Category Archives: Writing

Writer’s Snow Day: A One-Act Play

The Scene, Outside: 

Thick snow is falling fast, 5 inches already on the ground and 4 more inches predicted.  Wind is blowing hard, sending the temperature nose-diving below zero.

 

The Scene, Inside:

A one bedroom apartment, bookshelves lining the walls and the hum of the furnace running in the background.  A young woman sits curled up on the sofa, slipper-clad feet peeking out from beneath the blanket she’s wrapped in.  On her lap is a small laptop computer; on the table beside her is a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  A stack of paper, just scraps with hastily scribbled notes, rest within reach on the sofa cushion.

 

The Writer:

She smiles to herself and places her hands on the keyboard, typing a handful of words so fast that her fingers on the keys sound like machine gun fire, only to stop abruptly.  She frowns, sips from her cup, and frowns again.

            She places one finger on the delete button and presses until she erases all she just wrote.

            She begins again, and the process repeats itself a dozen times, her frown gradually deepening and the pressing of the delete key morphing into slamming.

“SON OF A BITCH!”

            She jumps up, nearly knocking over her hot chocolate, and stomps out of the room to take a nap instead.

 

            Focus on the computer screen where the cursor blinks on the blank page.  Lights fade to black.

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The Year of Wordsmithing

            Success depends on more than just acknowledging a goal with a glass of champagne in one’s hand at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st.  Resolutions—shed some pounds, kick the cigarettes, drink less caffeine, avoid speeding tickets, go 365 days without being arrested, etc.—are easily made and even easier to cast aside.  One can’t just spit out a resolution; one must also have the ambition and obsession to achieve.

            Let’s define these:

 

            Resolution:  the act determining upon an action or course of action, often made at the beginning of a new year and abandoned two weeks later.

            Ambition:  an earnest desire for achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment, an element often missing from New Year’s resolutions.

            Obsession:  the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea or desire, the presence of which elevates resolution to ambition and gives one a chance at success.

 

            Okay, I might have tweaked those definitions but they’re still solid.  2014 is probably not the year I’m going to give up nicotine or caffeine, although I do plan on maintaining my “never been arrested” status and keeping a sharper eye out for radar-running cops than I did during 2013.  I do, however, have plans for myself.

            Not resolutions.  Plans.  Ambition + obsession > resolutions.

            All word-based.  Words require attention, sometimes hyper focus.  Words are beautiful, the love of my life, but they don’t come easily.  One must keep ambition foremost and feed the obsession that leads to success.

            So here are my writing, reading, and word-focused goals for 2014…

 

1. Read 80 Books.
            GoodReads promotes a yearly reading challenge, where members set their own “I’m going to read [#] of books in 2014” goals.  Setting the bar too high would be doomed to failure—I have the real life, adult world responsibilities like everybody else.  But setting the bar too low would be shameful because books are awesome and I have a massive stack of unread books waiting their turn.  So in 2014 I will read 80 books.

 

2a. Complete My Work-in-Progress.
            I began writing The O’Shaughnessy Reputation:  Put on Your War Paint as part of National Novel Writing Month.  I finished about half by the end of November and have kept putting fingers to keyboard since then (occasionally for frustrated keyboard-mashing).  When I wrote the first part in this series (You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid), I started in 2011 and didn’t finish until early 2013, and I won’t allow that to happen again:  I will finish this WIP at all costs.

 

2b. Complete an Edit of My Soon-to-be-Finished WIP.
            I will not only finish this novel, I will do at least a first pass, rough edit on it before November 1st.  I can’t start Kiss the Ring, part three of this series, for NaNoWriMo ‘14 until the events in part two have been smoothed into something resembling a coherent story.

 

Speaking of NaNoWriMo…

3.  Participate in National Novel Writing Months, including Original Flavor NaNoWriMo (November) and both Camp NaNoWriMo sessions (April & July).
            Providing concrete goals, a fast-approaching deadline, an active community of writers, and a nifty progress graph, NaNoWriMo has been one of the best things to ever happen to my writing life.  It’s a kick in the ass, a kick so hard I’ll put said ass in a chair to avoid the hit.  And half of writing is, after all, simply sitting your ass down to do it.

 

4.  Begin Work on Charm of the Pavement.
            The idea for this novel has been haunting me, bouncing around in my head for at least six months but doing little more than mocking my attempts to wrangle it into a coherent story.  No more avoiding the pen, you brat; the time has come. 

 

5.  Increase My Writer Circle
            The most successful writers seem to be those with a solid, expansive community of writers they consider friends.  The interaction acts like an injection of word-adrenaline, promoting creativity and keeping a writer focused.  I know several writers, a couple of whom are quite serious about it, and I’m determined to welcome more into my life.  Because writers are awesome…and other writers are the only ones who share my special brand of ‘not quite right’.

 

I have my pen.

I have my vices—coffee, booze, cigarettes.

I have my ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober’ mug.

I’m ready.  Let’s fucking do this.

 

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“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

– Pablo Picasso


Ménage à Trois: The Temptation of Multiple Works-in-Progress

Writer brain suffers.  Writer brain hurts.  Writer brain throws hissy fits because it wants to write ALL the words and I won’t allow it.  Writer brain does not understand, and writer brain hates me for it.

Can writers write two separate projects simultaneously?  Absolutely.

Can writers write two separate projects simultaneously and get at least one of them finished?  That, my friends, is where the danger lurks.

I’m wrestling with the temptation to do this right now:  begin a new novel while still writing my work-in-progress.  My work-in-progress is going well, moving along rather smoothly, I just need to put the words down on paper.  (Ha!  I say ‘just’ as if it’s that easy.)  But there’s this other story waiting to be written, an idea that’s been in my head for months and has finally started to coalesce into something actually resembling a narrative.  More scenes, more coherent lines, more defined character voices…and the feeling is there, the one that makes it resonate with me and starts my fingers tingling with the urge to write it down.

And my God, diving into that story would feel amazing.  But…

…if I give into the urge to jump into the deep end, I run the risk of never finishing the work-in-progress.  Even worse, I run the risk of not finishing either project because I’m spreading myself too thin.

But I want to, damn it!  I want to have my cake (WIP) and eat it too (new novel).  I’m greedy, and I’ve never been known for my patience.

I’m trying to hold myself back.  I’ve written multiple stories at the same time before, that’s all I did throughout my teenage years and early twenties, and I don’t have a damn thing novel-wise to show for it.  I never finished any of them.  Granted, none of them were particularly noteworthy, most were downright bad, but the point is that I attempted, failed, and left them to rot.

I know of writers—both published well-known names and plenty of people like me, toiling away because it’s fun and not because anyone is necessarily reading their words—who juggle more than one project.  I’m in awe of and more than a little jealous of that ability because they write, they write well, and they get things completed.  They get to type the end (or just sign and date it, such as is my preference) on both and sit back, all justifiably smug and pleased with themselves before immersing themselves in something brand new.  I hate them because I want to be them.

Making it even more difficult to resist is that both of these stories have a similar gritty feel, something that induces my brain to slide back and forth from one to the other without any difficulty.  Saving me from crumbling and giving into the urge to write more is the key difference between them, aside from wildly different plots:  one is gritty and dangerous while the other is gritty, much more emotional, and full of that painful yearning sensation that hits everyone now and again and rips the breath from the lungs.  That wouldn’t overlap well, and it’s the most rational reason, based in technical writing common sense, the thing that’s helping hold me back.

But I want to, damn it!

Are you one of those people who can handle two+ projects at once and get at least something finished?  And not just juggle them but smoothly transition back and forth?  If so please gift me with your wisdom, tell me how the hell you manage to do it.

Because I’ve got a hitman of the non-human variety demanding all of my time while a trio of half-wild fae whisper glamour in my ear.

A little help here?


Words on Words

“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.”

Seamus Heaney


NaNoWriMo Chronicles: A Look Back (The Final Post!)

50,269 words.

82 pages.

28 chapters.

4.5 pages of outline completed.

1 bottle of Aleve (for the arthritis in my hands), 1 brace to combat carpal tunnel, and 2 magnetic therapy bracelets.

7 bags of coffee.

Countless frustrated hissy fits and spiteful ‘I should be writing but fuck words’ naps.

Above is a numerical summary of my NaNoWriMo 2013 experience, an impressive listing if I do say so myself.  (And I do.  My blog and all that.)  But NaNoWriMo isn’t about the numbers, is it?  NaNoWriMo is about the words.

So how did the writing go?

The writing went well enough to win but the words came with much more difficulty than I’d anticipated.  2011 was a breeze:  the words came like an avalanche, I won the month, and I went on to complete the novel, which just so happens to be Book 1 to this year’s Book 2.  2012:  my only trouble came from running out of story and having to pad it with a couple thousand words to meet 50,000, which I did without any problem.  But this year?  This year was hard.

I was cocky.  I was naïve.  I thought, “Hey, since this is a sequel, this ought to flow smoothly from the beginning!  After all, I’m just picking up where I left off.  All of this is outlined and I know the character better than I know myself, so this is gonna be easy!”  And lo, the writing gods did heartily laugh before making me regret said thought.

This was a sequel; I spent the past couple years consistently writing this character, so his voice is still very much second nature to me.  And yet getting started proved painful, I just couldn’t find any sort of flow.  Three false starts before I finally found a shallow groove, and the first 30,000 words felt like pulling teeth—my own teeth, no anesthetic.  Timelines just wouldn’t come together; the character voice was shaky.  So what happened?

My poor little brain took quite a while to figure out the problem, and when it did I wept, for the problem wasn’t something I could wave a red pen at and fix.  I’d reached the writer’s equivalent of a boss level.  What escaped my understanding at first was that meshing the second book with the first proved much more difficult than I thought, while adding in the need to do all the prep work and setup for the third added complexity, ravaging my brain and ultimately requiring extensive editing while writing—a big no, no during NaNoWriMo.  But what choice did I have?

None.  I had no choice.  So I tore at my hair, rent my garments, and threw myself back into the fray.

And standing here at the finish line, I wave a banner of 50,269 words.  They’re not good words nor are they coherent after the 40,000 mark, but they’re words and they’re mine.  I’ve got a long way to go on the novel itself:  my outline is 9 pages long and I only made it through 4.5 of those pages during November.  I’ve got a damn fine start on what will one day, after lots of editing, be a damn fine story.

That, my friends, is what National Novel Writing Month is all about.  Until next year!  (Or at least the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions!)


NaNoWriMo Chronicles: The End of Days

November 30th:  it may not be the apocalypse but it’s certainly the end of days.

The last day of the month, the day all WriMos dream of, strive toward, and alternately fear and love.  If we’ve done it right (or even done it badly but miraculously managed to get out the necessary words despite that), we hold 50,000 words in our hands at midnight on this, the last night.  Some victors can hold a sheaf of papers above their heads and cry, “Lo!  I have a completed novel!”  Other winners can point proudly to their words and say, “I’ve got a pretty damn good start, with my 50,000!”  And still others triumphed word-wise and then quietly burned the results, too bad to even contemplate continuing that hot mess of a story.  This time I am a member of the second group:  50,269 words but the novel is only about a third of the way completed.

Without exception, however, we all verify our word count and then, upon seeing that beautiful purple winner’s bar, promptly collapse into a pile of whimpering, tears, exhaustion, and aching fingers.

I have a wrap-up post planned, an overall look at the NaNoWriMo experience, so I won’t gush here.  Here I shall just post my victory pages from my Chronicles notebook, because a girl needs to brag without any need for coherence.

Consider yourselves warned:  much of this is merely me squeeing in ecstasy at having finally crossed the finish line.  Less a pat on the back, more of me bragging and waving my metaphorical dick around because I’m a writing bad ass.

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Because damn it, the official NaNoWriMo winner badges don’t tell me I’m awesome enough! More dancing! More bad ass-ery! More victory arms! AND MORE DANCING!

theend2

A slightly more coherent declaration of my win, also explaining the benefits of writing a few hundred extra words before midnight. And see what I did with the dashes there? Ha ha, I crack myself up.

And now a mini Q&A session to finish this off:

Did I write 50,000 words and thus ‘win’ NaNoWriMo?  Yes.

Is the novel actually finished?  No.

Do I still have a lot of work to do?  Hell Yes.


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