A Ramble – Why did I write Cleo’s Journal? Why do I write at all?

Posted: January 11, 2014 by Cat Reyes in Other Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today is going to be a ramble about writing.

I was thinking about Cleo’s story last night. I don’t mean about where it’s going to go. I know where I want it to go and I guess my characters agree because it’s still that way in my mind. But I was actually thinking about why I started writing it, which then led to why I write at all, and finally to stories that I have read but didn’t like.

With Cleo, it just happened. I have written tiny bits about zombies before, usually brief moments of zombiness in other stories. But never as a catalyst or a main sequence in stories. To be honest, other than the few bits in my teen paranormal series I never really thought about zombies in my stories. Now, I am a huge zombie movie fan, and have read a few books on zombies (mostly in the form of the Anita Blake series, which has nothing to do with the apocalypse).

I had been toying with a zombie apocalypse story for a couple weeks, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I didn’t have any characters. I didn’t have a plot, other than the zombies. I just had the niggling shadow of an idea.

Then, one morning, I woke up. My break from school had just started a few days before. But that morning, I woke with purpose. I wrote the first day of Cleo’s story down. And that is how I met Cleo and Anubis. (For those of you out there who have read Cleo’s journal, I have a feeling that Anubis will come into play later on.) After writing her first journal entry, I had no clue what to do with it. But I was itching to write more.

During this same period of time, I was toying with the idea of a Blog Novel. A novel written purely for a blog. When I had written Cleo’s first journal entry, I was still burning to write more, but I wanted to think on how to get it out there and the Blog Novel idea popped into my head. So I built ‘Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse’ and decided that Cleo would post a new entry in real time, to give the journal a more authentic feel.

That is how Cleo’s Journal came to be. I didn’t write ideas out before hand until day 6. When I wrote the entry for 6, my writing continued. All the way to day 18. But as I worked through the blog, I learned that Cleo and the others, who I didn’t even know, started popping into the story. From River and Abby, to Mel and Cleo’s mom (Meredith), Gabriel, and now Daniel. I had no preconceived notions about these people. My original intention for Cleo was to survive the apocalypse alone. After meeting River and Abby, well, things started going on their own. The first time I met Mel, I was thinking of him as a grandfatherly sort who had a vested interested in keeping people happy. Well, we all know how that turned out.

So. Cleo’s journal came into being. Probably the most surprising aspect of the journal is the fact that people liked it. I have written online before and have stories on fanfiction.net and articles on Helium (which I wish I had never written for them – I really wish I could pull some of the articles off of there so I can use them personally. I don’t really care about the rest of the articles. But a handful were my pride and joy.). Anyway, when people said they liked my work on Helium, I really thought they were just saying that to get me to look at theirs (which would earn them money).

People actually liked Cleo’s journal. And frankly, it was a real shock. There was no reason for them to comment on my story unless they really did like it. (Thanks to those who do, you know who you are!) And here’s the crux. I honestly didn’t think I was a good writer. I still wonder. I am terrified that I am not good enough. I still remember the first “I like this!” I received in a comment. I turned so red my parents thought I was having a heart attack. No joke. My face was hot and achy all at the same time and felt like it had swollen to the size of an overinflated balloon.

Not believing the compliment, I went back over what I had written; trying to figure out if there was a mistake. By the time I was done, there was another compliment. I think I might have passed out, except that I am certain my parents would have called the ambulance. Try explaining passing out from embarrassment to a doctor. I am so not going to do that.

Now you are looking at this, as I did when I realized this, and the next question is: Why do I write at all? Actually, I can’t stop. It’s really hard to explain. All I know is that I have something inside that will burst if I don’t continue writing. It wakes up with me in the morning, continuing to grow, especially on days that I don’t write. The only relief I get is when I do write.

Whenever I think about why people write, I always go back to Sister Act 2. In the movie, Whoopi Goldberg cornered Sheryl Ralph on a street corner. Whoopi knows the other girl can sing, and thinks about singing, and gives her a book. When she does, she points out something the author said (verbatim), “If you wake up in the morning and all you can think about is writing, you were meant to be a writer. If you go to bed at night and all you think about is writing, you were meant to be a writer.” (I can’t remember how she said it exactly, but this is the general idea.)

I can honestly say that the urge to write can be a curse as much as a blessing. I am driven to write, no matter what. I can be in the middle of driving my mom to work and suddenly have an idea. Or I could be just about to fall asleep and it happens. Or cooking dinner (too many pots have now entered the junkyard because of me – even worse was the one where I was cooking top ramen). But at the same time, it’s the best feeling in the world when I write. I can be whoever I want, for as long as I want, and do anything I want.

Even better is that it makes me curious. I am fascinated by everything. Whenever I get curious, I just look whatever has interested me up on the net. Most of what I learn eventually ends up in my stories. So the idiom “write what you know” is a really fluid concept for me because I am continually learning.

Like I said before, I am terrified of being a bad writer. Which then leads me to looking at the books that I can’t get into, or just plain don’t like. Twilight has entered that pile, along with all the following books of that series. Yeah, I love vampires and humans and werewolves and all those spooky creatures from nightmares and dreams. So, how can I love the monsters and yet seriously dislike Twlight?

Believe it or not, the characters. The only truly believable character in the novel series is Edward. I’m sorry, but a girl will not just lie down and take the abuse that Edward dishes out to her unless she comes from a background of similar abuse. Since she didn’t, she shouldn’t. Unfortunately, now other writers are taking up a similar ploy. (The Fallen series is one that follows a similar character structure.)

Then I realized that I have no room to talk. The thing is that I am not published, so I can’t say one way or the other. I know that it takes incredible confidence and courage to be able to walk up to an agent or publisher and say “I think I have a story you might like.” Which means that until I have walked in their shoes, I have nothing to say about their stories. They worked. That’s all that matters, at least in the monetary department.

It dawned on me while I was thinking about this last night, that if I really don’t like what another author publishes, then I need to get my fingers working and write something ‘better’ and get it published. And I also realized that even if I get my stories published, I am going to have someone else sit there and rip it apart, for character, setting, plot, whatever. So here is my advice to anyone who hates a published novel that is currently out there. Stop writing about how much the novel annoys you and write your own. If you take the time to write what makes a novel so bad, you could probably get most of an outline, or at least part of the first chapter, written.

And just in case people are wondering, my vote on best novel/novel series of this era is the Harry Potter series. I honestly believe that it should have a spot in the literature anthologies. Rowling is an absolutely amazing writer and I can only hope to one day be as good as she is. (And remember that I currently have over five-hundred novels in my own library – I collect books like others collect coins, only I am not as picky about it.) 🙂

 

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Comments
  1. cb says:

    As I said before, I don’t know if you are any good as a writer or not. I have no qualifications as literary critic. But I know what I like and I would pay real money to read Cleopatra’s Journal.

    Your skill at character development is excellent. In my opinion it is the believability of the characters and author’s ability to to draw the reader in to the lives of the character that makes the story and the author successful. It is the thing that makes the reader stay up all night to find out what happens next or stand in line to get the next book.

    Now stop philosophizing and write me more Cleopatra’s Journal.

    • Cat Reyes says:

      LOL Interesting way to put it. But looking over what I have written (So far, read and edited Day 1 – on the comp, not the blog) I have a lot of tidying up to do. I am toying with adding a new post, but I want to at least read over what I have to start tying things together. But the end of this story doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Story. I am going to tie up one side of the story, but I want to push it a couple posts farther before I do. And its going to be, I hope, interesting.

  2. I am a published author in some very small FRPG magazines, and for one FRPG company (White Silver – no longer in business), I am also a free lance editor. I think you do have a talent for writing. I hope that you will continue to write.

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