Something Got Done

 

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Oh Yeah!

Thanks to my writing partner I set out to make the most of writing in January. I decided to make it A Month of Something.

And thankfully, I have the privilege of announcing that Something Got Done … Lots of something … I was able to check something off my list time and again.

As stated in the original post I didn’t want to focus solely on word count for fear of paralysis.

Instead, I focused on days/times writing. I focused on addressing open plot questions. I focused on new scenes without looking at old ones. I focused on character development. And, I focused on moving forward.

All that focusing on SOMETHINGS led to RESULTS.

Somethings” to Celebrate:

  1. The End – As I stated in the A Month of Something post, I wrote a 400 word scene of what I envision being the end of the story. Can I get woot-woot?
  2. Finishing Scenes – I wrote two scenes that I’ve been putting off since summer. I had one sentence descriptions and now they’re done. They are rough but have so much potential. Raise the roof!
  3. New Scenes – I wrote two new and unexpected scenes. Also, rough but ripe with potential. One Love!
  4. Characters – I discovered that my comic relief characters have British accents. Who knew? Nervous about how to write it well but it plays marvelously in my head. Throw your hands in the air…
  5. Planning – I actually sat down and revisited my story “outline”. Made some modifications based on where the story is right now. …and wave them like you just don’t care…
  6. Research – I did some. I looked up education requirements and credentials that my grief counselor would need to possess. I requested input on linking two worlds within my story. And, if you didn’t already know, this is my least favorite part of the writing process. Or, to state it plainly: I hate research. So this is a huge victory. Can I get an amen?
  7. Images – I found some great pictures to represent my characters quirks or personalities. That’s how we do it …
  8. Writing Days – I checked my writing notebook and have identified 10 novel writing days since January 1; 5 of which were consecutive. Thank you very much. This doesn’t include blog post writing days … or the days that aren’t captured in the journal. Woo-hoo!
  9. New Words – I wrote 3,378 words in one month. That may not sound like much to some of you but it’s the best writing month I’ve had in a LONG time. High five!
  10. Word Count – My “ungoal” … without trying … by focusing on other aspects of writing … I broke the 40,000 word barrier. Now I have to say … I’ve been hovering so close to this for SO long that I nearly cried. As, I write this post I am at 42,631 words and that doesn’t include the dialogue I need to type up from my last writing day. CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES, COME ON!
  11. Birthday – And I turned another year older, wiser and willing-er to chase my dream. Bonus!

Again, these may not seem noteworthy to you, but I am excited about the progress and direction. I am excited that I had wins instead of losses.

I am grateful for my writing partners (and you … you know who you are) who graciously tolerated my tweets, emails, texts, and now blog posts, about how it was going. Thank YOU for the love!

Switching my POV about writing my novel and what’s important reinvigorated me. I’m still in love with my story! I encourage you to measure something different to spark your creativity and drive your momentum.

Thanks for celebrating with me! Cheers~

A Month of Something

Month of Something Calendar

©2013 the Jotter’s Joint – My Month of Something

During our January accountability call, my writing partner, Talli (enJOYin’ Life), and I bemoaned the fact that we’d failed to meet our December writing goals.

We talked about the obstacles we faced: balancing time with family and friends, being out of our routines due to vacation and holidays, and just wanting to do nothing for a little while.

It was one of our toughest conversations in the eight months or so that we’ve been holding one another accountable. Tough, for me, because the do-nothing aspect of time off was so appealing. I needed it.

At the same time, the conversation gave way to epiphany. I realized what part 3 of my book should be. Or, at least, one component it should include. This gave me momentum in planning, which I’m almost convinced would be better than just seeing where the story takes me. Note the word “almost” in that sentence. My writing process is still discovery.

The best part of the call was setting new goals to accomplish in January. And, hearing my writing partner state: “This is going to be a month of something …” Unlike our December – The Month of Nothing.

She is right too. It will be a Month of Something.

For starters, I will celebrate my 41st birthday the 14th. Happy birthday to me! I am grateful for each year.

Second, it’s the month I will break through the barrier of writing I’ve been hiding behind.

How will I break through?

By writing those wonderful words: The End. Not because I’ve finished the novel. I’m not quite there yet.

Since the story idea came to me I’ve had the same image for the ending. No matter what twists and turns the story has taken, the end hasn’t changed. Regardless of the characters I add or kill off the last scene is vivid in my mind.

So, two days after Talli’s profound words, I wrote that scene. I attempted to capture the image of my main character closing a chapter of her young life; having evolved and matured.

I framed words to take me from my once-upon-a-time beginning to my and-they-lived-happily-ever-after end. Which of course isn’t really the end of Baby Girl’s tale; it’s just where I’ve quit telling it.

The scene is just under 400 words but fitting for the last moment. Now we’ll see if the ending starts to evolve just as the rest of the book has done.

Either way, I’ve accomplished something: new words on the page, vision for the next phase of the book, and The End.

This is a month of something.

However, I don’t want word count goals because lately they cause me writerly paralysis. Instead I will measure my “somethings” in time set aside writing. For a change, my “somethings” yardstick will account for me writing rather than talking about writing.

What will be your something this January?

Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference 2012: Goals & Advice

It was an awesome event. There was so much wonderful advice – actionable advice. (You’ll probably see quotes show up in other posts on writing in the near future.)

The question becomes:  Where do I start?

More than one speaker recommended that you set clear goals. It’s a theme of advice that I’ve taken to heart.
I’ve set three realistic and attainable goals coming out of this event. Goals that will stretch and grow me to reach them. Will you agree to hold me accountable along with my writing partners?

Goal 1:  Write My Elevator Speech …

Every position I’ve ever held, I’ve been told to have my elevator speech ready. I should be able to sum up my job function in the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors; when asked:    What do you do?

I think the same is true for the question:  What are you writing? Only I don’t have that snappy response for my work in progress. I will start practicing now so that I can perfect my sound bite and not feel awkward.

Till this point I haven’t shared much about my WIP … but that will change with this goal … besides elevator speeches aren’t just for corporate types.

I’m writing a novel about life after Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Have you ever wondered what happens next? I’m telling the story.

Intrigued? Okay, it’s a start. I’ll keep working at it.

Goal 2:  Do My Research

I’ve mentioned before that I hate research. It may be my downfall as a writer.

I’ve been living on the hope that I could get by with a simple read through of Lewis Carroll’s books. HA! I Sad, I know.

Dear Research, I’ve been avoiding you but I won’t be any longer.

I won’t be cutting any corners. Not after hearing presenter and author, Jocelyn Green state she spent nine months researching her first novel and three months writing it. My hopes were quickly dashed that I could some how “get by”.

  • Step One:  Finish the initial read through of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
  • Step Two:  Complete a second read through of each book.
  • Step Three:  Interview a grief counselor to determine how children cope with death of loved ones; specifically in cases of suicide.

Jocelyn Green also recommended getting to really know your characters by interviewing them. Click here to see the questions. This will be Step Four. By the time Breathe arrives next year – October 18 & 19, 2013 – I will have completed these “research” steps (and maybe a first draft of the manuscript). Sigh. No way around it.

Goal 3:  Post Consistently

This goal is blog related rather than novel related.

I started blogging in April with the goal that I would post every two to four days; which I did for the first four months. Then life got busy and hectic. I started slacking off, claiming that creativity doesn’t strike every day.

The inconsistency is disruptive to you as readers I’m sure; despite my belief that creativity doesn’t like cages. So, I will pick a day of each week that I will post. Sometimes you’ll get a surprise day added. But ultimately there will be one day a week that you can count on the Jotter’s Joint to give you a read. Hopefully, a good read.

Let me know if there is a day that you would prefer. If the requests are similar it makes my decision easier.

Hold me accountable.

Ask me how I’m doing toward my goals. Don’t let me off the hook. And if you have suggestions that would help me in any of these goals, I’d love to hear them.

Hold Yourself Accountable

“One day” is today or it never comes. What ventures have you been putting off? Don’t wait for New Year’s resolutions. Do it now. Write some goals today. Share with me in the comments the goals you’ve set and I’ll remember to ask you how it’s going.

Recommended resources that came out of Breathe 2012 for you writer types …

  • Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
  • The Art of Fiction:  Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
  • Craft of Writing by William Sloane
  • The Art and Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley M. Hall
  • Wrecked:  When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins
  • Getting Into Character:  Seven Secrets Novelists Can Learn from Actors  by Brandilyn Collins
  • From the Inside … Out:  Discover, Create and Publish the Novel in You by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck

Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference 2012: 5 Unexpected Lessons

I attended my first writers’ conference ever at the invitation of my writing accountability partner. She’d been in previous years and wanted to share it with me.

I counted down the days till Breathe 2012 for a whole month. Sending her Facebook messages or note cards in the mail reminding her the date was getting closer.

My excitement stemmed from the fact that we would be immersed in all aspects of writing for two whole days. Surrounded by a community of writers all learning from one another the disciplines and practices of writing. I experienced exactly what I expected.

But to my surprise I learned some lessons I hadn’t counted on. Five key takeaways that will liberate me on my writing journey. Some of these may not be new to you but they were refreshing for me to hear.

Lesson 1:  There are NO Rules in Writing

In the session titled:  Finding Your Voice – And Your Story’s presenter, Dave Lambert said, “There are no rules, just tools in a writer’s toolbox.”

You can write whatever you want whether it conforms to accepted standards or not. The challenge is doing it well. So if you choose to step outside of the norm, do so with quality and excellence.

For me this means, at least in the early stages I can do whatever I want and then figure out if it works. I can let myself off the hook of following the rules (for now).

Lesson 2:  Self-Publishing Isn’t Bad

A panel of publishing professionals shared that self-publishing has merit. It depends on the author’s goals. If your desire is speed to market, self-publishing may be for you.

They were partial to the traditional publishing route for strength in the editorial process, marketing power, distribution, and capitalization. They acknowledge the limits and challenges e.g. fewer authors published through the traditional paths.

But don’t stress if you choose self-publishing, just ensure you do your due diligence, make wise choices, and focus on quality.

Lesson 3:  Writing Isn’t All About Me

Really? I want it to be. At least right now I do. Please don’t hold this against me. I am working on it.

Here’s what writers need to remember … It’s ALL about the reader. When we sit down to write we should keep in mind what the reader is looking for and deliver it.

As a fiction writer, I liked how Dave Lambert said it, “We put the reader in a fictional-dream.” Whatever we write should keep the reader inside that fictional dream; inside a state of suspended disbelief.

Be careful of mistakes that will waken readers from the dream.

Lesson 4:  Always be Ready to Pitch or Say Yes

Author and keynote speaker, Terry Whalen touched on this thought during his address.

As you build relationships and networks on the writing journey, you never know when an opportunity will present itself.

Be ready to say yes if asked to share your ideas or write a guest blog post or article. Being able to think fast on your feet helps. Exercise your creativity so that you can easily come up with ideas that will solve problems for writers, publishing professionals, editors, etc.

Personally, I keep my writing notebook with me and write down the random. One day it may pay off.

Lesson 5:  Creating a Platform is Important

Okay, so this really isn’t new to me but I had an epiphany.

I’m not in a hurry. I don’t need to stress out about this important thing. Instead I have the opportunity to let my platform evolve as my writing evolves.

As I find focus for my blog beyond practicing writing and once I figure out how I want my writing to serve others, than I can work diligently on building my platform. It doesn’t have to make me grey (greyer).

Don’t misunderstand me. It’s important and every writer should do it. But it takes time to build so go at the pace that works with your writing goals.

Hopefully, the lessons I didn’t expect to learn are helpful to you.

A writing conference is a great place to meet and connect with other writers. It’s also a wonderful way to learn tips and tricks that can immediately enhance your writing.

If you’re open to suggestions, I would recommend you find a conference to attend. Trust me the experience it worth it. If you’re unsure about where to go then conduct a Google search. And there’s always the option of attending Breathe next year. Save the dates:  October 18 & 19, 2013. You can make the trek to Michigan and see some burning bushes for yourself.

Tell me your writing conference experiences or events you think every writer should attend. I would love to hear them.

Also, stay tuned for a second post on my Breathe experience.

I’d Rather Be Writing …

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. I enjoy it. It fills some of my basic needs like a way to earn a paycheck. It also gives me the opportunity to learn new things every day; the opportunity to educate others (to a degree); and there’s variety even when everything is exactly the same.

Oh and did I mention, I’m good at it. That’s not a brag, it’s a truth. I’m good at my chosen profession.

Can you guess what’s next? Can you hear what is coming? Can you imagine the word on the tip of my tongue, on the point of my pen?

BUT …

I wouldn’t say I love it. And it isn’t my dream. It wasn’t my first choice. Which is probably why I’d rather be writing?

Remember taking career assessments in school? You know that ones … based on your interests and skills, they tell you what potential careers you should pursue. Well when I took them in junior high and high school my current job didn’t show up on the list. None the less here is where I’ve ended up.

So what did show up on the list? Journalism. Every single time I took a career assessment. And that was the path I thought I would follow. I loved writing and reading but not research. I still feel this way.

I’m not a journalist but I am a writer. This is my personal declaration despite lack of publication.

I’d rather be writing … more than handwritten correspondence … more than clever blog post … more than emails and business letters.

I’d rather be writing more than anything else in the world. This alone makes me a writer, right?

 I find myself fully distracted at work and home. At the oddest moments I find myself craving a pen and paper or the click of my nails on the keys of my laptop. It’s so strong that I wish I could quit my job and walk away without regrets.

It’s NOT good. It’s NOT convenient. It’s NOT an option.

Do you have dreams or passions like this? A desire that’s all consuming? Feel free to share in the comments.

This distraction is paralyzing … You would think I’d be spurred on to write in the gaps of my days like a junky jonesin’ for a fix. But I don’t. Instead, I waste time watching TV or playing games on my computer (while I watch TV). I read or find any number of things to do with my time.

Why? When there are plenty of opportunities for me to focus on writing, the thing I’d rather be doing. Why am I squandering my dream?

It’s because it’s hard, as best described here by author and blogger, Jeff Goins. It’s because I’m most productive sitting at my desk at work in the early part of the day. It’s because I want it to be what I do in my “full time hours”.

Trust me … I know I need to use my time wisely so I can get to the point where I can transition to writing instead of carrying around this feeling. I will buckle down and get back to my novel.

Another personal declaration:  I am a full time writer, who’s on the road to writing full time.

Anyway, just so we’re clear. In case you missed the meaning of this post. Let me say it again … I’d rather be writing …

What would you rather be doing?

Writing with Childlike Abandon

I have the benefit of seeing my boys chase after butterflies … laugh at the world … live a carefree existence for the most part.

I consider myself fortunate that they remind me daily that creating is easy. I’ve shared before how kids aren’t bound by convention but loved the way this author put it in a recent blog post, What Writers Should Do When Drawing a Blank.

Take time to read it. It made me smile to imagine it … I am sure it will resonate with my fellow dream chasers and bloggers and writers and artists and anyone who has ever had an oh-to-be-a-kid-again moment.

Writing: Failing Forward

“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” ~ Benjamin Franklin 

I failed to complete my writing goals for this week. They weren’t overwhelming or outside of my grasp.

I committed to my writing partner that I would:

  1. Finish a scene that is labeled Back-to-School Blues.
  2. Continue working on scenes that are labeled Counselor Visits.
  3. Jot 1500 words by doing the first two bullets.

Not one was accomplished. But it’s okay, because my failure this week gave way to success in a different area of the writing process.

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Things are starting to fall into place. I finally know where my story begins and where it will end because I have my villain. My characters can move forward with purpose.

Knowing their purpose allowed me to do something that I haven’t been able to do since I made the decision to sit down and write. I was able to plan.

I spent my writing time this week planning out the story. For the sections I already have written, I was able to determine the order they should go. I created an outline and started moving scenes around in Scrivener. I know changes that need to happen within most of the scenes for them to connect within this order.

I was able to see what’s missing. I identified scenes that I need to write for the story to make sense and move from the beginning to the end. I can see where I’m going.

“Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Isn’t that exciting? To have direction when I was wandering aimlessly before waiting for the story to start? To have answers to questions that have been with me since I started?

I am just over 30,000 words and now I feel like it will flow easily because I have a plan. A short term plan because something could happen during my next writing time that could change everything.

Or maybe I just need a plan so I can not follow it and feel like I’m breaking the rules. You never know. But I am optimistic.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”  ~Truman Capote

I am so thankful that I failed this week. I am glad that I fell short in my writing. I have a sense of accomplishment that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve learned quite a bit about what it will take to finish this novel.

I dare you to fail forward in your writing. Know that it’s okay when things don’t go according to plan; when the plan reveals itself differently. Remember, you’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to when you’re supposed to …

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

Now I am off to my accountability call to tell my writing partner the great news:  I failed!

Writer’s Block: Start Small, Change Venue

My writing partner and I have a weekly accountability call. Every Thursday night we talk about what we’ve accomplished in the previous week and what our goals are for the week to come.

Before I left for vacation I promised her that I would write one new scene. Maybe 500 words. That’s it. A small commitment to get me back into writing the novel after a long break from it.

Five days into a new accountability week (and the distractions of vacation) I hadn’t put down one word toward the scene I set as my goal.

As I sat on the plane heading West I tried again to read through my manuscript only to find it made me sleepy. That’s not necessarily a commentary on the quality of the story as much as it could be a reflection on traveling in recycled air.

I closed my eyes intent of taking a nap. But that’s when insight came. I was so excited. I pulled out my notebook and pen scribing 175 words. A small step forward.

Then 2 days later sitting in my hotel room while my family slept another 150 words flowed. Renewed inspiration when I least expected it. A small move in the right direction.

All I can think of is finishing this scene to see how it changes the story. I keep thinking about where I left off and wondering, “What’s next?”

Since returning I’ve finished reading through my manuscript (without falling asleep). New story are lines spinning around in my mind. A small spider web of thoughts has started to form.

Two weeks away from home, my sofa, and writing at night after the boys are in bed. I added 800 new words. It sounds small but it serves as a new beginning especially when 0 words were added in a two-month time frame.

My point, in sharing this breakthrough, is that one way to move forward, move past the block, is to change venue. You don’t have to take a trip like I did. Start small. Sit in a different seat at the table. Go to a coffee shop. Pick a different time of day. Does the change in scenery change your perspective in your writing?

Being outside of my regular writing routine was wonderful, because it provided a small flash of creative light that I may not have experienced otherwise.

Writing: I Can’t Believe I Wrote This!

Am I bored with my own story? I created the characters, the worlds they live in, and the things they do, but I’ve been stuck at 26,300 words of my novel for about 2 months now.

I’ve been ignoring my manuscript because I am mildly obsessed, okay I can’t lie, I am completely obsessed with blogging. It’s a fun distraction. And, as I’ve said before blogging allows you to write and you have a finished product at the end.

Usually, reading through the words I’ve already written (good, bad, or indifferent), helps me reconnect with the story and find new inspiration. It allows me to rewrite and edit what’s there which can take the story in new directions.

The most recent attempts to read through my own words have found me abandoning the task quickly. Only making it through the first 10-20 pages before I give up and find something else to do.

Writing is an emotional business. It’s a love-hate relationship.

I found great advice in How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card:

The Writer’s Image. Writers have to simultaneously believe the following two things:

1. The story I am now working on is the greatest work of genius ever written in English.

2. The story I am now working on is worthless drivel.

It’s best if you believe both these things simultaneously … Of course, believing two contradictory facts at the same time is sometimes referred to as madness – but that, too, can be an asset to a writer.

When I am most unkind to myself about writing, these words (along with those of my loving and supportive husband as well as my writing partners) come to mind and encourage me through the rough patch.

But I find myself riding the pendulum of indecision right now. Swinging between these two extremes of loving my work and hating my work and waiting to be centered and still.

I am riddled with doubt about my skill to bring life to my cast of characters so there is identification with readers (including me). I am gripped with fear by the thought that I will leave behind a great story that needs and wants telling. Yet, I am hopeful for having a renewed energy and sharpened creative skills to finish well even though the break seems to be dragging longer and longer.

Fellow authors, if there is any advice you can give me about picking up where I left off and moving forward, please pass it on.

Because one thing I know to be true:  I haven’t abandoned this story and its characters won’t let me go!

Writer’s Block: A Breakthrough in Progress

When I started blogging I thought I would write about writing more frequently than I have. I guess I don’t have a lot to say about writing.

One benefit of blogging is that I am writing almost daily. I realize writing comes a little easier when it happens frequently at least for me.

Blogging allows me to write in burst and have a completed story at the end. I like finished projects that are ready to share.

This is different than novel writing where I have a burst which is immediately followed by a block. I walk away from these writing bursts with more questions than answers, especially because I am following the story instead of leading it.

Blocks force me to turn to my writing resources looking for motivation:  books, online articles, events, bookstores, and my writing partners.

My hope? To better understand the writing process. But sometimes that’s not enough.

I am reading a book, Imagine:  How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer, which breaks down the creative process. This work of non-fiction intrigued me because I thought if I could just figure out the process of creativity and what it means to be creative, then I could figure out how to write.

Creativity is the header and writing is the subcategory. So, if I understood creativity than maybe writing the novel would come a little easier.

One of my favorite lines from the book, so far is, “The first stage is the impasse: Before there can be a breakthrough, there has to be a block.”

I’ve shared this quote with my writing partners. It’s a good reminder and it takes the pressure off. It gives me permission not worry about putting words down. It tells the story that no matter what I do there will be a block and I should just go with it.

So my focus today is not on the block but the pending breakthrough. Just around the corner waiting for me are the answers to the questions, the decisions on direction, or the epiphany about how to finish.

Writer’s block is part of the journey and I am learning to be grateful for it.