I Can’t Get Away From The Wolves

That’s what it feels like, anyway. I’m slogging through Wanderlust Chapter Nine. My heroes are exhausted; tired and aching and scared, already nearing the limit of their endurance, and that’s when the wolves attack. My boys have to find a way to save themselves so they can travel on and complete their quest. My task is much easier. I just have to fix all the sentences, tune up the dramatic pacing, and use the perfect words to describe how it all goes down. I’ve been thinking about it all day, I’ve been working on it on and off, and somehow I’ve barely made any progress at all. My characters feel tired and stupid in this scene (I’m at the part right before the “oh-god-I’m-being-chased-by-WOLVES” adrenaline kicks in) and I feel tired and stupid as I’m writing it. The only good part about this scenario is that, at least, we’re in it together.

When I sat down to my manuscript after a week or so off and looked at my characters’ names, I got a momentary case of the giddies. Like when you’re walking down the street and you unexpectedly see that guy you have a crush on, or when you’re watching that television show and that one character you just can’t get enough of walks on the screen. Vanya and Taniel, I read. Ooh, squealed something inside of me. Really? I get to write about these guys?!

So the wolves are attacking. I’m tired and grumpy, and I want to know when we’re getting out of this stupid chapter. Are we there yet? But I’m on the journey. I’m in the book. I’m working on it—and that’s so much better than the alternative.

-Grace Out

P.S. I’d love to hear about your own projects in the comments section. How often do you remember your excitement for your characters? Would you rather be involved with a project, and frustrated, than not working on it at all? How did you get away from the wolves?

DarkWolfMakley

The Dark Wolf © Grace Makley. Watercolors, some editing in Photoshop.

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Stories Within Stories

This is my 40th post on this blog, and today is also the day we will reach 2,000 total hits. Thank you all for stopping by! With one more follower we will also reach the impressive number of 70 followers, if anyone wants to help out with that.

All these big numbers make today a good day for reflection. I originally hoped to finish Wanderlust by the end of the summer. Ha! Summer is definitely gone, and my book is not completed. I need to update both the “Grace” and the “Wanderlust” page with some more realistic goals. I would love to give you a solid status update on Wanderlust right now, but it’s just not that easy. I’m sort of on Chapter 7 of my 12 chapter book in the last round of editing—you know, except for all those things I skipped in chapters 4, 5, and 6, and all those pieces of information that need to be inserted back into chapter 1. It’s coming along, guys, and I’d  love to spend all day working on it, but I have to spend most of the day house-painting for money so I can afford tomorrow’s harp lesson (these are very reasonably-priced lessons but that’s just how broke I am) and pay some bills and start saving for christmas presents and, after that, for my very own harp. I do feel like I’m in some sort of final push on Wanderlust, though. I believe the last half of the book will fall into line more quickly that the first half because most of the last half is relatively new material, and therefore more malleable and not so set in its ways. Still, I can’t see clearly enough right now to give you a definitive when. I am, however, still gonna do this. I’m telling you because I must tell myself, each and every time I balk at how much work is still before me. I’m going to do this. I will.

One of the things that’s been getting me down lately is how to handle stories-within-stories. When I started this this thing I was all “Won’t it be cool if I base it on Irish Mythology?” That was me in high school. I then had to go find the Irish mythology, which I proceeded to skim over and take from what I needed. Five (or so) years later I’ve actually read all the source material, and I know too much! The issue now is paring down the full stories, and conveying them in such a way that they support and enhance my narrative. I’m very concerned that every time I switch over to Irish-story-time, my readers will get bored. It’s not that the stories themselves are boring, but when you’ve been doping along reading about Vanya and Taniel and suddenly they’re gone from center-stage and you have to concentrate on new characters from an Irish-myth story that you haven’t met in the novel yet, well, won’t you get frustrated? My impulse is to skim over the story and get back to Vanya and Taniel as soon as possible, but if I do that I think it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy and the myth-stories really will be boring because I’ll expect them to be.

And sometimes I Illustrate the stories in the story!
Illustration © me

I probably need to give my readers more credit. Story breaks are fairly common in fantasy literature, after all. I didn’t stop reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Summer Tree, for instance, when the narrative took a break to convey the tragic story of Lisen. The story itself was beautiful, and it explained the hostility of Pendaren Wood, which threatened characters in the novel’s present tense. Far from skipping over the poems about Tinuviel and Nimrodel and Gil-Galad and Earendil in The Lord of the Rings, I’ve spent countless hours committing them to memory. (“Gil-Galad was an elven king/Of him the harpers sadly sing/The last whose realm was fair and free/Between the mountains and the sea.” (Aaaand I just noticed that the first poem I ever memorized from LOTR mentions HARPERS. A sign?)) So the story thing can be done. I think part of the issue is that I’m too perilously close to the manuscript just now to know whether I’m doing it right—although I have some hope. I believe that, in this draft, I’ve made it more apparent to the reader through foreshadowing and other means that these myth-stories are important to the actual narrative of my book. I hope I am tying them in better, and I hope my readers will both be able to see how the stories connect to the current plot, and find them interesting enough in themselves to keep reading. That’s the goal, anyhow. I will continue to muddle through, and then, when I am finally comfortable enough with a draft to show it to other people, perhaps my first readers will let me know whether I am successful or not.

Have you read any books that feature a story within the story? Can you think of any authors that do it particularly well? Has a story within a novel ever made you so bored that you skipped past it, or put the book down?

This Sketch

© Grace Makley, 2012

This is very much a sketch, and still contains many inaccuracies. I’m posting it because I’m probably just going to start another sketch instead of polishing it up into anything. I had an “OMG I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE MUSCLES OF THE HUMAN BODY” freak-out this afternoon (do you get those, or is it just me?). So I got out my books (how many variations of the title “Anatomy for the Artist” do YOU own?) and read some things and panicked and drew some muscles and drew some REALLY BAD drawings and panicked some more and finally made the above image, which I created from scratch while referencing pertinent muscle groups. Like I said, it is not anatomically perfect AT ALL, but it has, at least, calmed the panic. I’m going to keep working from the books and maybe I’ll post some more anatomy study drawings here in the next few days.

“Work When Others Are Resting”

This is one of 9 pieces of advice from artist David Jon Kassan, posted by a former professor on a Facebook Group for Illustration Students along with a link to Kassan’s website. The list also includes, “Do more than what you are told to do,” “Take lots of breaks,” and “Love what you do or just don’t do it.”

Work when others are resting.

I love this maxim, because it’s not saying, “Do not rest.” It’s also not saying, “Do not go out when the air is bright and your friends are calling and the time has come to raise a glass and shout because you’re alive and the world is beautiful.” Rather, it is a gentle invitation from your work, from your vocation. It is a soft whisper from that which you love, saying, Find me in the liminal spaces. Come to me when the house is quiet, and we can be alone.

Figure drawing January 30th, 2011. Adobe Photshop. Copyright © Grace Makley (me).

 

More Sketches

Source photo from Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet. Drawn from observation entirely in Adobe photoshop on Tuesday (23 October 2012).

I didn’t draw on Wednesday (I did hike five miles and write some things!) but as a warm-up on Tuesday I worked on a sketch of Taniel to go with the glam sketch of Vanya I posted last week. I even fixed it up a bit today; if you think the eyes are funky now you should have seen them before!Several things wrong here; mostly it’s an example of why I’m doing more work from observation.

Happy Thursday!

David Triumphant

I found a boy with a harp, so I drew him.

It’s a David, of course, from the David and Goliath story. I didn’t have as much time to draw as I should have liked, but what can you do? Here’s a photo of the sculpture:

Thomas Crawford (artist)
American, 1814 – 1857
David Triumphant, model 1845/1846, carved 1848
marble and bronze
height: 114.3 cm (45 in.)

Source: http://www.nga.gov/

I arrived back in Maine at 8 am this morning after traveling through the night via Greyhound Bus. I have so much enjoyed my trip to North Carolina and DC, and I’ve had so many diverse experiences in the last two weeks. With any luck I’ll get to writing about them in the next few days, on the off chance you’re getting tired of all these pictures. 🙂

-G

Woman at a Window

 

 

Sketch from yesterday, at the National Gallery of Art. It’s of a woman in a Spanish painting.

 The Original:

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (artist)
Spanish, 1617 – 1682
Two Women at a Window, c. 1655/1660
oil on canvas

Image Source: http://www.nga.gov

 

As I worked, I had a sudden, shocking moment where I looked at my sketch and thought I was looking in a mirror. I didn’t realize when I started, but I this woman looks a lot like me!