Retribution: Anna begins

I’m going to try something new.

Something that scares the shit out of me.

I’m going to share with you a bit of the first chapter of my WIP.

Why?

Because it’s time to take another step outside my comfort zone.

Be kind.

Or don’t.

Here goes.

(Egads!  Hope I didn’t miss any typos…)

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Anna Malkin sat atop a dune of bleached sand on North Carolina’s outer bank, the wind whipping her fiery red hair around her head like a torrent of flames licking the night sky. She stared out across the wide expanse of the Atlantic clad only in a sleeveless gown of gauzy cotton, her feet bare. Goose bumps prickled her skin, but her senses had long since numbed to the bitter bite of the ocean air.

Dawn was breaking, the sun just beginning its slow ascent. It kissed the surface of the glistening water, casting a star burst glow along the horizon. It was a peaceful scene, serene in its simplicity. It was a sight that used to warm her heart and calm her soul. Now, as the blackness of night retreated into the light of day, the beauty and serenity were lost to Anna. All she knew, all she’d known for one hundred and two days , was the sound of the earthly hell brewing within the confines of her own mind.

Louder and louder it grew until it was all she heard, all she saw, all she felt.

One hundred and two days.

At times it seemed like a lifetime had passed, but on days like this when her fear bubbled and festered, and madness enveloped her mind, she felt as raw and desperate as the day she’d stumbled out of the desert, hanging to life by the thinnest of threads.

Anna had come to the North Carolina coast to find silence and solitude, to heal. Her body had, the swelling was gone, the bruises hardly noticeable. She walked without a limp now, and it was only a matter of time before she could grip a glass without it slipping through her fingers. Her mind proved harder to mend, the scars permanent. Images of the hell she endured at the hands of unmitigated evil were etched deep in her brain, they flashed in constant repetition before her eyes. The sound of her own screams echoed in her ears. It had begun as a soft whisper, an icy breath on the back of her neck but with each passing day, it grew. Now it encapsulated her, held her by the throat and threatened to swallow her whole.

Her family had gathered in a show of support, crowding into her mother’s sprawling Ocracoke Island beach house as if it were a joyous reunion. Her director had called with a message from the President. Even her old mentor had shown his war-weary face for a day or two. There was nothing they could do or say to ease Anna’s pain, her suffering going beyond their comprehension. They tried, she would give them that, but all they had to offer was food she refused to eat, and conversations she had no desire to engage. She felt their commiseration. It clouded their eyes and dripped from their tongues. They pitied her failing mind, her broken spirit, her shattered soul. She hated them for that.

Anna knew life as it had once been was over. She understood there was no going back, yet she couldn’t bear the thought of another day trapped inside her mental prison. There was only one way out, and she accepted her fate with open arms.

She rose to her feet and stumbled through the powdery sand propelled by an unseen force toward the rising sun. It beckoned to her, the promise of blessed release and absolution drifting in on the cold sweet wind. It held her transfixed, as alluring as the intoxicating song of a siren.

Anna waded into the frothy surf, the buzz in her head growing with every step. Violent waves broke over her as she fought through the swirling current. At the place where shallow sand dropped into the endless abyss, she paused, staring directly into the blinding light of the sun.

And she surrendered.

The water took her, engulfing her, dragging her down into the dark depths, and for the first time in one hundred and two days she experienced unfettered freedom. Peace. Anna lifted her face up, and watched the reflection of the sun dance across the surface overhead. Overwhelming reverence surged through her, and she felt closer to God than she had even been.

She blew the last of the air from her lung, and water filled her mouth, its weight crushing her chest. Within seconds her vision blurred and the infernal noise that had plagued her for weeks and weeks receded into the background and slowly faded into silence. She closed her eyes and welcomed the blackness.

It was over.

She was finally free.

Her neck jerked back then, shattering her new-found peace. Something had her by the hair, hauling her up with a speed and agility she was powerless to resist. Her head broke the surface. She gasped as water and air fought a battle within her lungs. Anna tried to twist around, tried to see who or what had taken hold of her. The grip on her hair loosened, but just enough for a strong arm to encircle her neck and drag her back to shore. It wasn’t until she lay in a heap on the sand shivering and coughing the last of the water from her lungs did she look into the clear green eyes of the man who had ruined her only chance for freedom.

A man she knew she could never forgive.

© 2013 Peggy Isaacs.  All rights reserved.

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!

 

Happy camping: Day 10

So, I made it through ten days of Camp NaNoWriMo virtually unscathed.  Seriously, nary a scratch.  I have surpassed the 10K mark, rounded the corner of my first turning point, and am quickly closing in on 11K words written.

tentA couple of days ahead of schedule.

How the hell did that happen, you ask?

Especially, given my overall track record of self-sabotage?

A few things:

1.  I let go of a plot point that I have held onto since Retribution’s inception.  I can be a sentimental person.  The very first thing I jotted down about Anna has stuck in my mind, and has become an extension of who she is to me.  The problem – it is always this plot point that causes me to write myself into a corner.  It just doesn’t work.  I have finally found the strength to banish it completely.

2.  I have accepted that every sentence, every paragraph, every scene is not going to be a work of perfection – yet.  I have long understood that a draft is just that, a draft.  It’s not meant to be print ready, or even good.  I think we are all familiar with quotes reminding us that books are not written, they are rewritten.  I get it, but I’m an overachiever.  Just another flaw to add to my growing list of personality quirks.  You might think this would work in my favor.  I mean, after all, when I think of an overachiever, I think of someone who has the drive to do anything and everything.  I think for me though, my overachiever habits lend to my ability to move on from something I think is structurally flawed.  I obsess and work tirelessly to fix a badly worded scene, paragraph, sentence at the detriment of the work as a whole.  It is my Achilles heel.

3.  I am allowing my DVR to do its job.  The Real Housewives of (insert random city here) aren’t going anywhere.  I can watch all of my brain cell sucking trash TV on May 1st.

Alright, so where do I stand as I begin day 11 of this challenge?

10,871 of 25,000 words written.

Write on happy campers.

Write on.

Happy Camping: A Camp NaNoWriMo update

Okay, so I’ve been a little remiss in my blog postings of late.  Sure, I’ve given you some groovy pics to tide you over, but I know what you really want – you want to hear all about my writing woes.

Well, guess what?

I’m not having any writing woes at the moment.

What?!?

That’s not to say sitting down at the computer every single day, pounding out a string of words designed to exhibit a measure of cohesion isn’t a complete bitch.  It is.   On a good productive day, the process only sucks out all of my brain cells; on a bad day – well, let’s just say it leaves me a quivering mass of something that should never see the light of day.

So, let me recap for those who have not had to suffer my temper tantrums and pity parties.  Several months ago – I’m going to refrain from embarrassing myself with the exact dates – I started writing a story I entitled Retribution.  Anna’s story.  I wrote 60K words within the span of a few months, and then it all went to hell.  It was so bad, and I hated it so much, that I did the only humane thing I could think of – bonfire.

A few months later, a voice began whispering in my ear.  It was Anna.  She became my constant companion, her voice needling into my subconscious, demanding I give her the story she deserved.  Eventually, I gave in and began drafting an outline – or six.  June arrived and along with it Camp NaNoWriMo.  I threw my hat into the ring, and by the middle of the month, I had written 26.5K words.  I was on a roll.

Then it all went to hell – again.  I learned a valuable lesson last summer:  Going on a family vacation for a week to Washington D.C., in the midst of an intense writing challenge, is not conducive to success.  My fall schedule didn’t help matters either.  It was consumed by Geology, Political Science, African-American history, and the Cold War.  There was no room for Anna.

I’ve spent the early part 2013 recuperating, trying to find my bearings.  For me, the transition from scholarly writing to fictional is a difficult adjustment.  I envy writers who can do it and make it appear seamless.  At the end of February, I opened my Retribution files again, sifted through scene after scene, made some notes and a few plot adjustments, did a little research.  In March, I heard the rumblings of an April edition of NaNoWriMo with an adjustable word count goal.  My heart did a little flip-flop.  A sign?  I think so.  I joined without hesitation.

So, where am I going with all of this rambling nonsense?

It is day three of the challenge.  I’ve written almost 5,000 words toward my 25K word goal, and I’m feeling groovy.

2013-Participant-Campfire-Circle-BadgeWrite on happy campers.

Write on.

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.

A writing marathon

Yesterday I took a break from my studies and went on a little excursion with my writing group.  We ventured south from our corner of suburbia into an eclectic downtown neighborhood known as Deep Ellum.  It has the kind of charm that comes with age -each building has a tale to tell; every face a story. 

Organized by my fellow WC-er Bill Chance, the trip was intended to spark our imaginations.  You can read about his experience with a recent New Orleans writing marathon [here].   The idea was to walk through the streets, take in the sights, draw inspiration, brainstorm, and then find a comfortable corner to write.  We wrote in 20 minute bursts, then shared.  I wasn’t big on the sharing part at first, but I warmed up to it.  I’m glad I did.   If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years, its that raw honest feedback is invaluable to a writer. 

I haven’t written much fiction since the end of August when I chose to put my WIP aside, and focus on that damn Geology class and lab.  Regrettable, but necessary.  However, now that the semester is winding down and all I’ve left on my plate are finals, I am itching to get back into the fray.  This trip was a good way to kick start the creative juices and reconnect with my old friend, Anna.

Where did she lead me in Deep Ellum?  She led me to a crumbling Roman brothel where she met with a drunken ex-KGB operative – her maternal grandfather and the man who murdered her father.  She longed to put a bullet in his brain, but instead, she swallowed her dark desires for retribution and asked for his help.  I’m not sure how this is going to work out.  I like the idea of this man; I like the familial connection; I like the conflict.  I wonder how Anna will reconcile her feelings toward her grandfather – will she pity the drunken shell he has become?  Will she give into her baser desires and avenge her father’s legacy? Or will she simply take what he can give and walk away?

I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. 

IMG_0455

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.

My Writing Buddy

He doesn’t contribute much, but he keeps me company and never snores.

IMG_5347

An update and an award

Usually, I post these self-shaming updates on Sunday, but I was too busy watching Roger Federer reclaim the top spot in men’s tennis.

One must have clearly defined priorities, right?

In between break points, I did manage to pull myself away from the television long enough to take a good hard look at my WIP.  I haven’t really done that since JuNoWriMo ended.  I was a little scared, but it wasn’t all that bad.  There are parts that work, parts that don’t, parts that scream WTF.   It could have been worse.   It needs to be better.

After reading through 90 or so pages of material, I decide that Anna needed a brother.  So, I added him, and then I killed him.  Cold, I know, but necessary.  It will add an emotional element and focus to the story that I felt was lacking.  Of course, adding (and killing) an important new character means that the underlying dynamic of my story has changed and therefore, an outline revision is in order.

I can’t tell you how much that thrills me.  You know, because outlining is my favorite part about the writing process.

Moving on.  I want to take a minute to acknowledge and thank Julie over at Word Flows for the Lucky 7 Meme Award she tossed my way a couple of weeks ago.  These sort of things always put a smile on my face.  Thank you, Julie!

Of course, this one is a little different from most.  It requires giving up a piece of my WIP for the world to see.  That’s not something I am comfortable doing outside of my writing group.  If it had been anyone else, I would have bowed out, but for Julie, I will do it.

The Lucky 7 Meme Award Rules are as such:

1. Go to the 7th or 77th page of your work in progress.
2. Go to the 7th line of the page.
3. Copy the next 7 sentences or paragraphs. Remember, they must be as they are typed.
4. Tag 7 authors.
5. Let them know they’re it!
 

So, here are my 7 lines – unedited and raw.

That’s all I’m willing to give.

“Rome, however, remained constant. The streets and lanes were still narrow and winding, paved in worn uneven cobbles.  The stucco facade of the old buildings were still faded and covered in graffiti. Smart cars, motor bikes, and scooters still clogged every conceivable inch of space.  Life moved on.

Anna inhaled.  Even through the fog of her grief, it felt good to be home.

She didn’t live far from the piazza, just around the corner on the Vicolo Moroni, a street so confined she could touch the walls on either side.  Her flat was on the top floor of a Renaissance era structure the color of salmon.  A heavy wrought iron gate shielded an intimate courtyard with a bubbling fountain and potted orange trees from view.   The entrance to the…”

There you have it.  Doesn’t tell you much, does it?

***There seems to be a formatting difference.  In Word, this excerpt is truly 7 lines.

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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Week one – Camp NaNoWriMo

Life is all about choices, and accepting responsibility for those choices – good or bad.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am in the midst of rewriting a novel that I have struggled with for a very long time.   At the beginning of the year, I tried to force myself into a whirlwind of writing in order to finally complete it.  That backfired on me and I wound up walking away from the entire project.  In March, I picked it back up and decided to approach it differently.  I drafted a detailed outline.  I hated every minute of it, but it helped.  In mid-May, I started the rewriting process in earnest.  It was slow and tedious – almost as painful as the first go around.

In the last few days of May, one of the members of my writing group mentioned a June installment of the November NaNoWriMo challenge.  I’ve never participated.   November is a crazy month around my house between school, work, family, the incoming holiday season, and my irrational desire for sleep.  By contrast, June is a relatively easy month.  I took the plunge.  I signed up.

I’ll be honest, the prospect of writing 50,000 words in 30 days scares the shit out of me.  Not because it is this great unattainable thing, but because I have never before produced that volume of words in such a short time frame.   I see other writer’s do it and I am in awe.  Julie over at Word Flows is a prime example of this.  She is a writing machine.  I envy her free-flowing ability.   I’m not like that.  I’m a slow, methodical writer.  I tend to write for a bit, stop, go back to review and reassess, ponder my position, let things percolate around in my head for a while, and then rewrite it before I move on.  In my professional world, this works out great for me.  Unfortunately, in my creative world, its debilitating.

When I went into this challenge, I knew that I was going to have to let go of my notion of perfection, understand that the story wasn’t always going to gel completely, and accept that I was going leave a trail of mistakes in my wake.   The thought of that made me all itching, but I chose to do it anyway.  The first few days were tough.  Around day three the little perfection troll that shares my head with my phobia troll pulled out all of his hair and ran screaming from the building.   That was the best thing that could have happened.  My head is much quieter now and I am letting go of old habits, rereading only the proceeded paragraph, and referring to my rough outline for guidance.

As of last night, I was right on track with 12,034 works written.  Each day it gets easier to just let it flow and I find that I am enjoying myself.  It’s been a long time since I felt a connection to my writing like this.  It seems this is exactly the kick in the pants I needed.

Only 23 days and 37,966 words to go.

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday Update

June Camp NaNoWriMo!

I’m not going to ramble on too much in this update.  I just posted one this past Wednesday – a few days later than usual – and not much has changed since then.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  Camp NaNoWriMo started on Friday and I’ve been busy working to keep up with the daily word count quota.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve kept up nicely, though I did have to skip my weekly “Things I learned this week” entry.  Those take a bit of time and consideration to compose and I thought it best to focus my energy on the task at hand.  For my followers who only stop by for those entries, I apologize.  I promise to have one up by next Friday providing that my brain hasn’t imploded by then.

Last week’s goal:  Finish up what I lagged on this week; begin the frenzy that is Camp Nanowrimo; have a very nice word count to show for my efforts.

Goal met?:  YES!  I have caught up and am navigating quickly through the scenes that deal with the explosion and the immediate aftermath, setting up what is come.  I am volleying through a handful of scenes, introducing key characters, and foreshadowing their roles.  Eventually these characters will come together, but for right now they are doing their own thing.

I have accumulated 5334 words since Friday.  Not too shabby.

Next week’s goal:  Continue moving through the scenes listed on the outline;  keep word count on par for the projected 50K by June 30.

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday…er…Wednesday update

When I last left you, I was struggling to find Anna’s new voice.  I received some great suggestions from my fellow writers and bloggers, and I thank you all for that.  It helped.  I must say once I reconciled myself to the fact that she was not who I initially intended her to be, things began to flowed and the scene came together quite nicely.  The tone has been set and I am largely pleased with it – and myself.

This week’s process has been hampered by another stumbling block.  A need for a few additional scenes that were not on my original outline.  And, as Anna needed to change, so too did another essential character – one who used to be a contributing villain.  I’ve cleaned him up a bit, given him a purpose, and put the burden of national security upon his war-weary shoulders.  I think I sort of like him now. Maybe I will have to kill him off about midway through.

So on to some news.  I’ve decided to participate in this summer’s Camp NaNoWriMo.  Every November several members of my writing group delve into the madness of NaNoWriMo and they’ve produced some pretty impressive stuff.  I always feel a twinge of envy, when they do.  November is a crazy month for me and to commit to such an undertaking would land me in an institution, and maybe even divorce court.  Except for a family vacation near the end of the month and my dreaded 40th birthday, I have nothing going on in June.  I have no obstacles and no excuses.

Bring. It. On.

The nitty-gritty:

Last weeks 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.

Goal met?:  Yes and no.  I have worked out my character issues with Anna and her team, written the initial disaster but am still working on the aftermath – it is a more complicated situation that requires additional scenes.

Next weeks goal:  Finish up what I lagged on this week; begin the frenzy that is Camp Nanowrimo; have a very nice word count to show for my efforts.

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: Let the writing begin!

Do you smell that?

That is the smell of uninhibited creativity.

What?  Smell’s like burning plastic…

…humph.

Today, I am getting back into the groove.  Though, if the truth be told, I haven’t really fallen off of the writing wagon.  I’ve just had no time to blog about my progress.  You know how life can be sometimes – it runs you ragged and sucks you dry.    A few months ago, I started outlining the rewrite of my WIP Retribution.  It went badly at first, as I knew it would.   By nature, I am not an organized writer.  A personality flaw to add to my growing list.  However, I figured out what worked best for me, and the awkward process seemed to straighten itself out.  I feel pretty good about what I’ve got to work with, and hopefully it will be enough to get me past the 30,000 word mark – the point at which I threw in the towel last time.

For weeks, I have resisted the urge to write.  Premature writing is distracting and tends to land me in a big old mess of trouble.   Well, the time has come.

Let the writing begin!

To keep with the theme of my self-shaming Sunday update, which will make a return this week, I am going to give myself a goal to meet.

This week’s goal:

Complete draft of opening scene – i.e. introduce the world to Anna and blow up the Piazza Navona.

…and away we go.

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday update

We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” – C.S. Lewis

Progress is a relative term, subjective, and in the eye of the beholder.  If you take a quick peek at my notebook, it will tell you that I have worked diligently this week in an effort to nail down a set up for my work in progress.  However, if you delve a little deeper, you will see that I’m floating untethered in a turbulent sea of uncertainty.

I’m sure this is a normal phenomenon in story planning, and I have no doubt that it’s the natural order of things.  It’s a learning process, after all.  However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling frustrated.  It’s a dizzying thing to take two steps back for every step forward.

On Friday, I was convinced that I had come up with the perfect midpoint plot twist that would turn the entire story on its ear.  It was fabulous.  The greatest idea I’ve ever had.  I was blinded by my own brilliance.

One step forward.

Today, I hate it.

So, I changed it.

Now the midpoint doesn’t jive with the set up.

Two steps back.

Okay.  Enough with the whining.  Let’s get down to it, shall we?  How did I stack up this week?

Last weeks goal:   Finish up character profile for Ivan and continue working on setup outline.

Goal = met – I guess.  I did finish up my character profile, though I think with the new midpoint, I will need to make him less douche-baggy.  

Next week’s goal:  Figure out this midpoint thing and get it to jive with the set up.

Did I make progress this week?

Yes, I believe I did.

(Cue the obligatory golf claps now)

What if?

I am outlining my novel, Retribution.

And when I say outlining, I mean outlining, outlining.

The real deal.

I’ll give you a minute to digest that bit of news.  I don’t want to be responsible for causing anyone to go into shock-induced cardiac arrest.  I’m pretty sure my homeowner’s policy has no coverage stipulation for that.

I am no great proponent of the outline.  I think it’s a big old waste of time, and have successfully avoided squandering precious minutes of my life doing it.  I like to go with the flow, see where the ideas take me.  To do this, I employ a simple shell method.  I think of it as something that perhaps contains an aura of an outline without actually being an outline.

  • Topic
  • key points, usually 3 but sometimes more depending on the document (one word each)
  • Conclusion

That’s it.   I write these three little bullet points on a blank page and then proceed to fill in the paragraphs.  I’ve done it this way for…well…ever.  It has never failed me.

Until I started writing Retribution.

It turns out that it is impossible – for me, anyway – to write a well constructed novel by implementing this tried and true method of leaping before I look to see what lurks at the bottom of the canyon.  I hate it when I’m wrong.

It took a year for me to accept that I was going to have to suck this one up.  It was a year filled with several crying fits, a lot of self-loathing, and a couple of toddler worthy temper tantrums.  In the end, I seceded.  I am stubborn, but I’m not stupid.  I can admit when I’m beat.

As we speak, I am working on that outline.  I’ve received a lot of good advice from my fellow writers.  Some have recommended a few of their own methods, others have suggested certain reference books.  All great ideas which I’ve taken to heart – purchased a book or two.   Somewhere along the way, I came across someone or something – a blog, a writer’s manual, a professor (I can’t remember!  Ugh!) – who used the “what if?” method to dig deeper into their story.

What if Anna did this?

What if Anna did that?

What if Anna’s father said this?

What if Anna’s father injected her with this? And then told her that?  And then died in a fiery ball of twisted metal when a mysterious motorcyclist attached a bomb to the bottom of his moving car?

This intrigued me because “what if?” is a game I love to play while people watching at the gym.  I’ve used it as a prompt, but never considered doing it in this context.  So, I thought to myself:  Self, what if I used this method to write my first quick pass through in preparation for a more thorough outline?

My self agreed that it might be a decent idea.  I tried it out.  I wouldn’t say that I would recommend it for a hard-core outline, but it does get the creative juices flowing.  I’ve breezed my way through to the mid-point of the novel, in just two days.  I even sketched out the climax scene because, in the midst of all of this, I had a stroke of brilliance that could not be contained.  If nothing else, the “what if” exercise was rejuvenating – creatively speaking – and reconnected me with my story.  Just a few months ago, I thought that was an impossibility.

Should I dare to hope?

Could it be possible?

What if…what if I actually make all the way to…

…the end?

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday update

I established three key things in my last couple of Just Write blog entries:  my main character, Anna, is relentless in her quest to have her story told, my novel (as it stands) is a big pile of dog poo, and that it is necessary to start all over if I hope to produce something even remotely interesting.

In the last day or two, I’ve set about trying to figure out where I went wrong.  I am embarrassed – and relieved – to say that it wasn’t all that hard.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I have a foundation problem.  The core inciting incident which is pivotal to this plot driven novel occurs fifteen years too soon.  I arranged the timeline is such a fashion because I felt that it gave my character depth.  This single traumatic incident created the woman she grew to be and dictated her path in life.

Sounds good, right?

Well, at least it sounded good in my head.  On paper – not so much.

Turns out, the time gap destroys the credibility of Anna’s motivation.  If your character has no motivation, you have no story – at least, not one that anyone would waste their time reading.

I have worked pretty consistently this week on a fresh outline.  I am going back to the bare bones with a single sentence tagline, rewritten character profiles, and a basic question and answer sequence in order to sketch out the motivations and obstacles of all involved.

I’ve just started outlining the setup.  I’ve got some good ideas percolating.  So many so that I am fighting the urge to just start writing.  Okay.  I will admit to handwriting one scene, but I promise not to type it until my outline is finished.

IMG_1996This week’s goal = Identify problems; fix problems.

Goal = Met; Problems identified.  Entire story scraped.  New outline started.

Next week’s goal = finish a solid first draft of the setup outline.