An inside job

I have written very little since my last check-in. I had guests, visited family, and started an intensive paper-taming project. How intensive? I had to “rest” the shredder until special-ordered lubricant arrived!

The weather inspired me to tackle this dreaded task. I started sorting files and editing content during record-breaking heat.  On rainy days, I hole-punched, created dividers, and labeled 3-ring binders. As I finish this project, flood watches are in effect. (Thankfully, I see no sign of locusts.)

The objective was to create a time-saving system for handling important paperwork like medical records and legal documents. However, the bulk of the files contain newspaper clippings, acceptance letters, and oh-so-many unpublished pages!

I wanted to rebury them as soon as I unearthed them – as I’ve done many times before – because they inspire strong emotions. Continue reading


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

Wordcount up! Novel-writing down!

I wrote more than 4,000 words last week, not including those that were obliterated by anti-words.* Unfortunately, not all the words were added to my novel.

In one of my files from 2012(!?!), I found a scene that had many of my characters’ names but a COMPLETELY different set of circumstances and genre (fantasy). I vaguely remember a young relative on a rainy day asking me to write a story about his Lego people. However, I don’t remember giving them those names.

So I renamed the scene’s characters and outlined a story for them. The only thing I left untouched was a snippet of introduction to the story. My young relative was a genius for coming up with this beginning:

 So a bunch of friends were sitting in their house and they said, “Hey, guys! Let’s have an adventure!”

And then they said, “What a great idea, buddy!”

That’s the way kids’ adventures should begin.

*A technical term I learned from writer Mary Catelli. It’s the words you delete as you make your first draft coherent.

12th Day of Christmas 2015

“Get out a piece of paper or pull up a fresh document and write down every goal you intend to accomplish in your literary lifetime. Write down all your ultimate dreams and then try to write your way to them.” 

-Katz, Christina. “Diversity As You Go.” The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2011. 42. Print.

One of the fun things I did this past weekend was taking six books off the shelf and putting them in a bag for the library. A few were guilt-inducing books of writing exercises; they brought me no breakthroughs or epiphanies.

I considered getting rid of Katz’s book but when flipping through, a couple entries caught my eyes. This was one. I like to think of having a lifetime of writing in me, loop after loop of story like a thread spooled somewhere in my heart. Endless. Full of colour and promise.

It reminded me of reading Ray Bradbury explain that he wrote a list of story titles and then wrote the stories that went with them. It took him years, but he did it. Sometimes he had no more than the germ of an idea when he started, but somehow it grew.



5th Day of Christmas 2015

Perfectionism is an all-or-nothing attitude; and ruled by it, you will nearly always end up with nothing.

-Mundis, Jerrold (2011-09-14). Break Writer’s Block Now!: How to Demolish It Forever and Establish a Productive Working Schedule in One Afternoon (Kindle Locations 346-347). Wolf River Press. Kindle Edition.

You might wonder why I use this quote for the Twelve Days of Christmas. I think it ties in nicely with this time of year.

Perfectionism ruins Christmas preparation for many people. Just take a look at the women’s magazines displayed at the market check-out!  It also taints giving and receiving Christmas presents. In year’s past, I worried about giving the perfect gifts. And I’ve been really saddened annoyed when recipients verbally or physically rejected my gifts. (NOTE: It’s difficult to ruin El Día de los Reyes Magos. Who expects the “perfect” gift to fit in a shoe?) Continue reading