Am I Future Chiante?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be the kind of person that journals. And for as long as I can remember, and have evidence of, I start a journal intending to write everyday only to abandon the habit and journal in less than a week.

At some point I came to accept this and I stopped getting upset at myself for ‘failing’ to journal, but I still periodically wish I could keep a journal (like this year for example)

This thought has been spurred on by a recent discovery of a journal I don’t remember writing. It was maybe 10 entries about my life as I went through grade 12. I laughed and grimaced along with my younger self as I relived what I had written about, but the last entry ended on a sour note. I was distressed about the future. My parents were moving in the summer and I didn’t know where I was going to go and how it was going to work out with my cats, my living situation, my finances, and which school I was going to go to.

Of course it has worked out. My cats and I found a place to stay and I’m attending the school I always wanted to go to, but at the time, I had no idea about where I was or what was going to happen. I felt sympathy for my younger self and proceeded to write a follow up entry where I basically outlined all the important—good and bad—life events that had happened in the two years since.

What I encountered in the journal was something I always do when I start a journal. I address the journal to “my future self,” or “future Chiante.” Occasionally, throughout my entries at various points, I talk directly to my future self and ask her questions and give her reminders. This has led me to reflect on the concept of “future Chiante.”

I noticed while reading my grade 12 journal that I felt like an intruder reading a letter addressed to someone else. But the journal isn’t addressed to someone else. It’s addressed to me. Future me. The question then becomes, am I Future Chiante yet? When does Future Chiante arrive? What is the appropriate span of time between Past Chiante, Current Chiante, and Future Chiante?

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Did I become future Chiante by responding to the last entry of the journal in order to let Past Chiante know that everything worked out? Writing the entry felt like continuing a story abandoned by someone else at the best part, and I had this unique ability to finish the story, knowing what was about to happen.

I think my inability to accept my current role as Future Chiante stems from the fact that the Future Chiante I imagined while writing is this far off adult of a Chiante who has a family and a career and is sorting through old boxes from her youth.
And yet, future Chiante from my grade 8 journal was more like the 20-something Chiante who was still figuring out life—which is very close to where I am today. Is it possible for me to be future Chiante for some journals and not others?

I have a journal from one of my high school English classes where we were instructed to write a letter to ourselves ten years in the future. I’ve refrained from re-reading the journal because the letter isn’t addressed to Chiante of 2018, it is addressed to Chiante of 2026. In that case, I can’t be future Chiante yet.

This has been a curious discovery and reflection for me this week. I’d like to hear about your thoughts on journaling. If and when you journal, who, if anyone, do you address the journal to? Have you ever encountered the intruder syndrome I’ve discovered while reading my journals? Which past self are you the future of right now?

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My Editing Process: Draft One to Draft Two

I’ve just started the process of editing my middle grade novel that I finished during Camp NaNoWriMo, so it seemed fitting that I talk about what my editing process looks like, specifically, what I do to take my first draft novel to a second draft.

The very first thing I do after finishing a first draft is to celebrate. But after that I like to leave the manuscript alone for a while so that I become less familiar with it. In this case, I only left the book for about a week. In other cases I would leave it for a month or two.

I like to edit in hardcover form, so I like to print out my first draft, but before I do that, I like to go through and fix the major grammar issues that my processor picks up. Basically I go through and get rid of the red squiggly lines. This basically helps me not focus so much on blaring grammar mistakes while doing big idea, macro-edits.

Then I change the font (I went from Courier New to Bell MT for those interested), increase the margins and spacing, and click print. These changes are small but neccesary. To write the book I’ve been staring at Courier New for a month, by changing the font I mix up what my brain is used to seeing in order to shed new light on the manuscript. Big margins and double spacing allow for detailed notes and change the placement of the words on the page in a way I haven’t seen them before.

My first read through is mostly to refamiliarize myself with the story and to take notes on certain things. During the first read through, I note any issues I see with plot and world building. Any time I question the contingency of something about my world, I write it down in question form on an index card. Anything that stands out as jarring, out of place, or abrupt I note as well. This often has to do with pacing and tone for me.

Besides criticizing the story, I also note which parts I really loved because of how well they worked or resonated with me. These are often marked with smiley faces.

In this case, I didn’t split my story into chapters, only scenes, while I was writing, so during the read through I will place chapter breaks to split the story up into its chapters. These chapter breaks are not set in stone at this point.

The second part of turning my first draft into a second draft is separate from the manuscript. I take the questions about plot and world building that I wrote on the index card and answer the questions so that I know for myself what the answers are, and then I work out where that information might be best displayed in the plot, if at all. (Some questions are better left unanswered).

Once I have answered the questions, I go back to the first draft and read through it again, this time noting where I can implement information to help answer the questions I wrote down.

By this point, I’ve been saturated in the story long enough again to break down the story into its literary elements. (Beginning, inciting incident, rising action, climax, denouement). I do this on an index card so that it is handy and easy to reference when I continue editing.

Once I’ve done these two read throughs, I’m ready to implement the changes into the document on my computer. This step is likely to take longer than the read throughs as this draft is about fixing big issues and may require rewriting, adding more text, and replacing placeholders with content.

This revised manuscript is now draft two! Huzzah!

There you have it, my process for turning a first draft manuscript into a second draft. This is the process I am currently working through for my manuscript and I’m excited to continue editing and sharing with you as I take this book from draft one to final draft!

What does your editing process look like? What do you do to take your manuscript to draft two?

The Influence of Reading on My Camp NaNo Project

I just finished my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, and in this novel in particular I was able to notice something that I’m sure happens in my other works, but I’ve never really paid attention to until now.

You may recall my recent goal to read 15 books before the end of the year as a way to stop neglecting the very important work of reading as a writer. Yesterday, that challenge paid off.

During Camp NaNoWrimo, I was writing a children’s book that transformed itself into a middle grade novel.  That means it is in the same category as The Chronicles of Narnia and the first Harry Potter book, to give you some context. It fits in the 7-12 age range.

While writing, I read two books in that middle grade category.

The first was The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis. Throughout my story, which involves my main character, Issac travelling to a new world, I could detect Lewis’ influence over my world. Lewis has such a particular way of storytelling which is especially vivid in The Magician’s Nephew where Narnia is first created that I found myself adopting the same musical language in bringing the world Issac discovered to life.

In fact, there are certain spots and paragraphs where I even switched perspectives unexpectedly to write as an omniscient narrator, like the narrator in The Magician’s Nephew. I can pinpoint spots where I so totally adopted the style of Narnia that I can say, “Oh, that was Lewis there. That’s when I was reading about Aslan’s song. Oh, that is when read about Jardis grabbing the lamppost.”

The second book I was reading is one of my favourites called The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. There are so many reasons why I love this book that I will explain another time, but in this case, what is important is a little history.
The story I was working on during this past Camp NaNo, dubbed Issac Normal, was actually a rewrite of a story that I wrote in a grade 12 creative writing class. When I first wrote the story, I heavily based my characters, and their personalities on the characters of The Mysterious Benedict Society. I purposely did that because of how much I loved the series and how much I felt it would be relatable and understandable for children. When I had initially written Issac Normal, it had been a few years since reading Mysterious Benedict Society, long enough that I didn’t remember the particular words that Stewart used, but recent enough that I remembered the plot and the feeling I had from each of the characters.

I was in the middle of Mysterious Benedict Society when I began rewriting, and almost everyday I was immersed in Stewart’s world and characters. It would have been impossible to separate that world with my own writing. I found that an overarching change had occurred in my story. I had taken what I loved about each of Stewart’s characters and thoughtfully considered those traits for my own characters, but when I rewrote and lengthened the novel, I found the characters I built weren’t alive enough to go along with the plot. I naturally adopted what I thought would deepen the characters—introspection.

In reflection, I see that had I not been reading Mysterious Benedict Society I would have probably chosen more tangible changes in the actual action of the plot, rather than the internal feelings of Issac and his friends in reaction to the plot I already had. What I ended up with, because of Mysterious Benedict Society is a subplot that I didn’t realize my story needed. I have the actual events of the story, but running parallel, I have Issac learning about himself and his friends as he tries to process everything that is happening to him.

In this case, it’s not so much the words I used that make my story like Stewart’s, but rather the method of storytelling. Stewart’s world is heavily based around the internal monologue of his main characters rather than pure action, and unconsciously I have adopted a similar method of storytelling.

All this to say, the influence I’ve seen from being immersed in both my story and the stories of others has greatly changed the way I wrote during July and I highly enjoyed it.

Do you notice the influence of other writers in your own writing? Which authors influence you?