Day 12: The worst writing day of all

So today was the worst writing day of them all because I had to write about food. Specifically, bad, terrible food that I really really love.

Fair food.

Hero and Heroine were on their first date at a pop-up parking lot carnival. Heroine had never eaten fair food before, and Hero was bound and determined to let her taste real life. So I wrote about turkey legs, and corn dripping in butter, and tart sweet lemonade, and crunchy, fried funnel cake…are you seeing the problem here?

I never knew I could write such loving, detailed, convincing prose. My stomach grumbled in need all day. I think I gained 10 lbs just imagining the food. Ach, I’m getting hungry again just reliving the food experience. I need to stop and inject some grease into my veins. Maybe that’ll help.

So that was the bad news. But there was some good news, too. Here’s a handy breakdown!

Good news:

  • this is the furthest I’ve ever gotten in any story
  • it’s only taken me 12 writing days to get there
  • I’ve managed to establish a plod-along-process. I just keep asking myself “and then what happened?” and pretend to tell the story to someone else in order to get to the next paragraph

Bad news:

  • my writing days have not been sequential
  • I’ve discovered that I’m the slowest writer on the planet. Everything takes sooo looonggg to explaaaaiiinnn…
  • I may run away tomorrow and join the carnival circuit

The best news:

  • I have 15,549 words as of today. Yay!

So what I learned in school today is this: there is always good and bad news. I’ll just have to keep plugging away.

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Day 11: Keep on Keeping On

Last week’s writing efforts were hit or miss because life got in the way again, but this week I’m striving to write again every day. Part of the inspiration came from a discussion at last week’s book club, when other members pointed out that writing was a lot like exercise. “You can write every day, but if you fall off the wagon and restart, it’s almost as if you’ve never exercised before.” 

This makes a lot of sense to me. I once had a daily yoga practice, and every now and then I’d hit my stride and not miss for months. Then something would happen, and I’d have to take 2-3 days off, and when I’d restart, my body would always be like, “Hey, what is this? What are you doing? You’ve never made us bend like this before…ouch!” The body, much like the brain, doesn’t like to get stretched back into shape once you’ve given it a few days off.

Today’s writing session was tedious. I slogged through and got a solid 2,000 words. I think. I have to admit, I tried not to look too much—I really wanted to concentrate more on moving through the scenes. I got Hero and Heroine out of the house and on a date. I left them at dinner. Hopefully tomorrow I can get them back home to reflect on what just happened.

What I learned from school today:  I’m a slow writer. I have to pause and think before every little interaction. Why is this person saying this? How can I describe what’s happening next? It’s frustrating because I’m a fast reader, and I expected that I’d write as fast as I read. Not! I have to just slow down and keep plodding along. Nobody’s holding a stop watch next to me. I’ll write it as I get the words. 

Day 10: Study Session

Today I did more thinking about writing than actual writing, but the story moved forward, and I’m going to take any forward momentum as a win. My first task was to wrestle with Hero again. Today’s scene involved him trying to convince Heroine that the crazy plan they’ve hatched up together is going to work. I was having a hard time writing his argument because if I were in Heroine’s shoes, I’d say “there’s the door, sorry, I can’t work with your idea.” But then that would mean the end of the story at a paltry 12,475 words, then cue sad trombone.

How was I to solve this?

I picked up On Writing, and read up on character. King believes in free-range character development: let them go and see what they do. Well that wasn’t going to quite work because I wrote a schedule for my characters and I wanted them to stick to the schedule, dammit. My Hero and Heroine had places to go and people to see. Free range wasn’t going to cut it. 

Since Janet Evanovich was responsible for said schedule, I took a peek at what she had to say. She handles character development by giving them clear motives and layered personalities. Somehow, this information wasn’t enough to get me over the hump.

Frustrated, I went to study group at the corner coffee shop with with Cee, my writing friend forever, and behaved very maturely: I bitched about Hero behind his back.

“I just don’t know what the problem is,” I said. “He’s a big unknown to me.”

“Have you talked to him?” Cee asked. “Have you taken him out to the bar like you said you would and get to know him? Do you really think he’d go to a bar?”

“Yes, he’d go to a bar,” I said. “And no, he hasn’t told me anything new. I mean, I know what he’s saying makes sense, but I just don’t believe him.”

“Why don’t you believe him?” Cee asked.

“I don’t believe him,” I said, “because Heroine doesn’t believe him.”

And suddenly, the lightbulb clicked on. I don’t believe Hero because he’s not convincing Heroine, and therefore, I don’t trust him. Ever engage in a story (on tv, movies or books), where a character does or says something that seems unbelievable and you think ‘ugh, that would never happen’, and dismiss the rest of the story? That’s what was happening to me.

So Cee and I talked through what would make Hero’s argument valid. Very, very helpful. I went home and wrote them out of their scene, and now those two crazy kids are on their way to an honest-to-goodness-fake-date. I finally got them out of the house! Whew!

What I learned from school today: study groups are an amazing support, and I’m so grateful that Cee helps me with my homework!

 

 

The gift of books

I decided to start my morning with a short walk. My husband agreed to go with me around the block. As we turned the corner to the next street over, we discovered a neighbor was having a garage sale. We can’t pass up bargains, so of course we stopped. They had some great books for sale. I found a paperback copy of All the Pretty Horses, which is one of my favorites.

“How much for this?” I asked the lady of the house.

“Do you live in the neighborhood?” she said.

“Yes, we live right behind you,” I said.

“Well since you’re a neighbor, it’s free!”

What a completely charming thing to say to someone. I thanked her profusely and we left. And just two houses down we spotted another garage sale.

This house had a for sale sign on the front, and mother, daughter and friends were in charge of the merchandise. “I’ve lived here for 30 years,” I heard the mother tell another customer.

The mother was a fan of romance. She may have had all of Linda Lael Miller’s books.

“That’s a lot of books,” I said to the mother.

“There’s more over there,” she said, pointing to three or four boxes filled with romances.

I sifted through the boxes and found some of my favorite authors. Four titles by Mary Balogh, one from Suzanne Brockmann and another by Teresa Medeiros. Jackpot!

“I need these for research,” I told the daughter as she counted up my books. “I’m writing my first romance.”

“That’s wonderful. Are you looking into getting it published?” she asked.

“I’m just looking to start and finish,” I said. “That’s the only goal.”

She told me my six books would be a whopping dollar. I told her we’d be back with the money after our walk.

“She’s a writer!” I heard the mother call out to the daughter as we walked away.

I sent my husband to go pay the dollar, as I wanted to start the Brockmann book immediately. He returned five minutes later with yet another book.

“They said good luck with the writing,” he said, “then they looked around to give you one more book to inspire you. They went through three boxes to find just the right one. Here!” And he handed me No Sweeter Heaven by Katherine Kingsley.

I may have the best neighbors in the world. And thanks to them, I have plenty of books to inspire me as I take a break from writing.

For some final inspiration, here’s the prolific Linda Lael Miller on writing and rejection. “It’s like my dad used to tell me…They can’t beat you unless you quit.”

Day 6: Let’s get physical

I now have battle scars. Yesterday I decided to take a break from writing and joined my husband and daughter in the backyard for a friendly soccer scrimmage. I was fighting through a scene and remembered short bursts of physical exercise can make creativity flow.

Soccer was fun until my husband kicked me in the shins while we were fighting for the ball. As I hopped around on one foot I noticed that a blood vessel was starting to swell right under my knee. Drat.

I went inside and iced it down, and after the swelling went away I went back to the office and the abandoned scene.

But now instead of calmly walking up the stairs, the Hero accidentally kicks a concrete planter on his way up some stairs, leading to an injury that gets him closer to the the Heroine. It worked out perfectly.

So I can confirm the rumor is true: you can get your creative flow going by doing physical exercises. But you’ll also, possibly, get an purple egg-shaped bruise in the process.

Things I learned from school today:

It’s harder to write when you’re tired. I am exhausted from a week of work, so I came in to a 1,200 word count instead of the 2000. I need to remember that writing, like any physical activity, requires one to be well-fed and rested. I may just take the weekend off.

Day 3: The Real Test

Today was a real test, as it’s the first day I’m balancing writing with my real life work. It would have gone better if I hadn’t felt a bit sick after I got home. I pounded out 2,000 more words, and this time I timed it. Took about 2 hours. Would have taken less if I weren’t so fuzzy headed. I really wanted to give up at 1,500 words, but giving up on Day 3 seemed a bit dramatic.

What I learned today:

Stick to it, and keep writing.