Studying Story Structure (Part The Second)

Two years ago, I wrote about studying story structure. Back then, in February 2016, I was still participating in the Writing Challenge on Twitter (let us pause for a moment to mourn that group’s demise—yes, it’s still around, but it’s not the nice supportive group it was back then) and had been studying story structure for almost a year. I originally wanted to learn about it when a beta reader read a novel of mine that was rather… amorphous. The plot just didn’t have any structure and trust me, that was not a good thing.

I’m happy to say that I’m still reading about story structure and incorporating what I learn into my writing. In the past two days, I had two epiphanies about my current work-in-progress. Just adding one element into the story is going to make it a lot more powerful. Part of the epiphany involves introducing the antagonist a lot earlier and tying that to what my protagonist wants. I think I have a good antagonist for the story but he was too much in the background and only made an appearance at the end of the novel.

I am so excited to share this novel with all of you. Believe me, I’m going to query like crazy to hopefully get a book deal and if I don’t, I think I’ll publish it myself as an ebook. Since I can’t query or publish it until it’s edited, I’m going to cut this post short while I go edit, as it’s getting rather late!

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Waiting For The Ax To Fall

There are major changes afoot at my company.

It’s too bad, really. I thought we were doing pretty well. 2017 was one of our best fiscal years ever, in the entire company’s history. (And we aren’t a young company, I assure you.) But at the end of last year or towards the beginning of this year, we got a company-wide email announcing a restructuring initiative. There’s even a special name for it—no, I can’t tell you what it is. Unfortunately, the name is public knowledge and you could probably find where I worked if I told you. And then I wouldn’t be able to blog at all anymore, which would be sad.

But I digress. As so often happens, the executives are doing a really bad job of communicating all of this, and people are scared. There are rumors flying around the company of whose jobs will eliminated and when. Rumor has it the ax will fall on a few hundred people in the coming weeks. What departments these people work in is a mystery thus far.

The scary thing is this fear has spread to my department, at least somewhat. There are some people who think they’re invincible, of course. But I talked to three other coworkers and they all agree that the ax eventually may fall on our department, too. It probably won’t be until the latter part of the year, but it could happen. It probably will happen.

Sigh. Just another week of Corporate Drama. Who knew the working world could contain such… excitement.

A Beautiful Arrangement of ‘O mio babbino caro’

Well, I haven’t done a Wednesday Music post in ages, and it isn’t even Wednesday anyway, but I wanted to share with you an amazing arrangement I found on YouTube of the soprano aria “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi. If you don’t like singing, never fear—a violin plays the main vocal part. (And if you do like singing, may I recommend this excellent recording by Kiri Te Kanawa, one of my favorite opera singers.)

Or click here to see on YouTube.

I’ve played this on my violin, but somehow it never has sounded as good as this version does… Oh, well. Perhaps I need to practice more. 😉

Moving Out of State

You guys, I’m feeling a bit demoralized tonight. Remember when a person at work got a promotion and I didn’t and I was upset? Well, I’ve been channeling my rage into job applications. (Actually, “rage” is too strong a word. I promise I’m not walking around in a perpetual state of enragement! But I like the way it sounds in that sentence.) I’ve put a fair amount of them in at various companies. I’ve heard nothing yet, though. I know hiring can take forever—many a hiring manager has said this to me. But I can’t help but thinking that the fact that all my applications have been for out-of-state positions isn’t helping.

Is there any way to get around this, short of moving to a new city without a job? I’m very, very, very reluctant to do that. I hate the idea of not having money coming in, plus I had to fight tooth and nail to get a job in this industry anyway. I’m reluctant to leave a job without another one lined up. Yet, I do realize that actually being a lot closer to where the jobs I’ve applied to are located might help.

Or maybe I’m just being too impatient. I haven’t applied to that many positions yet, in the whole scheme of things. (A person can only fill out so many of those applications at once without wanting to scream.) I do have more positions on my list that I’m planning to apply to. Hopefully someone will get back to me for an interview—and make me an offer. Fingers crossed…

Spring? What Spring?

This has been the weirdest spring I’ve experienced in a long time. We’ve had some warm days, but it’s going down to forty or so tonight. That’s ridiculous. I live in the southeast. I’m not in the Balmy Tropics anymore, but still, spring where I live is usually quite nice. Today it was fifty and cloudy and windy. In April. I know they say April showers bring May flowers, but what does April coldness bring?! It has been so cold here this month.

Anyway, I hope everyone’s had a good Sunday. I’m reading, trying to stay warm, and psyching myself up for work tomorrow. Not that work is that bad. Sometimes, it’s just hard to wake up and go in on a Monday.

Even More Rain

This weekend, the weather has been keeping with the theme of rain, rain, and more rain. It started raining this afternoon and is supposed to rain all night long. At least tomorrow will be sunny.

Meanwhile, enjoy this picture I took on Friday night (I am happy to say it did not rain on Friday). I’m pretty sure that bright object above the tree in the center is Venus. It was so bright that even my phone camera was able to pick it up.

I hope that’s Venus.

I don’t actually know much about astronomy, though, so for all I know, that isn’t Venus. It still was fun to see, though. I’m going to go work on some writing for the rest of this evening as the rain continues. Stay dry, everyone!

Structural Editing In Progress

You guys, I’m really pleased with the editing I’ve done so far on this manuscript. This is the one I finished drafting back in February. I let it sit for two months, then dove in to a first round of edits last Friday. I spent the past week just reading the manuscript. I put it in iBooks so I wasn’t tempted to change anything along the way and I took notes as I read.

I finished the read-through today. I’m really pleased with what I have so far. I’m going to add a subplot, probably delete some stuff, and add other stuff. Right now, my main concern is making sure the story is structurally sound. I don’t want there to be any plot threads hanging or anything that sticks out as not making sense.

One thing I won’t be changing very much is the ending. There are a few scenes I plan on adding towards the end, but as for the actual ending scene itself, I won’t be changing much. I’m really pleased about how it wraps up the story. I think it sets the stage for book two (yes, this is a series!) as well.

You’re probably wondering if this book will be published or not. Right now, your guess is as good as mine. I certainly plan on submitting it to agents and seeing if I can get a deal. I have heard that a lot of publishing contracts are quite bad nowadays (some have non-compete agreements, I’ve heard, which is absurd), but some people get really good contracts, too. And while I know that going the indie route (as in, putting the book up for sale yourself on Amazon and other assorted e-retailers) gives you more freedom, there really is nothing like having a big publishing juggernaut behind you.

So yes, I do hope this book will be published at some point. I just don’t know when that point will be. If I am fortunate enough to get a contract, I will definitely announce it on here!

The 1918 Flu Pandemic In Russia

I’m a historian by training and even if I’m not officially using my degree (I mean, aside from the writing skills, research skills, and presentation skills I learned while completing my degree—I say this to emphasize that humanities degrees do help you in the workplace, everyone!), I love encountering random historical things. I mean, there’s a reason this blog is called Fluent Historian. I wouldn’t have called it that and kept that name if I weren’t a huge history buff.

Anyway, one of my recent discoveries is a fascinating photo essay on The Atlantic called The 1918 Flu Pandemic: Photos From a Century Ago. It contains thirty black-and-white photos from 1918 and 1919, when the so-called Spanish Flu swept across the world and killed 20 to 40 million people. That’s more than the casualties of World War I (15 million). That could be more than World War II (66 million) as well (it’s hard to tell since casualty figures for World War II vary, as do the figures for World War I)*. Nevertheless, it’s a ton of people.

The photo that caught my attention is the second one. Here’s a direct link to it. And here it is, below.

Courtesy of the National Archives

According to the article, the caption from the National Archives reads: “February, 1919. U.S. Army at Archangel Front, Russia. Funeral of member of crew of U.S.S. Ascutney. Three members died in Archangel and many were sick with influenza.”

As morbid as this sounds, I find that to be so fascinating. For those of you who aren’t as obsessed with the Russian Civil War as I am (and that’s probably most of you, because my obsession knows no bounds! 😉 ), that picture is from the doomed Allied intervention in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. After Lenin and his nasty band of followers seized power in 1917, the Russian Civil War broke out. You see, a large amount of people realized the Bolsheviks and their leadership, especially Lenin, were a bunch of nasty pieces of work and didn’t want to be ruled by such people. During the war, the (largely) pro-monarchist Whites fought the Reds (Bolsheviks). There were also the anarchist Greens, the anarchist Blacks of Ukraine, and even a group called the Blues. As you can see, identifying yourself by a color was all the rage.

Anyway, Allied forces also intervened in the war, though I would argue their involvement was too little, too late. The flu pandemic was sweeping the world during this time—even though I know about both the Spanish flu and the Russian Civil War, I hadn’t specifically thought of them as occurring at the same time, even though they obviously did. And as we can see from the photo above, American soldiers were sent to fight in Russia, with some dying and being buried there. Just a fascinating bit of history for you this week.

*Note: Casualty figures for the flu come from this Stanford site. The ones for World War I and World War II come from Matthew White’s excellent book Atrocities.

A Secret Life

I don’t think I said this publicly, but one of my goals is to write every day this month, both on this blog and my fiction. So far I’ve accomplished both, but it can be hard to come up with blog topics some days. Today is one of those days.

So I figured I’d blog about one of my favorite activities: writing fiction! Specifically, how writing fiction relates to my life as a whole.

I had a work event tonight—a happy hour with food (let’s face it, people, I only went for the free food because free food is awesome)—and when I got home, I was thinking how no one at work knows I write. It’s not that I’ve deliberately kept it a secret. I just kind of haven’t ever brought up my writing in conversation.

Honestly, I like keeping some aspects of my life private from my coworkers. I’ve recently realized that a lot of my coworkers follow each other on social media, especially Facebook. Personally, that would drive me nuts. Longtime readers will know I ditched Facebook and don’t regret it one bit, but even if I had it, I can’t imagine adding people from work. I just don’t want everyone I know knowing all my business all the time.

I suppose that means my writing will remain unspoken of at work unless I decide otherwise. That’s fine with me. It’s not like I don’t have other hobbies to talk about—I’ve worn knitted and crocheted things to demonstrate my crafting prowess (and to be fashionable because everything I make is fashionable, obviously)—and my coworkers know I read a lot. But for now, the fiction writing will remain a secret. I wouldn’t be opposed to finding a local writing group, though. That could definitely be fun…

Officers’ Meeting

We have officers’ meeting this week at my company. I really should go, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to motivate myself to get up that early. It’s not too terribly early—it starts at 8:30—but with traffic and walking in from the parking lot (I have to walk two blocks to get to our building), I’d have to get up and leave substantially earlier than usual.

In case you were wondering, yes, I am an officer at the company and no, it’s not nearly as cool as it sounds. Officers are a dime a dozen at my company. If I had to guess, I’d say that at least half of our employees are officers. Including, of course, yours truly. Like I said, it sounds a lot fancier than it actually is—but I’d take being an officer over not being any officer any day.

Now that I think about it, I need to write a novel (somewhat) based on my experiences at work. I bet some of you wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve seen!