Redesigning My Work Plan

Redesigning My Work Plan

First, just to get it out of the way, my WiP is now over 25,000 words. It hasn’t grown much since August, less than 12,000 words worth.

I’m still a pantser for the most part. I do character questionnaires as the characters pop into the story. I use the Bing map to lay out where my story is happening, again, as the need arises. Both are just a tactic I use so I don’t forget details and end up making new particulars that don’t fit.

The process is slow. Most of this is due to the passages with physical movement by the characters. I find them hardest for me to do. Thoughts, dialogue, and description are the easiest. It’s a good thing my preference in genre isn’t something like Action and Adventure. I’m relatively sure I wouldn’t have a chance in that, and I would have given up long ago.

During the summer I was hoping to get more done. I was telling everyone, including myself, that warm or cold weather didn’t matter. I still think it doesn’t, but looking at the difference between what I did in the summer vs. what I’ve accomplished just in the last three weeks, there’s obviously something about summer that puts me in a slump.

Could it be that my poor little brain cannot get off the school time routine? School starts in August for the U.S. students these days. Back in ancient times, when I was in school, the school year started in September. I was one of those kids who was chomping at the bit to get back to the classroom by the second week of August . Summer had become a big ugly bore for me. Still, I’m quite certain my motivation wasn’t really ready until September. I would walk into the classroom, sit in my assigned seat and willingly put my nose to the grindstone.

Since the latter part of that first week of September, I’ve had good writing spurts. I’m not up to good sessions yet, but it’s better than working like a snail.

Did I hear you whispering about NaNoWriMo? No, don’t expect me to do it. I have a distraction that’s unbelievably annoying. There would be too many days when I wouldn’t get enough done. Get rid of the distraction? I would if I could, but I can’t.

Still, there’s a lot I can do to boost my output. Most of what I need is psychological in nature. Whatever works, right?

I still don’t have a new desk top. I’ve come to the conclusion that it just isn’t going to happen. However, I spotted one at the Wal-Mart site that is within my budget because of birthday money I received. It isn’t super fancy giving me oodles of surface space. It isn’t even real wood, plaster board. It does have the CPU compartment where I want it. It does have a couple of drawers instead of one. And most important psychologically, it isn’t an orange tinted wood stain. It’s charcoal! I’ll still need the shelf for all of the cable equipment, but I do have a piece of wood that will suffice for that. Sure, doesn’t sound psychological, does it? But it is. This orangy finish is so ugly and disquiet.

My space isn’t the only thing that needs rejuvenate.

Some of the blog posts I’ve been reading talk about when writing should be and how much time a session should be. For the longest time, I thought my schedule was okay. I’d like to start at about six in the morning, but there’s that distraction. So I opted for 9:30 to 11:30am. Then another session at 2:00pm for another two hours or more. But then I started questioning the wisdom of all that advice. Is a two-hour stretch enough? How many breaks are right for me? How about all those who write at night?

Come to find out, if I can’t start early, I’m better off waiting until at least 11:00am to start writing on my WiP. The morning is filled with other things that are kind of an obsession with me. Make the bed. Put the morning dishes in the dishwasher and clean off the kitchen surfaces. Do the laundry. Clean bathrooms. Vacuum and dust. By rearranging my time to write, I will get more of the story down and will be more focused. I can write from 11am to 3pm without having my brain go off to something else. Even after that, if the motivation is still high, I could continue for another two hours.

Of course, because of when I’ll be writing, I’ll need food that can sit on my desk and won’t taste raunchy if it lays there a while. Additionally, it has to be filled with protein, and be a little light on salt. There’s only one dish I’m going to have trouble with. That’s my cottage cheese with fruit. It’s a mainstay for me.

Yes, I’ll take a break or two in that span, but no more than ten minutes.

I will be at leisure on the weekends. Working on my WiP without some sort of long break is bound to make me go bonkers. This doesn’t mean I won’t work on it at all, but there won’t be the strict schedule. Instead, I’ll be working more on my blog post, writing comments at other blogs, sending email to friends, and doing some reading. Sure I do these things every evening, but I’m tired then. I’m sure it shows in my writing.

I won’t be visiting as many blogs during the week, waiting to do most of that on Saturday and Sunday. This will afford me time to expand my character questionnaires so they don’t have any chance of being less than three dimensional. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

§

Will this new plan work? I think it will, although it remained to be proven.

Have you revamped your work plan lately?

“Being in the mood to write, like being in the mood to make love, is a luxury that isn’t necessary in a long-term relationship. Just as the first caress can lead to a change of heart, the first sentence, however tentative and awkward, can lead to a desire to go just a little further.” ― Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life

 

Out of Sync

Image provided by DJ Lein https://www.flickr.com/photos/djlein/
Image provided by DJ Lein
https://www.flickr.com/photos/djlein/

I know. I missed the last coffee clutch. I could tell you I was busy working on my WiP, which wouldn’t be a lie. I could tell you I’ve been painting stain onto a piece of plywood I’m going to be putting on my desk. That wouldn’t be a lie either.

But… the reason I wasn’t there to have coffee with you is because I’m slightly out of sync.

I’m in that mode where I’m waiting for something, yet I can’t figure out what that is.

I, almost literally, pull myself out of the funk to continue the work on the character sketches. I want such deep POV that the reader is going to feel like she [and he even though most readers will be shes] is right there in the story next to the character that has top billing for that scene.

The second I get up to get more coffee or another bottle of water, my mind goes into that foggy mode again. I sit back down, yank myself out of the mist, and work on the settings for my book. The main location is a town I wouldn’t mind living in, close to another place I lived in that I still miss a great deal. Of course, working on this can throw me right back into that stupid funk.

My evenings are spent painting and washing out the brush. I have the plywood on a large piece of plastic in the living room with 4” by 4” four-feet-long railroad wood on either size. I sit Indian style painting the stain onto the plywood while in some daydream I never remember. I, once again, come back to the real world after finishing a coat. I lay press board over it using the railroad wood to keep it off the plywood. I lay the rest of the plastic over that and tuck it in. This way Miya, Marble, and Nutty won’t be putting their paws all over the wet stain. My brain gets foggy again as I run the warm water on and through the paint brush. During my mind’s vacation, I’m rubbing the bristles to help get as much of the stain out as possible. It’s the oily feeling on my fingers that brings me back to reality. I have to wash my hands with dishwashing soap to get the stain off my hand and scour the sink with a Brillo pad too.

Where does my mind go? What is it in my subconscience that has me so fascinated? I’d like to think that the darker side of me is inserting notes that will help me write this book. I do believe that I do have a place in me where the shadows are long, inky, and transcendent. They don’t necessarily produce nightmares or evil thoughts. The shadows are just hiding places where thoughts I, for one reason or another, do not bring out into reality.

To bungle my days even more, the laptop is resisting synchronizing with my PC. I’ll have to get in touch with the cable company about that.

Being a realist in my daily life, should insure these thoughts stay hidden. However, to be what I consider a decent writer, I must force them out. Could this be the reason for all the murkiness going on with me right now? I’d like to think it is and that soon it will dispel.

Do you ever find yourself in a fog or out of sync?

Knowing our personal mission further enhances the flow of mysterious coincidences as we are guided toward our destinies. First we have a question, then dreams, daydreams, and intuitions lead us toward the answers, which usually are synchronistically provided by the wisdom of another human being. ~James Redfield

 

Character Sketch: Ophelia Williams

Image provided by Chris Chabot https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrischabot/
Image provided by Chris Chabot
https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrischabot/

Ophelia Williams stepped out onto the balcony that jutted out from her small but efficient apartment. Looking up and down the street from the raised first floor of the building she had the vantage point she liked. Sophie, a friend who lived two stories up from her thought her longtime buddy had rocks in her head.

The friend couldn’t understand the attraction of being where people on the street could speak so freely to her, let along could burglarize her home. Howbeit, Sophie readily agreed it was better than the garden level. They were dark and depressing, not letting in the natural light. Those units were like being in a dungeon.

Ophelia had been renting her home on twenty-sixth avenue for five years. It was better than what she had before, with the grocery store two blocks away, the bus stop at the farther corner, the subway at the nearer one, and a three-block walk to the park where the recreation center resided. As far as she was concerned, the location was perfect for a woman past her prime.

Leon trudged up the seven steps to the front door of the apartment building hugging a bag of groceries in each arm.

“Give me a minute, Leon, and I’ll open that door for you.” She hurried inside, stuffed her key in her pants pocket, and rushed out the door into the dimly lighted hall. The door closed behind her with a smack.

Standing sideways to let Leon pass, she asked, “Didn’t you just go on Monday?”

He gingerly maneuvered the stairs going down to the garden level. Reaching the bottom, he finally answered, “Having my daughter and the grandkids over. They like my spaghetti. The only ingredient I had in the apartment was the Parmesan cheese.”

The breeze from the street rushed in, ruffling Ophelia’s short wavy hair. She brushed the silver curls back away from her face as she strode up the five steps to the first floor. Before taking that last step, she turned towards the railing and said, “Tell Linda hello for me.”

She nodded even though she didn’t really hear his faint muddled reply and continued down the hall to her doorway. She glanced at the oval mirror hanging on the wall of her living room near the door she entered. She glared at the jowls developing on either side of her face. She pivoted and headed for the bathroom. The counter was clear except for two jars of cream, some liquid makeup, powder blush, an eyelash wand, and some beauty cleanser. She carefully opened one of the jars. Darn, almost forgot. She tucked what hair she could get behind her ears and filled the basin with warm water. After washing her face, she opened the other jar of cream and sparingly applied it to her face. She took a little of the cream she had originally opened and smears it on her jaw-line.

Why am I doing this. I haven’t dated anyone, nor do I plan to. Jerry’s been dead for nine years and I rather like my single life. So what’s with this trying to keep up appearances?

With her face made up, she stood at her closet doors, still in her capris and button-down shirt she had put on after her shower earlier, deciding what to wear to the meeting at the art center. The seconds on the clock sitting on her nightstand conspicuously ticked in the otherwise silent bedroom. It beckoned her attention. She twisted her body around to peer at the dial. Still have over an hour. Her look grazed pass the window.

BANG!

She saw it. She knew she saw it. Yet her body continued to swivel around to face the closet again.

The long multi-colored A-line skirt, the cream silk blouse, and the black blazer were determined to be the best for the occasion. She hung them carefully on the rack next to her chest of drawers. She pulled off what she had been wearing and tossed them onto the one chair in the room. After all under garments were on, she slipped on the blouse, and then the skirt.

The sirens blazed outside the window. There were shrill voices added to the sound of another discharge.

Ophelia skated into her slippers and pulled the open blinds up to see the street below. A young woman laid on the sidewalk. Blood flowed to the gutter. A police officer looked up at her and motioned her to her balcony at the adjacent room.

“Ma’am, did you see any of this?” he said taking off his cap.

You ass! Why didn’t you go to the window and peek throw those blinds?! “I didn’t see much. I’ll tell you what I can though.”

The man climbed the stairs to the apartment building door. The buzzer went off and he enters. Mounting the few stairs, he saw her at her front door.

“Would you like coffee or tea?” Old habits she learned growing up still abided within her.

“No Ma’am, but thanks. What did you see?” he asked as he turned on the mini recorder.

“I didn’t see the woman until afterwards, but I did see the man’s head and shoulders. I was standing on the other side of the room though.”

“What room?”

She motions to the bedroom.

“Do you wear glasses?”

“Yes, to read. After all these years, I’m still farsighted. Anyway, he had a black baseball cap on, and it looked like the hair peering out at the bottom was black, or at least dark. His skin was tan.”

“Was there an emblem on the cap?”

“Don’t know. He was standing looking up the street.” She uncrossed her legs while in the chair she chose to sit in. She leaned forward slightly. “Officer, I didn’t see a weapon, but I did see the angle of his right shoulder. It was positioned as if he was pointing at something in front of him.”

“Good observation. Did you see which way he went?”

“Sorry, no I didn’t. I saw him seconds before I heard the bang. I was look out from across the room when the bang exploded, you know. Then I turned away. Nothing registered until I heard the sirens. I’m so sorry.”

He reach across from where he sat and touch her hand for a brief moment. “What color was his shirt?”

“It was a green t-shirt, the kind of green the military wear with fatigues.”

“Thank you for your help, ma’am. We may be calling you. Just so I have it, what is your name?”

She obliged him with name and phone number.

Opening the door, he plopped his hat on his head and strode toward the entrance.

Ophelia continued to sit. Her mind was void of conscious thought.

It took her a full ten minutes to get her mind in gear again. She made her way to the bedroom and peered at the clock. Still have time. She kicked her slippers off, pushing them under the bed. Using the wall for support, she slipped into the black pumps. After adorning the look with the blazer, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door.

There was still some bustle on the street, but the lookers had vanished. The officer she had spoken to waved at her as she hurried to the subway.

§

“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Character Sketch: Tim Collins

Character Sketch: Tim Collins
Image provided by rlordksu
https://www.flickr.com/photos/21469460@N03/

Tim Collins was twenty-eight, but looked like a middle-aged man. No one would ever say as much to his face. He worked in construction as an electrician and referred to himself as being as old as he felt, trying to get rid of the stigma. He hung out at the neighborhood bar on Friday and Saturday night with the iron workers and the foremen who lived in the same area, telling crude jokes and flirting with the two waitresses. He had long decided on never to act as old as he looked.

His hair was gray with hints of white, the result of once having pure black hair. His eyes shown as brilliant slate metal. In earlier years, his frame was solid and large. Though the bulk of him hadn’t changed, his beer belly hid more than half of his belt since approximately four years before. Despite all the time he’d spent in the sun, his skin was fair, becoming slightly ruddy in the warmer months, declaring he was an Irishman without a word coming from his mouth.

He was about to kick off on his twenty-ninth year, and profoundly alone. His one love died in a negligent accident eight years ago. Although no one could see it outwardly, he pined for her every day. The crew he shared beer and shots with figured him to be a happy bachelor, not having an inkling of the suffering within him. He kept his emotions held tight within the walls of his blackening heart.

His longtime friend, Doug, one of the foremen who worked for C & M Construction, had noticed the change in his friend in recent years. Although Tim joined the gang at Schmitt’s for drinks and gab, he often sat alone at another table. When his friend asked him what was up, his reply was, “Have some things on my mind, is all.” He’d move in close to the other construction workers and join in the chit-chat.

Tim’s melancholy and petulance were painfully getting the best of him. At the onset, he had recognized the drops in his mood and made efforts to alleviate it. As time went on, and the symptoms grew in intensity, he paid less attention to how the moods were affecting him. Thoughts of death crept in during the evening and nighttime hours. At first he just pondered on the abstract of the subject. Soon, he was thinking about fingers severed and heads in weaved baskets.

He forced the images out of his mind as he rose in the predawn to trudge through another day at the construction site. He stood under the scalding hot water with his head turned up. The blistering heat didn’t work as well as it used to as a way to banish those horrendous perceptions haunting his thoughts. I’m going to have to get some leather strapping.

He made mental notes about his duties of the day as he  cruised down Charlton Avenue. Doug wanted the third floor finished so his men could start putting up the drywall. Amos wanted wires moved on the first floor to appease a couple of the tenants moving their businesses into the structure. Visions of electrocuting these leasers accidentally on purpose floated into his head.

Screech! He slammed on the brakes. His daydream almost caused him to plow into the truck in front of him. He combed his short silver mane before grabbing the wheel again.

§

I want any feedback you have on this sketch. Please.

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.” Sidonie Colette

Character Sketch: Amelia Geisler

Character Sketch: Amelia Geisler
Image provided by Olivier Jules
https://www.flickr.com/photos/anxanum/

The movement of getting up or down is laborious these days. She plants her thin haggard hands firming on the arms of her rocker and heaves herself up. She winces in pain for a moment, but with determination ambles towards the scratching sound at her backdoor. She grabs the knob and pulls revealing a pug on the other side of the screen, prancing and still scraping her paws on the door every couple of dance steps. Of course, she lets Frivolous in and reaches down to pet her companion’s head. With dog at her heels, she shuffles back to her chair in front of the baseball game on TV.

Being seventy-seven isn’t what Amelia expected it to be.

She had anticipated the arthritis, graying hair, and saggy wrinkly skin. She used to work at keeping the signs of old age at bay. Her daily routine had involved creaming her face, legs, arms, and hands before putting on clothes suitable for the day. She did a power walk four times a week to fight the aches in her joints. Every six weeks she could be found at the salon undergoing a manicure, pedicure, and a coloring treatment for her hair.

It isn’t that she let herself go and become a ragged old lady without any purpose in life. It’s a case of the needs changing. The cream is now the medicated kind except for what she applies to her face. She walks Frivolous every day minus the days of heavy snow and ice. But her maturity has arrested her abilities to participate in power walks anymore. She still has a standing appointment at the saloon, but because she doesn’t color her hair anymore, they aren’t quite as frequent.

It was the diminishing of acquaintances that has her perplexed. She had five close friends back then when she was working so hard to keep up appearances. They would get together once a week at one of the delis that had restaurant facilities and have lunch, making the outing last at least two hours if not longer. Only two of the five comrades are still alive now. She has coffee with the two on a regular basis, but now they rotate between the three homes. Amelia will be seeing Lillian and Julia this Thursday.

“Frivolous, after this game I need to get busy on the housework. I can’t let the girls see this awful disarray. All of your toys are going into the little bedroom. Be a good girl and leave them there.”

After the chores and a small dinner in front of the TV, she gives her dog a quick hug and hurries out the front door, banging it shut so the lock will engage. Tonight is bingo night at the local recreation center. It’s cheap entertainment and most of the people who participate are over forty. The conversations are more relative to her life than if the crowd was younger. She could really care less if she wins or loses. She’s there for the camaraderie.

Opening the heavy metal door, Amelia mumbles, “I hope Michael isn’t here.”

“What are you muttering about, young lady?” the baritone voice asked from behind her.

She squeezes her eyes closed and mouths, “Damn!”

“Hello Michael,” she says as she turns to face him.

She gives him a sneer. He doesn’t get the hint and puts his hand on the small of her back to lead her into the great hall. Amelia shrinks away from his touch telling him she’s going to the lavatory. She never imagined having trouble with men at this age. Who wants a wrinkly old lady anyway? What is his problem?

§

What do you think of my character, Amelia?

“The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life’s tragedy.” Oscar Wilde