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it now XD  Familiarity is comforting to me, and McCarthy continuously inspires me.  In some ways I’m a bit embarrassed about how little I have written in a year, but I’ve improved more in the past year than I did in the five years I wrote fanfiction.  It is what it is.  I’ve learned to let go of the anger and resentment directed at myself because it’s counterproductive.