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.

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. 

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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.

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…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.