Research Road Trip: Queen Whilamena State Park

(I’ve edited and re-published this post from last year because I wanted to add more pictures and remember a fun road trip while I am sheltering in place. I hope all of you who read this are safe and healthy and I wish nothing but the best for you during these difficult times. I love you all!)

Last Summer (as I write this) I drove down to Mena, Arkansas with the intention of hiking in the morning at Queen Whilamena State Park and driving around in the afternoon exploring the teeny-tiny towns surrounding the state park.

The drive down was really pleasant. But then it started raining. Thankfully, by the time I got to the Queen Whilamena Lodge and Restaurant the rain had stopped BUT there was fog EVERYWHERE!

I had not checked the weather on my phone. I didn’t even think about the possibility of anything but clear skies and humid air (Summer in Arkansas, y’all). But that is not what I got.

There was a fleeting moment where my heart sank and I thought, “I drove all this way and now I have to go home…”

But then I took another look at the fog, which was literally getting thicker by the minute and I thought, “HOLY SHIT THIS IS PERFECT WEATHER FOR A HORROR NOVEL!”

I mean look at that! That’s amazing!

If I’d gone on a “normal” day I’d have hiked, got some nice pictures of trees and buildings, and gone home with nice things to think about but this–the fog, the rain–gave my setting character. Or my setting looked at me and said, “Acknowledge that I am a force of nature!” while slapping me in the face.

And there was this really nifty fungus on the trail that was all glistening and fleshy. I almost walked face first into a MASSIVE spider webs trying to photograph it.

A new beginning to Havoc’s Moon bloomed in my mind. I got to make rough stage blocking for an action scene and took pictures of this one specific outcropping from multiple angles for reference later. I was so inspired IT WASN’T EVEN FUNNY!

So the moral of this story here is think about what your setting is like in bad weather. You never know what will happen. But also, it’s important to visit, if you can, where your book is set because you’ll get to think about concrete details you may not have considered from your chair at your writing desk.

And I learned that my main character’s favorite food is not pizza like I thought it was, but fried green beans.

You never know what’s going to happen when you go out on location.

Good luck and happy writing!

How I Edit As I Draft

I write fiction one of two ways:

1. I write without editing and go, go, go until I stop or feel stupid (I’m working on that last part).

2. I write a few pages and then when I get stuck/confused/forget my train of thought I re-read and edit what I just wrote.

Sometimes I’ll set something aside and look at it again the next day. Sometimes I’ll delete and re-write a sentence 10 times before I feel comfortable enough to move on.

My ideal way to write is to just sit down and have the ideas flow out of my brain like a magical river.

This rarely happens. And it never comes out perfect.

Pulling ideas out of the air is more fun for poetry. But my fiction likes fermentation more than spontaneity.

What on earth does that mean?

I use the word fermentation because (like my academic writing) I need to think for a long time and brainstorm (aka daydream) about my story before I actually write it. Because that’s how my brain likes to structure stories.*

Now, when I write poetry I’m a complete “pantser” or discovery writer. I love the unknown of the blank page. Not so much when I write fiction. I’m not a complete “plotter” and if I write an outline I end up spending more time on that than actually writing. But I need some sort of structure to jump off of.

I am a huge fan of free writing. I love hearing other writers talk about it, I love witnessing it. I even love doing it but for the last 2 years I’ve been hopping between 3-4 established drafts of different projects so the opportunities to actually create prose have been few and far between.

I have added new paragraphs or expanded chapters here and there, I call this filling the p(L)ot holes. But not actually writing what I would consider “new” material. Now, here’s the thing. There is one big place in Work In Progress 1 where I need to write at least 2 brand new chapters. There are three places in Work In Progress 2 that need at least 20,000 words of new material. And I need to write a new ending for Work in Progress 3.

But even though I have set up deadlines for myself (again) this year and am DETERMINED to finish these particular projects THIS FUCKING YEAR I am having serious trouble getting into a creative groove and writing this new material because, I feel like, I’ve been editing and considering (too much) where my decisions have taken me and the parts of the storyline that I’ve already locked in place. I’ve closed myself off to just pulling random shit out of the air and running with it.

Editing while I write isn’t bad, sometimes I need it to remind myself where I left off or revisit the tone I was going for, or I found a better tone and I need to change it. But then I either

1. Get distracted and forget the image or feeling I was trying to insert into that section.

2. I get bogged down by all the grammar fixes and structure changes I needed to make along the way and by the time I get to the end of the edit I’ve lost the momentum/motivation to write the new things.

Does this happen to you too?

And then I get upset at myself because how can I ever not want to write?

The problem I have with brainstorming is I sometimes (okay, I a lot of the time, I’m working on it) I feel like I have to get everything perfect in my head before I can write it down. And then I get frustrated or overwhelmed.

I don’t really have a solution to this problem other than I have to REMEMBER to remind myself, whenever I feel that way, that writing is fun and I want to tell my story. Be as stubborn and persistent as you need to be to get the words out.

One thing that has been helping me is a kind of trick or game I’ve started playing with myself. When I’m stuck I challenge myself to write as SHITTILY as I can. To write the worst draft ever. On purpose. Because I can go back and change it later. (Now this might be the start of a vicious cycle because the worse it is the more I have to edit later while I’m trying to write new material and then I tell myself to write that badly and I do and on, and on, and on).

Another thing that I do is if I find I need to cut a big chunk of text or an entire paragraph out but I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do, I copy it over into another document and save it for later. If I never use it again I can always delete it or turn it into a “deleted scene” that I might post on my blog later. I hate having a digital folder filled with loads and loads of files but if that’s what I need to do to keep writing, that’s what I need to do.

I hope this little ramble has been helpful. Camp NaNoWrimo starts tomorrow and I wanted to send something out that, maybe if you write like this too, will make you feel less alone.

My Camp project this year will be Book 2 of my paranormal horror series, The Slaughter Chronicles. I’m hoping to finish all the things with Book 1 over the summer and publish it this winter. If you’re interested, you can check out the series’s prequel novella right here 🙂

*

*I keep saying my brain like I’m compartmentalizing. Is that part of the problem?

Photo by Tamara Gore on Unsplash

Wounds/Textures List

For when you need variety…

Wounds:

Abrasion

Breach

Break

Bruise

Chunk

Cleave/Cleft

Contusion

Crater

Cut

Damage

Fissure

Fracture

Furrow

Gash

Gorge

Graze

Grief

Hole

Incision

Laceration

Lesion

Mutilation

Nip

Notch

Pain

Rent

Score

Scrape

Scratch

Slash

Slit

Split

Suck/ing

Tear

Trauma

Textures:

Blistered

Dripping

Ragged

Rotten

Wet

*

Yes, most of these are from Thesaurus.com

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Outside 3: 4 micropoems

winter yearning

spring hunting

summer burning

autumn starving

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spring burning

summer hunting

autumn yearning

winter starving

*

summer yearning

autumn hunting

winter burning

spring starving

*

autumn burning

winter hunting

spring yearning

summer starving

*

Photo by Quinsey Sablan on Unsplash

Red Lineage

A poem inspired by Khadijah Queen’s 2014 Naropa SWP Workshop at the Jack Kerouac School Of Disembodied Poetics.

Red Lineage

My name is jess tying the hawk’s leg red.

My mother’s name is red springtime in a land she wasn’t born.

My father’s name is red markings of the bombs.

My sister’s name is lovely flower red.

My brother’s name is unstoppable fission red.

My grandmother’s name is sorrow on a soft, red wind.

Her mother’s name is went back but couldn’t find them red.

I come from a people known for bombed cathedrals, long voyages across the sea, and bootlegged moonshine.

Remember me.