All posts by Gianna

Session 2

Well, I’ll admit, I didn’t really make much progress on my thesis work this week. I got a bit busy with personal things (that always happens, doesn’t it?) but I’m not going to let myself get discouraged! Tomorrow starts a new week, and I will push myself to work on Retrograde, no matter what it takes. Perhaps a change of scenery would help, like bringing my laptop to the Kean library or Starbucks and trying to do some writing in there. I think I’ll make that my plan for this week.

Reading an excerpt in class last week was super helpful! I’m grateful for the feedback I got from Dr. Zamora and Jules, and I’m really excited to read the opening of the story in class this week. Getting feedback on that should really kickstart my revision, since I tend to like starting at the beginning and revising, more or less, in order…and what would encourage me to revise the first scene more than sharing it and getting some insight on it?

I used to really, really hate reading my work out loud, and I won’t say I’m a huge fan of it or anything now…but I do think I am starting to get a bit more comfortable with it. Likewise, seeking feedback when I was younger was one of the scariest things in the world, and while it still causes me some stress, I’m much more able to push that to the side now and power through. I’m excited to keep reading pieces of Retrograde to you all and building up those muscles.

Session 1

The semester is feeling more and more officially “kicked-off,” yet at the same time, I’m sort of forced into rest mode. I got my wisdom teeth pulled on Tuesday, and I’m still recovering and trying to let myself just relax without the stress of what work I “should” be doing…which is always easier said than done. So while I do need to start the third draft soon, I’m waiting until my mouth hurts a little less!

I was really happy to receive from feedback on Retrograde from Dr. Zamora last week, and I’m excited to share a bit more of it with the class as a whole. This week, I’m going to read a flashback from Chapter 5 in which Saturn comes out to Mercury. Similar to the stargazing scene, which I shared last semester, it’s kind of theologically heavy. It is so theologically heavy, in fact, that I’m a bit worried the entire “mood” of the story is going to get sort of “skewed” because it seems like all of it (based on what I’ve shared so far!) is just a lot of talking about theology. So…I promise that other stuff happens in this story, and maybe for the next reading I’ll share something more humorous, but for the time being, just bear with me.

Well, actually, this scene does have one of the funniest passages I can recall in the story…

Saturn, as we were heading up the stairs to my room, called out to her, “Hey, Mrs. Levesque. Nice busts, as always.” Saturn always made jokes about my mom’s taste in art. Specifically, her taste in sculptures. Mom decorates our house with beautiful marble, stone, and porcelain statuary. The thing is, most of them are naked women. It’s not that weird, really. They’re done in the classical Roman and Greek style, which were usually at least partially, if not fully, nude. Saturn was incessant in teasing about it, though.

So yes, I promise it’s funny sometimes.

Well, I’ll see you all soon, and I look forward to reading!

Campaign 2.5, Session 0

Welcome back to the blog posts, and welcome to our final semester! From here on out, I’m going to be working on writing the 3rd draft of Retrograde! It’s both exciting and kind of scary, just like the prospect of graduating in May!

I finished the 2nd draft over the break, and when all was said and done it was a whopping 75 scenes split into 31 chapters. For this third draft, I’m going to be working on improve and tightening characterization, especially for side characters, who I think need the most work, as well as generally improving the writing itself. So, I have 75 scenes to revise by early May, which gives me about 3 months (just to have a nice, round number for doing the math.)

I’m going to set a schedule with some mini deadlines for myself, so it should look something like this…

By end of February- Revised chapters 1-9 (24 scenes)

By end of March- Revised chapters 10-18 (27 scenes)

By end of April- Revised chapters 19-31 (24 scenes)

Of course, there’s some wiggle room with those numbers, but as long as I hold myself roughly to those deadlines, this should go fairly smoothly! Taking the time to make this plan for the semester has already helped me to feel quite a bit better. It’s going to be a lot of work, for sure, but it’s manageable, and seeing it like this makes that clear.

Session 13: Finished Proposal Draft!

As the title says, I’ve completed the draft for my proposal! During this week’s meeting time, I’m hoping to get some feedback so I know what needs to be changed before final submissions for the semester. I’m almost certain that my “Methods” section needs work; since my work is creative, not academic, I need some help explaining my research in a methodical, academic sense. I’ve done what I could, but I’m sure it can be “leveled-up,” so to speak.

The last parts of the proposal that I had to draft were the “Literature Review” section, where I discussed what I’d found in my research and identified what points Retrograde tackled that other YA fiction on the subject of queerness and religion missed, and the “Potential Outcomes” section. Here I talked about my goal to traditionally publish Retrograde, as this final paragraph shares:

I think that through traditional publication, Retrograde will be able to find its audience and reach those who need the story. As much as my research has informed how I write the characters in Retrograde, it also affirmed my belief that queer kids going to Catholic schools or otherwise growing up in Catholic environments need this book. They need to see a character who goes through struggles similar to theirs, to see that they’re not alone or wrong or disordered. I want to publish this book so it can wind up in the hands of the kids who need it most. I’m proud of my writing and its potential, but at the same time, I am remaining level-headed: I don’t need Retrograde to win awards or reach the tops of bestseller lists or anything like that. For my debut, I would truly be happy if people just enjoy the book and if it manages to make some amount of difference in their lives, even if that difference is simply bringing them a bit of joy, or hope, or changing the way they view things. These are effects that we may view as simple, but I’d argue that they have a large and lasting impact.

In a bit of a surprise, to myself, I also got a burst of inspiration to keep reading more YA novels to put into my annotated bibliography! Over the past week and a half, I’ve read two more, and I’m halfway through a third. I’d had most of these books for a while but hadn’t had the time or motivation to read them. Now, I found myself devouring them. I guess I’m often that way with reading…doing very little reading for a long stretch of time, and then in the course of a week getting consumed by books and reading in big bursts!

Another surprise: I’ve been continuing to work on the second draft. I’m not putting any pressure on myself about it; I’ve already said that I’m planning to finish my second draft over the break, not beforehand, as I’ve got a lot on my plate right now. All the reading, though, has really been inspiring me! I wrote out, longhand (rare for me) a big chunk of a new scene and even got the basic premise for another scene ready to go. This will give me a nice launching point once the break rolls around.

Session 12: Writing the Proposal

Over the past week (and weekend), I’ve been working on developing my proposal for Retrograde. I’ll admit, I’d been nervous about this. I wasn’t sure how it was going to come together, and I thought I was going to struggle with it, especially the methodology section. But it really hasn’t been as hard as I thought! I actually sort of enjoyed writing out the “problem” that Retrograde was meant to solve; I think the justification I put together, after doing my research, is pretty meaningful. Here’s the last bit of that:

This project explores the topic of growing up queer and Catholic and examines how a youth might navigate such challenges, allowing real young queer people growing up in such an environment to see themselves in fiction and recognize that they are not alone, nor is there anything “wrong” or “intrinsically disordered” about them, despite what the Church may teach.

I also didn’t have as tough of a time with methodology as I was expecting. I’m eager, though, to talk about it more in our upcoming classes so I can make what I’ve written sound more “professional” and “official,” at any rate. I was able to mention a few methodologies, and I’ve aligned my research with narrative research:

All my research will help me to craft a compelling narrative in-line with real world experiences. This ties me to the tradition of narrative research, in which researchers examine how stories are told to understand how participants make sense of their experiences and use rich descriptions to tie together a sequence of events in hope of creating a cohesive narrative. Of course, my creation will be fictitious, but I will be weaving together elements of the real-world research and experiences that I have collected and analyzed throughout my research for this project.

Aside from refining the sections I already did, all I have left to add to the proposal is the “literature review” section, for which I am going to summarize my findings from my annotated bibliography and identify the gaps in the current writings on my topic, and the “potential outcomes” section, where I am going to talk about my desire to publish Retrograde. Overall, things are coming together quite well, and it hasn’t been nearly as much of a struggle as I feared it would be.

(On a side note, I hope the campus-wide Google Drive outage didn’t hamper anyone too much! I’ve now saved my thesis files such as the annotated bibliography and this proposal onto my laptop proper, as well as the work for all my other classes-in-progress, in case anything like that happens again. It was worrisome…I need to be able to access the finals I’m working on!)

Session 11: Short Rest

I hope everyone had a nice break! I know I did. I did some very important work during it…which was doing no (school) work at all! I spent time cooking, eating, hanging out with family, and shopping, trying to not even think about classes at all. I usually have a hard time letting myself relax; whenever I have some free time, in the back of my head I’m usually telling myself “oh, I should be working on something during this time…” and so even when I’m doing something that’s not work, like playing a video game or reading for pleasure, I’m still thinking about work. It’s hard to relax like that…luckily, over this break, I didn’t have much of that problem. I gave myself permission to completely rest and focus on doing things that I wanted to do to relax and recharge.

This week, I’m going to start work on my proposal. I’m hoping that the break was refreshing enough to let me really push through these last few weeks of the semester without feeling too overwhelmed or stressed.

So yeah, welcome back everyone, I hope you got to rest and I hope you enjoyed your holiday!

Session 10: (Almost!) Time for a Break

I’m happy to report that I’ve been slowly but surely moving past my writer’s block! I’ve worked on writing Retrograde several days in the past week, and even when I’m not actively putting words down on the Scrivener doc, I’m getting ideas for where to go next. I wouldn’t say I know where I’m going next, not quite, I haven’t really solved my whole “stuck with the plot issue,” but I’m getting there. And as I suspected, it’s by writing and trying stuff and making a mess that I’m getting ideas and figuring out what to do next.

After Thanksgiving break, I’m going to dive into developing my proposal. I’ll admit, I’m a bit unsure about how to adapt some of the proposal guidelines (methodology?) for a creative project, but I’m sure that’s something we can discuss in class.

During the break itself, I’m going to be pretty busy with family stuff, so I’ll probably not do much thesis work or other class work; I’m trying to give myself some time to recharge. Though who knows, I might write some more of the second draft, if inspiration strikes.

I’ll see everyone tonight, and I hope you all have a nice and restful break!

Session 9: Slaying the Dragon!

Well, I’m happy to say that the rough draft of my literature review is finally done. I say “rough draft” because there’s still the potential that I’m going to add more to it in the coming weeks, as it’s a working document and all, but I’ve got down all of the research pieces I have so far and my thoughts on them/their relevance to Retrograde. This is a huge weight off of my shoulders; I’ve felt swamped with work across all my classes lately; even though I’m completely up-to-date with all of my work and have been throughout the semester, my brain still manages to make me feel like I’m behind. Getting something as big as the lit review “done” frees up a lot of mental space to focus on other things, like thinking about my proposal draft and working on finishing this second draft.

Speaking of the second draft…agh. I’m having some major writer’s block still. I’ve gotten a few more scenes written, but right now I find myself mostly stuck as I try to figure out how I want to move this plot forward. It’s frustrating, and it feels a bit like I’ve hit a brick wall. Plot has always been a weakness of mine…it’s why I’ve dedicated this entire draft to revising and strengthening that aspect of the story. I’ve taken out an arc of the plot near the end, because it ultimately wasn’t strongly connected enough to Mercury’s actions and wasn’t showing the cause-and-effect that carries strong stories…but I’m having a really tough time replacing it. I don’t know what new, better arc to put in its place…it’s one of those things that I’m probably only going to be able to figure out by writing a bunch of words, trying out a bunch of things, and then discarding most of it and keeping that one kernel that works.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to write a lot when the words don’t want to flow at all.

But I’m not all doom and gloom! Like I said, I’m happy to have the lit review done for the time being, and even if it’s hard, I am sitting down and working on this draft. I know it will get done…it’s just hard to see the end of the road from here, where I’m waylaid at the side with a flat tire.

Session 8: Approaching the Dragon (I.E. the Literature Review)

Going into this week, I’m finally starting to feel pretty positive about my progress. I have 15 sources on my literature review right now, with plans to search for a few more on a couple of other subjects. I’m also waiting on some more fiction to come in from interlibrary loan. I most recently read Flamer, which was an excellent read and very helpful when it comes to contextualizing and justifying the need for Retrograde.

Now, on my literature review, for the most part I just have the citations at the moment; I’ve not yet done the annotation part (except for one of my fiction reads). I read everything on there, yes, in order to narrow down my selection, and as I read I highlighted and made notes on the text. Now that I’m almost done with selecting the research, I’ll soon go back into the readings and start typing out my justifications for including each piece in the literature review. Since, like I said, I’ve already highlighted and made notes, I don’t think it will be too difficult to start actually creating the “review” parts of the literature review!

All that said, I will spend this week looking for a few more sources to round out the review. I think I’ll start the actual annotations next week, or perhaps near the tail end of this one.

Also…it’s November, which means NaNoWriMo has started! I’m not going to do NaNo “properly” this year, by which I mean I’m not starting a new novel project and aiming for 50k words. However, I am going to try to use the motivation and community of NaNo to help me finish my second draft! So far, it’s still been slow going…I feel like I need to get all the scholarly stuff finished properly before I can dive back into the creative. Not to mention, my workload from my other classes has been pretty high as well. This week, though, I’m really trying to get ahead of my classwork so I can work on some bigger projects with looming due dates. Perhaps I will be able to fit in some Retrograde writing as well!

I hope everyone has a good week, and I will see you all next Tuesday! Don’t forget to vote on this one 🙂

Session 7: Milestone Appoaching

At the time of writing this blog post, I only have five articles left to read from my original list of about 23! Yes! I am going to finish those five this week, and attend to a few other research tasks such as scanning a few pages of a book that I plan to refer back to but have to return and picking up one of my fiction selections that I got from interlibrary loan. Speaking of fiction, I’ve already read one off of my list and added it to my annotated biology. It was a graphic novel, so I flew through it quickly as expected.

The research is going well. I’m building a robust list, though I expect I’ll still have to research some other topics once I’m finished reading what I have left. I’m still not sure where I’m going to go with another stream of research, but hopefully that will become clearer after I finish this round and take stock of what I have.

Writing hasn’t been as productive as I’d wish. Perhaps once I’m getting closer to really being finished with the research part, and can dedicate more time to actually writing, things will get easier. As it is, sitting down to work on finishing the second draft still feels like pulling teeth…I’m thinking about using the motivation of Nanowrimo to help me finish. Of course, I’m not going to add another 50,000 words to the draft, but just the goal of writing every day and the comradery of participating with the Nano community will probably help me a lot.

Speaking of second draft…I’ve been thinking about what that term means to me. For Retrograde, my second draft needs to: introduce a new plotline, completely remove most of the events of the middle of the story and replace them by weaving together the new plotline + existing ones to create new scenes, and change the ending to comply with the new narrative. This draft has to be cohesive, eliminate any major plot holes, and demonstrate a strong plot that’s really driven by Mercury’s actions. That’s it. Other things, I can fix up in the third draft next semester.

And what’s the goal of the third draft? Strengthening character arcs/characterization and polishing the solid plot foundations that I’m laying down in the second draft. By the end of the third draft, I want to have a story that is ready to be sent in to a developmental editor, whose fresh eyes can hopefully help me to see any leftover plot problems and help me plan out any big-picture revisions that are still needed before I begin focusing on the smaller details like improving the style of my writing, the sentence-and-paragraph structure, and so forth. So, what is really important for the second and third draft, for this Retrograde-specific process that I’m developing, is plot and characterization! To me, those are the two most important things in a story, and so I want to get them down solidly.

I’m excited for Halloween tomorrow, and to see everyone on Zoom class! 🙂