Saturday, December 10, 2011

15 Days till Christmas and a Discussion on Copying

Only fifteen days to go. It's hard to believe that's the measure of the time remaining. But whether I wish it or not, the time ticks by. What I really wish is that this lingering sickness would go away. I must have gone through 10 cough drops in row this morning and afternoon to keep from coughing all over our yard sale customers.
Isn't my sister cute? She was our cheerleader/living signpost.
Yes, today was the big day and my room is emptier than yesterday. So, after I clean up a bit (the amount of dust that collects under a desk is astounding!) I can rearrange things into a nice little cozy reading corner. But first, cleaning is a must. The baseboards and carpet look disgusting covered in grey webs of dust and dirt.

As for writing, I still have several more hours left of the day to accomplish something on that front but to be on the safe side I'm downgrading myself from 500 words a day to 250. Perhaps once the holidays are over and the relatives gone, I can go back to 500 or more words a day. After all, I've set a new project for myself. Perhaps I should say, an old new project. It's been floating around on my head and paper for 10 years now and it's about time I finally wrote the whole thing down. I've never managed to get beyond 4 chapters before. But a bit of background first.

I spent the whole yard sale and the rest of the afternoon reading the fourth and final novel in Christoper Paolini's Inheritance Cycle. That behemoth of a book took me all that time to read it because it sits at well over 800 pages (!). I have to admit that his writing has improved over the duration of the series so I look forward to his next book or series, when, hopefully, he'll start from scratch. Yes, I'm a firm believer that Paolini copied far too much from other books and movies. However, that's what happens when you're a young writer embarking on your first novel. I did it, but more on that later. In Paolini's next series, I hope he begins on a new world where he will draw more on his imagination than the books he's currently reading. Each new book in the Inheritance Cycle gave me more and more hope that he was finding out what it truly means to craft your own unique world from not so unique building blocks. Every writer starts out with the same materials. It's how a writer uses them that sets apart the good from the bad, the original from the copies.

In the first half of my senior thesis, I discussed this phenomenon of copying. You might recognize it better under a different name. That is, imitation. When you realize that copying is actually imitation, you can see the logic behind it. Imitating the masters has always been one of the first ways for artists and writers to learn how to write. And so this is where all beginning writers start. Most of these novels never see the light of day after they are written. Paolini just had the misfortune that his novel did see the light of day and was published with all the imitations intact, thereby leaving him open to criticism. Of course, once you start down the road of imitation I would argue that it is impossible to completely erase all traces of imitation even with countless edits and revisions.

But you must move past imitation to become a creator of original works. That first imitative novel or work is an essential step, but it's not the destination.

That leads me back around to my imitation novel. I started it 10 years ago when I was asked by my mother to choose an English course for our homeschool that year. I chose "Learn to Write the Novel Way". I embarked full of enthusiasm on a fantasy novel which I called SwordQuest at the time. I know, such an original name, is it not? At the end of the year I had 4 chapters of a fantasy novel and I had figured out two very important things. 1) I. Hate. Planning. (I still do to this day. Minimal planning/pantsing it is the way to go!) 2) My MC was a carbon copy of the heroine from Robin McKinley's "Hero and the Crown". Why? Because that was the latest novel that had captured my interest and obsession. Once I realized this, I scrapped the novel, revised it and began again until I finally put it aside. Of course that may have also had something to do with the fact that I'd attempted an outline and had not only failed, but I had written myself into a corner.

Three years later, when I again turned my creative efforts to novels, I started writing my first sci-fi novel "Adventure at Anwar" which is still unfinished to this day. However, in those three years my original fantasy novel had been stewing in the back of my mind. My MC went from a princess, to a soldier, to the sister of a soldier, to the daughter of a village head. The series expanded to three books instead of one and I discarded the original idea of having the MC questing for magical items. In other words, I revised it significantly. One by one, I attempted to strip away all the imitations I could see. Around that time, I had a brainwave about how to start writing the novel again. A story about unicorns in "Deep Magic" ezine gave me the idea and so I started back in on it. I wrote most of the prologue and started into chapter 1, figured out a good deal of the main plot points and characters, and even settled on a love interest. But the idea didn't go anywhere. I shelved it in the back of my mind.

This year, I cleaned off the dust. The series has once again morphed. Now it will take the form of a duology thus solving the problems of having no climax for book 1 and a boring journey for half of book 2. I combined them into one book, though the third (now second) book has remained the same so far. It is this series then, that I wish to return to. Even though it has several imitations left in it of Robin McKinley's work, it is hard to find them. One cannot be eliminated because it is essential to the plot. So, once I finish novella #2 for the "Across Time" series, I shall be taking a break to stroll down memory lane and complete this old imitation novel that's been 10 years in the making. Who know? Maybe it will turn out good enough to publish. But I have to finish writing it first. It's been 4 long years since my last foray into the fantasy genre and I think it's about time I went back.

Until next time!

P.S. This blog post is over a thousand words. Haven't written a post that long in a while. O_O

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts! I especially liked your point about how imitating the masters is how we start out. :) It's so very true. Hopefully, though, we can learn to be our own masters of the craft.


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