Writing Resolutions

Hello, everyone! The combination of stress and joy that is the Holidays has passed. 2012 is gone and 2013 has begun.  New Year’s is always a time for goal setting and newfound optimism. This year isn’t any different.

New Year’s is also a time for resolutions. In addition to the usual personal improvement resolutions, involving work and social goals, I’ve also made a number of writing resolutions. I thought I’d share them.

  1. Write something every day: It doesn’t matter if it’s a character sketch or a random snatch of dialog, as long as it is something. There is no minimum word limit here, just to write something.
  2. Spend more time in character development: Let the characters speak their own minds to me. Let the plot develop organically from their personalities rather than trying to make them jump through hoops and fit into boxes I make for them.
  3. Set a writing schedule: Schedule time in the day that will be my writing time, and stick to that schedule.
  4. Read more: Nothing helps my writing like reading good writing. Also, I have a lot of craft books that I have not read yet. I resolve to read those before I acquire more.

I realize fully that these are fairly standard suggested resolutions that one will see in any given writing book or blog. None of this is original. But, I hope that publishing this here will help me keep my resolutions. I always believe that telling people about your resolutions makes you more accountable to them. Don’t you agree?

I would like to know what some of your writing resolutions are.

Have a great 2013!

The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge: Results part 1

I decided to post the first week’s results from The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge! Enjoy. I’ll post the second week’s results, plus the analysis next week. In the meantime, enjoy!

Monday:  I wrote this in the morning, before work. I was tired, but calm, and drinking coffee.

Prompt:  You arrive at work to find that something is missing and has been replaced with something else.

“Monday again.” the sigh could not help but escape me. I dropped myself into the desk chair and looked around the office. The light on the phone was blinking: a message.

I picked up the phone and pushed the blinking button.

“Are you there? Can you hear me?” It was a child’s voice speaking to me.

It was a moment before I could respond. I looked down again, and I was talking into the face of Spiderman, his eyes speakers and his mouth a microphone, and a little walkie talkie antenna sticking out over his ear.

Suddenly, it was summer, and I was eleven years old.

Tuesday:  I wrote this late at night, before I went to bed. I was tired, but in a good mood. It had been a fun day.

Prompt:  During your morning coffee, you open the newspaper and read something shocking about someone you know.

The story was amusing, truly. I laughed as I read it. Someone had gone into one of those stores you have to be eighteen to get into, stolen a rather elaborate marital aid, and ran from the shop. What made it even more entertaining, was the fact that someone else was waiting outside in the car. The car sped off down the street before the person who worked there could even get the number on the license plate.

The fact that it was planned, a sort of “heist” was what got me laughing the hardest.

I was still laughing as I related the story to my elderly grandmother, who had the taste for naughty humor that only comes with the sense of self old age grants. But, she didn’t laugh as I told the story.

She only blushed.

Wednesday: I wrote this on notebook paper during my shift at work. It was a slightly stressful shift, and I was tense and a little annoyed.

Prompt: You go swimming and while you’re at the pool, you meet someone from very far away, who is in need of your help.

It was the summer of 2012. What a vibrant and exciting summer, and one I will never forget. It was the first warm day, and the pools had just opened. I was happy to go. Singing to myself as I got into my swimsuit, I stood under the required shower and entered the pool area.

I could see that there was someone in the lane reserved for those who only want to swim laps. I’d always rather just swim around, so I ignored that part of the pool anyway. Yet, I noticed that the person swimming there was amazing.

He doubled everyone else’s speed, and his form was like something I’d seen on TV.

He came up to take a breath and shook the water out of his brown hair.

“You’re Michael Phelps!” I said.

He grinned a crooked toothed smile at me.

“I’m lost.  I’m supposed to be in London. Can you help me?”

Thursday: I wrote this after lunch. I was feeling a little sick, and had a headache that day.

Prompt: Write about the best possible way to meet the love of your life.

Today, I went to a writer’s group. I was bored as we shared our work. It was the usual range, nothing really bad, but nothing struck me as exceptional either. I include my own work in this assessment. A listless feeling was beginning to creep over me.

I was looking out the window, when I heard a poem that made me turn around and pay attention. The reader was a young man, about my own age. I could feel the smile spreading across my face without my willing it.

When the leader of the group asked up to divide ourselves into critique groups, I did not hesitate.

Friday: This is another late night one.  I was quite tired. Interesting to note: BCITW (Best Cat in the World) was on my bed. I believe he inspired it.

Prompt: It’s the end of a long work day. All you want to do is relax, but something keeps preventing it.

It had been an exceptionally difficult shift, at the end of an amazingly difficult week. I wanted nothing but to make some tea, sit in my chair, and watch my favorite TV show.

If you’d offered me the moon, but I had to work one more shift to get it, I would have had to respectfully decline.

I went to make the tea, but there I found my cat, Logan, on the counter. I put him gently on the ground and made the tea, sighing in frustration. I sat down and put on the TV, but I heard him meowing in the kitchen. I realized that I’d forgotten to feed him. After I filled his dish, I realized that the little jerk had coughed up a hair ball on the floor. So, I had to spend ten minutes cleaning up the carpet.

When people ask me “Why do you keep a cat?” I always answer “Because, he helps me relax.”

Challenge Delayed by Fire

I was doing the The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge! with the writing prompts.

Perhaps it is ironic to the point of being appropriate that life got in the way. The town in which I live was surrounded by brush fires last week. There was some property damage,  but no loss of life was recorded. I am fortunate that the only way in which I was affected, is that the poor air quality resulting from the smoke played havoc with my allergies.

I was safe from the fire, but my nose and eyes were in misery.

In a Benadryl fog, looking at everything through watery eyes, constantly rubbing my nose, I thought to myself, “Well,  this will make an interesting contrast for future entries of the writing challenge.” However, it held on for so many days. Not wanting to write a week’s worth of “I wrote this when I was sick” prompts, I’m starting over again this week.

I might post some sick prompts after it is over though, just for laughs.

If anyone else is going to try the challenge, let me know!

My Strange Relationship with Spiders

This past week was the ever popular “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel. And well, don’t we all love Shark Week? Hours of the most dramatic programming possible about the most efficient predator possible; what’s not to love?

Well, it got me thinking.

I myself am vaguely arachnophobic. I’m not one of those people who have a panic attack looking at a photograph of a spider. I’m just more creeped out by spiders than the average person is, I’d say. But, because of this, I’m also extremely interesting. I know the species that live in my area, which ones are poisonous and which ones aren’t. If I know a species isn’t poisonous and can’t hurt me, I can even find watching them kind of exciting, because I’m just a little bit afraid of them.

Most of us have the compulsion to look at something that frightens us at a safe distance. It’s the same reason why people rubberneck at traffic accidents and go to horror movies.

It’s also the same reason horror is one of the most popular fiction genres, and why writers like Anne Rice and Stephen King are best sellers.
So, when I’m staring at a spider for a cheap thrill, or watching Shark Week, I think about what draws us to the horror genre. Maybe it’s the rush of engaging our “fight or flight” response while knowing that we’re not really in danger. Maybe it’s because it makes us feel like children, telling each other ghost stories by flashlight in a dark tent. It might even be Schadenfreude.

Maybe it’s a mixture of all of these. Or maybe, we all just like things that go bump in the night.

Do you like things that scare you? What are your favorite horror stories?
Did you watch shark week? Or do you just stare at things that frighten you?

Leave me a comment!

Writing the Olympics

Hello little writers!

Between my my fiverr.com gig and the August’s Camp Nanowrimo, I’ve been so busy lately! And on top of everything else, BCITW (Best Cat in the World) and I have been mesmerized by the Olympics. It’s been a very dramatic two weeks, hasn’t it?

But, the coverage got me thinking. They spend quite a lot of time talking about the athletes, telling us who they are, where they live, what their successes and failures have been in the past, and how they came to be on the world stage we see them on now. If medal counts and rankings and the events themselves were all that mattered, why would they spend so much time on biographical information?

Because, even in a sporting event, characters matter.

Victories have no thrill and defeat is robbed of its agony if we do not know and care about the people involved.
It got me thinking, even if it’s not fiction, even if it’s sports journalism, the audience has to care about the characters involved. Otherwise, they do not care about the events that happen to them. Sometimes the events motivate the plot, sometimes the characters do. That’s just the way fiction goes. But, at the end of the day, nothing is more important than getting your readers to care about your characters.

Here are some quick tips:

1. We’ve all heard “Show, don’t tell.” This goes double for your characters. Don’t tell us how your character feels. Describe their reactions, their posture, and their body language. Then we’ll feel your characters’ emotions with them. Images of the Olympic athlete’s emotional responses are what we remember. Create those images with your words!

2. Allow your characters to make mistakes. Watching your character fall and get back up again is so much more beautiful and moving than a perfect score.

3. The road to gold is never smooth. The obstacles and setbacks that your characters have to overcome are as important as the victory. They make the victory that much sweeter.

It’s been an amazing couple of weeks. Keep reaching for the writing gold!

 

Spend Time with Characters: Since I found Serenity!

Now that I’ve had some time away from the Nanowrimo insanity, I’ve been re-visiting one of my favorite TV shows. I’m a big fan of the “short-lived but well-loved” show “Firefly” by Joss Whedon. I’m sure plenty of you are,  too. Am I right?

I’ll give you a few minutes to recall your favorite quotes. Post them in the comments, if you like.

And then, there’s the film “Serenity” which we all know and love. Although, I would think that a majority of you would agree that it falls short in comparison to the television show. But why? They had a larger budget, superior special effects, more locations, and fancier settings than the television show ever did. With all that glitz and glamour, why does it fall short of its more subdued counterpart? For a moment, let’s leave off fan disappointment of the killing of a major character, please. (For the sake of people who have not seen it, I will refrain from saying who.)

This brings us to the question, why do we enjoy one more than the other? What makes the television show more compelling than the film in this case? Well, I believe the answer is that, on the television version, we are allowed to spend more time with the characters.  In between the gunfights, the narrow escapes, and the big damn acts of heroism, we get to spend time with the characters.

We see them eating, playing, resting, and interacting. In fact, the strength of the characters and their interactions with each other are things that make the show memorable. Joss Whedon’s punchy and quotable dialogue doesn’t hurt either. However, this entry is not about how much I enjoy the show. It’s about what makes the show good, and that, my friends, is the fact that we get to see strong characters in their daily lives interacting with the other strong characters.  The pacing in the film is much faster, telling a story that probably would have unfolded over the course of multiple seasons as the show went on. What suffered from this was we no longer got to spend time with the characters.

Even the character death from the movie would have been tolerable to me, had we gotten to spend time with the characters and seen them grieve and respond to the tragedy.

What can we learn from this? It’s ok to just let your characters simply interact sometimes.  Let them spend time with each other, and let your reader spend time with them.

A New Project and Camp Nanowrimo

Badge courtesy of CampNanowrimo.org

Fifty thousand words in thirty days.

That feels like a lot to write in a short time.

Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, is something that I throw myself into every November. It’s always such an insane and wonderful month. It’s always full of creativity, joy, stress, character love, character hate, friends, competition, alcohol, and randomly deciding to write sex scenes until I figure out where I want my story to go next, because I used up all my plotting notes in the first twenty thousand words.

Yeah, it happens.

But, I really do love it. So, this month I have decided to embark on “Camp Nanowrimo.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s when they do the regular November insanity in the summer months.
This decision was made rather suddenly. My current project is one I’ve had in mind for some time, but it was the concept behind the novel that I’ve been thinking about. The plot and characters are much less solidified in my mind than they usually are when I start writing. So, this project has taken me from being a “Plotter” (someone who plots everything out before they write) to a “Pantser” (someone who flies by the seat of their pants.)

When it comes to the “Plotter” vs. “Pantser” debate, I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong way to write. It’s merely a matter of personal preference. The only advantage I think “Plotters” have is that “Pantsers” have to do more re-writes to make the finished project more cohesive. Although I’ve never had a “plotted” project where I didn’t deviate from the planned plot. So, maybe that’s not even true.

As I said, we’re all different.

But, be that as it may, “Pantsing” is a very different experience for me. And, maybe writing in a way that I’m not used to is good for me. I think I’m writing a lot of things that will get scrapped in the very next draft. But, that doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m stretching myself, and going outside of my comfort zone.

It’s stressing me out terribly, but I’m enjoying it. I’ll write more about my new project in the next blog entry.

Now, I wonder if I can count this entry towards my Camp Nanowrimo word count…