Writing: Your Mileage May Vary

According to experienced writers of my acquaintance, writing a free-form draft of a short story takes an hour and a half, on average.

I wrote for five hours. I took a tea break and a false-alarm break. The latter found me nervously checking for a wild animal just outside the screen door. (No, thank God! I couldn’t see it, but there was a raccoon growling at something. Raccoons have a distinctive sound.)

Anyway, I guess the time estimate fell short because the advisors are experienced both with writing drafts and meeting deadlines (several are published). So as with any writing advice, your mileage may vary.

I typed 2,435 words. However, that number includes asides like “Look up climate of coast.”

I woke up this morning with the realization that a character mentioned in passing is more important than the supporting character who was so enjoyable to write. So revisions will ensue.

 

Book Review: The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke

Gerke, Jeff. The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers and Set Up Your Novel for Success. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2011. Print.

Summary: A guide to writing a novel beginning that hooks readers.

Jeff Gerke writes fiction under the pseudonym Jefferson Scott but teaches at writers conferences and writes advice under his own name. I bought a few of his guidebooks on the recommendation of honest-to-published authors. This is the first I’m reviewing for my ongoing Book Project. Continue reading

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.

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.

M.L. Liebler, my second poetry teacher

“I do not come from an intellectual family. (…) There was not poetry read around the dinner table, and they didn’t take me to the library. The point is: If I got into poetry, then it’s accessible to everybody. That’s been my mission since I was a teenager: To try to get people to see that poetry is more important than people think it is.

At work on Friday, I walked into the lounge and saw Mike’s staring up from cover of the arts section of The Detroit Free Press (aka Freep).  I haven’t seen him in years, but he looks the same: white beard, black beret, keen eyes behind dark-framed glasses.

How nostalgic! And serendipidous, considering the rut I’ve been in. Continue reading