Rewriting Old Memories

I think it’s fitting that I finished my first round of “tweaking” edits today. I didn’t plan it that way, it’s just the way it worked out. Something bad happened on this day, last year, something that changed my life forever. I haven’t been dwelling on that too much today, but I did fear that today would forever become the anniversary of something I didn’t want to relive.

That still may happen. I’m not likely to forget to what this date means, but now I’ve given it new memories to overlay the old ones. I finished something today. I worked hard, and I accomplished something. My completed manuscript is now a little more polished, hopefully a little more coherent. I sent out emails to my beta readers for Origins, telling them I have a new story ready and asking for their help.

Today doesn’t have to be marred by what happened in the past. It can be celebrated because of what’s happening now instead.

This Town Is Dead

I actually said those exact words a couple of weeks ago at the doctor’s office. I was having some blood drawn, and I mentioned that I work from home. People usually  just accept that, but the two lab techs were nosier than most, and asked me what I did. I told them I was working on a novel.

It isn’t an answer you hear a lot, and they were surprised and interested. One of the techs told me there used to be a novelist in town, but not anymore. He was from New York City, and had moved out here to find inspiration in the quiet of the country. It didn’t work, and he ended up moving back to the city. The tech lamented that there’s no inspiration at all to be found out here, and creativity just dies.

I agreed, uttering the words, “this town is dead”. The techs laughed, but we all agreed it was true. And if you take a moment to look around, it makes sense. This town is literally in the middle of nowhere, with the closest big city 100 miles away. It sits on a plateau before the land descends into desert, and the landscape is utterly desolate. There are no tall trees here. The dust and sand stretch on forever, always the same, giving you the impression that no matter how fast you move, you’re still standing in the exact same place. It gets pretty depressing.

And yet, I did find inspiration here. My young adult project was born out of this landscape, and I hope that shines through in my writing. The story begins in Canyon, Texas, a town just outside Amarillo and one I drive through every time I make the trip to that city. Bo, the protagonist, loves the outdoors, and is quite knowledgeable about the beauties and dangers of the desert. She discovers a parallel dimension, and it’s even more barren than the view from my backyard. I named it The Wasteland with good reason. Most of her story takes place here, as she explores and searches and learns about herself.

I couldn’t have written this story from the comfort of the Midwest. It took moving out here, and experiencing the barrenness and desolation of my current surroundings, for this story to be born.

Tweaking

After my week-long self-imposed hiatus, I am more than ready to begin my first round of edits on my young adult project. The problem is, I have a really hard time editing myself. I’ve also been told by others that my first drafts tend to read like finished works, which doesn’t help matters any. I’m good with the little things here and there, but big-picture flaws? Not so much.

There are a few things I already know I need to change and/or clarify, based on how my story ended up and the changes the characters went through. Some of them appeared at the end when I didn’t expect them to, so now I need to go back and do a little character development on them. I also need to shore up the character development I’ve already done. There are a few plot points I want to add, nothing that will dramatically change the story, but things I want to be able to draw from moving forward into book 2 (hopefully).

So, yesterday I started with a simple read-through. It’s been almost 3 months since I wrote chapter 1, and while I remember it, it isn’t as fresh as it was 3 months ago. I discovered that I still love chapter 1. Often, once a writer reaches the end of the story, their writing has improved so much that chapter 1 needs to be completely revamped to match the ending. I don’t feel that way. I feel like chapter 1 starts Bo off as a strong, independent character. If anything, the rest of the story doesn’t do her justice (hence, shoring up my character development).

My plan is to read through and tweak the entire story as quickly as I can, hopefully within the next week. Having all the information in my head at once will help me navigate and decide which changes need to be made. I’ll polish it as much as I can, then get in touch with my previous beta readers. Hopefully they can fill me in on all the big-picture stuff I’m not so good at.

Magnus Chase

This past week, I did exactly what  I said I was going to do. I took a break from my young adult project, and got a stack of library books. The problem was, I didn’t particularly want to be reading library books. I wanted to be working, so it was really hard for me to get invested in something else.

Sticking with my young adult genre, I got 2 different Rick Riordan series’, and by random selection, began reading the first book of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy, The Sword of Summer. I was looking forward to these books, because I’ve read both the Percy Jackson series (twice) and the Heroes of Olympus series, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. A new series with the Norse gods seemed like a fun adventure.

Right off the bat, I was struck with how nearly identical Magnus Chase’s story is to Percy Jackson’s, and that was really disappointing for me. I already read about Percy Jackson. I wanted something new. The basis of this trilogy is exactly the same as the others: kid finds out his dad is a god and suddenly he’s in a lot of danger. He has to go on a quest or the world will end. Magnus Chase even finds a magic sword almost immediately that’s destined to be his, which mirrors Percy Jackson exactly.

It’s understandable that the same author would have the same writing style across multiple works, but in this the series is also just like the previous ones. It’s fairly campy, and sarcastic, and most paragraphs end with a joke. The mythology is also similar. The gods are completely disconnected with who they’re expected to be, and are overly involved with petty, twenty-first century life. For example, Odin is obsessed with making power points and Thor neglects his giant-fighting duties to binge-watch Game of Thrones. The Olympian gods were portrayed in similar ways.

Through all that, I finished the first book in an embarrassing three days, because I kept losing interest and watching TV instead. But, persistent as I am, I started book 2 today, The Hammer of Thor.

One thing that struck me in book 1 was the fact that one of the main characters was a Muslim girl who wears a hijab. In general, I don’t have a problem with this, except for the inclusion being simple pandering to shifting cultural expectations. It wasn’t a big deal, and I continued reading the book. Book 2 went too far for my tastes. I was about an hour in this afternoon when a new child of Loki is introduced who is both gender-fluid and transgender.

I do have religious convictions about this issue, but since this is a writing blog, I’m not going to make that the focus of my opposition. I put the book down, and I will not finish the series, because I have no desire to read about transgender characters or to pretend that this is “normal”. But, like the Muslim girl in book 1, I do see this character as pandering. The Hammer of Thor was published in 2016, and transgenderism and all related issues have been hot-button topics for a while now. The addition of this character is culturally relevant and trendy and, again, pandering to popular political expectations. I can’t say why Rick Riordan decided to include this character, but I do disagree with writing something specifically to strike a cultural chord. Percy Jackson didn’t include transgenderism. The Heroes of Olympus didn’t include transgenderism. It is only now, in our current cultural climate, that he decided to include the issue.

Rick Riordan has the right to write his characters however he sees fit. I have the right to decline to read his works if I disagree with him. And this is only the most recent reason causing me to set this series aside.