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.

Resisting the Itch

A writer writes.

That manta has been drilled into my head since the moment I decided to embrace my desire to put pen to page.   There is a societal expectation that if you have the audacity to call yourself a writer, you must produce proof of such a claim.  I’ve always taken this to heart.

I think, therefore I am.  – Rene Descartes

I write, therefore I am a writer.

It’s a mindset that is very hard for me to reconcile at the moment.  If you read my posts, you will remember that at the beginning of the year I made the decision to shelve my work in progress.  Recently, I’ve felt the magnetic pull of characters that will not be ignored.  In an effort to stave off the voices, and because I believe in the essence of this story, I decided to begin again.

Back to the drawing board.

To start over.

From scratch.

As new ideas begin to take root, grow, and blossom, I am overwhelmed with the desire to write.  Witty dialogue mingles with vibrant action in scenes that swirl around my brain, begging for an outlet.  It is the order of things.  In the past, I’ve been very much a fly by the seat of your pants writer.  As the voices grew louder, the scenes more vivid, the siren’s call of the keyboard more desperate, I inevitably gave into the temptation to write, mindless of the consequences.

Herein lies the reason my first stab at Retribution went down in glorious, Technicolor flames.  I gave into the voices and lost sight of the big picture.  I planned poorly – or rather – I didn’t plan at all.

This time it will be different.  It must be.  I took an oath to myself that I would resist the itch to write until I had a thorough, well-planned outline.   It was a promise that fell freely from my lips.  It sounded so easy, such an attainable goal.

I was wrong, as I am so often lately.  It is very hard to resist the itch to write, especially when you have set such boundaries.  It is as if my rebellious self is testing the limits of my resolve by spitting in the eye of my iron will.

But, my iron will is a determined beast.  Resist I will.

For now, anyway.

 

Just write: Self-shaming Sunday update

This week it’s all about the map.

My first attempt to write Anna’s story of retribution was a dismal failure.  I allowed myself to get caught up in the complexity of individual scenes and forgot a vital rule in novel-writing:  Every character action/reaction must benefit the progression of the story as a whole.   As a result, I lost sight of my final destination.  To rectify this problem, I’ve gone where I’ve never gone before.

To the fiery depths of Hell.

Well, not really.  Just into the depths of the dreaded outline.

I’ve been working on a vague sketch of Retribution using my favorite prompt game, “What if.”  This week the story is beginning to take form.  Through this process, it has become obvious that this will be a very different tale from the one I initially envisioned.  But it has to be, right?  Of course, it does.  The last one was complete shit.

So what’s the nitty-gritty on the my weekly progress?

I have a good overview of Retribution down on paper.  Of course, there are a few gaps, a few unconnected dots,  but I think they will work themselves out during the hardcore outlining phase.   Which is where I find myself now – the hardcore outline.  Up first, the set up.  I’m pleased with the sequence of events in this phase.  However, there is one hiccup.  Anna’s father.  In my last attempt, he was dead.  His in-depth characterization was largely inconsequential.  He had a peripheral presence that did not require any real exploration.  In this version, I have brought him back from the dead – at least for the interim – and his real-time relationship with his daughter is an essential element in the progression of Anna’s story and her quest for revenge.  Therefore, he must be fully examined and profiled.

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

Goal = Sort of met, but need to find out what makes Anna’s father tick before I can really set this outline portion in stone.

Next week’s goal = Finish up character profile for Ivan and continue working on setup outline.

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.