Monday, September 11, 2006

Save those old chapters.

Been struggling with chapter 3 for some time. I've begun 4 different versions of the chapter, and though I've been enthusiastic about them, I would always get to a point where I realized I had boxed myself into a corner. Very frustrating, since I have a storyline; I just keep having trouble connecting the dots.

While getting ready for work this morning, I thought of a way to use the latest beginning incorporated into the original "chapter" that I renamed and shuffled off. Good thing I still have it!

Take a moment of silence in remembrance today.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I need a writing strategy

I was able to sit down and do the Zette's Gym challenge, but every time I try to start Chapter 3, I stall. So here's my thought:

Approach each scene as a Gym challenge. Set a task for the characters to achieve during that scene, specific or general, doesn't matter as long as there's a goal to aim for. If I can do one Gym, I should be able to do a number of 'em and then string 'em together.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Forward Motion for Writers site has a members-only area called Zette's Gym. Today I tried out a challenge (about writing a realistic spellcasting scene) to flex my flabby muscles. This is how my posted attempt turned out:

Head... heart... hands.

Betony’s hands trembled as she traced the symbols for each point of focus across her skin. A single misplaced threading could strip her own weave and leave her lifeless-- or worse, mindless.

Thread warp and weft.

Her head ached from the effort of holding her loom’s image in her mind. She fumbled in her apron for the woolen threads she had braided together.


Fear pounding in her throat, she turned the pockets inside out. She fell to her knees, scrabbling in the grass to find the tricolored braid. When had it fallen out? While she held Alphebe through her last convulsions? When she had stumbled in her flight from the sight of the Wards buckling in spite of the chanting of the other Adepts?

Howls of victory rose from the compound behind her. The seals had failed. They would break free of the fortress soon. And no help would be forthcoming if she failed in her Summoning.

Green for life, red to call, white for alliance. Tears blurred her vision as she dug her fingers into the moist soil to coax a slender weed free of its moorings and denude it of all but its bright green stem. She unwound the tangle of discarded roots to pull the longest root free, hastily brushing the soil from the fragile white strand. Her own hair would have to do for red; she raked her fingers through it, yanking free a strand that reflected enough copper to fit her need.

She knotted the elements together at one end and swiftly braided them into a single patterned cord. Winding the cord through her fingers, she Reached into the bones of the earth and called to the ley lines, using the pattern she’d woven in this world to draw the threads of energy she needed into her grasp. Her fingers twitched as she wove the shining strands into a tapestry behind her mind’s eye, not daring to pause until she could knot the ends of warp and weft together.

She released the weave back into the earth and felt a flash of triumph as it was accepted, sinking into the rich soil until she could no longer even picture it in her mind. She had done it! She, a mere acolyte, had completed a Summoning!

Her vision blurred. Not from tears this time. No figure rising before her, either. Just the feel of heat intensifying through the soles of her feet, of energy rising within her until her limbs felt leaden and her breath was wrung from her chest.

Alphebe’s voice teased at her memory, whispering, Never weave yourself into your Working.

Ah, gods, what had she done?

Friday, August 11, 2006


What am I afraid of? I used to be able to sit in my cubicle once I had finished the assigned work and write, or at least outline. Why can't I do it any more? Why have I gotten to the point where I end up prolonging all of my work preparations so that I can say I don't have any time to write?

I don't understand how I could be afraid of my own writing. How do you conquer fear of writing when writing's the thing you're supposed to love most?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Best technique I've found recently: The Ugly Notebook, from Jenna Glatzer's Outwitting Writer's Block. Take a plain notebook you won't feel obligated to protect against useless words, tawdry cliches, and food stains, and use it as your writing warm-up. Write down random thoughts that come to you during the day. Free write. For me, that means using a single word to set off a chain of concepts that, even if they don't have anything to do with my storyline, generate creative energy. I might even find one single word that sparks off an idea I would never have gotten in my normal writing attempts.

Learn to love your ugly notebook.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I was writing to a new friend I met at the RWA national conference when I came up with the following. Made me stop and think:

I wrote 2 chapters, used the first pretty much as-is, but realized yesterday that the second needs to get tossed. I'd been trying to figure out how to rework it in my head (bad habit--better to start writing, right?) and suddenly came up with another set of scenes that not only solves the problem of giving the reader enough action to stay interested but also adds to some of the intrigue I'm layering in. Important lesson learned: sometimes you have to sacrifice what you write. Sometimes it's just not the right scene or chapter, and you cheerfully toss it away (actually rename it and open a brand new file as a replacement) and go with something that will make for a much better storyline.

It's an important life lesson too, isn't it? Sometimes you just have to toss (or tuck) things away, even if you've spent painful time and effort on them, or you won't be able to move on. Hm.

It's easy to let time pass and not realize how big a loss it is until later. It's harder to identify another pathway to get the results you want, and sometimes you're so stuck on the original way to do it that you get blinded. True for writing and for life itself. I can be a little slow with new ideas--I like to think of it as percolating. What it really comes down to is that my creative muscles have atrophied. Time to do a little work, get them warmed up and stretched out. In Outwitting Writer's Block, Jenna Glatzer suggests getting an "ugly notebook" (so you won't fixate on being "careful" with it) and using it to jot down random thoughts that spill from your mind during the day. I like this idea. I think it'll work.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I had decided to stop trying to work on V's story. I was comfortable with my decision, because it felt like I was struggling too much with it and I didn't want this to hold as little fun as my day-to-day job does. But then a friend/critique partner said that she had seen promise in the storyline.

I thought it was too much like another one of my stories, but it's so early in the game now that it wouldn't be hard to wipe away the similarities. Maybe I just need to approach this from another angle, to stop seeing this story as my chance for redemption in the writing arena. If, instead of trying to force this thing, I can just go sit somewhere quiet and see what the story tells me, V's story might have a second wind waiting. How many writers or wannabe writers don't realize that a failure to listen might be their problem, not "writer's block"? Then again, I'm in a hopeful mood right now--what happens if it breaks and there's nothing to listen to?

Current Mood: hopeful

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I often dislike the chapters I've written immediately after I've given them to others to be critiqued. They seem silly and overworked. Sometimes they are. Most of the time, I think, it's just that I've spent so much effort slaving putting them together that I've stared at them for too long.

The RWA conference is next week, and I've got a lot to get done before then. Business cards to readdress (since the phone number is no longer good), shopping to finish, and a newsletter article to put together. Somewhere in there, hopefully, I'll get to chapters 3 and 4. Unless I fritter the time away. I've become very good at frittering. What's the best way to get rid of frittering, when it's so easy to fall into?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Over and over, I've seen people say that the best way to improve your writing skills and speed is to write constantly. Everyone mentions journaling. I don't know why the concept is so hard for me to be interested in; there's a whole industry built around journaling, so other people are finding satisfaction in doing it.

If it increased my writing time, though, isn't it worth it? I'm pretty slow right now... it would be marvelous to be able to do a chapter per week, perhaps, maybe even finish a book in two months or so. Time to break through this particular aversion.

Current mood: contemplative

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I think I've figured out how to handle chapter 2 this morning. It seemed like the pace was too slow--two queens conversing while their retainers looked on. But I think part of my problem is that the scene didn't really belong to either queen. It's Tam's scene. It needs to reflect her feelings on what's going on--the veiled prodding of the queens into each other's business, the strangeness of Queen K's guards, the animosity between her and the other ladies in Queen S's attendance. I need to get into her head, and the same goes for the next chapter and V's scenes.

Sometimes I worry that part of my problem is not having enough life experiences. I mean, I have experience, some of it not very pleasant at all, but I've lived in a fairly tight circle except for the time spent away during our post -Katrina evacuation. I wish I had more time to let myself be a sponge, to absorb some thirdhand experiences that I could take apart and use for inspiration, but working and absorbing don't seem to go together well, and I frankly need the paycheck to have the luxury of writing.

Today I will work on the chapters. By the end of this week (hopefully earlier), my critique group will have them.
Current Mood: Determined

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Stuff to do, stuff to do.
Current Mood: (busy, actually)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Having had experience in becoming too involved in internet activities and not sparing enough time for other things--like writing--I was a bit worried that I would experience the same thing with a blog. But as you can see by how many days it has taken me to get back here, that's apparently not a problem.

I entered a 5,000 word challenge at the Forward Motion for Writers forum. I haven't even looked at the 5,000+ words I got written during that 48-hour period. Time to get back on the horse and start writing again.

But the trick is juggling life on the page and life outside the window... and having the energy to handle them both.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I have been a poet.
You Should Be A Poet

You craft words well, in creative and unexpected ways.
And you have a great talent for evoking beautiful imagery...
Or describing the most intense heartbreak ever.
You're already naturally a poet, even if you've never written a poem.

Monday, June 19, 2006

6/19/06 9:35:18 PM

I just finished taking part in the June Word Count Marathon, Take 2, at the Forward Motion for Writers community. I signed up with it because I've been feeling static since last summer, when our lives were turned upside down and we were forced from our home. I can't get used to our apartment--it's too small, the computer is too close to the TV, wherever I am in the place. It vibrates. It's not home.

I'm glad I took part in the marathon. It was difficult, but as long as I had a tight deadline, I was writing past my inner critic. The Critic has all but shut down my regular writing, but while I did the marathon, I pushed past it. Over 5,000 words in 48 hours! Not all of it was straight chapter-work, but I really needed to work on my characterization as well.

Maybe between the challenges of Forward Motion and the habit of writing here, I'll be able to continue to push past my critic. It feels good, and I'd like to keep that feeling going.