Saturday, December 4, 2010
When I began writing to publish, (because before I was writing to...?) I didn't consider the amount of time that research sucked out of a writer's life. If you say it sucks no time out of yours because you never have to do it, then I'm frightened to see your work. (and I hate you a little) Every writer has to research at some point. Setting, characters, psychology, dates, times, cars, and the list goes on--you have to get this stuff right. There are some things you can't just make up. You might not think googling the year that the New Kids on the Block recorded Cover Girl is research, but it is. And why do you need to know that? Just asking. It's a strange fact to include in a book.
But moving along, I also write articles. Those are nonfiction folks. The ones on writing I assumed would be simple. Write what I know. Not so much. I know tons, but still have to confirm that what I know and what the world knows are the same thing. Writer jargon, publishing industry news, etc. have to be right. Just as I term almost every mechanical item in my house "the thingie" I also term some writing methods, rules, etc. as thingies. You can't do that in an article.
Book reviews and author spotlights also require a lot of digging. Sure, I interview them, but if I were to ask them every question I need answers to, they'd run for the hills. Authors, apparently, do not enjoy talking about themselves. I'm the minority. So I have to dig up facts, check websites, read book covers, find sources, in order to write about these people. This is the fun stuff.
The not so fun? This week I wrote articles about how to assemble a pool, install a tin ceiling, types of transmission mediums, and this morning I began an article about winches. No, not wenches, w-i-n-c-h-e-s; with an "I". Good times. This is the research that makes my brain explode. But Mommy's gotta keep her girls in food and clothes, right.
Earlier this week I shared a story I'd set aside because it felt like it was going nowhere. I didn't know how to approach it. I had too many questions without answers and I'd already spent a month just researching a damn plane crash. Plus, the actual process of writing it felt stilted and weird, so I just set it aside. When I picked it up again I felt my earlier excitement about the story. I couldn't wait to dig in. But then I encountered a problem I'd forgotten. The question of phone versus radio nearly sent me headlong into Crazy Town. Actually, I even pitched a tantrum over it. I do NOT have time to research this stuff, freelance, take care of my family, and write the damn novel. It's going to take me years to finish this thing and when I do, it won't be published because it will be 1000 damn pages. (insert crying, head banging and flying objects, dogs hiding here) But then, a calm voice from across the ocean somewhere said I was behaving very childishly. (not in those words, but that's basically how I was behaving). The world righted itself, I looked again and said, "So I research. Again." The answer is phone, by the way.
Research is not fun. It makes my brain hurt and sucks the creativity from my soul. It is not at all a pleasant experience for me and I hate it and I wish that I didn't have to do it. The reality is, I have to. Not only in my daily "job" but as a writer of fiction, it is necessary. If I want to be taken seriously, if I want my work to be the best that it can be and because I don't enjoy people laughing at me or asking why, how, when and who after I've written the story, it's going to be there, waiting.
All I can say is thank you Google. You are my best friend sometimes. The library is also a handy thing to have.
The other reality is that every writer has something about the process that they hate. Outlining, dialogue, synopses, queries, editing, rewriting, writing...the list is endless and I have a few on mine. Queries? Another four letter word. What part of the writing process sets you to tantrums or crying jags? Come on, I know there's at least one thing that triggers the crazy button in you.
Monday, November 29, 2010
My brain refused to move beyond the first pages. I had about ten pages written and a brilliantly talented writer helped me tweak the first few. I knew what I wanted to say but I have a tendency to jam as many words as I can into my writing. I know, you couldn't tell could you. So this lovely man helped me to trim that to a beautiful opening which I can't believe I managed to slap together even if it did have a few hundred too many words. Yesterday I wrote another 3000 words and would have written more but Mom duty beckoned and I had to put it away.
Anyway, I thought I'd share the first chapter with you all. Why? Meh, I like it when people read my work. I'm one of those people, not the type who dreads having my work read.
So, here it is, my untitled WIP which I'm calling Rayne at the moment.
by Renee Miller
Hot metal crackled and sighed as it settled into the scorched earth, flames hissing over blistering surfaces as the fuel remaining in the aircraft’s tanks burned out.
High above the wreckage, grey clouds rolled unconcerned across the sky, and the mountain shook. With the low-frequency rumble of a beast in pain, the ground shuddered before a chill wind that blew through the trees, their foliage wilting and drifting through the thickened air. The earth split. Torn crevasses belched sulphurous black smoke, rolling like a malevolent plague, and scattering ashes in its wake before drifting downhill. A roar grew in intensity and volume until it drowned out the burning aircraft’s racket. On the once parched plains, water bellowed over the land, levelling out everything in its path until its momentum slowed to a hushed rumble around the base of the mountain.
The Earth held its breath as the water raged, destroying the frail creations of men.
But Earth would heal; it had done so before. Its creatures were gone, save for a pitiful few. And their survival would depend not on numbers, or technology, but their ability to change and adapt.
The first days….
Rayne woke with a start, his eyes darting around the dark cavern that trapped him while his mind worked to understand what happened.
The plane. He’d been on the plane and the pilot had mentioned an emergency landing. Then what?
Moving his legs he tried to sit up, but something pressed down on his midsection. Rayne looked down and cringed. Covering his chest lay a mop of blond hair, matted with blood and singed black in places.
The flight attendant. What was her name? Krissy. A petite woman who had flirted and blushed coyly at his encouraging smile during the last part of the flight and who had screamed as the plane impacted the mountain. He gently turned her head and his stomach lurched as her eye stared back at him. Her other eye had vanished, leaving a blood coated fleshy mess behind. Rayne moved his hand to her shoulder, pushing the dead woman off him.
He shifted, testing his limbs and finding everything seemed to be in working order. A bit sore, somewhat scratched and bruised but remarkably fine otherwise. Rayne’s head spun as he sat up, and he paused to breathe deeply.
The cabin, shadowed in a hazy darkness, showed the outline of seats, many of them now lying on their sides, others scattered about, many with what looked to be people still in them. He blinked as his eyes teared up, itchy and burning until he closed them. Smoke, there must be a lot of smoke. Of course, they’d flown into a mountain. The plane wouldn’t have impacted without a fire, not unless they lost the fuel tanks somehow.
He’d seen the mountain through the window as they circled it and prayed the pilots wouldn’t try it. Even the most skilled pilot would have difficulty landing on a mountain. Damn near impossible in Rayne's mind. He recalled seeing a ravine below as the plane tipped and the pilots warned the passengers to brace themselves for some turbulence.
Rayne snorted. Turbulence was an understatement. He shifted to his knees, feeling around in the gloom of the plane trying to move toward an exit if he could find one, and went over the minutes before the crash in his head.
Water; so much water and a rumbling sound. His first thought had been of thunder, but it didn’t sound like any thunder he’d ever heard. What else could it have been though? A moment later the cabin of the plane lit up with a flash of lightening before what felt like a giant hand pushed the plane. Rayne recalled the sensation that they were plunging, too sharply and too fast. Objects slid down the aisle, the flight attendants instructed everyone to buckle their seatbelts; obviously Krissy didn’t listen to her own advice. She’d been running through the aisle, something in her hand, but Rayne couldn’t recall what it was.
He had looked out the window next to his seat when the plane pitched and then water rushed by and he’d prayed that they didn’t land in the ocean. He wasn’t afraid of too many things, had seen the worst that humanity could offer while in service, but water terrified him. The mountain came into view soon after and he’d thanked whoever listened to his silent plea, then everything blurred. He heard Krissy’s scream—everyone screamed but she’d been right next to him. A loud screeching sound, a sickening crunch and a flash of blinding orange light before darkness overtook him.
Ignoring the ache in his head, Rayne slid across the floor, carefully climbing over the debris and bodies that littered his path. He felt each body for a pulse when he could, a couple too mangled to bother. Most of them still breathed but he couldn’t do anything until he figured a way out.
Desperate to breathe fresh air, he pushed to his knees, testing their strength before standing on shaky legs. He felt strange, like he was trying to walk up a hill and he tilted his head to look above. Reaching to steady himself, he encountered something soft, and jerked back.
A girl, probably one of the students that sat about four seats behind him, hung strapped into her seat. Her head lolled forward, but her skin felt warm under his hand. His instinct was to unbuckle her and begin first aid, but without more light he couldn’t even assess her wounds, let alone treat her.
A sliver of light ran over the girl’s face and Rayne paused. Light. Although grey and overcast it was enough. He turned and his heart quickened in relief. The plane did split and the tail end had vanished. Not only that, the hole left behind opened to a grey sky above, bits of what looked like ash or snow danced through the air.
A shiver passed through him as his body registered the coolness around him. Surely they didn’t land at the top; that would make things just a little more difficult. Scratch that, he thought, it would make it a lot difficult.
Rayne struggled to climb up to the hole but he only managed a few feet before sliding back down. His arms and legs trembled with the exertion and he leaned against the floor of the plane, the industrial carpeting rough against his cheek. What would they do if they couldn’t get out?
“Think Rayne, think.” He mumbled, and looked around him.
Now that his eyes had adjusted he realized the plane must be upended. The cockpit now at the bottom and the tail, or what was left of the tail, pointing to the sky. But were they hanging or had they hit something? He had to find a door, and then he could assess the situation a little better.
A muffled curse caught his attention and he looked to his right, a few feet down and nearer to the cockpit a young man stood swaying slightly. Rayne cringed at the blood caked to the side of his face. He lurched then took a step, stumbling over something before pausing to look around him. “Fuck,”
“You okay?” the young man jumped at Rayne’s voice and turned.
“Shit, I thought I was the only survivor. What happened? Where are we?”
“Well, I’m not sure what happened, although I’ll bet the plane crashed. I think we’re on Kilimanjaro. We were circling it right before everything went nuts, and we are indeed fucked.”
The young man nodded. His face seemed very white, eyes unfocused. Shock, thought Rayne. Great. He appeared to have some trouble digesting Rayne’s information and raised trembling hands to a messy, blood soaked mop of blond hair.
“What are we going to do?” he turned to Rayne again.
“First, let’s calm down and assess the situation. No point in panicking. I’m Rayne. And you are?”
“Chance,” the boy licked his lips, pausing as though trying to remember his full name. “I—Chance Briggs. We were on a trip to see the mountain. We were supposed to stay at a little lodge thing. I don’t know, I thought—“
“Hey, it’s okay. I’m scared as hell too, but let’s stay calm. Someone will come get us. This is a busy spot, it’s not like we’ve crashed into the middle of nowhere. Plus, the pilots would have sent out a distress call when they went down. We’ll be okay.”
Chance nodded and startled as a low moan sounded from behind him. Rayne shuffled toward him. “Is someone alive over there?”
“I don’t know.” Chance knelt down.
A voice called from behind him and Rayne turned. A woman sat still strapped into her seat, struggling with her buckle. The way that the plane had slanted, her body strained against it and if she did manage to get it to release, Rayne figured she’d do a face-plant to the other side.
“Ma’am, don’t move yet. We’re trying to find a way out and then we’ll come get you.” He moved closer and she gazed around blindly.
“My name is Rayne Summers. The plane crashed but you’re fine. You’re okay. Just wait for us to get you out of there.”
The woman mumbled and continued to fuss with her buckle. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Shit. Rayne looked to Chance who gazed wildly around the cabin. This woman would be the death of him. First he had to deal with her bible nonsense during the flight and now who knew how long he’d have to listen to her.
“Yeah?” Rayne closed his eyes and rubbed his nose. His head throbbed.
“I can’t feel my legs. Do you think you could help me now and find a way out later? It will only take a moment.”
Chance started for the woman and Rayne touched his arm, shaking his head. The boy looked undecided and Rayne put his finger to his lips. “Okay, we’ll be right there. It’s a little tough getting over all the bodies.”
“That’s why I wanted to make sure I could take you out of here first, otherwise you’d be laying on bodies while we searched the plane.”
The woman was quiet for a moment, and Rayne looked at Chance who gazed at the people around him. There were indeed bodies.
“Okay, you do that first. I’ll pray for us.”
“You do that.”
Rayne pointed to the top of the plane, what used to be the tail, and Chance razed his eyes to it. “I’m going to get as high as I can and get a foothold, then you’re going to climb up over me and I’ll boost you up. I want you to tell me what you see when you get up there. Understood?”
“Why don’t I boost you?” Chance paled further, if that were possible, and Rayne took a breath.
“I’m six foot four and over two hundred pounds, son. How much do you weigh?”
“Uh, buck forty.”
“Do you understand?”
Chance didn’t sound thrilled, but he followed Rayne up the cabin. About three quarters of the way up, just shy of the opening, Rayne found a ledge that he could fit his foot onto securely. The metal was jagged as whatever had been there was ripped away, but it didn’t bend with his weight and they had no other option.
“Okay, you ready?” he glanced at Chance who hung below him, gripping the ledge.
“Hey, isn’t this where the fuel tanks are?” Chance’s eyes darted around him, suddenly afraid.
“Son, look up for a minute. See that sign? That’s the bathroom sign. Okay? You with me?”
“The bathroom was in the middle of the plane. Remember? Half the plane is gone. I’m hoping that the wings are gone too. It’s the only reason we wouldn’t have gone up in flames. I bet the pilot dumped the fuel, or as much as he could before we hit and by some stroke of luck, the tail section was likely ripped away and the wings with it. I hope. I need you to get up there and see where we are so I know how critical it is to get out. If the wings are still attached and blazing away next to us, we want to get the fuck out now.”
“Gotcha.” Chance lunged past him, his arms scrambling for something to grab onto. Rayne pushed him up, bracing most of the boy’s weight on his right shoulder.
“Watch it at the top, the metal’s going to be sharp.” He warned.
Slowly Chance made it to the opening, his knees bent and his neck turned at an awkward angle. His foot found Rayne’s shoulder and the sole of his shoe pressed painfully down. “Can you boost me anymore?”
“Yeah, on three. One, two—“ Rayne gripped the boy’s ankles and hoisted him up, his arms shaking with the effort. In moments, the weight lifted slightly and he glanced up. Chance’s head cleared the opening and the boy leaned on the metal. “What do you see?”
“You’re right, sir. We are fucked.”
Rayne sat next to the bible lady, his head in his hands. She chanted as he tried to think.
“Dear heavenly father, in the name of the lord Jesus, as your servant, I come before you right now in behalf of these your people. Father, these are your people, the people you have taken out of the kingdom of darkness.”
He couldn’t think with her damn monotonous voice droning on and on. God didn’t save them, the pilots saved them…and whatever sheared off that tail section. Rayne hadn’t put much stock in God since he’d witnessed what religion could do to a country, to its people. He glanced at Chance who stared openmouthed at the woman.
“You do not condemn us, Father. You are not the accuser. You convict us of sins so we will confess our sins to you and reject their influence in our life. You never haunt us with accusations saying we are evil; no good, worthless, unacceptable to you; so bad we are not true Christians. We know that such accusations only come from the enemy, the evil one, the father of lies. You don’t condemn.” She continued and Rayne turned his gaze to her hunched form.
She paused, raising her head from her folded hands. “Yes?”
“I need you to pray—or whatever that is you’re doing—in silence. Can you do that?”
The woman’s face reddened and she opened her mouth and closed it. She blinked and took a deep breath. “I am ensuring our survival, Mr. Summers. The Lord saves those who but ask for help.”
“Well, the Lord stuck us up on top of a fucking mountain with no way out and a bunch of dead people. So, until he shows me an exit and a fucking helicopter to get us out of here, I’d appreciate it if you asked for his help silently so that I can figure out what we’re going to do.”
“He must have a purpose for you. Perhaps it is to teach me tolerance. Fine, I will pray quietly. When He shows us the way out, then you’ll see.”
She returned to her hands and hunched over once more. Rayne shook his head and turned to Chance. A smile played on the boy’s mouth. Rayne rolled his eyes and sighed. “So, we’re pretty far down?”
“Well, it sure looked like it. I didn’t see any wings, the sides are pretty mangled. There’s not much of the plane left. Looked like there’s fire above somewhere. I could see it glowing—you know, like an orange light. The sky was really grey and cloudy. I couldn’t see the top of the ravine.”
“Fuck.” Rayne ran over the mountain in his head. He’d been on Kilimanjaro before, but so long ago he couldn’t remember quite where they’d be. A ravine? Christ.
“Maybe we could find a way out the bottom.” Chance suggested.
Of course! Why hadn’t he thought of that? “The cockpit might be crushed to nothing but we’ll check. It’s our only option right now.”
Chance grinned, pleased with himself. They moved toward the cockpit, the door still firmly closed. A noise behind them made them pause, and Rayne turned. Two passengers, the young girl and a man beside her shifted. The girl gazed around but didn’t move her head more than an inch before crying out. The man reached out to comfort her.
“We’ll get them later.” He murmured to Chance and they moved to the door.
Rayne scooted down, sitting next to the knob, and Chance braced himself on an overturned seat. The pitch felt steeper and Rayne found it difficult to keep himself from stumbling forward. He turned the knob and pulled. The door came off in his hands, banging against the frame. The gap showed a grizzly scene and a retching noise erupted from Chance.
“Don’t look.” Rayne ordered and the boy turned away, covering his mouth.
The cockpit had folded, the nose looked to be sheared off, but Rayne couldn’t be sure. It might have been crushed. The pilots…well the pieces of pilots left, lay across the bottom. Blood and bone coated the ground and—the ground. Rayne’s heart skipped a beat and he scrambled forward.
“I think we have a way out.” He said.
Crawling over the mess, Rayne peeked around the side and a blast of cold air hit his face. Sweet, clean, frigid as hell, wonderful air. Sticking his face out, Rayne gasped, losing the air in his lungs. Trying to open his eyes, he blinked, as bits of ash—not snow as Chance thought—drifted down around them. Turning around, he scrambled back inside the cabin, trying hard to keep his panic in check. Baby steps. So they couldn’t leave the aircraft right away, that’s not the end of the world. He had to think this through.
“Okay, son we’re going to assess the situation. Then we’re going to gather whatever food, water, blankets, luggage we can find.”
“Where are we going?”
“Leaving the site is probably a stupid idea. If the pilots made a distress call, and I’m betting they did, they’ll be tracking us to the location of the last communication. Eventually we need to set up something that can be seen from the sky, so they know we’re here. Something big. We just have to survive long enough for someone to find us. That means, we don’t go traipsing over a mountain we aren’t equipped to tackle.”
“Oh. Okay. So, do we let the lady out of her seat?” Chance’s face fell. He didn’t look at all eager to let bible lady out.
“Yeah, I guess we should. And then we’ll see who else is alive.”
What's that? Rough? Why yes, it is. Very rough. But it's still exciting that I'm inspired once again. I have other projects, but this one ate away at me, beckoning and taunting, daring me to give up on it until I wanted to scream. Now, it's quiet again, almost smiling.
So, after all that, I'm wondering what kind of writer you all are (if you're a writer). As I said, I love to share my writing. Even if the feedback is negative, I love sharing. Negative feedback only helps to improve it later on. Actually, negative feedback is far more satisfying than "I love it," only because I figure out where I've got it wrong, not just where I've done it right.
Do you enjoy sharing your work or does the idea of posting whole chapters as I've done scare the shit out of you? Why?