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.

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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

 

Learning from Failure

Learning from Failure
Image provided by mikef_man
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikefarah/

It’s been over a week since I, last, published a post to this blog. In my estimation, I’d say I’m hooked on this practice. In truth, I think I’m probably using this corner of cyberspace as a diary. True, there are many things I leave out that I feel are too personal to share, but most of these things I wouldn’t write anywhere. They’re fine where they are in the back vaults of my mind.

I am getting back into writing, the kind where some real progress is made. No, I’m not leaping or bounding as if I’m dancing through a field of words or anything. Still, I’ve got my focus to the grindstone.

Almost a month ago, I wrote a #weekendcoffeeshare post about getting into the groove of writing again. I told about how I was switching from being a pantser to a plotter and writing character sketches and scene summaries before starting, once again, on my WiP. I said something about hiding my yWriter too.

I failed with that approach. It’s embarrassing in a small way. I’m not red-faced or anything though. Victor Salinas explained it adequately in his post at A Writer’s Path. He stated that failure can make you humble, and at the same time, help you learn what works and what doesn’t work.

All this time I’ve been trying so hard to not be one of those who fail, one of those who has to pull themselves up by their boot straps and begin again, and again, and again. It’s pure vanity too, which is also embarrassing. I don’t like people who are blatantly vain, and yet here I sit, in all of my misplaced pride, doing the same thing. It’s shameful. Now I’m one within the masses, drudging over my work, even “bleeding” a little.

Although completing the sketches and the summaries were excellent exercises, and I plan to expand on them along the way, I’ve gone back to my beloved yWriter and I’m making some good progress. It’s a relief to know that the passion for this story is still within me.

The fallacy of these last weeks’ efforts have helped me see my weaknesses and my strengths, mostly my weaknesses though. This experience has shown me what a wuss I’ve been.

I need to push myself harder. Walking away, if only for a short while, before I’ve even tried to “pop a few arteries” in my pea-brain, isn’t a good thing for me to do. I do better when I “bleed” a little. Stopping a writing session because my husband has decided he just must play some computer games is, also, not a good thing for me to do. I need to just turn his presence off, tell my mind he is not there. If need be, I need to tell him to find something, anything to do outside this room.

It’s through the act of toiling over the WiP that I found inspiration and motivation. By getting to the effort of telling the story, I was able to find that unexplainable reason to go on and keep going on. It is true that having a schedule of some sort is invaluable. However, to be a slave to that routine, and not write a word until the designated time will do more harm than good. And by that same token, writing gibberish because it’s the appropriate time, just to keep up the “good” habit is sheer lunacy. If something obtrusive is in the way of creativity, writing prattle during a session isn’t going to help at all. During those times is when I’m either working on summaries, sketches, or research. I’m still productive despite the lack of a word count.

Concededly, when I don’t use that designated time for carving out the story, I feel I’m not getting anything done. As a rational person, I know this is false, but my heart says I’m not putting in what is required. Required by who? By me, of course. Hopefully, once I see enough results, this foolishness in me will stop.

As I stated in my last post, I decided to take a more slackened approach to my blog until some time after the Labor Day weekend. I think in declaring this change in my daily routine is what has helped me get past some of the ugly issues surrounding my strife with motivation. It was a stand without any confines or limits to speak of, except a suggestion of when the lacked time may end.

There’s still a whole full month of summer, plus some. I’m hoping to make some progress that I can be proud of in a way that isn’t misplaced.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ― Maya Angelou

 

#weekendcoffeeshare: The Groove and Laptops

Diana at Part Time Monster hosts a weekly link-up, where you can submit a link to your post and browse everything else that’s been submitted, or you can use the #weekendcoffeeshare hashtag on Twitter or Facebook.

#weekendcoffeeshare: Quirks
Image provided by Dave White
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdestructicity/

The coffee shop is crowded today. There isn’t any point in even going inside. We hop back into our vehicles and head on over to Wal-Mart where there’s a small snack counter with seating in one of the front corners of their building. No one is in there except the clerk at the counter.

(Your dialogue is in purple. My dialogue is in green.)

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The coffee isn’t quite as good but there are free creamer and sugar packs. There aren’t any free goodies so we splurge for donut sticks.

Everyone must be shopping at Big Lots this morning. I almost canceled this morning.

You peer at me as you stir the sugar into your coffee.

Don’t like me anymore? Was there something going on?

I like you fine; you know that. I’ve had a busy week. And all of it was my own doing. I was grappling with my writing the week before, actually for the past few weeks. This time last week it was disgusting. I’d write maybe one hundred fifty words, maybe up to two hundred, and then nothing, absolute void in the brain. I tried doing some chores, tried reading, even tried exercise. Nothing was working. My brain kept on taking unauthorized vacations.

You laugh, having to cover your mouth because you took a bite of donut. The French vanilla creamer is okay but not terrific. Still, I sip the coffee anyway and open the film surrounding my donut stick.

Sorry, but you are funny. Why are you having these problems all of asudden?

I think that it’s a case of me trying to be a pantser when I’m de facto a plotter–even if my stories are character-driven.

And why would this make you cancel our coffee time? Couldn’t wrap your head around it or something?

That’s what was happening a week ago. After I got home last Saturday from our coffee clutch, I wrestled with my conscience about what I wanted and what I need to do to get what I want. I read something Sharon Bonin-Pratt wrote–I don’t even remember if it was in her blog or in an email now. She said something to the effect that a writer has to figure out his/her own way of getting into the writing process; and once that’s done, the writer will get on with it. I know I have problems remembering so I need to take care of this annoyance to get what I want. The solution is sketches, summaries, and written research on anything having to do with my WiP–PERIOD.

One coffee isn’t enough for me. I pay for two more coffees, one for you and one for me, and carry them, along with more creamer and sugar packs, to our table seated against the opposite wall.

You’re still not explaining why you almost canceled.

I’m getting to it. I hid my yWriter within a folder on my Start page of Windows so I wouldn’t even consider trying to write on the story. I developed three new character sketches, did real research on the main location of the story, and wrote seven scene summaries this past week. I still have more research and character sketches to do. I need to write setting sketches, and do at least fourteen more scene summaries before I get the story out again. I’m a little hyped up about this despite how much I’d just love to tear into the story again. I got up at 5:30 yesterday  AND this morning just to work on this stuff. I debated whether I wanted to stop so I could come have coffee with you. I was in that marvelous groove.

My mouth is dry. I take in three gulps of coffee before setting the plastic mega-cup down.

This took you all week to only get this much done?

Yes. It’s the research that takes the time. I changed the location from the original. It’s now set in a place I like better even though I’ve only spent a couple of hours there, and that was several years ago. I had to go get reacquainted by going through photos at Bing. I still haven’t read everything I’ve bookmarked about the town.

How long do you think you’ll take before you’re writing the story again?

At least another week, probably more like two. I don’t want to get lost somewhere along the way again. Something else is happening that I’m hoping will help.

#weekendcoffeeshare: The Groove and LaptopsMy eyes have grown to twice their size as I wait for you to react.

What? Did you win a million dollars?

No, no. Back in May, husband offered to buy me a laptop. At the time, I didn’t think it was worthwhile to have. I was doing just fine waiting until he was off to work to do my writing in “the computer room”, our spare room. Now that I’m feeling this invigoration that is so bizarre to me, I realize I may need that quiet space when he’s home; or worse, when he’s asleep. This “computer room” of ours doesn’t have a door on it. It needs a whole new door frame before putting on a door. The other bedroom I use for sleeping when husband’s snoring is blaring is a better option. The laptop is a good idea all of asudden.

When do you get it?

It’s ordered and is supposed to be delivered by next Wednesday. I’m staying way from Hewlett-Packard. Husband’s PC is a HP and it’s a piece of crap. I opted for a Dell seeing that’s what my PC is.

Now then, what have you been doing?

Do you know how hard it is to find bicycle marathons not connected to some cause that’s overrated or shouldn’t need any more money for a while?

Seeing that I don’t ride a bike anymore, I can’t say that I do, but I’m sure you’ll tell me. Go on.

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Rules for #weekendcoffeeshare

  1. Posts should be framed as a chat over coffee or some other beverage.
  2. Posts should be current (written within the week).
  3. Links go on the link-up, not in the comments section.
  4. Comment and share each others’ posts using #weekendcoffeeshare on Facebook and Twitter.

“But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master — something that at times strangely wills and works for itself. If the result be attractive, the World will praise you, who little deserve praise; if it be repulsive, the same World will blame you, who almost as little deserve blame.” Emily Bronte

Examining the Plotting Method Again

Examining the Plotting Method Again
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ~ by Jason Samfield
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jason-samfield/

A blog I’ve visited frequently to learn about writing is Fiction University. One of the posts, written by the owner, Janice Hardy, has stayed firm in my mind, Writers: Ignore This Writing Advice. If You Want. To have someone out-and-out tell me I don’t have to take the advice of accomplished authors gives me that sense of optimism that can propel me forward in any project I’m working on. I shed the notions of having to follow rules I find no use for and can be a wacky as I want.

She says it all for me in the first sentence of her second paragraph.

I’m a firm believer that there’s no right way to write, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.

Albeit, not having straightforward guideline can also send my erratic brain into a frenzy, swinging from one side of the pendulum to the other. I wonder which of the sides is the better, not even considering all that is in the middle.

The current swank way to write a novel is to use the Plotting Method. Those who use this are call Plotters, of course. What this means is the writer does preliminary work centered around the story before diving into the chapters and scenes. There’s summaries, outlines, developmental arcs, questionnaires, and good old fashion research. The hardcore plotter does this before writing that first page of the first scene in that first chapter. Believe it or not, this approach to writing works for many authors.

Regardless of me being somewhat of a neat freak, wanting a schedule I can live with day in and day out, and wanting things so organized, spontaneousness gets squashed regularly, I find myself wanting to trash all the preparation the plotter goes through and get down to writing the blasted story. There’s enough of us who are pantsers, the ones who just put our butts in our chairs and start writing the first page of the first scene of chapter one, so I don’t have any guilty knocking going on in my head about how I’m proceeding with my project.

Still, after twelve scenes in my current WiP, I’m discovering the need to develop my second characters before I can continue with the story. His reactions, insights, and mannerisms will have such a bearing on my protagonist and what she does in response to not only him but everyone and everything in her world. Yes, this guy is more important than what is conveyed on the surface. Do I stop and fill out those sheets I’ve downloaded a various writing sites, or do I just forge ahead in hopes all turns out okay?

I question my sanity when I flounder with decisions like this. How can a person of such defined habits in life swing so wildly from one methodology to another, never landing long enough to see enough of what is working or is not working? The notion of not having hardcore rules could be playing havoc with my usual commonsense. Or maybe it’s a case of I’m assuming I have commonsense when, in reality, I’m as flaky as they come.

Either way, I’ve come to a crossroad where I must decide to either keep plodding along hoping all will come out all right despite my misgivings, or to put the story aside for a short time to do some development questionnaires, an arc, and maybe an outline. I wince at the thought of all this writing that will never make it to the first draft. Yet, if I’m honest with myself, I know the second draft will be twice as grueling if I just slog along with what I have so far.

Pondering on all of this, I’m reminded that there’s nothing telling me I can’t go ahead with a little plotting technique, get it done, and go back to good ol’ pantsing. Maybe I’ll be ensuing a new methodology of writing procedures this way. I wonder what this process would be called. I’m doing the groundwork as I need it. I’m developing as I go. Sitting here trying to think of a catch phrase, I’m coming up blank.

Maybe if I let it rest for a short while, the dust in my brain from the racing will clear and I’ll be able to find that term I want.

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Writers spend three years rearranging 26 letters of the alphabet. It’s enough to make you lose your mind day by day. ~Richard Price

 

Emerging from the Past

Image provided by Jase Hill https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasohill/
Image provided by Jase Hill
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasohill/

The new calendar year is coming upon us. There’s no way of stopping it, no matter how much we may love to regress for one reason or another.

How often have you wished you could go back to an earlier time in your life, either to revel in the pleasure you had or to change what you, now, believe was wrong, a mistake in some way? Approximately twenty years ago, I was in the habit of reminiscing way more often than I should. At the time, there seemed to be so many things in my past I wanted to change; things that could have easily been changed at the time they happened with no prior knowledge of the outcome. If I had just paid better attention to what was going on in my life at the time and about life in general, the changes I, later, thought I should have made would have greatly enhanced my life. What I didn’t want to change, I wanted to relive. This type of retrospection can only lead to living in an illusion of the past.

Some people think we get a second chance in our lives. My question: How can that be? You never ever have the chance to fix anything in your past. To get a second chance at a situation required you to go back in time. None of us are time travelers so this notion is completely bogus. What’s done is done, period. It can’t be reversed. It’s a bitter lesson for many to learn, I’m afraid. The best we can do is to be more vigilant about what is in our individual futures.

During these last few days of the current year, many make plans — resolutions. Although I’m not one to partake in this activity, I certainly understand the reasoning behind it. Drawing up plans for success is, most definitely, a smart thing to do. In my case, I do engage in preparing for short-term goals, but I leave long-term goals in the abstract because I’m so acutely aware of all the unseen twists and turns in life. This is, also, one of the reasons why I don’t make year-end/beginning resolutions, of course. There are too many unseen variables that can and usually do happen in that length of time.

The other reason for my rejection of this yearly activity is, so often times, these aims are based on failures from the past, in an attempt the rectify these missteps. Again, it’s getting into delusions that should be avoided at all cost. Those blunders cannot be fixed. They’re part of the past and will always stay the same. All that can be done is to take heed of how to avoid them in the future, if possible.

Nonetheless, having a set date used, January 1st, to “let go” of the past, at least to some extent psychologically, and move forward with anticipation and hopes for the future can be liberating. During most Januarys, you will find me doing “spring housecleaning”. I figure I’ve got the entire month to get it done so I don’t end up feeling rushed. Everything I can throw away or put away that reminds me of the cold months, including the holiday season, brightens my spirit. I bring out items that are more in line with the feeling of spring, in hopes of doing away with the seasonal blues that may still be lurking around after the furor of the winter festivals. The dreary weather, unfortunately, lingers for a few more months.

In my writing, I’m a pantser. There isn’t anyway I can demand an outline to work with the way my brain assimilates data. I find that I approach life, as a whole, the same way, although with little pieces of schedules and planning so I can, more easily, adapt to the lives of the people around me.

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Are you a pantser or planner of life?

I believe we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.  – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross