Since last Thursday, I’ve written 7041 words. I should clarify that I include only coherent words in my word-count; that is, words that form a chapter or complete scene. That’s why I haven’t posted a total since the early part of the July.

My total includes scribbling I did last week and the week before. I filled plot gaps, such as why the protagonist would agree to assist a shady character (restitution!). I also added character interactions because I despise novels in which everyone adores the main character despite him being an ignorant savage, a know-it-all, and/or because he’s the Chosen One.**

I continue to build two subplots so that they’ll definitely drive forward the main plot. The little one is the reconciliation of young lovers. The big one involves double-dipping. The  main character Wall has been hired to do the same job by opposing characters, but he’s secretly working towards his own ends. How will this blow up and destroy his plans? I don’t know! But it will be fun learning how!

Of course, this is still a rough draft. I’ll have to split this into chapters, with proper transitions. It’s dialogue-heavy, so I’ll have to cut during the final-draft phase. (No, not the banter!) Also there should be more description in this post-technological crash world.

But later. Right now, I’m having fun.

**Lyra in The Golden Compass is a twofer. She’s an ignorant savage who’s the “Second Eve” around whom a trilogy eventually revolves. The trilogy, by the way, is where I get one of my everyday pseudo-oaths: Sloths on wheels!

Distractions from writing

Although this is my second annual DIY Writer’s Retreat, I wish I’d seen Kristen Pope’s advice, particularly this: “If you need to look something up for your draft, make a note and look it up later.” She refers to the Internet; I’ve found the same is true of physical sources. Continue reading

Outlining during revision

Even if you’ve outlined your first draft, getting sidetracked is kind of allowed, because you’re exploring your characters, plot, and story in a different way. And if you didn’t change your outline accordingly, [the revision is] the chance to do that.

Kelsie Engen wrote the preceding quote in her guest post at A Writer’s Path, 7 Reasons Why You Should Outline Your Novel During Revision.

Reading it was serendipitous. When I reported my word count to my writers’ group, I commented that the outlined ending doesn’t seem to fit what I’m writing.

I got encouragement to finish my draft regardless of the outline, but I felt as if I’m letting the wheel go and allowing my ship to drift off course. But thinking that I revise my outline afterward makes me feel better about going with the flow and see where it lands.

Quote of the day: Deadlines

Deadlines make us see deficiencies, not accomplishments. – Jean Balconi

I said this as encouragement to an acquaintance who beat herself up over an external deadline. She had an impressive list of all the things she’s done so far, but she couldn’t appreciate her own hard work. She reminded me of a game character running towards a goal while the timer is counting down in the corner and obstacles keep popping up in the path.

When I say something remotely profound, it usually applies to my situation. This case is no different.

My own deadline is looming: August 15. That’s the date for my rough draft to be complete. I’m not at the freak-out point yet, but I’m giving short shift to the reading and reflection parts of my DIY Writer’s Summer Camp. I returned Ender’s Game to the library unread because I’d rather write.

During the last two weeks, I wrote thousands of words in between day-trips, guests, and errands. Unfortunately, the content is slim: three versions of the same dialogue. I didn’t re-write, mind you. I wrote three different takes on the dialogue from scratch, each time implying a speaker’s intention or opinion.*

I’m quite pleased with the results, since each version has parts that will make a better whole. But I have thousands of words and a dozen chapters to go. And I must mention the obstacles on the horizon: my original antagonist has changed to a helper, the main antagonist hasn’t reared his stupid head yet, and the outlined ending stinks worse than the final entry of a series.**

Now I’m off to face the day – and the deadline.

*If you’re wondering where I got the idea, it’s not from any book I’m using. I was at a teacher’s meeting about reading and the facilitator asked us to look for different implied bias in the same text. So it’s a reverse-engineered writing exercise.

**I needn’t name one. You, dear reader, are already remembering a book series or a TV program that disappointed or enraged you.

More to the story: wordcount

Another 3,285 words written on my novel last week. Mostly it consists of a full chapter that resolves a major plot problem I’d had.  Like last week’s non-novel writing, it’s all thanks to a blast-from-the-past piece I found while sorting old files. (And a big screaming whooshy bird.)

The Plot Problem(s)

In my boy-meets-robot novel, boy loses robot. In this case, the robot is stranded on a forbidden island and the boy is being monitored. It seemed obvious to me that he’d need the help of an associate (a feminine cross between Long John Silver and Shane). But how does he get to the island?

Additionally, I was having trouble with the tech-heavy scene I planned to show how Wall (the narrator) gets his robot home undetected.  How would I incorporate much exposition and description without dragging down the action?

A Blast from the Past

When I was in high school, I attended a summer program with at the nearby community college. The teacher wasn’t a hippie but more like a hipster – before it was cool, naturally – and he invited a performance hippie artist to be the guest lecturer for poetry. The class was my first taste of how eccentricity and poetry can work together!

But I digress. Continue reading

Epic vacation

I decided to go to the Homestead for a while, visiting the ancestors. Ha ha. It’s been fun to wake without an alarm and to devote entire hours – hours! – to reading.  I consider it a wonderful setting for writer’s summer camp.

There’s the familiar sights and sounds of summer, whether taking walks down the dirt road or watching summer sports. It didn’t take more than a day before I felt an epic poem coming on, a la The Song of Hiawatha:

By the shores of Wiggins Lake,
in the big brown stuff’d recliner,
rested the warrior, The Old Man,
pointing with the TV clicker,
shouting at the TV, angry,
angry at the lousy Tigers.

Unfortunately, my father didn’t like the reference to “The Old Man” – a proud warrior’s title, I thought. I suppose the Detroit Tigers won’t like it, either. Everyone’s a critic.

Chekhov and Hemingway

Recently I saw a passing reference to “Chekhov’s Gun” and “Hemingway’s Iceberg” theories of writing. The author (whose name I’ve forgotten) set them in opposition to each other, but I disagree. It’s comparing a microscope to a scalpel – different tools for different goals.

Anton Chekhov believed in relevance of detail:

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in a pared-down manner, but his “iceberg theory” involved deliberately leaving out important details or events. His idea was that if the writer knew about the important event, the readers would recognize they were seeing only the tip of the iceberg. The readers would puzzle out what was below the surface, and their effort would deepen the meaning of the story for them.

DIY writer’s retreat: Setting goals

I read with interest the description of a 12-week course in writing a first draft of a novel. Pacing, plotting, building tension – these are familiar topics to me. I see the instructor intends to explore the writing theories of Chekhov, Hemingway, et al.

No me interesan. Seriously, these things interest me about as much as the driver’s manual interests a driver on race day. I want to move!  For me, the intriguing part of the writing course is the last two weeks listed on the syllabus: setting goals and maintaining a routine. Continue reading

Seven Continents Book Challenge

As part of the reading for my DIY Writer’s Summer Camp, I’ve been setting some time aside for reading. (And cheating a bit – I’ve been listening to an audiobook while excavating La Casa de Tontería). One of the exercises this week is to think about favourite books, and voila! here’s a questionnaire courtesy of Julie at Happy Catholic (and co-host of my favorite podcast “A Good Book Is Hard to Find”). Continue reading

The Writer’s Retreat, or Fall Back or Run Away!

Last month my progenitors saw an article about writing programs and conferences beyond the swamp in the Greater Motownopolis. (Yes, I just made that up.) They encouraged me to contact one.

I had heard of the Meadowbrook Writing Project from a colleague who attended several years ago. I found information about the one-day retreat, but it was last summer.

In hindsight, the university having expired data on its current calendar was a sign. But I took a look at the full-length invitational summer institute writing class, since I would earn three credits towards my continuing education requirement.

Sure, it’s a little pricey, I told myself, but it’s a writer’s workshop! What’s an extra week of rice and beans compared to sending the Inner Child to summer camp? A summer camp with writing every day and without mosquitos, sunburn, or cruel taunts like  “¿Te tostaste al sol? ¿O eres langosta? ¡Ja ja ja!”

So I began my application and fiddled with my essay while talking to myself as I read the vague-but-insider-handshake descriptors of the potential candidates. “Broad demographic spectrum? Oh, yeah, my demographic is so broad you’ll need special glasses to see the whole spectrum!” Continue reading