All posts by nonviolentmaltese

The End of the Road

It’s finally the end of Writer’s Retreat. Possibly the fastest, but also one of the most memorable, courses that I’ve ever had a chance to participate in; a two-weeks-too-fast educational experience like no other.

My main objective by taking this course was simply establishing a proper groundwork for my thesis project. Although I had low expectations going in, Writer’s Retreat turned out to be an interesting little course that offered a lot of insight regarding the writing process. Even more so on the nature of it rather than the technicalities, such as discovering inspiration, establishing a disciplinary time management, and self-reflection on the process itself. It’s funny to consider that a course that only lasted about two weeks managed to offer so much stuff. I cannot stress enough how much of an impact the experience of relocating did in terms of inspiration for writing. I had always heard about that particular strategy but never really believed in it until experiencing it first-hand in this class. Especially after trying it on my own outside of the class —carrying piece of paper and a pen to do little bit of writing wherever I went— I can easily claim that my conduct of writing, and how I approach it, is indefinitely changed.

A couple of the highlights in terms of activities from Writer’s Retreat include the morning prompts and, of course, the Writer’s Chair. As I’ve already stated in my previous blog posts, there is nothing better than witnessing a live reaction from an audience to confirm your intentions, or even uncertainties. I have no doubt that every writer imagines an audience when writing, but being able to read part of your story out loud and receive an immediate reaction is an extremely rare occasion. I feel fortunate to be given that opportunity in Writer’s Retreat. As a common saying in pop culture goes, that was “worth the price of admission alone”. As for the prompts, they really served as “wake-up calls” every morning before the priority writing process began. I never would’ve considered utilizing writing to wake myself up, but now I see that it could complement a cup of coffee quite well. Another strategy to keep from Writer’s Retreat.

I might’ve mentioned that I tend to write in a haphazard manner when it comes to fictional stories, which is basically write whatever concept/idea/scene comes to mind even though that particular part or section of the story might not necessarily follow the previous one in a coherent manner. My hope was discovering an environment in which I could bring all of these pieces together. I’m happy to say that I managed to accomplish that goal during my time in this course. Overall, Writer’s Retreat benefited me more than my initial expectations. Thus, I’m much more confident for the success of my thesis project. I hope everyone else had the same, or a similar, experience of fulfillment.

To the Finish Line

Well, that was second to the last day. In my previous post, I had mentioned how fast it felt getting to this point, so I won’t really go into that again. Though, I’d like to reiterate that this course should’ve been at least a month long. Perhaps, as the time goes on, certain changes will be made to the overall structure and execution of the course, and future students will be fortunate enough to get a longer time in crafting their work during Writer’s Retreat.

As far as what I managed to accomplish today… should I confess that I worked on a different “project” instead of my thesis? The thing is that I had already completed (save for the revisions/improvements) my first draft of Act 1 of the story, which consists of 10 chapters (+ the prologue). I thought I could take “a break” from it by working on something else, which was a cover letter for a position that I am after. It’s still writing after all. A change of pace certainly helps in certain cases, and this was no exception. Tomorrow, during the little bit of time that we supposedly have in the morning, I definitely plan on going over the draft and touch up on certain parts of it, which by no means that it’ll be 100% completed. Rather, it’ll be “ready” as a full draft for further revisions down the road. My plan at the moment is completing as much drafting as possible, instead of being hung up on small details which could be saved for later. It’s something that could potentially be efficient in dealing with the inevitable issue of time constraints for the final form of the project. We’ll see how it turns out in the end.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow (as apparently we’ll be having a potluck!).

Proceeding as Planned

I’m happy to say that today was one of the productive days. I was able to finish up a good portion of the story that (once again) bridged the gap between two other sections in it. I’m just about to complete the entirety of the first act, so everything is on track as I had hoped. A few final touch-ups/revisions/polishing and I’ll be able to share it for a full feedback. I’m hoping that the story is as good as I had imagined, and believe it is. I was also able to get confirmation on some of the word choices that were bothering me for some time (big thanks to Kelli). Unless I’ve overlooked something else, everything should be in top shape before the Writer’s Retreat is over. Speaking of which, the duration of this course really felt short. I knew that it would feel short even before we started, but now that we’re almost at the end, it feels as if the whole course occurred in the blink of an eye (though we still have two more days). Fortunately, I was able to get crucial aspects of my story done, so at least there is that. I’m looking forward to the next Author’s Chair session on Thursday as it will be probably the last time getting an audience feedback on the project.

A Quick Visit

Today felt more like a quick check in rather than an actual full-blown class, if I may be honest. Since it was a short class, this is going to be a short blog. And, that’s it. Thank you for reading! Well… that may be too short. I’d like to mention that I did do some revisions/additions to a couple of the paragraphs in my story, so there was (a tiny bit of) progress. Also, listening to others and their work during the Author’s Chair exercise, along with the feedback from “the audience”, has the great potential of noticing certain gaps and missing exposition in my own work. The last time we’ve had a chance to do one, it was just Gianna and me. So, I only had witnessed one critique as an “audience” member. It’s interesting (and good) to be witnessing more. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to offer any sort of constructive feedback for something that is outside of my expertise. If only I knew more about Grant Statements. Oh, well. I’m interested in seeing how the next week goes. It’s time for a little break (the memorial weekend).

A Casual Day of Writing and “Field Trip”

Well, I’m sad to say that today’s writing process has been pretty slow. I guess it’s just one of those days when the inspiration only comes in small doses. Then again, I was able to write four paragraphs that did fill a gap that needed to be taken care of. There was sill some progress that was made, so the day was not all in vain. Reading the first chapter of the story out loud in Writer’s Chair the other day was quite the experience. I had never read something I had written out loud before, let alone in front of a live audience. Witnessing an immediate reaction was extremely helpful in confirming or dispelling certain aspects. The overall positive reaction was also very encouraging. Now that I have another chapter fully complete, with all the gaps filled, I might take another crack at it should the opportunity presents itself before the course ends.

The little “field trip” that we had by the end of the day was simply amazing. I had a chance to see the house from outside beforehand but I had never been able to go inside. This was a great opportunity to witness a true “relic” of the past. The house had way too many things to examine up close but due to the limited amount of time, I only managed to take a few pictures to look at for later. Apparently, we’ll be visiting the house again next week. So, I’m looking forward to it, especially getting a chance to look at the library. Being immersed in writing process in a unique setting was also quite interesting and oddly motivating.

A Task Becoming a Puzzle

I do not know if I will keep referring to each day of the Writer’s Retreat at the beginning of every blog post (i.e. “It’s the third day!”), but for a change of pace I’ll attempt to avoid it this time around… Oh, wait. I think I just did refer to it.

So far, the overall progress is on track. It’s actually better than what I had expected. I tend to anticipate derailment at any possibility, so I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if I had fallen behind. Thankfully, that is not the case (at least for now). The organizational mini chart that I posted in my previous blog post allowed me to create the transitional pieces that tied portions of the story, which I already had written down. It was certainly helpful for placing that structure/foundation in place, as I had probably mentioned before. However, as the story progresses further, the simplicity of that mini chart seems to be alternating into a limitation. I definitely need to revise it in order to make it fit with the (now) expanded storyline.

My concern at the moment is the story becoming a bit overwhelming, at least for the opening act. Since the plan is having three distinct timeliness within the story, I’d like to introduce the setting and the atmosphere of each of those timelines within the first act. In order to do so, however, I need to extend the scope of the opening portion of the story (I won’t go into details in order to avoid “spoilers”). I guess, as Dr. Zamora had suggested, I simply need to lay it all on the (digital) paper and observe how it all comes together. Some revisions may certainly need to be made, once it’s all written down, in order to reduce the complexity of it all. We shall see.

Another Step Closer

It’s the second day!

As I had expected, today’s class was much more productive. During yesterday’s class, I feel the unintentional time constraint served as a bit of a hindrance in getting to that goal. Since most of the introductions are out of the way, there was more time available to develop ideas and concepts to further the story.

My plan for the day was going back to the transitional parts that I had previously mentioned (see the “professional” diagram below), which were missing from the story and were essential in establishing a coherent structure within it. I was hoping to create and finish at least one of these parts by the end of the day, and luckily I managed to that. I now have an organized and consistent two-chapter opening. The remaining days of Writer’s Retreat are going to be dedicated to connecting the rest of the pieces to this foundation. By the end, I should have the entirety of Act 1 in an easy-to-follow (near coherent) state.

(This would make total sense if you knew the story, but just go along for now.)

As far as what I specifically wrote down today, I can tell you that it involved very dialogue-heavy scenes, which are honestly my favorite parts of any story that I work on. I guess being a former ESL/EFL teacher, the communication aspect is extremely appealing to me. Since I have not yet utilized the Creative Commons app(?) on this blog, I do not intend on sharing any portions of the said writing process. If I may be honest, I’m not quite sure that I actually intend on sharing any of the writing process (unless absolutely required) even after utilizing that app. I tend to be paranoid sometimes. Well, we’ll see.

A Pursuit of Relief and Encouragement

The first day of Writer’s Retreat course!

Although it felt more of a settling-in type of class today, it was a productive start nonetheless. One of my biggest issues when it comes to writing is the amount of distractions that derail my overall progress. The time is truly an essence. My expectation for this course, above all else, was finding a setting in which I could not only be able further my project but also feel inspired by those around me. I can safely say that my expectation has been met. The serene atmosphere, disturbed only by the clicks of keyboards or scratching of pens on paper, was the perfect environment that made me feel motivated.

The little bit of progress that I managed to make could be summed up by “taking a first step” at best. I tend to write in a haphazard manner, which is basically write whatever comes to mind even though that particular part or section of the story might not necessarily follow the previous one in a coherent manner. I need transitions to carryout the story in a way that someone else who has an interest in reading it understands. This certain aspect, at times, feels as a mere work rather than a creative process. Hence, I tend to ignore it when I manage to get free time. Being immersed in this particular type of environment actually allowed me to discover what I needed. I managed to create my first transitional part. As I’ve said, it was brief but still productive.

My main objective in Writer’s Retreat course is establishing a proper groundwork for my upcoming thesis project. I believe that this particular course will indeed be a beneficial and efficient way to lay that groundwork down. I’m looking forward to the rest of the course, for sure.