All posts by Gianna

Session 6 (Finale!)

Long time, no blog! I’ll admit, I completely fell off of updating this for a while. Thesis-wise, most of the weeks I neglected to blog about were the same: slowly chipping away at revisions, trying to keep to my schedule, and sharing some excerpts in class to get feedback from my peers. That feedback was probably my favorite part of our class meetings; I loved hearing what everyone thought of my work and getting to hear snippets of what Jules and Jasmine were working on, too.

I’m thrilled to report that I finished the third draft of Retrograde this past Friday! It sits at around 85k words, which is still on the longer side for a non-fantasy YA novel, but I’m not going to worry about the length right now. Thanks to this class as well as my independent study with Dr. Sisler, I am ready to start querying with agents after I graduate, and any further edits that need to be made can be done after that!

It’s been a busy but incredible semester, and I’m so glad to have made it to the finish line with a thesis that I’m really proud of 🙂

Session 5

I hope everyone had a relaxing spring break! I had planned to do quite a bit of revising over the break…but I barely did any. I’ve found that I’m feeling a lot more burnt out lately than usual. I think it has to do with the nearness of graduation and a sort of schooling fatigue that has settled over me. I’m so close to being done…and for some reason that’s more exhausting than it is energizing. So, I spent most of the break relaxing and doing some house chores and some fun things (like visiting the Museum of Natural History) instead of getting ahead on school work and revision work like I wanted to.

For another class, I’m reading Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing.” He suggests writing every day, and taking no more than one day a week off. Yet I just took almost an entire week off…but that’s okay. What works for one person doesn’t really work for everyone else. I did a stint of writing every single day, back for a month in undergrad as part of a challenge I gave myself to write a new short short short story (vignettes, really) every single day for the month of October following a prompt list online. It was fun, and I am proud of a lot of the writing I produced, but it was draining, too. I really don’t think writing every day is for me, even if it’s something a lot of writer’s recommend. Still, not writing for a week is also not ideal…but I guess I needed a break, really.

Hopefully I will be able to get back into the revising saddle this week.

Session 4

Happy Sunday! A few days ago, I finished up with my revisions for February! This means I’ve revised chapters 1-9, and that in the coming month of March, I have to revise chapters 10-18. It will be slightly more work, as those chapters contain a total of 27 scenes whereas the previous set only contained 24, but seeing the way I’ve been able to get into a flow with these revisions, I’m confident I’ll have no problem as long as I stay consistent. Unfortunately, staying consistent is one of my biggest challenges…but I’ve learned some strategies that help me, including changing location by going somewhere that I’m really forced to focus and work. Libraries are great for this. I also like to set aside a few days where I have a couple hours to work. Most days, I’ll revise for perhaps an hour, but on days that I set aside just for revising, I can get 5-6 hours worth of revision done, which really helps.

Session 3

Great news to report! Although I was originally having a bit of a hard time sitting down and working on revisions, I was able to really focus last Thursday and get a lot done! When I’m focused like that, and able to dedicate a big chunk of time to just focusing on revisions (a rarity), I’m actually able to fly through the scenes quite quickly. I think this is also because, as of right now, I haven’t had to make any big scale changes on any of the scenes I’ve revised thusfar for the third draft. It’s mostly been a matter of editing small details, or adding in small details to lead up to things I know are going to be happening later. That’s something I am focusing on in this draft: continuity and connections, i.e. making sure that things that happen later in the story are introduced early on and that everything “adds up” and makes sense. This is important because in the later half of the second draft, I made a lot of changes and added in some new things that I knew I’d have to loop back around to in the third draft and introduce earlier on.

I’m on track to meet my end-of-February revision goals, so long as I make sure to continue revising throughout the week. I may run into some trouble making time, as I have to do homework for other classes this week and, of course, work and attend said classes, but again, I can do it so long as I am sure to make revision time a priority.

I’ve been feeling a mix of emotions working on this draft. On one hand, looking over the second draft and making changes for the third, I am happy with the progress I’ve made from the first draft. I’m also pleased with how quickly this round of revisions is going so far. On the other hand, it’s also easy to feel doubtful of my abilities and the quality of the story I’ve crafted. Maybe, I tell myself, the revisions shouldn’t be so easy…maybe I just don’t have the skill and know-how to improve the story further. I try not to dwell on those thoughts, though. I think this self-doubt is just part of creating something, anyway. I have to trust myself, and believe that Retrograde is in fact improving with each iteration.

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!