The Writing of Wharton

55th Trial: Reading parts of my novel to people who do not typically like that style of literature to begin with. It does not tell me if in fact my writing actually doesn’t make sense, or if it does, and that person just has no tolerance for that style of prose. Thankfully, I am understanding the importance of finding the right people to read my novel, and how much I can learn from their perspectives.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 4-6hr/wk

Weekly Choice of Tea: Irish Breakfast Tea

Biggest Success: Becoming a student again. It is far easier to admit the need to tighten the skill set of a writer than to lounge on a throne of chipped paint and consider yourself a writer rich in prose.

 

 

Welcome back! Whether I am saying that to you, or to myself, I say it with arms flung wide to my sides and deeply from my diaphragm. I read my last post, which was a year ago, and I say yet again, welcome back. While my posts will continue to be far and few in between, I cannot neglect documenting my writing process any more. This is after all, a faithful journal of the trails and errors of a first-time novelist. After I have published my novel, I intent to bind all these together and read the contrasting ideas and emotions that have pasted over the many years.

And it has taken years for me to write what I have written, and sometimes one chapter takes a whole 6 months. I do not say that apologetically, as I have a business to run, a non profit to manage, and the impulse of adventure at my fingertips. But aside from all the time, travel, and hustle, I have managed to re-focus, and pick up the pencil once again.

At the beginning of 2019 I began Jen Sincero’s program of working towards one goal of my choice. Mine was to “Secure a Publishing Deal” by the end of the year, and it is a goal that I am working towards. But I knew I would need help. I cannot faithfully pick up writing and ignore the diversions that make me set it down again.

And so I began Margaret Atwood’s online Masterclass on fiction writing. I bought 4 self help books for the writer:  Edith Wharton’s “The Writing of Fiction”, Margaret Atwood’s “On Writers and Writing”, E.M. Forster’s “Aspects of the Novel”, and Stephen King’s “On Writing”. So far, I am learning a great deal, and feel much more of a connection to the world of writing and to that part of me that is a writer. Atwood says that every artist has that element of duplicity – the person brushing their teeth is not the same person that writes “Anna Karenina”.  As I go about my day, handing money to the cashiers, getting in and out of my car, and even as I take Boo out for a walk, I now know that being a writer is within me always, and that in itself its that warm, fuzzy, feeling of community that is making me create a rhythm and routine. As if me and the other me will clink glasses later, salute to the day, and change roles naturally.

As I read from other writers, I wish to share their words of wisdom here. They are nuggets of pure gold that I do not want to wash away. Some are words that are encouraging, some are subtle explanations that blow my mind, while others are brilliant analogies meant to soften the edges of the matrix of novel writing. Or of being a writer. Because both are trials in their own rights, and both need to be navigated through as much as they are cultivated.

Edith Wharton’s book “The Writing of Fiction” is the subject matter I intend to share with you, with the sincere hope that you will read the entirety of it for yourself. Her perspective on writing is absolutely illuminating, as her taste and study of literature is the North Star.

These are the golden highlights; the mineral within the mountains. Enjoy all the words that have spoken so much to me!

  1. “[failure]…is the cause of some painful struggles and arid dissatisfactions; and the only remedy is resolutely to abandon the larger for the smaller field, to narrow one’s vision to one’s pencil, and do the small thing closely and deeply rather than the big thing loosely and superficially.”  Nailed it.
  2. “The great continental novelists are all the avowed debtors of their English predecessors; they took the english novel of manners in its amplitude, its merriment and pathos, and in their hands ‘the thing became a trumpet’.” Something More British, please.
  3. “…dailogue, that precious adjunct, should never be more than an adjunct, and one to be used as skillfully and sparingly as the drop of condiment which flavours a whole dish.” Best advice EVER!
  4. “It is the unnecessary characters who do the crowding, who confuse the reader by uselessly dispersing his attention; but even the number of subordinate yet necessary characters may be greatly reduced by making the principal figures so typical that they adumbrate most of the others.” This, I feel, also applies to changing POV too much.
  5. “The impression produced by a landscape, a street or a house should always, to the novelist, be an event in the history of a soul, and the use of the ‘descriptive passage,’ and its style, shoulde be determined by the fact that it must depict only what the intelligence concerned would have noticed…” How easy it is to share my impressions with the reader, instead of respecting the mind we were just in.
  6. “It is obvious that a mediocre book is always too long, and that a great one usually seems too short.”
  7. “The question of length of a novel naturally leads to the considering of its end; but of this there is little to be said that has not already been implied by the way, since no conclusion can be right which is not latent in the first page. About no part of a novel should there be a clearer sense of inevitability than about its end; any hesitation, any failure to gather up all the threads, shows that the author has not let his subject mature in his mind. A novelist who does not know when his story is finished, but goes on stringing episode to episode after it is over, not only weakens the effect of the conclusion, but robs of significance all that has gone before.” She goes on in length regarding the proportion of the novel, and how the great writers of fiction knows that space is required for any argument worthwhile, and that they follow a “prescribed orbit”.
  8. “The writer must have a range wide enough to include, within the march of unalterable law, all the inconsequences of human desire, ambition, cruelty, weakness and sublimity. He must, above all, bear in mind at each step that his business is not to ask what the situation would be likely to make of his characters, but what his characters, being what they are, would make of the situation.”

A Political Post: JK Rowling

54th Trial: Blaming time and money as my limitations

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 0

Weekly Choice of Tea: Irish Breakfast Tea

Biggest Success: I’ve decided to quit my job to become a sole practitioner, a writer, and open up a non-profit chapter here in San Francisco! My biggest success is change itself!

A thought happened upon me the other day, and I found a new inspiration for my dusty, ill kept blog. Can a blog site, used as my own journal for the literary pursuits of my novel, while the pursuit at hand is at a screeching halt, be used still as a vocal platform for all things literature? I would say absolutely, as the silence is still more deafening and lame to me of the fact that I am not writing at all. With this thought, it is exciting to announce to you all that change is in the air! Not just for me, but within our country, within our social systems, within health, and within the neighborhoods at our feet. I see nothing but positive change, especially in this time in America, as imagination holds the key to determining our reality. An imagination that we must all turn to, when threat is in the air and uncertainty becomes the shadow beside us.

Why do I say this? Because JK Rowling has inspired just that. Remember the years when the Harry Potter books were being released at midnight? And we fell in love with her ideas, her characters, her plots? We dreamed of Butterbeer, fantasized of magic hidden amongst us, and admired the unyeilding friendships of the admiring characters. That magic is real, and it comes in many shapes and presentations. It is the same world that will help us through the upcoming years of tyranny, and in facing all the foes to freedom.

I laugh, when I see the battle JK Rowling is having to face. Not her rightful battle against the idiocracy of politicians or Trump himself, but with the response that she is getting from people who used to stand in those very lines at midnight. Who loved her strong characters, who loved the story of overcoming evil at all costs. So many have turned away from her, completely upset that she speaks out against the politics of our day. And my only thought to them is this:

From the author of Harry Potter, could you have assumed anything less? Not only does she write about defeating evil and standing up for those discriminated against, she lives it. What on Earth did you like about her Harry Potter books, if you do not like her modern day vocal tweets and political rants? The essence of Harry Potter is in defending basic human rights, or did you think they lived on a cloud and Avada Kadavra was shooting people with bullets of cotton candy? For you who burned her books, or disapproves of how she is in the political realm, we are all thankful to no longer have your contradictory voices behind the force for good. Because it’ll take the purest imagination to get through this, and it’ll take the consistency that is illustrated in the Order of the Phoenix and in Dumbelore’s Army. Imagine that!

in Fog and in Contrast

53rd Trial: “I’m sitting’ on the dock of the bay, wastin’ time…”

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  Since last post, I have averaged about 6 hours a week

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey, yet again my friends

Biggest Success: I have finished and typed up Chapter 8, and have begun plotting Chapter 9! I am almost done reading “The Professor”, which has turned out to be another masterpiece to the inner working of the human heart (male this time, which makes it the more intriguing) (and might I also add, has little events happening but the construction, confusion, and complete destruction of characters themselves in the eyes of our severe protagonist).

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While I have been a resident in Frisco Bay for almost 10 months now, my drive home from work today assured me of one inarguable fact:  there is no place like San Francisco. Sure you can say that regarding the character of any place you go, any city you get to know, any country you happen to travel; but places that I have gone, known, and traveled tend to have similarities, things to compare them to. San Francisco is nothing but a contrast to everything.

When I first alighted the streets of Fisherman’s Warf and the popular tourist destinations, I felt as if seeing the Golden Gate Bridge clearly was a chance encounter;   that for a tourist to catch the city in sunny rays was lucky enough to miss the foggy atmosphere that usually engulfs it. And grant it, since living here I have gotten used to the gentle flow of foggy wisps that begin to roll over the tree tops in the early evening — but a ‘foggy city’ has not been my experience of San Francisco, that is, until today.

It was one of the most beautiful moments I have had this past year. As my car curved through the hilly East Bay, I saw the city obscured by a depressed sky, as if someone pulled on the horizon just below the sun as one does a shade in a window. As I approached the Bay Bridge, I could see the fog hovering low above the water. I saw that if Alcatraz could stretch its arm just a little bit higher, its solitary state could touch both Earth and Sky and epitomize Purgatory.  I too felt that if I reached enough outside my car window, I could scoop up a handful of the low clouds and sell it on a stick at a fair. The fog was thick, thicker than I ever have seen. The sun was a perfect circle if you chanced to see it, and if you didn’t, you knew it was still there by the yellow glow that horizontally cut through the grey sky. It became more like the beacon of a distant lighthouse, growing brighter one minute then drawing away as the light rotated its cycle.

I passed over the bridge in this manner, never once thinking the city looked eery in its dark shroud. You felt as though you had no idea where this bridge actually led to, and if it was suddenly magicked to transport you from this foggy snow globe to a fantastical land. And then you would glimpse the flicker of orange peaking out of the top of the cloud, Golden Gate Bridge herself alluding to the same idea, convincing you you were in a land of giants and Jack’s beanstalk was under your wheels.

No city, no town, no place that I have known could elicit so much excitement, so much imagination, so much energy, all while surrounding you with so much darkness.

A Perfect Perspective

49th Trial: What sentiments have I not already covered?

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  2hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Turmeric and Ginger

Biggest Success: To date, my work-in-progress is 70 pages typed

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I am a Chiropractor living in San Francisco, not far from the famed painted ladies of Alamo Square. I have started slowly writing my novel, a life goal of mine that seems to share the over-cramped room of my Ambition with other careers, other desires, and other interests. Currently, my tongue is raw from a pack of sour patch kids and my Alice in Wonderland mug is steeping tea. These are the hard facts for the start of 2017 and for my first yearly blog post. Might I remind all readers that this blog is to hold myself accountable to the purpose of my writing, as well as a faithful narrative of my journey. If only there were a way to hold myself accountable for up-keeping the blog…

2017 has started as most of my years do:   an outburst of all that I want to accomplish, followed by a deep, long stare, which inevitably sinks me into a state of mild depression. So, what will I do with the challenges I have placed at my doorstep? I’m willing to tell ya. I’m wanting to tell ya. I’m waiting to tell ya!!!

My first action step was to feed the lethargy with Gilmore Girl episodes, and luckily I did so. There was a moment in the episode that illustrated how perfect, the perfect perspective can be. To accomplish any dream or desire, is to simply fall in love with it. Become in awe of it. Be humbled by it. I am not a writer because Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters inspired it. I am a writer because I am a part of their legacy. We, non of us, are our own stories that do not share the stories of everyone around us or before us. My time on this planet is minuscule, and the importance of my novel even less. However, I have contributed to the inhalation and exhalation of San Francisco’s eclectic city as it builds and progresses. Every patient of mine has allowed me to become a part of their health. I get the distinct pleasure of sitting in the front row seats of Jamie’s life and that of Boo Radley’s.  I write to support the love and legacy of literature. Those thoughts alone bring purpose to itself.

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Fantastic Beasts: a Reality

47th Trial: “I never worry. Because it only hurts twice.”  A (summed up) quote from the ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ movie.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  3hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey with Almond Milk!

Biggest Success: This blog post is inspired by the incredible movie that I saw last night, where J. K. Rowling’s imagination again found footing in reality. Maybe it was because I infinitely enjoyed magic in America that I loved this movie, or because I saw the beautiful care of precious creatures, or getting to spend an evening watching Eddie Redmayne (who is singularly adorable)! But the effect of the movie was immense! I cannot come back down so easily from the high of Rowling’s wizarding world, and am eyeing the latest release of the illustrated second Harry Potter book, ready to begin reading it tonight again. For the 15th time.

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them” took even me by surprise, a die-hard Harry Potter fan. Its magic was innovative and full of wonder, and the creatures were fascinating. The movie was brilliant, funny, and brought back the names we know so well:  Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, and even Lestrange.

Rowling’s world has turned out to be endless, naturally. I look forward to all the possibilities of Newt Scamander’s world and those of the multitude of other characters. These books give hope to reality, as their trials are the trails that we too have faced. We are no different, in our differences. To worry, to feel estranged, to feel obscure–though natural and intuitive emotions, have the power to grow fear and violence. How right it seems, to have this wizarding world show us all in turn our differences and our ability to always fight for humanity–in ourselves as well in others. Whether it be for the innocence of beasts in the wild, the abused and oppressed child, or for choice and free will.

I worry from the recent election. I worry for my stability in society, and my footing in California. But where there is imagination, hope, kindness, (and for me, Harry Potter!), there will always be a beautiful reality worth fighting for.

A Half-Priced Addiction

45th Trial: I sometimes think that if I surround myself with stacks of books, heaping amounts of tottering novels, words and sentences will flow out of me as Inspiration takes form. In other words, I cannot stop buying books. I have a problem.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:2hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Pumpkin Spice Tea

Biggest Success: This week I have began running and swimming again! If anything was neglected more than my writing, it was my exercise.

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I have plenty of inspiration. Sometimes I feel small next to it, like the redwoods that towered over me this past weekend. And most times, I feel amused by it. There are so many images and interactions that flow through my thoughts regularly, and I watch them as when I sit and ponder by a passing stream. Some ideas are great, and I throw my lure out to catch them. But like I do when I would sit and fish with my father, many rush on by or take my fishing pole with them! Inspiration should be an entity to any writer, a physical catch or tangible form.

Novels and books already written have always been my inspirational object, and as you read from my introduction, the British ones do it best. However, I am using this post to justify the fact that I cannot stop going to the nearby Half-Priced Books store, and purchase one to five novels. I hunch over the section of leather bound classics like a deformed addict, as if the act of bending over the shelves has bent my spine so that it has become perfectly normal for me to go there and do just that:  hunt for more books. I take them home with me and display them. And I am dazzled by that Inspiration. I see it nestle between the Dickens and the Brontes, or watch it stretch like a lush over the Melville and Hemingway. It jumps from Wilde to Twain, and tip-toes past Conrad. Yes, in just a week, I have managed to purchase books from all afore mentioned authors. I label it Inspiration, instead of addiction, thank you very much!

You Love to Write

44th Trial: A story is a part of you, like a cell maturing into an egg, that then grows in the womb (I understand I am skipping a few steps!). When you give birth to it, it becomes detached, in need for nurture and responsibility. This is a strange comparison, however I feel a bond with my novel, and yet a strange detachment. As if I neglected it, and I don’t know it as well as I did when it was only within me.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: Since it has been over 2 weeks since I last wrote to you all, I hate to admit that my writing hours amounted to a small, dismal, 30 minutes. Let me use the excuses of long weekends working, increase demand of attention elsewhere, and continue to justify my lack of progress.

Weekly Choice of Tea: Turmeric and Ginger, with the occasional Pumpkin Spice Latte (thank you Starbucks for now having almond milk)

Biggest Success: Finished reading the play, The Cursed Child. The magical world filled the empty pockets of my living room once again, and every time Time turned, I felt its rush! I look forward to seeing the play one day, happy to see the dynamics hold strong between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as I envisioned them to. I know the characters live always within Rowling’s mind, as she has stated, but in a way they never leave the reader’s thoughts or our hopes.

As I said before, I will no longer write of not finding time to write. Or that life gets busy, hectic, stressful, and long-winded. It will ALWAYS be ALL those things. It is a beautiful thing however, to understand that something you create comes from your love of doing so.  It may take daily attempts to see it this way. I love to read and to write, and that passion comes from nothing more complicated than my enjoyment of it. You always read the quotes that say “do more of what you love”, which means the majority of us do not. Though I will support that it is not without lack of trying for most. I never wonder why people do things they do not love doing, but it astonishes me when people ignore the things that they love. Be it the person you are married to, the purpose of your career, the pursuit of knowledge, or the beauty of art.

I sat down to write for the first time yesterday in a couple weeks. The story was extremely malnourished and frankly, I thought pitiful. I reread the paragraph I last wrote. The sentence structure was rudimentary and the language of my genius downright knickbockery. And yes, I just made that word up. Instead of letting self-hatred lead me to give up on my novel, I told myself this:  you love to write. And then I just picked up where I left off, knowing it is my own deficiency of character to NOT work for what I love.

Currently, I am reading Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaids Tale” as well as a children’s novel, “The One and Only Ivan”. And have not watched anything BBC in too long. It is time that I incorporated something more British into my routine.