When I finish a draft of something, I feel like a mad genius. Mad, because I suddenly become aware of the sheer amount of time it took to finish that thing. Also a genius, because I finished the thing, and no matter how many times I’ve read through the earlier sections pointing out plot holes to myself, finishing a draft of something is still finishing. It feels a lot like finishing.
I think this is a timely topic for two reasons. The first: yes, in fact, I did just finish a draft of something. I drafted the first book in a series about a year and a half ago, and over the summer, I decided to start re-drafting. After several weeks of telling my suitemates I would “probably finish this week,” finally, the draft is complete. I’ve written those fateful words, End Book 1.
Which brings me to the second reason this is timely: in three days, November will close, and with it will come the flurry of people who have won (or not) NaNoWriMo. Maybe you’re one of them! Good for you! Many people around the globe are about to experience that maddening, dizzy rush of having finished a long-term project – and feeling subsequently like a mad genius. The first thing that may be tempting for mad geniuses is to proclaim their success with an all-caps tweet or a dramatic Facebook post or an artsy Instagram/Snapchat photo with a delighted caption over the The End part. Or, if you’re like me, the word count (ugh). This is a fine goal! Go for it!
What you may be tempted to do next is to share your piping hot, straight-off-the-presses draft with every single person who liked your post or commented on your tweet. To this impulse, I would recommend letting the draft cool.
The first draft of something in particular (and, in my opinion, at least the second), represents an outpouring of work that is extremely valuable, but didn’t have the full scope of the project yet. You never really know what the last sentence of the book is going to be until you write the last sentence. You didn’t know if that foreshadowing you dropped in Chapter 2 that you intended to come up in Chapter 15 actually would come up in Chapter 15 – at least not while you were writing Chapter 2. Some breathing room and another read-through may point these things out to you right away.
So, dear mad geniuses, my recommendation is to pause. Take a deep breath before rapid-fire sending your long-term project to everyone you know. Put it in a drawer for at little bit. Start a new project. A few weeks, a month maybe down the line, pull that draft back out and read it front-to-back, either making comments on it or reading it without touching it. Then decide whether it’s something you want feedback on right now, or if there are major sweeping reforms to make, to the point where you’d be receiving feedback on ideas, characters, plot points, and scenes that you’ve already changed. Getting feedback on things you already intend to scrap might help in the abstract, and your readers might be able to point out things you can include in your second draft. They might also convince you to save something doomed for the chopping block, or cut something you thought was safe. If you’re proud of your first draft, for sure, get feedback on it! But, the most valuable feedback is that comment you weren’t expecting, that you as the author - the person who is supposed to know the book best - couldn’t find on your own. So take some time to get your distance, tame your genius, and look back over your work to decide: is my next step something I can do alone, or should I get help?
Written by Erika S.
Have you ever been itching to buy a thriller, but the ones at Half Price Books just won’t do? Do you ever get tired of downloading sketchy, badly formatted PDFs of classics like Agatha Christie, or getting a Trojan instead of an ePub of the newest Harlan Coben? Do you want to buy books with fascinating titles, like Fudge and Jury and No Cats Allowed, along with cool merch like book-inspired handmade t-shirts?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should venture outside the hedges and stop by Murder by the Book!
This bookshop opened in 1980, making it one of the nation’s oldest and largest mystery specialty bookstores. But their selection goes beyond mere mysteries, as they sell an incredible amount of thrillers, sci-fi stories, and fantasy novels. They also have a cool selection of novelty items, magazines, and some really awesome t-shirts (this blog post writer is still hyped over her new Margaret Atwood shirt).
But beyond their book selection, what makes Murder by the Book special is its ambience. The shop is packed full of interesting things and interesting people. There are very comfortable old leather chairs and sofas just begging you to curl up on them with a nice murder mystery, and since the shop is crammed full of bookshelves in bewildering configurations, it is very easy to literally lose yourself among them. If you do, don’t worry—the employees are wonderful, and always willing to lend a hand or give out recommendations.
But assuming that all of this is not enough to convince you that Murder by the Book is worth a visit, then how about this: they host book signings. Frequently.
Almost every week they bring some author to the shop, which offers students like me the opportunity to go to book-related events without having to travel too far from campus. Just last week I went there to see Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, co-creators of the hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale, who were there for their new novel’s book tour. The event was well organized, but since the space is quite small, I’d recommend getting there early. The way Murder by the Book does their events, you first get about an hour of conversation between the author(s) and a moderator, and then a Q&A session. Afterwards, there’s the book signing. The shop’s employees are also very nice about taking pictures of you in case you came to the event alone.
A final consideration I hinted at before: if you live at or near Rice, Murder by the Book is just a half-hour walk away. Located on the outer edge of Rice Village, on 2342 Bissonnet Street, it’s surrounded by a pretty residential area and very accessible by foot or by bike.
Long story short, if you’re into mysteries or even if you’re not, Murder by the Book is worth a visit. The books, the people, the merch, the events: if you like books in any way, shape, or form, there’s definitely something for you. After all, as the store’s tagline says, this bookshop is a place where a good crime is had by all. So why not give Murder by the Book a try?
Just remember: stay sexy, read books, and don’t get murdered.
Written by Mariana N.
In Houston, Texas, it’s partly cloudy
70 degrees, 94% humidity.
The air feels like a wet paper towel,
And it gets too dark too early now.
5:30 dinner feels like it’s night time,
Earlier dark means earlier sunrise,
Sleep through the sunlight, through 9:25,
Stay up for the moonlight.
Inside a dorm room, still on the Gulf Coast
It’s 72 but a North Pole wind blows.
Silver tinsel moves with A/C breezes.
String lights meant for evergreen trees and
Paper snowflakes stuck to the doorframe
Cut so that no two are the same.
In this kind of weather, it’s better like this
“It’s always snowy in Houston, Texas”
Written by Rynd M.
Rice is an amazingly accepting place, with genuinely good people who care to understand. And maybe by sharing this poem I’m preaching to the choir. However, I believe that even in the most wonderful of places, there are issues and conflicts and problems that need to be addressed. We as a student body are extremely understanding and conscientious of being sensitive/respectful towards others choices, but there are always ways in which we can do more. So, to explore a few persistent gender stereotypes, I’d like to share “What do you mean equal?” Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments regarding this poem, what you believe gender equality means, or anything else!
What do you mean equal?
by Sree Yeluri
We can't be equal until we all agree,
That an individual is whatever they choose to be.
Women and men can't be defined as strong nor weak,
We are a bit of both, undeniably unique.
Equal means a woman can walk
without worrying that others will mock.
Equal means a man can cry
without others wondering whether he’s a guy.
Society expects women to be modest and compliant
but what if, instead, we are defiant?
Men are expected to be dominant and tough,
But, surely, to be honest and kind is enough.
Don’t tell girls that they are to be seen and never heard,
or teach them that their only job is to cook, it’s absurd.
Don’t teach boys to be domineering,
or tell them that their future lies solely in engineering.
I fail to see how society has the right to decide,
The unspoken rules that individuals are constantly forced to abide.
We each have the freedom to choose,
our actions, our words, and our views.
Written by Sree Y.
A poem’s beginning should be striking and compelling, urgent and invigorating. A reader should want to continue to the next line, and finish the rest of your work. The first line of any piece of poetry not only has a stake in deciding its artistic merit, but also its commercial value. If your first line isn’t interesting enough, no one will bother with the rest. No pressure.
But as a writer, more often than not, your first line simply represents the struggle of making a start, of beating the crisis of the blank Word document, the I-Don’t-Know-What-I’m-Doing stage of any new project. So here are ten great first lines of poetry I collected so that you can analyze what makes them stand out, get inspired to start writing, or simply admire some of the openers to your favorite poems.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
-Elizabeth Barret Browning
Because I could not stop for Death
Let us go then, you and I
People disappear. And go looking for a place to be looked at.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
-Edgar Allen Poe
We were very tired, we were very merry
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
I would like to watch you sleeping
Drink to me only with thine eyes
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky
Written by Sanvitti S.
Hi, everyone! Today's post is just a celebration of our previous Monthly Contest winners - check out the Monthly Contest blog tab above to see the latest winners. The theme for the month of October was "Disguise." Our writing contest was won by Daniel Koh's "We Need to Talk About the Lack of STEM Representation in the Humanities." Our art contest was won by Justin Bishop's "Who's The Fairest of Them All." You can check out these incredible pieces on the Monthly Contest page.
The monthly contest for November is live, and the prompt is "Horoscope." Check out the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/282551465585285/. The deadline is November 20th at 11:59PM. We look forward to reading your submissions, everyone!!
Writing is hard. Really Hard. Debatably, it is more difficult than doing any Chemistry Problem Set or memorizing any Biology PowerPoint. I can say that. I’m a biochemistry major. Writing is mentally taxing. It’s a boxing match that lasts 12 rounds, a test of endurance yet simultaneously a test of skill. You against the paper. You against your pen. And you against your mind. A whirlwind of ideas jostling for your attention, words that refuse to fit the way you want, the frustration of trying to make your metaphor work when it really doesn’t. And when that final bell rings, you collapse exhausted, emptied of everything you have. All you did was type 2500 words in Times New Roman in Microsoft Word. But you feel like you just fought a battle. And after a few moments of glorying in your work, you get up and do it all again. Once again facing a terrifying opponent, a blank page, racking your brain for some sort of halfway decent concoction of thoughts. To put your convoluted musings down to paper in a coherent manner.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” And knowing this, I still write. Why? Am I a masochist along with all the other writers in the world? I hope not. “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people” – Thomas Mann. There is something intrinsically wonderful about this struggle. This struggle against my own thoughts, this civil war in my heads that bleeds out onto in a stream of words, inky black dots marrying with the cream paper. Or more likely, hundreds of tiny pixels glowing on my MacBook screens. There is a something inside me that is fighting to be released, to finally be set free and allowed to explore the world. It slowly builds, bubbling up until it can no longer be contained. And though the process of releasing it can be painful, it is a process that must occur. And it is a process that must not only occur me for me, but for thousands of other writers and poets around the world. This inner desire ultimately overcomes the fear of failure and the struggle to create.
And so I force myself to write. Or not really me, but something inside me. Something drives me forward, an unwilling slave. Sometimes I would gladly relinquish this feeling for the peace and comfort and constancy of a Physics Pledge Problem, but I am unable. Instead I gravitate to the uncertainty and potential of a blank page. It may be terrifying, but it is also enthralling. So even when I don’t feel like opening up a new document, or creating a new note, I force myself to. Because nothing good comes easy, and though the process may be painful, the end result is wonderful. At least some of the time.
I don’t know if this was easy reading, but it was damn hard writing.
Written by Joshua A.
“It’s pointless. You’ve only been here for a year and hardly know anyone.” That was the reaction of my friends when I asked them whether I should run for the Student Class President elections. In retrospect, they had a point; my chances of winning the election were worse than of me getting an A in Physics. But sticking to the true stubborn nature of an Aries, I went forward with it anyway.
Were they right in predicting that I’m not going to be elected for the position? Yes. But where they right when they said “it’s pointless”? Not quite.
From the very beginning, we are taught that rejection is bad. Failure is for losers, and no one wants to be the underdog. I used to strictly adhere to that ideology, that is, until the end of my freshman year.
The Student Class President election comprised of the whole grade of 700+ kids voting to choose their class representative for the next year. Now, you can see how it’d be hard for a kid who barely knows 30 of them to win an election like this. But somehow, that didn’t stop me.
My friends, although initially reluctant, quickly hoped onto the idea of me running for the election. We spent multiple sleepovers together working on stickers and speeches. According to the rules, each candidate got two weeks to campaign around schools, which included hanging billboard size posters from every wall in the cafeteria to enthusiastically chanting campaign slogans through the hallways during passing periods. I still remember mine: “Life, Liberty, and better vending machine.”
During these weeks, I got a lot of support from not only my immediate friends but also other people who I’d barely interacted with previously. The sheer amount of people I got to know through campaigning was surprising. This helped me realize that the biggest mistake one can make is to always staying in his or her own bubble. Had I been complacent, shy or lethargic and not stood up for the election, my high school experience would not have been half as dynamic as it was.
At the ending of the two weeks, came the daunting “Election Day”. Excited. Anxious. Scared. These were just a few emotions running through me that day. Throughout lunch, people casted their votes and at the end of the excruciatingly long day, the winner was revealed to be….John Doe.
Words cannot express how defeated I felt that day. I remember numerous people trying to make me feel better, but even with all this support, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed in myself. Was I not funny enough? Was I too loud? What did I do wrong? I felt like I’d taken 3 steps back. However, the next morning when I reached school, I saw that I recognized a lot more faces down the corridor. Students and teachers started to see me as someone more approachable now and I had gone from being the shy girl to someone more extroverted and involved. So even though, this was a failure in my life, I still choose to write about it today because in the long run, it taught me that it’s not failure but rather the fear of it that brings us down. So let’s not be afraid of failing, for failure is just success in disguise.
Written by Diksha G.
Two weeks ago, late on Friday night, I found myself sitting on the edge of the stage in the basement at Sid Rich college. The walls, bright red as they are, somehow told me this was a good place to be that night. The echoes of the space were somehow a comfort where the music bounced around the few bodies inside. At around 11:30, there were already only four of us left in the room, taking in the dimness and the emptiness where before had been light and music and chatter. And it felt good. Really, really good.
This was a space whose existence I’d discovered barely three weeks earlier—it is now a space where I remember one of the greatest nights of my time at Rice so far. There hadn’t been a party; no solo cups, LED lights, or beer-sticky floors and bodies. What we had was the result of an idea, three weeks of hard work, and Cavity’s first student art show of the academic year.
Cavity, a small coalition of student artists and art-lovers, was a concept placed in our hands by three upperclassmen who, in a space of two weeks last spring, did more for student art at Rice than anyone else had for a long, long time. It was—and is—the result of minds coming together to do something where there was a need for it. Not just chatter and idealism, but walls and bodies in real time. Where Rice University turned away from providing us with the time and space for student art that so many of us want, they said we won’t stand it.
One night during dead days in the spring, they proved that they meant what they said, and on that night two weeks ago, in a place as seemingly unlikely as Sid’s basement, we proved it again. We found a space and made one of the most powerful connections I’ve ever felt—student to student, all of us who wanted to fill that space together. It was small, but it was ours, and it was covered to every aspect of its capacity with the things we all created. On those crazy red, black, and yellow walls there were paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, projections, lights, and words. There was a dance performance, a journal to draw on, a stage anyone could step up to and make something of their own (they painted furniture we’d literally picked up off the streets, and let me tell you, it looks pretty damn cool). A sculpture hung from the ceiling, and even the empty air around our heads eventually became full as students DJ-ed and beatboxed throughout the night. It was all ours. I’ll never get over how exciting that was, honestly.
No, it wasn’t easy, and it was far from perfect. It was a lot of running around helplessly, taking the longer way around, some canvases falling off walls, and a few messes (we somehow ended up with Oreo cheesecake and Oreos). It wasn’t neat or glamorous, but the beauty of it, and what I’m here to write about, wasn’t in that. It was in the people who—when we thought about student art and said this is something we care about—responded with hey, we do, too, and proved it. That was all it took, and it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever felt. It was a kind of comradeship unlike any other, the feeling of bringing something to life, to live alongside the things other minds brought to life, and watching them all run off together and be.
I think, in the end, that it was an art in itself, and it was all thanks to all of you, who heard us and listened.
Thank you for filling that space with us.
There is more to come, and it is always for you.
Written by Ana Paula P.
I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write for this post, so I thought I would just post a bunch of pictures of my dog, instead. His name is Walter, and he’s a very good boy. If he went to Rice, I’m sure he would be an English major (I think he has very good taste in books, based on what he’s chewed up). I think some countries in Europe even celebrate November as National Dog Month, so hey, turns out this is topically relevant too!
Text + Photos by Matthew A.