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Monday, August 23, 2010

Laughing at yourself - and resurrecting old friends

Being the youngest of four kids and having a near-death experience when I was young, my family pampered me a lot growing up. I always got my way, my parents always took my side, and I never got punished. I was also kind of whiny and well, a big crybaby.  This wasn't a very good situation when I started kindergarten. Every little thing that went wrong set me off and while the teachers were sympathetic, my classmates were not. Soon I wanted to get rid of the stigma of being the girl who cried at a broken crayon, and so I worked very hard at forcing myself not to cry. I eventually went from crying every day to maybe once a month, to just a couple times a year. But the thing that really helped, I discovered, was laughter. I remember it very distinctly, sitting in the bleachers in the second grade watching my classmates play basketball when the ball came flying straight at me and bonked me on the nose. It was a humdinger of a crying moment. People expected it - the coaches, my friends, and given how hard that ball hurt, it was certainly understandable that I would break into tears. But I didn't. You know what I did? I laughed. Yes, I laughed. I wanted to cry, I really did. The tears were threatening to break lose, but instead I made myself laugh good and hard. It lasted all of ten seconds, but in those ten seconds the pain subsided a bit. I realized that I wasn't really hurt that badly and the urge to drop those tears went away. What a life lesson! To laugh at yourself and completely change your emotions around. Now I'm not going to say that it changed everything in my life. I was still quite shy and for it change something so fundamental about my personality would have been expecting too much, but it did make me realize just how much we can control what goes on in our lives.

Flash forward to last night. I was feeling inspired to write up an outline for all the changes I want to make to an old WIP. I had some idea where I wanted to take it and I've even written out the first couple chapters of it (see Bettina teasers at the top of the page under Bettina), but I wasn't entirely sure about some things so I dug out my latest copy that I'd done about two years ago and read the first five pages. OMG!! Laughter, laughter, laughter. I could not believe I had written some of those sentences. There were so many grammar mistakes and some of it was so awkward and cliches! Ack! My main character does the whole waking up and getting ready for school thing - after coming off from a wet dream!!  I had even convince myself that the wet dream thing was original!! I'm laughing at myself even now thinking about it. So don't get me wrong here. The story line is sound and the revisions that I have in mind will make people sit up and take notice. It's a unique story with history and a fantastic twist at the end, and once I have it all revised I think it'll be great. But those first drafts *hahaha... still chuckling* But see what I'm doing here? I'm laughing at myself. And that's great because I know what I've done wrong with that story and I know how to fix it. Furthermore, I'm not afraid to fix it. I know that the majority of 400,000 words have to be slashed. Yes, that's not a typo - 400,000 words!! I may even take out a focal charcter, Bettina herself (and then I'll have to look for a new title). But I'm not afraid to start over because I've learned so much in the past 18 months that I know I can make this story right.

The point of this post?

1. You can control what goes on in your life. If you want to be a writer, then don't give up. Always keep ideas in your head and always strive to put something down on paper. Even if it's crap, who cares? You will grow by leaps and bounds and even though you may think you're never going to get the hang of this, you will. Persevere and it will come to you. Join sites like AW, get a critique group or partner, and read, read, read. I cannot stress that enough. READ!!

2. If you're in love with an idea don't be afraid to come back to it even if you know that what you've initally written isn't all that good. You may have to change a lot of things - plot, POV, you may even have to add or delete characters, but that's OK. It might not be the exact story you first imagined, but if the backbone is still there then you can make it into something that you'll enjoy, maybe even more than you first imagined - which I wholeheartedly believe is going to be the case here and I can't wait to get started on it.

3. Being able to laugh at yourself is part of growing a thick skin, sooo... *drumroll* Here's a sample of the first 800 words of my original draft of Bettina. It's ok, you can laugh at me. I don't mind. :)

“Bettina, Bettina, Bettina,” I moaned. I laid back and closed my eyes, letting the sensation drift through my consciousness. Her silky blond hair tickled my belly. I reached down and touched her head. My stomach clenched, and I tried to hold back, to draw it out. “Think of something else, quick,” I told myself. 


She moved too fast, like the wings of hummingbird. I couldn’t keep up. 

“Erik, it’s time to get up honey.”

Wait, who was that?

I couldn’t contain it any longer. I grasped her head, pushed it down roughly and held it in place as my body shook.

“Erik!” somebody screamed.

I sprang up in bed, shaking from the dream. I tried to catch my breath as the pounding continued on my bedroom door.

“Erik, get your ass out of bed now!” Johnathan screamed. He opened the door.

“Geez, I’m up,” I said, and yanked the covers over my body. He didn’t notice the wetness that had already begun to seep through the bedsheet. The corner of his dark eye twitched.

“Your mother has been calling you for the last ten minutes. It’s 7:30. If you’re not downstairs in fifteen minutes you’ll miss your bus, and I am not driving you in again. I am far too busy this morning.”

I gazed on his grim face. Fuck if I cared.

“I’ll be ready in ten minutes,” I said.

He turned and left. My mom unexpectedly peeked her head in the doorway, and I pulled the sheet up further.

“Honey, I made you some breakfast. You should eat before you leave.”

“I don’t have time, mom.” I could feel a headache coming on. “I’ll get something between classes.”

“Erik, you need to have a good breakfast to get you through the day,” she rebutted.

“Damnit, Carol, just leave him alone so he can get dressed and get the hell out of here.”

Mom shrinked at the reprimand but still smiled at me before shutting the door.

I flopped back onto the bed and closed my eyes. Bettina, Bettina. Blond, voluptuous Bettina. She was so skilled she made me quiver just from the thought of those full red lips.

Feeling my excitement rise again, I shook my head, trying to throw off the images. I ran my fingers through my hair and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Then I threw the covers off grabbed a towel to wrap around my naked buttocks, ran to the bathroom.

I quickly squeezed out some toothpaste and stepped into the shower, simultaneously scrubbing at my teeth as I washed. I spat the minty waste at my feet, then quickly lathered and rinsed. I raced back to my room and grabbed my newest pair of khakis from the short stack on the chair. I slipped into a cotton shirt and quickly worked upwards with the buttons. Finally I stood in front of the mirror and inspected my face, brushing my hand across my jaw. Coarse, but not enough to shave. Disappointed, I slapped on some aftershave anyway.
I ran my fingers through my hair, not bothering to comb it. It never did what I wanted anyway, so what was the point? It was auburn brown and had a tendency to curl in the humidity of our Minnesota summers. I didn’t like it much, and that’s why I tended to keep it cut rather short, not that Johnathan would have tolerated me wearing it long anyway, but I told myself that this was the reason.

I’ve never really considered myself handsome, and no one has ever contradicted this idea. It didn’t bother me. My mother once said that I have the most expressive eyes of anyone she had ever met. They sparkled, she said, as if there were always something brewing in my mind. I liked this image of myself – being mysterious was far better than being handsome. Plus it made Johnathan nervous - an added bonus.

As for the rest of my body? Well, let’s just say that the words lanky weren’t too unfamiliar. I was about to turn 16 in two weeks, and I was already six feet tall. I had gained three inches over the summer and not too gracefully, I might add. A couple weeks ago I broke my mother’s favorite vase when I got out of my chair a bit too fast. Of course Johnathan said that I wasn’t being careful and yelled at me for half an hour. Mom cried. It was from her late grandmother. I felt terrible, and I’m still trying to find ways to make it up to her. That basically means not fighting with Johnathan as much. It’s difficult.

That's it for today.

EDIT - scratch that! That isn't it for today. I just wandered over to KO's blog and found another lovely contest for you to enter. The books she's giving away sound awesome - actually one is for sure cuz I've just read it. go on over and have a looksee.

Remember to enter my contest too. Details here!


Melanie said...

WHOA...freakin WHOA! What a difference, Angie. I mean, the adverb usage alone had me going, huh? But she's the serial adverb slasher! hahaha.

Anyway, I loved your thoughts about laughing at yourself. That's how I am. At least I try to be that way :) Really great post and thanks for the great tips.

Bee said...

I love how honest and personal your posts are :)
Bettina's first draft made me giggle, lol, but yours is better than mine. When I re-read the ealy drafts of the novels I started at 13/14..oh, christ. I could make a museum of absurd-first-drafts :P

And, most importantly, I dunno how some people do it, but being a writer and not reading? Insane.

KO said...

Love this:

Joann Swanson said...

HUGE difference, girl! I did this recently with Tin Lily and was sooooo pleased with the change/improvement of my writing and, yup, I had a good, hard laugh. Great post, Angie!

Nomes said...

i wiah i could laugh at my first MS draft - i dtill cant help cringing at it. i was strongly influenced by jaclyn moriarty back in my first attempts at writing - but she has this magic touch and mine camp off as try-hard and instead of whimsical - it was cheesy :)

great post

Angie said...

Thanks for the lovely comments guys. yeah, I was adverb crazy back then. It's kind of a nostalgia thing, but if I ever get published you won't see me auctioning this thing off to charity like SM does. Of course I don't expect to get famous. Ok, that was a lame thing to say. Anyway, Nomes, I was also cringing while laughing my head off, but the laughter won out. I know that it's so much better now, I don't really care about it what it was like back then. It's just reassurance that I've improved. A LOT.

hugs guys!!



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