DIY Writer’s Retreat: Not as Planned

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The first zucchini sprouts

Before I planted vegetables (and a melon!) in my garden, I planned. Some plants, like radishes, required containers to prevent ground-pests worming their way in. Others, like squash (and melon!) needed room to sprawl.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten a seed-packet of zucchini which I bought last year.  After I planted it, I had a leftover of a different breed.*  There were no more open,  sunlit spaces with clearance all around… Continue reading

Resources for the DIY Writer’s Retreat

Whenever I find good advice while reading about writing, I take notes and make a citation. Soon enough, certain names repeat; e.g. Donald Maass and James Scott Bell. Here are two whose work resonates with me:

  • Elizabeth Sims. I don’t read her genre (mystery), but her sound advice and encouraging tone strike a chord with me.  Many of her articles are available free online.   This week, I’d recommend her “8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One.”
  • David Farland aka David Wolverton.  Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I read a Star Wars novel and somehow got onto his newsletter mailing list. (These things happen.) Some of his more popular newsletter topics can be found on his blog .  I thought his post “Opening Strategies” would be good and “To Plot, or Not to Plot.”

DIY Writer’s Retreat: Plotting

dont wish for it work for it calligraphy

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

I decided to share upbeat advice by Elizabeth Sims, an author of mysteries and frequent writer for Writer’s Digest: “Get Messy With Your First Draft.”

Unfortunately, there’s no free link to the article I found most helpful this week. “Plotting Your Way” (Writer’s Digest, September 2019) includes a quiz to determine a plotting method to fit your personality, and then explains it. The article is great whether you’ve got a plan in mind or you don’t know what you’re doing.

My quiz result recommended The Relaxed Framework Plotting Method. It’s a flexible structure that allows me to adjust plot points.  I found it so helpful, I wanted to explain how I used it.

It required a “master trove,” a stack of index cards, and my working draft. Continue reading

DIY Writer’s Retreat: Where to Begin?

At the beginning, of course!

Well, maybe.

Now that we’ve chosen what to write, we must choose where we’re jumping in.

I won’t bother to reiterate ways to begin the opening scene. Ruthanne Reid at The Write Practice already did the heavy lifting in Three Ways to Start a Novel(Read it now or later – but definitely read it!)

On the other hand, we can start by writing the final scene. Continue reading

DIY Writer’s Retreat: Choose your battle!

Before diving in, writers should ask themselves: What should I write? What do I want to write?

The answers might not be the same.

The “should” response may include matters of skill and marketability; e.g. you feel competent to write a particular story and/or there’s a market for it.

should work on polishing the rough draft of a SF novel for young adults that I finished and put it aside to “simmer” before the rewrite.  YA novels sell well now, and the premise of mine generated interest from an independent editor.

The “want” response is an emotional one. Characters appeal to you. Writing the action scenes is fun. The conflicts get your heart pumping.

What I want to work on is a fantasy novel for young readers who are advanced enough to handle higher vocabulary but not ready for the content of YA novels.  I started working on a series of stories about these characters when I was child.*  The setting feels like a second home and, with little preparation, I can pick up where I left off in the story.    

 Weigh the options and make a choice.

For me, the fantasy novel is the right choice. The SF novel requires research, including a trip to a currently-closed library.


* I remember tossing it into a burning barrel when I left home for the last time. However, my parents later delivered a box of source material they found in a closet: written scraps, typed character studies, and notebooks!

DIY Writer’s Retreat: Spring Version

Several years ago, I conducted a do-it-yourself writing retreat. I hadn’t written creatively in many years, and it jump-started a new routine.

In the years that followed, I conducted a few more. I found them personally satisfying, although long-time readers of the blog may not remember them because I left short, cryptic posts.

The time has come again!

However, I will post every Friday (my timezone) with a tool, an idea, or something for anyone who might wish to join me.  The reason is twofold: most of us have no place to go for a while (May 15 is my gubernatorial date) and there’s a LOT of traffic on my old posts about writing theory and advice.

Stay tuned!

Goals

  • Daily fill-the-gaps writing on the Craptastic Draft (aka first draft)
  •  A weekly chapter edit
  •  By Monday, 1 de junio, the complete Second Draft

 

Keep Going

My goodness! The only social medium I use regularly has blown up over the last three days.* Two news sites I read also went from being information-based to semi-hysterical.

But the teachers are still teaching, albeit at a distance. Today workers and bosses at The Young Human Factory gathered to pack meals and figure out deliveries. It was great to see coworkers, but also to see the parents of former students who were volunteering.

Creative writers are no different. I’ve been encouraged by those who are staying the course through the storm.  I particularly liked The Write Practice’s offering of a 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine Writing Challenge.

The environmental stress weighs heavily on everyone, presenting unique challenges. One of my home-bound acquaintances wrote plaintively, “My coworkers keep putting their naked asses on my papers.”  I can’t imagine the horror. (Note: I HOPE he meant cats, not his children.)

The veteran writer, David Farland, canceled workshops but continues sending his newsletter. He suggested that fiction writers focus on the problems of the characters in their stories:

As you consider those, your subconscious mind will become more and more grounded in your tale, and you’ll find it easier to write with each coming day. As you think about upcoming scenes to write in the evening, they’ll populate your imagination while you sleep, and you’ll often awake ready to write.

I think it’s good advice and I’m going to follow it tomorrow. Today I’m still doing quality-control via the Internet and correcting essays.


*People sometimes tell me to abandon FB, but it’s the best place to keep in touch across four continents, five languages (only two of which I speak), and several time zones.  This weekend, my newlywed American cousin made a suggestion for helping avoid the coronavirus, which our octogenarian Mexican cousin translated to Spanish and reposted – and it was picked up by other Spanish-speakers.

Side Character Rambling

Last week I excised a favorite supporting character from the novel. For fun (aka procrastination), I took her scenes and dropped them into a separate document: almost 1200 words.

Isolated, she appears to be a shadow of the female protagonist: similar parental abandonment, resistance to leaving home, and attempts to undermine the machinations of adults. It’s as if I subconsciously second-guessed my choices in story elements and character arcs.

In some ways, Miss Superfluous a stronger character than the protagonist she resembles.  I thought of melding them, but their different characteristics grew from particular backstories. For now, I’ll preserve her in a file and hope a suitable story environment can be found for her.

Edits Galore

After a long slog to complete Chapter 9’s draft, I realized that my novel turned swampy somewhere in the previous chapters. Published authors tend to advise completing the draft before editing, but I’m a copy editor by training and a dabbler* by necessity.

The following list details the destruction I wrought editing I did to streamline and improve the readability of the story: Continue reading

Tightening the Draft

One of the problems with jumping back into writing for blocks of time (rather than 20 minutes of writing followed by an hour of tech-related issues) is that I have lost the tone of my previous writing.  I start noticing that my words come out flat or there’s a weird disconnect between me and my characters. Continue reading