Staying True

I mentioned in my last post that I’m applying for a freelance writing position. I really want it. I’m not going to tell you who it’s for, or what it’s about, simply because I’m still in the applying stage. If I get it, I’ll tell you more about it.

I also mentioned that I’m struggling with the application. The application is several phases, and I’m currently in phase 2, which entails a series of writing assignments. The assignments are quite different from just about all other writing experiences I’ve had. Here’s a basic rundown: the program I’m applying for is already up and running with someone else writing the content. In my assignments, I need to write similar content while maintaining the current “voice” of the writer.

Yikes. I’m pretty good at writing in my own voice, but writing in somebody else’s? A real person, and not just a character (which, face it, comes out of my head and contains a bit of my own voice anyway)? And with content that I’m not overly familiar with? It’s daunting, and I’m terrified that I’m going to screw it up. In my mind, one little mistake will kick me out of the running, and the opportunity will be lost forever.

I worked on the first assignment a few days ago, and I agonized over it. Sentence by sentence, word by word, it felt foreign and wrong. I put the words down, only because the clock is ticking and I need something to turn in when the buzzer sounds. I’ve been dreading the next 2 assignments.

I did the second assignment tonight, and I had an epiphany. I’m still going to do my best, and try to format it the way they’ve requested, but I’m not going to worry about doing it “just right”. I’m going to do my own research, and write the piece the way I feel does it justice. I’m trying to preserve the voice, but it’s taking a backseat to me writing what I think is the best work I can do.

I may fall flat on my face. I’ve already passed phase 1, which means they like something about me. And if I’m trying to copy someone else’s style perfectly, I’m not being true to myself and to my own work. Hopefully they’ll see my best and decide they can work with what I bring to the table. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it any other way.


Struggling With Tension & Betrayal

Apologies for the long absence. I feel like I apologize a lot, but the truth is, this blog is quite far down on my list of priorities. So many other things come first, and if I don’t get around to writing a post, then I just don’t. This past week conspired against me. I’ve been fighting a head cold, and it’s hard to think coherently when you feel like your face is about to fall off and hit the floor. So, I’ve mostly vegged on the couch and watched old episodes of Supernatural.

I’ve also been trying my hand at something new. I’ve applied for a freelance writing position, and they’ve sent me writing assignments as part of the application process. It’s different for me, and hard to tailor the work to what they’re looking for, so a lot of my spare brainpower (which hasn’t been much lately) has been diverted to that.

But, I did manage to get a little bit of work done. And I’m struggling with it. I’m rounding out chapter 15 in my current fantasy project, and I’ve hit a snag that I just can’t seem to push through. My protagonist has been betrayed by his master, and they come face-to-face in this scene. Ideally, it should be full of drama and tension, and I’m not quite sure what to write for it. I need dialogue. The master needs to try to explain his actions, and  Callum needs to deal with his feelings and respond appropriately.

I also don’t know how much to tell. Originally, I planned to have the master monologue for a while, talking about his history with the antagonist and their past relationship. I tried writing it that way, and ended up deleting it. It just didn’t feel right. Now I’m thinking it should be brief. A few sentences, maybe a paragraph, tops. Something for Callum to think about, but not really get resolution from.

I know how the scene ends. Callum offers no forgiveness, but neither does he kill him. He lets him go on his way, and I’ve yet to decide if they meet again or not. Callum has mixed feelings. His master has been a father figure to him, and his betrayal cuts deep. But at the same time, he can’t bring himself to raise his hand against him. It’s a complicated scene, and it feels like nothing I write does it justice.

I’m going to give it another go tonight. Hopefully I can wrap it all up with just a couple hundred words. I last worked on it 2 nights ago, when my head was so congested I was having trouble stringing two thoughts together. My head is clearer tonight, and with the time away maybe I’ll have more luck.

Talk to me in the comments. What scenes do you struggle to write? How do you get through them?

Time Constraint Experiment

I recently read a blog post from an author on Writer Unboxed (I forget who the author was, and I’ve already deleted the email) who told a story about writing in an airplane on a 45-minute flight. The post was chiefly about how this author felt during that time, the sense of excitement and terror and pressure to produce something with such a limited amount of time. This author repeats this exercise often, believing that under such constraints, they are bolder in their approach and write things they never would have thought to otherwise.

I didn’t give this approach much thought at the time. I prefer to block out several hours in which to write, and if I run out of things to say before that time is up, then I just stop early. But today I’m going to run a quick test, and see what I can accomplish in a short amount of time. See, I haven’t gotten around to getting any writing done yet today, and my laptop only has 22% battery left. Which leaves me with two options: try to accomplish something now, or plug in the laptop and get back to work later (the cord is currently trapped behind the tech station, and I cannot easily plug the laptop in and continue working).

So, I’m going to use my 22% as best I can for the moment, and see what I can accomplish.

RESULTS: Better than expected. My battery is currently at 5%. I wrote for 29 minutes, and put down 712 words.

Interestingly, I did find the time constraint somewhat freeing. Knowing I had a limited amount of time, I put down the first words that came to mind without thinking too much about getting them perfect. I ended up with my protagonist confronting my antagonist earlier than I had planned, and I think I like it better this way.

The other author was right about the terror, too. I felt incredibly pressured, and tense, worried that my time would run out before I had told a sufficient story. As it is, I ended in the middle of a scene, the middle of a conversation, even, and it’s going to bug me until I have the opportunity to finish.

All in all, it was an interesting experiment, but probably not one I’ll repeat often, or even again. I still prefer my blocked out time, and being able to end where I choose, not where time cuts me off.

Talk to me in the comments. Do you ever write under intentional time constraints? What are your impressions of the practice?

The Children Of Húrin

I’m finally back into a mostly-regular routine, and that includes getting started on my self-imposed book list. Top of the list are three J.R.R. Tolkien titles that I bought almost a year and a half ago for my birthday, and haven’t gotten around to. Last weekend I began The Children of Húrin

First, a little history. It took Tolkien more than a decade to create the world of Middle-Earth and write what we know today as The Lord of the Rings. In the course of this massive project, he created many races of people and wrote complex histories for them. He wrote their languages. Elvish may look and sound like gibberish, but it has rules and vocabulary and grammar just like any language spoken today. The majority of these tales didn’t make it into the trilogy, but they’re vitally important in influencing those events. Some are referenced in the appendices, but not every detail is included.

The events in The Lord of the Rings occur in the Third Age of Middle-Earth.  The Children of Húrin predates these events by thousands of years, occurring in the First Age. The book reads more like a history than a story, at least, stories like I’m used to reading. But the history itself is fascinating, and has helped to expand my understand of the later stories.

Probably the most shocking for me is that Sauron is not the ultimate evil in the world. Sauron began merely as a servant of Morgoth. Morgoth is the central “villain” in The Children of Húrin, as his evil spreads and he attempts to conquer the Men of the North. Morgoth himself is one of the Valar, the beings who created the world, making him essentially a god. His evil grows too large, and the remaining Valar step in to overthrow him and bind him in chains. 

I’ve also always wondered about the elves fleeing Middle-Earth. Why are they leaving? Why now? Where are they going? Why will they be safe there? Most of those questions are answered in this book. Turns out, the elves didn’t originate in Middle-Earth. They appeared there in the far east, and were summoned by the Valar to come west to the land of the gods. Here, the elves branch into several categories, which I won’t go into detail on. Basically, some went, some went and later came back, and some refused the summons and decided to stay. I’m unclear as to why all of the elves eventually leave, unless their continued absence from the Valar causes their powers to weaken.

Much of this information I learned from the preface and introduction to the book, written by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. It seems when he died he left several incomplete manuscripts behind. Christopher Tolkien is working to fulfill his father’s wishes that these stories by published in their entirety, and is attempting to publish them with little editorial work, preserving his father’s words and voice.

Talk to me in the comments. Are you familiar Tolkien’s more obscure works?