Camp NaNoWriMo: the aftermath

On Saturday, I surpassed my Camp NaNoWriMo goal by 4K+ words.

That means I won.

Yippee!

Time for a celebration.

Tequila and Ren Faire, it is.

Don’t judge me.

So, now it’s over.  The euphoria that comes with accomplishment is waning, and I am left with the aftermath of writing willy-nilly for a month straight without rereading or editing a single word – just a lot of marking and moving on.  A difficult concept for me, and frankly, the thought of facing what I’ve committed to paper scares me.

I did, though – at five in the morning, over my morning coffee.  My walk through was brisk.  It was all I could muster after four hours of sleep and the realization that I had forgotten to pick up french vanilla coconut milk coffee creamer on my way home.  Black coffee sweetened with refined sugar does not make for ideal shitty writing reading conditions.

I hear war stories from the NaNo veterans.  They assure me that cringe worthy writing is the norm.  After all, NaNo is not about producing a finished product, it’s about a commitment and dedication to the act of writing.  I suppose in this context, what I found was on par.  It is a bit overgrown in places, a little sparse in others.  There are rare bursts of brilliance encapsulated within thick sticky sludge.  Anna is still missing her retribution.   The fragility of her state of mind is not quite right, and her brother is without a completed introduction scene – again.   And the typos – sweet baby Jesus, don’t get me started on the typos.

It is a work in progress, ever evolving.  I am not displeased with what I’ve done – it could be worse.  I’m far from finished, but I am closer to the end.  In the last few days, I have been struck by an idea for a new opening scene.  It is something I’ve struggled with for a long time – where does Anna’s story begin?  This new scene captures Anna’s inability to cope, her helplessness and hopelessness, her quest for absolution.  In other words, Anna hitting rock bottom.  I think it works.  I hope it works.  I’m sure my writing group will tell me if it doesn’t.

On a side note, its inspiration comes from an album that I’ve listened to countless times and never before made the correlation.

It’s all in the timing, I suppose.

So, now what?

More writing, of course.

Anna needs to get her retribution back!

 

Things I learned this week

 

“As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself everyday.”

– Agatha Christie

I learned this week…

…that it appears I correctly self-diagnosed my nagging stomach ailment.  My new doctor confirmed it.  Of course, I allowed him to think he was giving me new information.  I have learned my lesson there – doctors don’t like it when you tell them how to do their job.  I’m not really sure why.  Anyway, I am now dealing with strict tiered dietary changes.  Up first – no more dairy.  I’m not big on the whole milk thing, so at first I thought it was no big deal.  Then I saw the list of forbidden foods.  I have to give up my hazelnut coffee cream, any and all chocolate, and my sugar-free chewing gum.  

Me:  Wait what?  My non-dairy coffee creamer has milk in it!  Are you kidding me?

Nurse:  No, Mrs. Isaacs.  We don’t kid about these things.  However, most people find soy an acceptable alternative. 

SOY!

It smells like dirty feet. 

Not acceptable.

<grumble grumble>

…that, in keeping with the medical theme, pneumonia can sneak up on you when you least expect it.  My house has been passing around a nasty little respiratory virus for a few weeks now.  Up until last week, I had successfully avoided being slimed.  As often happens, my luck ran out.  This week I gave in and went to see my regular doctor for the sinus infection I knew was brewing.  Turns out – sinus infection + pneumonia.  Didn’t see that coming.

…that I received a damn fine grade on my first historical geology exam.  A half a point off a perfect score.  Take that scary geology with your thinly disguised chemistry, biology, and math.

…that sometimes an individual’s real story is much more interesting than the one I make up for them in my head.  For five years, I have spent two nights a week sitting in an old converted grocery store watching my daughter’s gymnastic practice.  I am well-known to the staff and the regular parents.  The smart ones leave me in peace; everyone else soon learns that I am not a stellar conversationalist.

There is an elderly woman who frequents the gym.  She is tall, European – maybe German given her accent, and carries herself with an air of sophistication.  I have never spoken more than a few trivial words to her in all these years, but I have long speculated about her story – it is what I do.  In my head, she is a warm, kindhearted grandmother, who bakes cookies for the children, tends a small container herb garden on the patio of her retirement community apartment, and enjoys peach Schnapps under the bathing glow of summer moonlight.

This week she sat next to me on the low slung module couch that borders the parents’ corral and talked for one solid hour.  I learned:

  1. She is Swiss;
  2. When she was young, she was a chunky chocoholic and her mother sent her to a brutish masseuse in hopes to combat her growing cellulite problem.
  3. Her late husband was some sort of high level Lufthansa executive.
  4. She is now a legal resident of Montreal, Canada.
  5. As such, is only allowed to enter and stay in the U.S. in 6 week intervals.  “Such nonsense,” she said with a dismissive wave.
  6. She flies a lot via stand-by.
  7. She believes this makes her an easy target for security.
  8. One time she was frisked because the TSA agent asked her if she had a gun in her carry-on bag and she replied:  “No.  I like to keep my gun on me at all times.”  She concedes this was not the smartest thing she’s ever done, and is convinced she is now on “the list.”
  9. As revenge for No. 8, she likes to pack her bras and undies in the very top layer of her suitcase.  She derives a sadistic pleasure in seeing the agents handle her intimates when they search her bags.
  10. This past fall, while attending a Lufthansa gala in Washington, D.C. she broke her hip – I’m still not sure I understand how that happened.  Instead of going to the nearest hospital, she got in a car with her friend and proceeded to make the 12 hour drive back to Canada in order to receive “proper” medical attention.  (I didn’t think it wise to mention that she was 5 months post-op – right hip replacement – and still walked with a cane.)
  11. She is pissed that as a woman in her seventies, she must now pay $60 per year for medical coverage.  “Highway robbery,” she declared.
  12. She wears all of her good jewelry at once because she fears it will be stolen.  When I pointed out that she is setting herself up to be mugged, she dismissed me with a brush of her hand and proceeded to tell me about the time she visited India.  The time when she thought her newly blessed Hindu talisman had been stolen by the hotel staff.  As it turned out, she told me, it was just the gods playing a trick on her because she had been careless with her things.  Now she is very careful.

Indeed.

There is much character gold to be mined here.  I hope she sits next to me again real soon.

…that the headline “Genesis Death Sandwich” is a real eye catcher.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to click and read.  I’m still processing:

In the case of Genesis, the slices of white bread are themes of life, and the slimy cold cuts in between are mentions of death.

…that here is another bit of eye-catching nonsense I found tucked in a Salon op-ed entitled “Conservatives Declare War on College“, highlighting the right’s push for cheaper, online higher education in lieu of the more expensive traditional lecture-based programs:

[Daphne] Koller believes that with the right grading “rubric” students can grade each other’s papers even on issues of critical reasoning and grammar, thus solving seemingly daunting logistics problems.

God help us all.

…that Skyfall is even better the second time around.

***Spoiler Alert*** If you have been living under a rock, or are just a slacker who hasn’t found the time to empty your DVR of the amassing Downton Abbey episodes, please avert your eyes now.

…that I may be the only person on the planet who thinks Matthew Crawley had to die.   There was just no other way.

…and, last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Chihuly.  I sure do miss that exhibit.

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Distractions

I am writing an action scene today.

Leo Baxter is tracking an Albanian through the dark alleyways of east London.  Little does he know, in about ten minutes he will become the hunted and end up in a dank cell somewhere in…well, I don’t know where they will take him, but rest assured it will be somewhere hellish.

I’ve been quite productive in my writing today, but every now and then I find myself distracted by the sparkle of a new addition to my office decor.  I’m not sure if it is the cucumber lime scent – I am very sensitive to smells – or the way the reflected light looks like little birds flying across my wall.

I couldn’t help myself.  I had to take a picture of it.

Now back to Leo and the Albanian.

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Self-shaming Novel Update

Last week’s goal:  Continue with the outline – map through to the rising action, at least.  Write Leo Baxter’s inciting incident scene. 

I’ve made some progress with the outline.  For me, it’s a slow tedious process.  I have waffled a bit on one particular element – to kill a character, or not.  Usually, I don’t have a problem with this, but I like the guy.  I’m having difficulty letting him go.  I’ll get over it.

The first blow took Leo Baxter by surprise, the second drove him to his knees.  – Retribution

I’ve been staring at this sentence for a week.  All in all, it’s not a bad first sentence for Leo’s introduction scene, even if it’s a little cliché.  I think it’s a good pushing off point for the event that spurs Anna to reenter a life she fear and loathes.  I just wish I could come up with the sentence that comes next…and the one after that…and the one after that…and so on.  Even now, as I stare at it, I am perplexed.

This is a pivotal scene, and I’m well aware of what I need to accomplish.  It’s just a matter of getting the words to flow.  I’m sure they will eventually come to me.  Probably when I’m in the shower with shampoo in my hair and no writing materials within close proximity.  Or better yet, at the gym on the elliptical with 30 minutes left on a 45 minute workout.  I’ve tried keeping a note pad and pen with me at the gym, but I’m not known for my grace, and well, I’ve almost fallen off trying to jot down an idea.

Anyway, what else have I done with regard to Retribution since I last saw you?

Very little.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

I feel I was able to accomplish part of last week’s goal.  The outline is coming together. Leo’s scene is not.  Therefore, I did not advance my word count this week.  Not a big deal. It’s not always about the word count.

Next week’s goal:  Continue plugging away at the outline.  Make a firm decision on the elimination of a certain character.  Finish Leo’s scene.

Until next time.

Self-shaming Novel Update

“Panicky despair is an underrated element of writing.”

– Dave Barry

This time last week, I was elbow deep in introduction scenes for both Anna and her brother, Aaron, and my goal was to have two completed scenes by week’s end.

Well, I accomplished half of my goal.

(golf claps all around)

Anna’s scene is rough, and bare bones, but it’s out of my head and down on paper.  Most of it works, some of it needs improvement, but that can come later.

That brings me to Aaron.

<sigh>

How do you solve a problem like Aaron?

(Yes, it’s alright to sing that the way the nuns at Nonnberg Abbey did in The Sound of Music.  I won’t tell.)

I’ve said it so many times – Aaron is a pain in my ass.  However, I think he and I have come to a degree of understanding.  He will play a less significant back up role in this story.  His only real involvement – to briefly aid Anna’s quest by using his unique skill set.  In doing so, I promised not to kill him off before the mid-point.   I thought that was an excellent compromise.

Oh, and I’ve also changed his name.  Aaron and Anna.  Oy.  What was I thinking?  He will now be known as Lenk Schuyler.  Don’t judge.  This new name fits his role and serves a purpose.

In addition to the above scenes, I also worked on reconstructing my outline.  For those of you keeping count, this is version #5.  I’ve made a lot of progress with that.  Most of it is handwritten and as I type up my chicken scratch, I have expanded upon scenes and themes, and will continue to do so.

So what’s the low down skinny?

Last week’s goal:  Two workable scenes

Actual accomplishment:  One workable scene, a character redesignation, and a partial outline.

Word count:  1688

Next week’s goal:  Continue with the outline – map through to the rising action, at least.  Write Leo Baxter’s inciting incident scene. 

Until next time.

Self-shaming Sunday Update

I have dipped my toe back into the writing pool.  It’s been a long time since I embraced my WIP and allowed it flourish.   Of course, I still have 3 finals to get through before I can completely commit myself to Anna and her plight.

In the interim, I’ve started to assess where I left off, what needs my immediate attention, and where do I want the journey to take me (and Anna, of course).  When last I left you, I had decided Anna needed a brother – a dysfunctional brother with penchant for trouble.  He’s a thief with problems.  Most of which become Anna’s.  In September, I was having trouble writing his introduction scene, and by the end of it I wanted to just kill him.  Purely a selfish urge on my part.  I didn’t like him, I still don’t like him.  I resent what he is  doing to my story.  Irrational?  Maybe a little.

I am starting fresh with the outline.  Yes, for those of you keeping track – this is outline number 5.   My favorite number.  A good omen?  I’m going to go for optimism here and say, yes.

So, today I am working on two scenes:

Aaron – an introduction to a thief (in action).  He will nearly die.  I will enjoy writing that part, I think.  Of course, he will not die because this incident will spur Anna to reenter a life she left behind a long time ago.

Anna – an introduction.  Her life after the thing that happened years ago that sent her into seclusion.  I do have a great opening written for her in my previous draft.  I am going to recycle it as a flashback scene.  It was too good to give up.  (I am going to choose to ignore Bill Chance’s voice as he tells me: “If you love it, delete it.”)

So there you have it.

Word Count:  0

Next weeks goal:  Drafted introduction scenes for Anna and Aaron.

Things I learned this week

“We must have a pie.  Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie.” – David Mamet

…that sometimes it takes the intervention of a professor to get the attention of a wayward group of young people.  As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been having a bit of trouble getting my project group to focus, take the assignment serious, and produce an A worthy presentation.  This week I’d had enough.  I called in the big guns and arranged (along with another student) for an early morning heart to heart, or as my husband likes to say, “a coming to Jesus meeting.”  Hopefully, they have seen the light and by the weekend, I will be in possession of a well-written, cohesive presentation.

Think good thoughts for me, please.  I have a feeling I am going to need them.

…that there is a band from Norway called Katzenjammer and they make me want to dance a jig in a pirate’s den – dressed like a tavern wench.  What?

Thank you to cresting with words for posting a great blog about them and giving me something new to add to my playlist.  Check them out.

…that Selena Gomez appears to have dumped Justin Beiber.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of millions of tweens all over the world, heaving a collective sigh of relief.

…that for the first time in years, I will have an empty house during the week of Thanksgiving.   It was hard for me to make the decision to opt out, but it had to be done.  I’m not going to bemoan my overburdened semester again.  I’m sure you all are totally over my incessant whining.  Hell, I’m tired of listening to it myself.    However, it doesn’t change the fact that I simply do not have time for Thanksgiving and all that goes along with it.  It breaks my heart, because the best part of the holiday for me is spending a week my nephews. They’ve been a fixture in my house every Thanksgiving since…well…forever.

I guess I shall have to be content to think of them as I sit at my desk, hammering away at my African-American history paper, eating cold pumpkin pie, and listening to the deafening sound of an empty house.  It’s just not Thanksgiving without hearing:

Them:  “Aunt Peggy, Cory won’t let Megan and I have a turn!”

Me:  “I don’t want to hear it.  Figure it out.”

Them:  “Aunt Peggy, Cody won’t agree to the movie Megan and I want to watch!”

Me:  “You know the rules.  No unanimous decision – no movie.  Work it out.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, Justin just farted on us!”

Me:  “Justin, stop farting.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, what are you going to make for breakfast?  Uncle Nolan told us to ask for biscuits and gravy.”

Me:  “Tell Uncle Nolan to come ask me himself.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, can we have chicken tacos for dinner?”

Me:  “Really?  Don’t you think we should worry about that after breakfast?  Maybe even after lunch?  Certainly not before I’ve had coffee.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, you’re our favorite.  Will you make us banana pudding?  Not the diet kind. The kind that tastes good.”

Me (feeling all warm and gooey inside):  “Of course.  Just for you.”

<sigh>

I’m going to miss those boys this year.

…that I am finally going to sell the bedroom set in my spare bedroom and make myself a proper office.   Why haven’t I utilized this unused space before, you ask?  I have absolutely no idea.  Now, who wants to buy a 5 piece twin bedroom set in near stellar condition?

Anyone? Please? My unfinished novels are begging you…

…that for the first time since September 25th, I had the itch (and the courage) to take a peek at my WIP, Retribution.  I’ll be honest, I have had no real desire to delve into it.  The problems run deep, and at the moment, I don’t have the time, nor the energy to sit and sift through the rubble to find the usable stories that lies buried there.   In spite of this, I couldn’t help but read through the first chapter.  I needed reacquainted myself with my beloved Anna.  She hasn’t changed.  She is just as I left her – a staunch realist, who holds no illusions about the harsh world in which she lives.  She understands all too well the battle between good and evil is one fought in the shadows, on the edge of civility, with an armory stocked with less than honorable tactics.  To survive, and to ensure the survival of the free world, one must let go of any idealistic notions of morality.  Sometimes it is necessary to do the unthinkable, the reprehensible – all in the name of the greater good.  Of course, these things come with a price.  They always do.

I want to sit and do nothing but write today.  Unfortunately, I have obligations that take me in several different directions and none of them involve a computer or a notebook.  Poor Anna.  Destined to ignored for another week…at least.

…that the Christmas shopping season has begun.  I’m sure it will come as no surprise to all of you, but I am annoyed by this.  I like to take things as they come – one at a time, and in chronological order.  Just once, I’d like to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving without being reminded that Christmas is looming in the wintery fog, ready to pounce.  I know it’s there.  I can see it’s beady little eyes glowing in the dark.  It is quite unnecessary to throw decorated trees and twinkling lights in my path, or blister my ears with tired carols and annoying jingles.  There will be plenty of time for that after the turkey and pumpkin pie have been properly devoured and digested.  And, really, there is no need to worry dear retailer giants, I’m not going to forget the real meaning of the modern season.  Cold hard cash.  I have every intention of spending plenty of my money down at the local mall.  But not until after December 1st.  So stop bugging me.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this beautiful little girl who is celebrating her first birthday this week.

Alright, everyone all together now –  awwwww….

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On the agony of writing

I’ve written in some capacity since the third grade.   My first completed work was an alternate ending short story inspired by Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare.   I was very proud of that story.  I sat for hours, hunched over my desk, No. 2 pencil biting into my short stubby fingers, the eraser worn to the quick, and labored over every single word.  When I finished, I felt proud.  I had written a story.  From beginning to end.   I turned it in to my teacher, confident that I would earn an A for such blinding brilliance.  It was a great story.

My teacher saw things a bit different.   The evil Mrs. Rupe promptly tore my work to shreds, citing a laundry list of flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings.  She gave me a C.

I always hated Mrs. Rupe.

I’m not bitter about it.  Really.  Though, I do hold a special place for her at the top of my list of unforgivable grudges.  She was a miserable human being who should have retired from teaching long before 1980.   But for all of her petty viciousness, and she was awful for so many reason beyond just giving me a C, she did teach me a few important lessons:  writing is subjective, rejection is a rite of passage, and criticism keeps a writer grounded.

Of course, such lessons are meant for those who can actually finish something in a timely manner without falling victim to the hazards cluttering the road to success.  I seem to be having a bit of trouble navigating that thoroughfare, at the moment.   Or perhaps, it’s my mode of transportation that is faulty.  I blame the outline – I think it has a flat.

For several days, I’ve struggled to write a single scene, introducing a solitary character.   My trouble started when I made the decision to give Anna a brother.  His name is Aaron and he is a total pain in my ass.   I thought he would add an emotional depth and focus to the story, but instead he’s done nothing but cause me heartburn and an endless headache.  The latter may be from banging my head on my desk out of frustration.   I’m not really sure.  It’s hard to differentiate.

The way I see it, I have three choices:  delete him completely – move on and pretend he never happened; kill him slow and painfully – my novel is titled Retribution; or scrap the scene as it is and start over.

Oh lord, maybe I should tweak the outline again…ugh.

Writing is brutal; its hard; its agonizing.

I think I hate it.

But, I love it.

Note to self:  buy more Advil.

A book signing

I went to a book signing yesterday.

A bit out of the norm for me.  There are very few things that can entice me enough to schlep down into the city, fight crowds of rude strangers,and waste hours standing in line doing nothing but waiting.  I won’t do it for a Black Friday deal.  I won’t do it for a movie premiere.  I wouldn’t do it to meet Sting.

I will do it for Daniel Silva and his master Israeli spy/assassin/art restorer, Gabriel Allon.

I went early in the morning with the intention of getting some writing done.  I did, though not as much as I would have liked.  You see, I have a problem.  I am an addicted people-watcher, so writing in public often proves distracting.  Yesterday was no different.

While I sat in the café, sipping a venti unsweetened iced green tea, my writing flow was continuously interrupted.  First, there was the two women who wanted to know if my name was Kristin.  No, not me.   Then there was the older woman in a burnt orange blouse, lime green Crocs, holding a moderately sized postal box.  Her fidgeting was what initially caught my eye.  She didn’t order a drink, couldn’t sit still, and at times, paced.  At first, I thought maybe I should be worried about the contents of her box.  I mean, if I were writing this scene, there would be something like wires, a brick of C4, and a cell phone detonator in that box.  After ten minutes or so, I realized she must be waiting for someone.  I imagined it was a date with a man she’d met on a matchmaking website.  I wondered if she shouldn’t have maybe picked a different shirt to go with those shoes.  She definitely was not dressed for husband nabbing.  Turns out she did not have a bomb, and she wasn’t on a blind date.  She was a calligrapher.  Inside the box were beautifully addressed wedding invitations.  The bride-to-be was late, paid by check, and didn’t seem to notice the older woman’s lack of fashion sense.   I was disappointed.

Around eleven, a flash of movement in my peripheral drew my attention away from Anna and her troubles.  It took a second or two for my brain to register what my eyes were seeing.  Jerry Garcia, wearing a brightly hued Hawaiian-style bowler shirt over faded blue jeans and Birkenstocks, was unwrapping a straw for his blended frappuccino – caramel macchiato with no whip, if I were a betting gal.  As he walked away slurping, I texted my husband.  His reply: “You know he’s dead, right?”  Killjoy.

At noon, I moved my party upstairs.  I wanted to get my choice of seats.  I did.  Row one, seat 4.  Right in front of the podium and signing table.  A half an hour later, an older gentleman sat down one seat over from me.  He quietly read his book – not a Silva novel. Tsk tsk.  A few minutes later, a bulldog of a man with a shiny bald head sat between us.  They were friends, but their meeting here was by chance.  They chatted like catty women.  First, bemoaning the pros and cons of employment.  The bald man has a job in the surgical department of a local trauma center, the other was an IT technician who failed to keep up with changing technology.  He blames his troubles on his age – 68.  As happens, they soon began to compare their various health issues.  These conversations always make me smile.  It’s like a competition.  Who has had the most surgeries?  The most chronic diseases?  As it turns out, both men have had prostate cancer – with troubling complications.  I could describe for you in grave detail the extent of their complications, but it would likely scar you for life.  I know I will never be the same.

Thirty minutes out from the main event, the venti iced green tea I drank earlier came back to haunt me.  I needed to use the restroom, but I didn’t want to give up my prime seat.  I asked the elderly woman to my right if she would hold my spot while I ran downstairs. She smiled, patted my arm, and pulled a menacing cane from underneath her seat.  She said: “Go right ahead, honey.  I got my cane. I’ll whack ‘em if they get too close.”  Yikes.

silvaAt 2, Daniel Silva arrived with little fanfare.  He was much as I expected.  Handsome in that scholarly way, with an unassuming air and an intelligent wit.  He spoke of his characters with the love of a proud father.  I found it endearing.  I also thought he exhibited a great deal of patience with the group gathered, especially during the question and answer segment.  Some asked interesting questions; some did not.  A few even bordered on offensively stupid.  He handled it smoothly, though there were two occasions when I swear I saw his right eye twitch.

Or maybe not.

I had two books signed, took several photos for the little old lady with the cane and her friend, and left before the SRO crowd swooped in for the kill.

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Irises

I’m still plugging away at my WIP, trying to keep up with the daily word count quota so that I can mark Camp NaNoWriMo off my list of to dos as a successfully completed challenge.  Unfortunately, I’ve hit a bit of snag.  You know, one of those minor speed bumps where you write an entire scene that is completely out of sync with your character’s profile, or you kidnapped a bad guy when you should have just killed him – now what the hell are you going to do with him – or the pulsating club scene has unfocused dialog that circles around but never quite hits the mark.  What is it that Elliot is trying to get out of Gerhard?  Do I even know?  I think maybe I don’t.

I’m a little frustrated.

So I took some pictures.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. 

Why on earth would you take a black and white photograph of beautifully vibrant irises?  Seems a bit pointless, I know.

Indulge me for a moment.  I am practicing the art of avoidance. 

Plus, it’s growing on me.  I think it may even look a little bit…cool.

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Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday update

This week I delved in and began the process of actually rewriting my WIP.  I must say that it did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped.  I am struggling with Anna’s new role.  She is less solitary in this version, more of a team player and a bit warmer, with a sarcastic wit that would have never worked originally because her entire life was molded around the desire for revenge.   That is an element of this story that no longer rests on her shoulders, but on those of another.  As such, it is important that the opening scene convey this change in personality.  The reader needs to understand the deep mutual respect and, dare I say, love, that she and her team share.  It is proving difficult because I am having trouble completely letting go of the idea of Anna that I have long held to.

I have written the scene from beginning to earth shattering kaboom, but because of the personality issue, I do not have the tone quite right.  I feel that because this is the opening, it is important for me to get it right before I move on.  Yes, I realize this is contradictory to everything they preach about momentum in basic story writing class, but I don’t give a shit.  If I don’t work out this problem now, it will plague me  down the road.

So what’s the skinny?

Last weeks’ goal:  Introduce the world to Anna and blow up the Piazza Navona.

Goal = largely met

Next week’s goal:   Work out my characterization problem with Anna and her team; write the aftermath and resulting mission; and accumulate a word count in the 5000 range.

Just Write: Starting over

Anna and her story of retribution will not leave me in peace.  In my last entry, I finally acknowledged her incessant chatter as something that will not cease until I’ve made good on my promise to give her the story she deserves.

Yesterday, I dusted off the binder that holds Retribution’s character sketches, rough outline and 154 pages of completed scenes and chapters.  At the suggestion of my friend over at Word Flows, I set about to figure out what worked and what didn’t.  Within minutes, I had my answer  –  the inciting incident in Anna’s childhood, the timing and manner of her father’s death, the impact that these events have on her motivation and the timeline of the story doesn’t work.  In short, its entire foundation is faulty.

On the surface, it really does appear that this story is a lost cause and deserving of the recycling bin.  However, Anna is a character that has evolved from a two-dimensional idea on paper into this larger than life presence that is my constant companion.  Anna is more tangible than ever to me, and I find that abandoning her would be like walking away from my child.   I guess, in a sense, she is my child.  I have given birth to her, nurtured her, molded her.  How can I possibly walk away now?

I can’t.

So, with that established and the problem identified, the question now is what to do about it?

I think the answer is quite simple.

I must start over.

Just Write: All roads lead back to Baku

At the beginning of the year, I set out to make a sizable dent in my novel, Retribution.  In the process, I discovered that my story sucked.   As the novel stood, it was riddled with holes and contradictions.  It was over-simplified in places, too complicated in others.  It was a completely unworkable piece of garbage.

Coming to that conclusion was painful.   I was left feeling beaten and discouraged.    So, I did what any self-respecting writer would do when faced with such a situation.  I set the manuscript on fire in my outdoor barbecue and I walked away.

Oh, wait.  That’s only me?  Real writers don’t do that?

My bad.

When I walked away, I felt relieved.  It was like a huge burden had been lifted off of my shoulder.  I carried forward the hope that my creativity would once again flow freely, and I could move on to something fresh and exciting.  All I wanted to do was put this failure firmly behind me.

For a while, that’s exactly what I did – moved on.  I roughly sketched out a new story idea with a protagonist inspired by a brilliant, young biologist I know.  She has long intrigued me and it seemed like the perfect time to explore the idea of her further.   I have eight solid chapters and an opening sequence outlined.

Progress!  I’m on my way.

Right?

Wrong.

I haven’t touched this new story – I’ve tentatively entitled it The Faction – in a month.  Hell, I haven’t even told my writing group about it.

Why?

Because I can’t concentrate on it.  I find that I am holding back, hesitating.  I can’t seem to allow the story to envelop me, take root, and grow.

Why?

Because Anna won’t leave me the hell alone.

It began with a whisper –  feather soft, barely audible, across my ear.  Just a passing word carried on the wind.  Then, the noise began to build.  Its invocation more demanding, more imperious.  That whisper evolved.  Soon it turned from a hushed hum into a deafening roar inside my head.  At every turn Anna screamed at me.  She taunted me, cursed me, begged me to tell her story; to finish what I had started, to give her the vengeance that she seeks so that she may finally know peace.

I am not a spiritual person by nature, but I am superstitious and hold to the belief that there are things in this life that happen because they were meant to be.  I thought Retribution was dead.  I thought I had buried Anna and her secrets, but somehow the road has led me back to her.

Back to Baku, where her story began and where I must begin anew.  It seems Anna will not rest until I have given her what she desires most.

Retribution.

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Stop surfing and start writing

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump that last six months or so.  I’d like blame it on a grueling work and school schedule, but that would be a lie.  The truth is, I haven’t been applying myself, and I’ve allowed self-doubt to wiggle its way into my subconscious.

In an effort to rectify this bad habit and regain some much-needed confidence, I sat down at my computer this weekend, pulled out my binder labeled Retribution, and opened the Word file of the same name.  I scrolled through page after page of text until I found the spot where I last left my main character dangling off of the side of a yacht anchored in the middle of the Danube.  I reread the preceding paragraphs, noted the word count.

I was ready to write.  It was going to be brilliant.  I knew it.  I could feel it.  Creativity surged through my veins, setting my soul on fire.

But first, I needed to know how to say “I am going to kill you, you piece of shit” in Hungarian.

That’s where it began – and ended.

A productive afternoon of writing derailed by the time sucking abyss known as the internet.  Sure, it started out innocent enough.  I did go to my favorite online translation source.  I did find a comparable and acceptable phrase.  I even wrote it down. But that’s when I “accidently” clicked on the Facebook toolbar tab; then MSNBC; then OMG Katy Perry and Russell Brand are getting divorced?

Squirrel!

Three hours later, my character was still dangling over the side of the yacht; still waiting for an opportunity to make good on a promise to kill the man who is responsible for her predicament.  And I was no closer to get her down than I was when I started.

It was at this point that I realized I have a problem.  I am too “plugged in”; too prone to distraction these days.  I am by no stretch of the imagination the queen of procrastination, but it seems that if left to my own devices, I will choose pointless, brain cell killing pop culture uselessness over substantive creativity.

So what to do?

Unplug.

Duh.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially, in today’s society where we are programmed to need instant access to everything – emails, voice mails, status updates, news, the Kardashians.   We are a bunch of instant gratification junkies.  As a writer, the internet is an invaluable research tool.  It’s convenient, efficient, and quick.  But I am finding that I have to draw a line in the sand.  I need to make the conscious effort to avoid logging on and signing in.  After all, I’d like to finish this damn novel before I am too old to type.

How am I going to accomplish this?

I am going start by disabling my wireless when I sit down to write.

I am going to learn to mark what I don’t know and move on.

I am going to learn to accept that a draft is just that – a draft.

Of course, none of these things will be easy for me, but then, nothing worth doing is ever easy.  It will take some time to adjust, but I am confident that with a little practice, I will begin to see some real progress.

Now, excuse me.  I have to go write my character off the side of a yacht.  She’s been there since October and is starting to get a little belligerent.