From a Different Perspective

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So the plan is on Monday we will be starting our novels. I did the math and if I am writing like I did on my last novel, I should maintain a 2000 words a day schedule to be done by Thanksgiving. I have read different schools of thought on having a word count goal. I have heard it cramps your style and makes you less productive. I have not found that to be true. Counting my words at the end of the day make me feel productive. It’s a little treat to myself. I never beat myself up if I only managed to write 200 words that day. There are always going to be more productive days down the road where I write 5000 words that day. I keep a running tally, because I have always liked to see my progress (you should see some of my to do lists, I take them to the extreme to feel like I accomplished something). So the word count thing is just like everything else, do what works for you.

However, as I am finishing up the final draft of my outline, I was thinking back to the assignments in Domet’s 90 Days To Your Novel. I would have to say my all time favorite activity was Day 8. This day was about taking three of your characters and putting them in a scene. From one characters point of view, then write the same scene from second one’s POV, and then the third’s POV. I learned so much about my characters and their relationship with each other. I decided to take my three friends and put them in a scene where one reveals she is going to start going to Al Anon. Even though I had flirted with the idea of having each one narrate their own story, after this exercise, I decided on only two narrators. Even if I don’t use 90 Days To Your Novel for my next book, I think this exercise is going to be a big part of any prep work I do on future novels.

If you are stuck or just not sure about the relationship between some of your characters, I would suggest this exercise. You just might get some insight into a character that’s been giving you the cold shoulder.

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Writing Advice From a 2 Year Old

I was working on my outline when I had to step away. You would think I knew the drill. Leave paper and pencil with two year old on the move=

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From what I can decipher, she’s telling me to fill the page and wrap it up. At least that is what it looks like to me. So, in honor of my up and coming writing partner/critic, here’s a couple of things she has taught me about writing.

1. Any empty space must be filled:

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2. Read, read, read:

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3. If you find a book you like, take a page from it:

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4. If you’re going to be a writer, look the part and take any time you have to write:

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Sweet 16

Today is our 16th Wedding Anniversary and as much as I would love to say they have been the sweetest of my life, that would be a lie.

My marriage, like any marriage, has had it’s ups and downs. We have had good times that have sustained us through the bad. The bad times have made us stronger. If it wasn’t for the difficult times and the opportunity we had to work together and make it through to the other side, our marriage wouldn’t be as strong as it is today. To this I credit my stubbornness and my husband’s love. It may not sound massively romantic (my husband is certainly not impressed), but during the hard times in our marriage, it was sheer stubbornness that kept me going. I refused to believe that things wouldn’t work out, that things wouldn’t get better, and that our marriage wasn’t going to last.

I am not romantic at all, that’s not to say romance doesn’t move me. The sweetest thing my husband ever said to me was “You hold this family together, you are the center, and this family doesn’t work without you.” As sweet as that is, I disagree. My husband is the love in this family. He is a cheerleader when I don’t think I have what it takes, he is a comedian when I take things too seriously, he is a compass when I veer off course, and he is the person I have chosen to spend my life with. When I tend to get stuck in trudging through the bad times, stubbornly, he reminds me that we are doing this because we love each other.

The hard times in our marriage is what defines us. Every challenge and disappointment that we have faced together have made us stronger. We may not have risen victorious over some of them, but we have always held firmly to each other. And my husband has always reminded me why we faced them together. We have built a life together.

I hope that my children learn many things from our marriage. How to treat the person you love and how to put in the hard work to build something to last. I hope they find in their own marriages that of the highs and lows that they will experience in their relationships, it is the lows that make your marriage stronger. When you have someone who fights, builds, and cultivates beside you, with the same goal in mind, the relationship is that much sweeter.

Happy Anniversary to my husband and the family we have created.

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Beginnings

Some of my favorite writing exercises give you first lines to start you off. The assignment I was given two days ago was to come up with 20 possible first lines. Some I don’t like at all, and because of this

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my motivation was pretty low that day. Instead of following the cat’s lead, I cranked out 20 first lines and finished the assignment with a list of possible scenes for Act I.

These are my twenty possible opening lines:

1. I thought insanity would be more relaxing.

2. I already had their graves staked out.

3. At this point of my life, I thought I’d be something more.

4. I was being held hostage.

5. My husband hated me.

6. I had to save myself, because nobody else would.

7. Everything that had made me who I was had been chewed up and spit out.

8. Somewhere between “I do” and today, I had ceased to exist.

9. This was not my life.

10. Maybe life was a ‘Choose your own adventure’ and I had chosen the wrong path.

11. Everything was falling apart around me.

12. There was no place to hide.

13. It was a warm spring day when my life shattered around me.

14. I was bumping around like a car with a blowout, being pulled in a direction I didn’t want to go.

15. The headline said ‘Woman Dead at 36’ and I had to double check and make sure it wasn’t me.

16. The clothes in m closet were meant for a different woman.

17. The thing about a treadmill is you never go anywhere, and it turned out my life was like that.

18. I thought about smothering him with a pillow, but instead satisfied my rage by placing tater tots all over his face.

19. I didn’t find God, God found me.

20. They should make pregnancy tests out of metal, it would make it easier to stab yourself.

Now on to ACT II.

Conflict (a.k.a. Moving Things Along)

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I don’t like conflict. No conflict = peaceful life.

There are so many ways I avoid conflict:

1. I stay away from people who invite drama into their life.

2. I agree with people to avoid a fight.

3. I pick my battles with my children and husband.

4. I don’t look in the mirror before I scarf down the last donut.

I am on Day 11 of the 90 Day process (I know I should be farther). This day has me writing down all the conflict in my novel. While no conflict in my life = a blissful Amy, no conflict in book = comatose reader. Or even worse, no reader.

So this got me to thinking, how much conflict is too much conflict? My first instinct was to write down all of the disagreements and fights in my plot, because there is plenty of opportunity for conflict.

There should be conflict in every scene, but obvious conflict in every scene is too much, because my character would end up in the loonybin or I would be emotionally exhausted after every scene. There needs to be a balance that still moves the story along. That is where subtle conflict comes into play.

Subtle conflict will sustain your novel between the drag out fights.

For example:

Obvious conflict: I just ran into my best friend’s husband cheating on her with another woman and now I am confronting him.

Subtle conflict: I just found my first gray hair. When did I start getting so old?

Of course, depending on your character, finding a gray hair might be a bigger conflict than seeing the husband of her best friend cheating. Either way, we learn more about the character and the story is moved along.

So, if your character doesn’t act or react to things, not only will you be bored, but so will your reader.

Naked At The Olive Garden

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Going out to dinner with a two year old is always a mistake. At least I think it is, because I don’t remember the other three being like this at two. Maybe it’s like childbirth. The memory of the pain just disappears after the ordeal, something your mind does to fool you into having another child. Which would explain why I thought it was a swell idea to go to the Olive Garden with the husband and two girls (the boys escaped to hang out with friends).

It started out fine. We declined the booster seat, because in the hands of a two year old, it becomes a murder weapon. I forgot that they have what my six year old refers to as “wheel chairs.” So, she spent the majority of dinner ramming the woman behind us and trying to crack the teeth out of her skull. The salad on her plate ended up on the floor in a nice tidy pile (should I be happy it was in a pile and not strewn around the floor?). A grape was used as a volleyball when she tossed it in her sisters spaghetti and it was lobbed back by a six year old who thought that was appropriate behavior. The husband might as well have been at another table since he was in la la land (probably day dreaming about the family he could have had).

Whether the other three were like this or not, I can say this two year old upped the ante when she took her diaper off at the table. Just stood up on her chair and whipped it off. I wonder how many diners thought, ‘Wow, this is a first.’ My daughter officially turned a family restaurant into a strip joint. It’s times like this when I look at my husband and think, ‘You must have been a horrible child.’ I can only imagine what he did as a child to make his mother lay down the “curse”. Because, let’s face it, one of us was bad enough to get “a child just like you,” and I was a good girl. Well, I wasn’t bad enough that I should have a child who would do a strip tease on a chair in the Olive Garden.

In advance, thank you for not mentioning that’s exactly what I do have.

This House has been Quarantined

If there was a picture I could put up for this post, it would be a pile of Kleenexes (totally inappropriate) or a petrie dish (which turns out would be a picture of my children). This “cold” is awful. Somewhere along the way, it has morphed. Now I’m not saying it turned into ebola or something equally terrible, but I’m pretty sure it has turned into a walking dead disease. My oldest daughter brought it home from school, she promptly gave it to my oldest son. A week went by and everyone was feeling good. It hit me on the hottest day of the week. I decided to write through it. Hey, I was on a roll. Working on the scenes introducing my characters. Not good. Of course, I have been waiting for four days for this thing to leave my head and hit my chest (most of my colds head south after a couple of days), but it didn’t happen. I reread the introduction of my main character. I would like to say it read awesome. Ha! Half of the sentences looked like I was writing two sentences at once. Oh, and this is my favorite sentence “All four of her children had carefully thought out names with several nicknames.” I must be starting to feel better, because I can only imagine the state I was in that I would actually believe that sentence made sense. But hey, at least I got something down and it can be reworked.

Hopefully this cold is days away from leaving. Unfortunately, my other son has caught it and now I know how I looked this week. Not a pretty sight. Cross your fingers that it misses the youngest. And if anyone decides to pay us a visit, wear your hazmat suit and smile, nod, and back away slowly if I insist that anything I have written is good.