Author Archives: wbdrisco

Progress – Will

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This past week was a mixture of editing and writing new content, so I thought I’d share some of the new content here. This is an excerpt taken from a scene where my narrator is conferencing with the other lieutenants of his group and the group’s leaders. For my narrator, this is an especially stressful time as some of the warriors he’s responsible for are missing.

“If there are no other problems with this plan,” Bazgal looked around the room, “We’ll move forward. Shane, you go back to Johnson as fast as you can and tell him we need him here with all of the Scouts immediately. Thank you for bringing back Thane.”

“Of course,” Shane said, before strapping on a light pack and hurrying out of the tent.

“Aside from that, we need to be prepared for the worst. Fara, how long would it take us to pack up camp?”

“Couple of hours at most, if everyone was told about it now.”

“Good, I think we need to be prepared to move as fast as possible out of here.”

“Hold on a minute,” I said. “We can’t just, just… run away now! How will my warriors know where we are? Even more so now that the Scouts are returning soon. They’ll be completely alone!”

“He does have a point, Bazgal,” Said Sharpe, nodding in my direction. “If they’re still alive we need to be here when they return. Besides, it might be a little dangerous to move Thane now. It could kill him”

“That’s right,” said Junger. “He’s in far too bad of a position to risk that now. The risks are far greater than the rewards here.”

“Alright, so we’re staying,” conceded Bazgal. “Can we all agree that we will not stay any longer than two to three days?”

All of the heads around the table nodded except for mine. I said, “I agree as long as I can take out a search party early morning tomorrow if my warriors aren’t back.”

Sharpe and Bazgal looked to each other for a long moment and both shook their head. Bazgal turned to me and said, “No, we can’t risk it. We’re specifically calling the Scout’s Vanguard back so that we can have a reinforced position. We’re not going to lose some of our strength now.”

“WHAT? YOU HAVE–”

“One more word, Carter, and you’re done as our lieutenant. Do. Not. Test. Me.”

I was fuming. Did they not care about the lives of my warriors? Time and again during this meeting, I had been treated as a fool for wanting to save their lives. Was I really the fool? Truly? Perhaps, but it was them who were heartless. Their brothers and sisters, my warriors, were out there, and I was fighting for them in here. And I was the fool. But I knew that Bazgal was serious. Her threat carried weight. If I offered another word of protest, I didn’t doubt that I’d be demoted into irrelevance.

I nodded to Bazgal and said, “I’m sorry. Please, continue.”

“Right, well, Fara, I need you and your builder working hard to build a defensive perimeter. We hopefully won’t need it at all, and even if we do, we won’t need it for long, but it’s better to have it now. Could you get that done?”

“It’s as good as finished,” said Fara and strode out of the tent.

“Alfred, Junger, and Gormly, return to your to your brothers and sisters and make sure no one ventures outside the perimeter. All necessary supplies are to be pulled from the Cache. And Junger, see that Thane lives.”

The three men stated their compliance and walked from the tent.

“Carter, we want all of the warriors on perimeter watch. If someone must go beyond the perimeter, they will do so only under the guard of a handful of your warriors and they must not go more than a half mile out. Help Fara set up the perimeter if need be as well. Understand?”

“Got it,” I said, and turned to make my exit.

“Don’t leave,” Said Sharpe. “We’re not done with you yet.”

I sighed and turned back to face the Alphas, ready for what was to follow.

 

I hope you enjoyed that excerpt and I just started a new book: A Star Called Henry. If I can learn from the authors lyrical and poetic brilliance, I might stand a chance of improving my writing.

Empathy – Will

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This week was mostly comprised of editing once again so I’d like to write about something I read for my New York City Literature class. We read James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues, a short story centering on an African-American teacher in Harlem and his relationship not only with his brother, Sonny, but with the world of institutionalized racism that surrounds him. Of course, this very real world is entirely different than the very fictional world of my novel. Despite the difference though, Baldwin’s masterful storytelling was extremely inspiring. Sonny’s Blues is a tale of suffering, regret, redemption, and occasionally happiness and Baldwin’s depiction of these themes is nothing if not artful. Though the story was so well written and interesting, I, at times, found it hard to keep on reading due to the overall bleak nature of the world of the narrator.

“He stood up and walked to the window and I remained silent for a long time. Then he sighed. ‘Me,’ he said. Then: ‘While I was downstairs before, on my way here, listening to that woman sing, it struck me all of a sudden how much suffering she must have had to go through—to sing like that. It’s repulsive to think you have to suffer that much.’

I said: ‘But there’s no way not to suffer—is there. Sonny?’

‘I believe not,” he said and smiled, ‘but that’s never stopped anyone from trying.’ He looked at me. ‘Has it?’ I realized, with this mocking look, that there stood between us, forever, beyond the power of time or forgiveness, the fact that I had held silence—so long!— when he had needed human speech to help him. He turned back to the window. ‘No, there’s no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it, to keep on top of it, and to make it seem—well, like you. Like you did something, all right, and now you’re suffering for it. You know?’ I said nothing. ‘Well you know,’ he said, impatiently, ‘why do people suffer? Maybe it’s better to do something to give it a reason, any reason’ (Baldwin 17).
Yet, I believe that this misery is precisely what Baldwin wanted the reader to feel, as he was communicating something very real about the world in which he lived. And perhaps suffering, for him, flowed into what he wrote and helped him deal with the suffering. Truthfully, I can’t really identify with any sort of visceral suffering, such as the narrator and Sonny had to go through, but Baldwin makes me feel as though I can understand that suffering. I’ve said before that any good writer strives to create empathy and understanding in the reader, and I’ve seen very few writers who have done that as masterfully as Baldwin. I do apologize that I don’t have more to share, but this past week was a hectic week of edits, so I thought that sharing something that was provocative to me would be a nice change of pace.

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Work Update – Will

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This past week has consisted mostly of editing with some small spurts of writing new content here and there. Since my edits aren’t terribly interesting and I have no shocking ideas or concepts to share with all of you, I’ve decided to include an excerpt of my writing. This excerpt is mostly all dialogue and takes place during a meeting of my group’s leaders. Here it is:

I was still smarting from Gormly’s words. I stared down at the table. How could a cook tell me, a warrior, how the mission should have been handled? Sure, he had some years on me, but age couldn’t teach him what we warriors had learned firsthand. The rest of Thane’s team, brothers and sisters I sent with him, were still out there, and Gormly would dare second-guess my decisions? I didn’t know where they were. I had to know where they were. But I couldn’t do that while arguing with Gormly.

I looked up. “Yeah, I’m good. Sorry,” I said. My apology was noted by a dismissive wave of Bazgal’s hand.

Sharpe looked around and said, “Anybody have any more thoughts?”

Silence abounded for a couple of moments, then Alfred spoke up, “Do we know when we’ll be able to question Thane?”

Bazgal and Sharpe both looked to Junger, representing the healers. Junger was a middle-aged, bald, and grey bearded man whose body abounded with sinewy muscle. He seldom spoke when not amongst healers. He looked around, then to Bazgal and Sharpe, and said, “Well, he’s not in good shape. That much we all know. We’re doing the best we can, but the damage from the blood loss alone is huge, not to mention the fact that he lost an eye and will lose a hand. I’d say it’ll be a couple of days at the very least until we’ve finished up our work. After that, I’d give him a couple more days before we can question him. He’ll be very weak.”

Bazgal and Sharpe both nodded solemnly.

“A couple of days? If my warriors aren’t already dead, then they’ll be dead by then! We need to talk to him before that!” I couldn’t believe Junger’s lack of concern for his brothers and sisters.

“Or maybe your warriors will find their way back to us by the time Thane is ready,” Fara said.

“And if we try anything with Thane earlier, we run the risk of making him far worse and not getting any answers anyway,” Said Junger.

I was having none of it. “If it’s his life against the lives of my warriors, I’ll take that risk! Since when were we afraid to—“

“This is the last time I warn you, Carter,” said Bazgal. “You aren’t an Alpha and you won’t tell others of the same rank as you what needs to be done. Hold your peace or leave us and we’ll find a different warrior to advise us.”

“Alright, alright, fine. Let’s just figure this out.” I didn’t want to risk being left out of any decision that was to be made. Those were my warriors out there, and I needed to know how the Alphas planned on finding them.

“Let’s get back to it,” said Bazgal, looking around the table. “We know Thane’s in no position to give us any answers right now. We know that there’s a threat out there, and we don’t know what it is.”

“The Scout’s Vanguard is also extremely vulnerable right now,” said Shane.

“I’d say we call the Scout’s Vanguard back to our position,” Sharpe said.

Gormly looked around confusedly and asked, “And why would we do that?”

“Until we can really understand what did that to Thane and made Carter’s warriors disappear, we need to regroup and be on the defensive. If Carter’s warriors don’t come in anytime soon and Thane isn’t ready to talk by the day after tomorrow, then we’ll gather our things and head out.”

“I think that sounds like the best option at the moment. There’s still a lot we don’t know,” Said Bazgal.

“But why not use the Scout’s Vanguard to find out what the threat is? They’re already out there. They should do what they’re made for,” Said Gormly.
I hope you enjoyed my most recent work at least a little bit! I just started reading a new book, In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson. Larson is a masterful storyteller who makes nonfiction material seem like a good thriller. I try to emulate his storytelling capability in my own writing.

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The Survival of the Tribe- Will

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I’ve been thinking about group dynamics recently. How are groups kept together? What makes them stronger and, more importantly, what breaks them apart? Attempting to answer these questions has been important to me due to the nature of my novel. For those of you who don’t know, my novel is centered around a group of nomads in North America a couple of hundred years after modern society has collapsed. Continue reading

Creating-Will

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Perhaps I haven’t gotten as much done this semester as I had originally wanted to, but now I realize, that little problem may not be as bad as I thought it was. I set out to discover my own skills and behaviors as a creative writer and then, with the knowledge of my habits in mind, be better prepared for the second semester (during which I’ll continue writing). I’m glad to say that I actually have figured out exactly what I needed to figure out. Now that I know my own capabilities, I’m prepared to be much more productive as we journey into the final half of our school year.

One thing that I figured out about halfway through this semester was how I create before I write. I keep a little black notebook in my backpack that serves as the encyclopedia of all the thoughts I’ve ever had about my story. Some of these thoughts have become realities on paper, while others were never added at all (crossed out or erased due to impracticality or maybe just because I changed my mind), and some have yet to be added to the story at all. This notebook has been my greatest and most valuable resource this fall, because whenever I’ve been pressed for time to work on my story, I can always refer back to what I’ve written previously in the notebook to point me in the right direction.

This is not only because of the wide array of random thoughts on my story that I’ve scrawled on the pages of the little black book but also because before I write even one page of new material, I map out the next five or so pages worth of story material in the notebook. From there, I also use the notebook to double check where these pages fit in the grand scheme of my story. Do they develop the plot in an interesting way or are they superfluous? Are the plot points action or conversation based? Once I’ve answered these questions, as well as some others, in my notebook, then I proceed with actually writing the material, which, it turns out, is quite easy when you know what you want to do with that exact page.

Anyway, I was just trying to give you a glimpse into another, and arguably the most important, part of my process. It’s where the true creation is. Thoughts flow directly from my head to paper when I use the notebook, which acting as a sort of filter, lets me keep writing new material into my story. It’s the create in creative writing that really allows me to enjoy myself and take the essence of my story further than I originally thought possible. Creative writing allows us to take a little something of our own souls and push it out into the greater world, sometimes in ways others might not understand at first, but still in ways that feel liberating for us. A writer for The New Yorker wrote a fictional piece on creative writing that expressed the power of the craft. It is called (aptly) Creative Writing.

A Reflection on the Journey so Far

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When I think about what I’ve accomplished so far, what I originally set out to do, and the long journey awaiting me after Thanksgiving break, I end up thinking about the roadblocks that were placed in my way. Sure, I tried to get ahead this summer by not only writing some of my novel and editing what I had previously written, but I wrote most, if not all, of my college essays and supplements. Little did I know that no matter how far ahead I worked, no matter how much time I spent over the summer making each and every sentence of my essays into gold, that I’d still end up spending plenty of my senior fall focusing on work I had started over the summer. My final college essay and all of my supplements went through maybe 10 or 12 drafts each. And yet I sit here, wishing I could have devoted those countless hours to my novel. Where could I be now if that had been possible? I try to stop myself from thinking about it because, though I have made progress on my novel this year, I haven’t yet reached the point where I originally wanted to be at this time. Why? Well aside from the aforementioned onslaught of college work, as well as other schoolwork, cross country, and other commitments, it’s been because of editing.

Yes, editing, the bane of any writer’s existence. I have, without a doubt, spent more time editing my novel over the past two months than I have spent writing new material. However, to be fair, when I began my independent project at the beginning of this year, one of my primary goals was not to write the best novel ever written, but to gain a better understanding of the literary process and craft. Well, I can honestly say that the understanding that I’ve gained so far is that editing is the biggest and most time consuming part of the process. You not only have to be willing to accept and use the criticism of others on something you’ve worked very hard on and put a lot of emotion into, but you have to cast a critical eye upon your own work over and over again. Though editing has been a royal pain, my novel is all the better for it.

Aside from editing, one of the most important parts of my process so far has been world building. World building can be relatively simple, yet still difficult, when you’re writing a novel set in the modern world. But when you’re really creating your own world, even just a super messed-up version of our world (as I have done), world building is as tedious as it is tiring. It can be fun to begin with, to play around with an idea and assess its viability in your world. But when you have to think through every single detail, from specific types of clothing to what types of technology would be used by a nomadic group of hunters after the collapse of modern civilization, it becomes laborious. However, I’ve found that world building, through activity, has expanded my creativity and has made me view possible set pieces and plot points with a much more analytical eye.

Finally, as I face the end of the semester, I begin to think about how I’m going to reach my goals. Originally, I had wanted to write 100 pages by the end of semester one. I realize now that that goal simply isn’t realistic. With my editing and world building powers more refined and ready for use however, I think I can reach at least the 70 pages mark by mid-January. It will take a bit of discipline and a lot of extra hours of editing, but I think it’s completely possible. With no more college essays to write or cross-country meets to go to, I can finally concentrate my efforts on the defining piece of my senior year.

Link for picture: http://www.clarelydon.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/book-editing.jpg

The Trials and Tribulations of Writing Over Time

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On a recent conference call with my mentor/editor, I was asked why I had written a specific quantity in one place. I had written a piece of dialogue in which a character told the narrator he’d be back in 50 minutes. When my editor asked me why I said 50 minutes specifically in contrast to, well, any other measure of time, I told him the truth. Continue reading

Storytelling -Driscoll

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I faced a very difficult balancing act over the past week and a half. What I had to do was to have my narrator tell a story for a couple pages. Now, I know that seems pretty straightforward, but the additional factor that created some complexity for me as a writer was this: about 99% of the book is a story being told by the narrator to a group of people that aren’t introduced until much later in the story. In effect, I was writing a story within a story. Crazy, right? Continue reading

Stories Create Stories

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To form the most fundamental and basic pillars of strength in creative writing, a writer must also be a reader. And I don’t mean someone who just reads for their homework assignments and summer reading. The type of reader I’m talking about is the one who reads every night, every day, and a great deal every week. To be even a decent creative writer you have to be an avid reader with an insatiable appetite. It is the works of others that informs you on how to do your work. The greatest authors can typically give the greatest of lessons on writing within their books. Yet, you have to retain originality throughout your writing. There’s room for nothing but creativity in creative writing.

Striking the balance between inspiration and pure creativity is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. The key, that I’ve learned at least, is to never stop consuming stories. Though I did extol the virtues of being a voracious reader when you’re writing, the truth is that the more stories you read, hear, watch, act, and participate in, the better you’ll be at creating a story yourself. To begin with, and to return to my earlier point, I couldn’t be the writer I am today if I didn’t read a whole lot of books. Whether its fiction or nonfiction, the more books I’ve read, the more I’ve not only come to understand what good writing looks like but also this world and humanity as a whole. I’ve mentioned in the past that certain books have inspired the story I’m writing in a very direct fashion. The truth is that everything I’ve ever read influences and inspires how I write. All of the good books and more than enough of the bad are my guides to how to write. Beyond what I’ve mentioned, here’s an article on why reading to write matters.

I’ve found that it’s not only literature that makes me a better storyteller however, because many of the TV shows I watch (and there are plenty of them) and movies that I have seen (they number close to a thousand), also inform the way I craft a world. The influence of film upon my writing can be witnessed through many parts of the world I’ve created. I may write about a certain dusty, outlaw-sort-of town that was brought to mind by many of the westerns I’ve ever seen, in conjunction with maybe one or two TV shows as well. I may write a character whilst envisioning them to look and act like a certain character from Game of Thrones.

The truth is that this world and the people that live in it are all pretty similar, and when writing, it’s perfectly OK to take inspiration from the way something or someone looks or acts in another piece of fiction. Though it’s wildly inaccurate to say that each and every human being always acts the same, it’s true that similar people act the same ways in similar circumstances. As a creative writer, it’s my job to put twists on those people and circumstances while keeping a grip on the realities of humanity, and consuming other stories helps me do both of these things.

Link for pic.: https://michelehowe.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/book-wall.jpg