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!


  • 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

Are you okay, Boomer?*

I have been trying to instill fear grammar into my young charges. It has been difficult. Some of my colleagues think it’s because of technology; others think it’s because their parents don’t value reading or writing.

I think the Middle School Mafia is trying to break us and take over the Factory.

So it warmed my teeny-tiny crabapple of a heart to hear two boys discussing grammar as one finished his homework.

“It needs a comma.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. If you leave it out, it’s ‘okay boomer’ like they’re good boomers. But with the comma, it’s sarcastic like ‘Okay, boomer!'”

Now I’m apprehensive about reading the homework. I’m not that old!

*I came up with the title by imagining what a “concern troll” would say. I’m doing my part to destroy the usage by saying to seventh and eighth graders, “OK, boomer.” Because nothing takes all the fun out of something cool like having your teacher use it.


Weeding, Writing, and Restoration

This past weekend I spent several blocks of writing time moving files and saving Scrivener documents as rich text formats. In between, I tackled the Master List of chores, most involving a shovel, rosin paper, and work gloves.

I don’t have much progress to report on any front, but I came across a great post by author Holly Robinson called “Write Like a Gardener, Garden Like a Writer.

…I discovered a gravel path by [the Rose of Sharon’s] roots and began digging that out, too. This path led to more, and the paths defined garden beds where a few scraggly flowers were blooming among the weeds. (…) Just as I became passionate about writing fiction because of that one accidental college course, I became equally dedicated to gardening because I accidentally discovered that path.

Do read the whole thing.