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.

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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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.

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.

Little Gifts

The novel I am working on now is slow going. Thank goodness for Sarah Domet’s 90 Days To Your Novel. I started this novel with a ‘what if’ scenario and nothing more. The daily assignments have really fleshed it out. I was thinking 90 days would be a breeze, after all, I finished the last one in 90 days. It clicked somewhere at the end of the week that it is 90 days total, from planning to finishing the first draft, which ends up being about 60 days of writing. Slight panic attack. 😉 But I am still on course for finishing this before Thanksgiving.

Today’s assignment is figuring out my POV. So back to a scene I wrote the previous day to try 3 different points of view. I will admit, I whined a little. After all, I wrote it in third person limited, so why do I have to write it that way again? This made me think of other times in my life where I didn’t want to have to go back. Remember those sheets in school where the teacher told you to read all of the questions first and then go back and answer the questions? I would never read through and I would just start answering the questions as I read them (why do things twice?). Then at the end you find out you were only supposed to answer 1 and 3. Anyway, that’s how this assignment feels to me. But, these assignments have really brought my characters to life and I have some scenes already partially written. The plotting doesn’t happen until assignment 14, which feels like a long way off at this point.

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A gift from my 6 year old.

But I will take the little gifts that this book is giving me. Like characters who are turning out a lot different than I thought they would, and scenes that will be done before I even write my first line in my novel. Now back to redoing a previous scene to find the correct point of view and trust that in the long run, this will make my novel that much better.

Writing Contest

This post is for a Writing Contest: You Are A Writer by Positive Writer.

I knew I was a writer at age 9. Before that, I was a mediocre student who spent my time between assignments engineering the perfect spitball. At 9, I met the teacher who would change my life.

Mr. Curlee seemed nice when we first met at open house, but they all started out that way. Halfway through the year they all realized I did the bare minimum, then they became critical of all the work I did. But enter a new teacher with a new agenda. Creative Writing. Every morning started with writing in our journals. He would give us the daily topic and told us to write. Just write. It took me a while to get the hang of it, free writing wasn’t something previous teachers had promoted, but then I was hooked. We wrote about our dreams, our lives, even fiction was promoted. That was when I decided that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Every piece of writing I handed in was returned with positive feedback (another first for me), and it fueled my desire to sit with a pencil and pad of paper for the rest of my life.

I wrote my first novel at 10 (about a girl and her Pegasus), my second at 12 (about time traveling siblings), and then I spent my teenage years writing poems and short stories that got me into writing conferences sponsored by the school district. I took the mentorship program in high school with a resident writer at North Hennepin Community College. I took writing classes in college. In my mid-twenties my writing took a backseat to life events. Working, Marriage, and raising children consumed my life, as did the hobbies I started to acquire. Before the birth of my fourth child, I attempted the Novel in a Month challenge. I did it! But that first draft stayed in a drawer as I let myself be swept away in the busyness of raising my babies.

It wasn’t until four months ago that I started writing fiction again. I often wonder why I stopped writing. Writing has gotten me through a lot of tough spots in my life. It is cheaper than therapy, it is more fun than a movie, you are never alone when you write, and it is the only time I am confident with who I am. I know I am a writer because that is when I am happiest and the most fulfilled.

I was introduced to the person who would change my life at an early age, a person who introduced me to something that gave me purpose and hope. I was lucky. If not for this one teacher in my life, would I have ever found out that I am a writer? How many people have never had a person in their life who encouraged them to do something that they love? I am a writer. It is a part of me, I would say it even defines the person I am today.