Graveyard (poem thing)

(OOKAY WOW I didn’t realize when I posted this that I’d posted it already a couple weeks ago, when I actually wrote it. Uh. Oops. >.> So have it again with minor revisions, I guess, and another cool poem that I wrote spur-of-the-moment after having a weeeeird dream during my nap. Weird poem follows this one.)

Graveyard

I found a case file the other day,

brimming with unsolved murders.

Each little headstone bears a name, a date,

a record of the ones I slew when I was eleven, twelve, fourteen.

Just last week, in fact, I held a funeral

for the one that couldn’t stand on its own two feet.

I moved on to better prospects,

ones that might hold my interest for more than two months and a couple chapters,

ones that held more dragon-slaying and adventure.

Maybe someday I’ll come back to those stories

abandoned in the novel graveyard.

~Mercia Dragonslayer

(hehe oops sorry again for posting this more than once. eh)

 

Apocalypse Poem Thing (obvs no title, in case you can’t tell)

 

I would like to thank the creator of the universe

for creating a world in which there is no freak virus.

 

There is no virus, no disease

that necessitates guns and lock-downs and paranoia,

freeze-locks on monsters with pale, spider-silk skin,

a lack of frenzied escape attempts

leaving loved ones behind, locked in the inevitable,

while the horrified survivors stumble on.

 

So yes,

Thank God for the lack of apocalypse.

 

~Mercia Dragonslayer

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Graveyard (Poetry)

(Quick explanation for poetry we had to write a poem on death. And to make up for the really depressing poem I brought in last week, I wrote this little thing. Enjoy!)

Graveyard 

I found a case file the other day,

brimming with unsolved murders.

Each little headstone bears a name, a date,

a record of the ones I slew when I was eleven, twelve, fourteen.

Just last week, in fact, I held a funeral

For the one that couldn’t stand on its own two feet.

I moved on to better prospects,

ones that might hold my interest for more than two months and a couple chapters,

ones that held more dragon-slaying and princess-rescuing.

 

(maybe someday I’ll come back to those stories

abandoned in the novel graveyard.)

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Writing Schedule

Just a fun little gem I found while searching for something else.

My writing schedule goes:

nothing
nothing
nothing
100
nothing
50
nothing
50
nothing
357
nothing
nothing
nothing

….

OH WAIT NOVEMBER IS HERE.

783760315702.

—-

What does your writing schedule typically look like?

~Mercia Dragonslayer

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Catching Fire Review (ish)

Honestly, I don’t have a legitimate, coherent review of Catching Fire even after two months from when I saw it in theaters.

I literally cried through the entire thing.

The entire moving.

I think I stopped for like maybe five seconds here and there.

But

It’s so weird.

I have no idea how to explain why I was crying.

I mean, obviously, some of it was the deaths of well-loved characters, but I cried everywhere else, too.

The closest I’ve come to a decent explanation is that the whole situation is so hopeless and horrific, that literally there is nothing in the future for these characters, because there is no future. The victors think they’ve got it good, that even if they’re going to suffer nightmares and self-hatred the rest of their lives, at least they’re alive. And they’ll never again go through the horrors of the Hunger Games. Then that comfort is snatched out from under them. Johanna’s vitriol directed at the Capitol was well-deserved, and beautifully done. She’s so terrified and angry and lashes out at everyone she can. Also, the fact that the Capitol censors the f-bomb but broadcasts across the entire nation children slaughtering each other? I think that says something about Panem.

And it’s worse because the viewer knows what’s going to happen, knows that there is at least some scrap of hope, and the characters don’t have anything. But then you think about it and it’s like, no, there really is no hope.

Also–this movie felt so real to me. Not like, “Oh, I wish this were real,” or “Oh, this movie is realistic,” but like I was actually watching real, live, events. Events unfolding in real life as they happened on-screen. I think part of this comes from the way the beginning of the movie had portions filmed in documentary format, looking at the victors and tributes as if they were on live television. Still, that feeling carried me all the way through to the end.

tl;dr: THE HUNGER GAMES ARE HORRIBLE WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT EVER LIKE WHAT WENT THROUGH THEIR MINDS WHEN THEY PUT THE FIRST GAMES IN PLACE DJSKLGHLASGLJLDFDFSKLFSDLJK

~Mercia Dragonslayer

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“Writing and Preparing a Manuscript for Publication”

For those of you who may not have seen my last post, or don’t remember, I’m doing an independent study this semester! I’m excited for it–the title is a bit long-winded, but academia, you know. It’s pretty much writing a novel for college credit.

And, of course, I had to prepare my own syllabus for this “class,” because to my knowledge no one’s ever done this before at my college. (Funny thing, I had to run around campus to find out where the form I needed had gone, and made it to the Academic Success office, where it turned out that the lady I needed to talk to was unconvinced of my ability to write a novel in one month. Long story short, I convinced her, found the paper I needed, and almost died trying to get to class on time. Heh.) So, here’s the syllabus! (And, coincidentally, my writing schedule for this semester.)

“Writing and Preparing a Manuscript for Publication”

Class Texts:

  • Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market
  • Go Teen Writers by Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill
  • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
  • How to Write a Proposal (have yet to choose)

Objective: To write a complete manuscript, revise, and submit for publication.

Goals:

  1. To write a complete, original novel.
  2. To revise said novel to publication standards.
  3. To write a proposal for the novel.
  4. To send the proposal to a minimum of ten agents within my genre.

Weekly homework:

  1. Reflection of each week’s progress.
  2. Conference to check-in with Dr. Angle

Weekly Schedule:

Week 1: Planning the novel, reading Characters and Viewpoint

Week 2: Planning the novel; schedule writing for the next four weeks.

Week 3: Writing

Week 4: Writing

Week 5: Writing

Week 6: Writing–finish the novel and send out for critiques (Nick, Ashlynne, OYAN, figment, Mom)

Week 7: -Break from writing- Read Go Teen Writers and form a plan of revision.

Week 8: -Break from writing- Read How to Write a Proposal and identify the elements I will need to write it.

Week 9: Revision, fix large-scale plot problems.

Week 10: Revision cont’d.

Week 11: Turn in to Dr. Angle and discuss potential revisions and changes; start implementing changes.

Week 12: Continue to discuss revisions with Dr. Angle; more small-scale revisions.

Week 13: Small-scale revisions and proofreading (Mom) combined with writing the proposal.

Week 14: Present proposal to Dr. Angle, revise, and identify potential agents and publishers.

Week 15: Send out proposal to as many agents as possible–at least 10.

Week 16: Write a 5-10 page reflection of the entire semester.

I foresee a few changes here and there–the writing weeks may flow over one way or another, and revising may take less time. But that’s approximately how long it’s taken me to plan/write/revise past novels, so I’m fairly confident in my ability to get this thing done.

~Mercia Dragonslayer

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Happy New Year!

Happy new year, dear followers!

It’s 2014, and it’s time for–you guessed it–new year’s resolutions. You know, the ones that I never keep because I give up about two months in. Well, hopefully, this year I’ll be able to get some stuff done!

1. Procrastination. I procrastinated so horribly last semester in everything–writing, art, and school work–and this year, I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to get to finals week and stress out because I haven’t gotten anything done. My roommate and I have arranged our schedules so that we do homework right after the class when it’s assigned, since we have breaks between some of our classes (four or five hours for me, one or two for her). And if I had my textbooks already, I’d be able to put this into motion already!

2. Writing. I’m doing an independent study this semester, titled “Writing and Preparing a Manuscript for Publication.” Yes, that’s right, I’m doing what I love–novel writing–and getting credit for it. It’s great! I’m in the process of planning the novel, and have been since the beginning of Winter Break, so I’m confident I won’t get bored halfway through. For the curious, sometime in the next week or so I’ve queued a post of the syllabus I wrote up. At any rate, this is a project I’m excited about, and I want to stick to it and finish it.

3. Blogging. I have been so bad about blogging this past year! And I feel bad, because I would really like to build my writer’s platform, but obviously that’s not going to happen unless I work at it. So I’d like to post at least twice a month. Based on past years, that’s a little ambitious, but hopefully I’ll get some decent posts in. Also, I plan on revamping my whole blog design and pages. Everything will look chaotic for awhile, but rest assured, it will be back to normal soon.

4. Art. If there’s one thing I’ve gotten into more this year, it’s art. I rediscovered my waucom drawing tablet and have drawn a couple things with it. I’ve been sketching more on paper, and I’m getting the hang of finger-drawing (or stylus-drawing) on my iPad. I really want to up the ante and further develop my skills this year in all aspects of art, but specifically figure/face/hand drawing, computer paintings, and ballpoint pen drawings.

And those four areas are pretty much the extent of my new year’s resolutions. What are you all planning on doing this year?

~Mercia Dragonslayer

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How to Critique

Critiquing is very srs bsns.

No, really.

Critiques give writers hope for their stories and help to keep those stories going. Critiques gives writers the fans they need to keep going, and motivation to write better because they have an audience. And finally, critiques give you, the critiquer, the opportunity to better understand the writing process and in turn better your skills.

The thing is, critiquing is hard enough when you’ve new to writing. You don’t know where to start–it all looks so intimidating, and everyone else seems to know exactly what they’re doing. That, my dear readers, is how I can help you.

I’ll start off with novel chapters, since that’s what I critique the most often and what seems to be in the most abundance on the forum. (The cool thing about reading novels on the internet is that generally, you don’t read the whole thing at once. You generally start following the author when s/he posts the first chapter, and continue to critique every chapter after that, if the story interests you.)

First of all, there are several things not to do when giving good critiques. Number one, the Golden Rule, is to never say “It looks great” without offering any other feedback. This is not a critique, this is a nuisance for the writer because it is entirely unhelpful beyond the fact that you liked her novel. Instead of being so vague, even if you did think the novel was great, find what, specifically, you thought was great. Were the characters realistic? The plot intriguing? The prose beautiful and poetic? Be as detailed as possible so the writer knows how to continue to do better. Number two, don’t be rude. It’s okay to say what you didn’t like about the piece, but be kind and keep the author’s feelings in mind as you review.

Moving along!

There are three types of critiques: broad, general comments about the overall structure of the chapter/novel; specific comments about the characters, motivations, plot twists, writing style, etc.; and in-depth line-by-line critiques for grammar, spelling, style, flow, etc.

The first type of critique is only marginally helpful. Most often, I see this executed as a well-meaning “It looks great!” or “I don’t see anything wrong with your plot!” though it can come in the form of “You have a massive plot hole in Chapter 3.” I find these critiques helpful only if the comments are of the latter kind and not the former. See Golden Rule #1 of Critiquing, above, for why these critiques are generally unhelpful.

The second type of critiquing, comments about specific aspects of the story, are the best for first drafts. Often, authors will post lists of questions they want answered, which is helpful for those of you who have no idea how to give feedback. If there is no list of questions, focus on the following aspects of the story, in this order: emotions, characters, plot, and setting. Start off with emotions. Talk about how you felt while reading. Were you happy? Sad? Scared? Laughing out loud? Knowing your emotional response to each event helps the author gauge how successful she was when writing the scene. I myself often write scenes with projected reader emotions in mind and getting feedback on how successful I was helps me plan the next chapter. Next, focus on characters. For first chapters, talk about whether you cared about the Hero. Did he capture your interest? Are his actions and reactions realistic? Do you sympathize with him? Do his motivations make sense? This is especially helpful in earlier chapters, when it isn’t too late for the author to fix things later. Then, focus on the plot. Have there been any obvious, gaping holes from chapter to chapter? Did the author drop a plot line from Chapter 4? Are there any characters who have been brought up once or twice, seemed to play an important role, and then are never mentioned again? And finally, talk about the setting and description. Did you see clearly every character and setting? Or were some things fuzzy? Is there too much purple prose, or is the author’s writing sparse of almost all description? Keep in mind that description is very subjective–it’s okay to not have a lot of it, and it’s okay to write prose that reads more like poetry, but there are extremes to both sides. Instead of saying that an author should have more or less description, just write down the pictures you have in your head of the characters and setting, and let the author decide if the reader needs more information, or if the current description is good enough.

The third type of critique is (almost) never helpful for first drafts. Why? Because a critique explaining in great depth every grammatical mistake and awkwardly worded sentence is a waste of time. Often, much of the original story will be cut and/or reworded and rewritten by the time the final draft gets around. If you give the author, in exact detail, every misspelled word and misplaced comma, s/he will feel obligated to fix it. And then, when s/he revises later, it will turn out to have been a waste of time because the parts s/he just fixed no longer exist. Always, alway wait until the author asks for grammar/line-by-line critiques before giving them to save time and effort all around. (NOW! This is not to say that you should never point out errors, especially if it is a common error (constant misuse of commas, constant awkward wording, etc.) that the author needs to address now before s/he goes any further. That’s okay. Just don’t waste your time with proofreading the whole chapter in this manner.)

Now,  as you may have already noticed, first chapter critiques are slightly different from other chapters. One reason for this is because first chapters must contain certain elements in order to properly engage the reader within the first ten seconds that s/he glances at the page. When critiquing a first chapter (or the first four pages), keep a running list of all the questions you find yourself asking. Obviously some of them won’t be answered in the first chapter, or even until the end of the story, but the purpose of the first chapter is to feed the reader hors d’oeuvre to make him hungry for a five-course meal. Pay special attention to the things that grab your attention and write them down for the author.

Now I’ll get into the actual structure of the critique. Sometimes, this is the hardest part, when the author doesn’t give a list of questions, so I’ll just tell you what I do. Keep in mind there is no right way to structure a critique–just make sure you include everything you want to say in an organized manner, and put as first priority any questions the author wants answered. Generally, I make comments on the actual document (too much passive voice, great emotion here, too long description, etc.) and then write up several paragraphs of my impressions at the end. If the author gave questions, I answer those and put my other comments last. Pretty simple.

At any rate, I feel like I’ve rambled on enough about critiquing now. I hope this helps everyone!

~Mercia Dragonslayer

PS in case this looks familiar to anyone, yes I did indeed post it on OYAN like five seconds ago. I shamelessly recycle forum posts into blog posts, I’m a horrible person…

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