Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Unforeseen Cirucmstances

Today’s post has been indefinitely delayed because I found this in my house this morning!

That's a 10in diameter glass bowl btw.

I must make sure this isn’t a sign of the impending apocalypse and is just a hazard of living where I do. Needless to say this has derailed my plans for the day.

Brownie points to anyone who can id this…thing. (PS, I had to call the county extension office for help with that.)

Until next week!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lucky Seven Meme

I knew it was inevitable, and sure enough, I was tagged by Lori M. Lee and Laura Lee Nutt to participate in the Lucky Seven Meme.


The Lucky 7 Meme Rules
• Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
• Go to line 7
• Copy down the next 7 lines--sentences or paragraphs--and post them as they're written. No cheating.

So here we are without further ado, seven lines from the first draft of my ya scifi adventure. Emphasis on first draft.

I hear rustling, then Dad’s muffled voice. “Not yet.” It’s like Christmas morning when he goes downstairs first to see if Santa’s come. But I’m pretty sure there are no presents up there. There’s more rustling and a few grunts before Dad’s masked face appears over the hatch. “All clear.”
I’m a bit wobbly when I reach the top – it’s the first time I’ve exerted myself in weeks, and my heavy new clothes aren’t helping.

I swear it makes more sense in context... Everyone probably says that :)

If you wanna play, consider yourself tagged.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Story Stew

There’s no such thing as writer’s block.
Write a little bit each day.
Butt in chair.

I’m sure we’ve all heard variations on these themes regurgitated online and in craft books and by cranky creative writing professors.

Writers write, right?

Yes, but sometimes such a pace is unsustainable. You don’t want to get so burned out you never want to pick up a pen again. You also don’t want to keep writing just for the sake of writing if there’s something fundamentally wrong with your story. Sometimes you just need to stop and have a think.

This doesn’t mean you have writer’s block or that you aren’t being productive, even if you’re not committing words to a page. Thinking through your story is always time well spent.

The prewriting stage of a project is the most familiar, most obvious, time you spend thinking about a story. Also before launching into a major revision. In both cases it makes sense to give yourself a few days, weeks, even months, depending on story scope, to think over what you want to accomplish, and how that tracks through the narrative.

Recently, particularly for my short stories, I will get a story idea, but wait until the point where I cannot stand not writing the story any longer. I stew and stew and stew, let my story ideas come to a simmer, then a roiling boil, and then and only then do I start to write. I’ve found this leads to more complete first drafts and a better sense of my characters and the overall story arc. High five.

There are also less obvious times when it makes sense to hit the brakes and think on what comes next. For me, I usually pause in my drafting when I approach a major tentpole scene. I also slow down my pace the closer I get to the end of my story. In both cases, I’m usually juggling a lot of characters and plot elements, and it can take time to work my way through these scenes even with an outline. A slow and steady pace, particularly with lots of time built in to stew about the possibilities, usually helps it all come together.

I’ve taken to addressing problem scenes this way too. I’ll take a break, stew a few days, and then come back re-energized to get the story back on track.

How do you stew?

Obligatory Arrested Development Reference (Source)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Artist Dates and Creative Breaks

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to join two of my writer friends and road trip to a nearby town, all for a poetry reading that might or might not be awesome.

For all intents and purposes, it was what Julia Cameron calls an Artist Date:
a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.

Although I didn’t do this artist date solo, the conversations the three of us had over lunch and in the car about craft, our writing, as well as more mundane things were in some ways more valuable. You see, I spend most of my days solo already, writing, reading etc. So some times I need to be around other people, artist date or not.

The day was sunny and gorgeous, so we walked around, letting the weather hinting of Springtime and the new locale inspire us after a delicious meal. And the poetry reading? Well, it kinda sucked. But the point was to change things up a bit, expose ourselves to something new, something different, regardless of the outcome. You can’t write unless you keep yourself open to experiences of all kinds.

For me, the day was about changing up my writing routine. I also realized just how nice it can be to spend time with my writing friends outside of critique group, which doesn’t always allow for deeper socialization when everyone has at least five manuscript pages to get through.

And I already have plans for more artist dates – solo this time – while my husband is traveling for two weeks near the end of this month. Trips to museums, and exhibits, and science talks (I am such a dork), and new restaurants in parts of town I haven’t explored yet. I will treat myself well, and hopefully my writing will benefit from it.

How to make artist dates work for you?

The good news, for me at least, is that I live in a sizable city that supports a lot of different events. There’s also an alt weekly, in print and online, that does a good job of highlighting events that occur throughout the area. I’ve made a habit of checking it every week to keep my eye out for new things, new experiences, that I’m interested in or would enrich my life.

Other resources, depending where you live, could be your public library, chamber of commerce, or even local university. Universities often have a wide range of events, performances, and talks to keep the students entertained, but that doesn’t mean folks from the greater community can’t get involved.

Online message boards and forums dedicated to your community could also be a good resource and put you in touch with people with similar interests.

And never be afraid to take a road trip to somewhere new. You never know what you’ll discover.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Transitioning into a Second Draft

I discovered the short story I had a sneaking suspicion was actually a novel last fall is, in fact, a novel. And I’m 90% done drafting it. I have the last section roughly outlined, and should finish up the first draft by the end of the month if not sooner.

And it needs to get done by then. So I can revise it, and expand it, and send it to my CPs, all in time before Taos Toolbox come June when I plan on sharing the novel with the other participants. It’s overwhelming when I look at all those goals smooshed into a single sentence, but the terror is keeping me going, keeping me productive, as I pound out ~2k a day to get there.


But even though the first draft isn’t completed yet, I’m already thinking about what I’ll need to do to prepare for the second pass. I don’t have the time to set the story aside for a couple of months – even though I am planning on a break here and there for writing short stories.

So I need to be focused and smart in terms of how I proceed.

Research 

I’ve been doing a lot of research on an as-needed basis as I’ve been drafting, but there’s still a lot more to be done to really make the story come alive. Aspects of the world I’ve created need to be fleshed out and tied more firmly to plot elements. Parts of the story take place where I live currently, so field trips to area attractions and museums and the like are good too for getting at those concrete sensory details to anchor the story action and make it as authentic as possible. Geography, language, history, science, politics…I’m drawing on it all and want it represented as accurately as I’m capable of doing in this second draft.

Description

This is one of those things I have to consciously incorporate when I write. I usually get so caught up in action and dialogue that description usually falls by the wayside. So in my second draft, I know I’ll need to really pay attention for opportunities to describe my world and my characters. I’ll be drawing on my research for one, but now that I’ll have a completed draft, it’ll be easier for me to go back and accurately depict my characters as well. Usually, I don’t really have a good sense of my characters until I finish the first draft, where I can then chart their character arc over the whole story. So on this second pass, I’ll be taking a hard look at how I describe and characterize the story players throughout the book.

Stakes

Partly because of the way I’ve chosen to structure this book (for now) and partly because I’ve been so focused on getting to the end of the first draft, stakes aren’t as fully explored as they’ll need to be if I want to attempt to publish this story. In my second draft, I’ll be taking a hard look at each chapter, each section of the story, to determine ways to consistently raise the stakes and ratchet up the tension as the story progresses. It’s close now, but it needs to be even more pronounced to achieve that page-turning quality in what’s turned out to be a more character-driven sci-fi adventure (I know, I’m still wondering how that happened too).

Plot Expansion

Because I’ve been flying through my initial draft (for me at least), there are some huge gaps where I’ve left out entire scenes or have only provided the barest skeleton of story action. All of those areas will need to be fleshed out and expanded. There’s a good chance what I discover in writing these new scenes will need to be incorporated elsewhere in the story as well so everything fits together naturally – I don’t want things shoehorned or appended onto the story at this stage. Things should hang together at this point. And if they don’t, I know I have more work to do.

Sentences

This probably goes without saying, but when I’m drafting I don’t always have my most beautiful prose flowing. I’m trying to get from point A to point Z as fast as possible, and if the right word or phrase isn’t readily available, I skip it and move on. On the second pass, I need to root out every instance of lazy writing, cut clich├ęs and awkward phrasing, and instead create laser-sharp prose chock full of precise details. Intentional writing, made a heck of a lot easier once I have my first draft done and understand the shape of the story.

Keep your fingers crossed for me as I finish up my first draft and decide what to do with it.

What do you look for improving on a second pass? How do you prepare to revise a first draft?
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