June 05, 2014

The A-HA! Moment That Got Me Writing Again

by Sarah Ann Loreth via Pinterest
I read a lot of articles and blog posts about writing craft. Yes, it's an avoidance tactic, but it's a useful one. I read through how-to lists, top-ten advice lists, plot-development spreadsheets, character-development worksheets, and countless others of the like. So, when I stumbled upon a how-to book with a free download, I had no qualms about browsing through it. It was all very familiar. The first chapter ended with a series of exercises and I skimmed over them with a deep sigh. I really didn't feel like answering these questions. Ah well, at the very least it would keep me away from the t.v. (for awhile).

Something interesting happened over the course of answering the questions though, something unexpected. As I looked more carefully at each exercise, I noticed that the language used was a little different from what I was used to reading in writing how-to's. The first question was easy and innocuous:
What is the source of your novel idea, and what is the idea?

This I answered with little effort.
The next question seemed just as easy and unobtrusive as the first:

What is your intention toward the idea?

As I sat, with pen poised above the page,  I realized I didn't understand the question. What did they mean, intention? I scanned back through the chapter and figured out that all they meant is that my intention toward the idea must be to write a novel about it. Simple. But the word tripped me up, and this got me thinking. Actually thinking about the questions that I had had every intention of breezing through in a foolish attempt to trick myself into believing I was doing something thoughtful and productive. But now, my juices were flowing.

What is your attitude toward the intention?

What the hell kind of book is this? What kind of language is this, to be used for writing exercises? It sounds more like some kind of dime-store psycho-babble self-help fodder. Gah! 

RESISTANCE. I was only on the the third question and already I wanted to give up because it was too hard. Too indirect. I wanted to work on my story, not my thoughts about my story! So I skimmed over each question again and realized that they were all like these: forcing me think about the why of my story rather than the how. I know myself well enough to be very aware that my greatest flaw is laziness. I took a good look at my resistance to this questionnaire and knew that completing it would be a lot more work than I'd bargained for. And that's when I knew. I had to go on; above, under, and all around the resistance that was holding me back. Because this time, it wasn't just laziness. I really didn't want to think this deeply about my WIP, which scared me. What was I afraid of? 

There were 8 questions for this first chapter. The first 3 above and the next 5 below:

  • Do you believe your attitude toward the intention is strong, clear, and meaningful? If so, why?
  • What is your purpose in writing this novel?
  • Does your purpose statement include the words "to prove"?
  • Do you honestly believe your statement of purpose will point the direction you must take in writing the novel?
  • Are you qualified by personal experience to write this novel? If not, are you willing to do the required research?


But one of them  in particular really tripped me up. #5: What is my purpose in writing this novel? I had struggled with this in the past. All my life, in fact. I'd never bothered to write because I believed I had nothing to say. I eventually started writing A BIRD'S EYE VIEW anyway, because I knew I couldn't say I'd tried to be a writer unless I wrote something. And that's when I discovered that this is what I was afraid of. That my story was empty of meaning, it had no purpose, no impact, it had nothing to offer, nothing to say.

I hated question #5. My immediate response was: because I want to, because I feel like it (so there!). But anyone who knows me can hear the lie in my words. I don't want to write, I never feel like writing, I hate writing! So what was the real answer? What was my purpose here? Why do I keep trying? I  wrote a three-page-long rambling, nearly incoherent response to #5 that finally coalesced into an answer. My a-ha moment.

Oh. My. God.
I  do have something to say.
I have learned something over the course of my life. Something I need to share. 
I could tell you in only a few short sentences. But then it would be trite and obvious, as most truths are too deeply familiar to ever really be surprising. 
So instead, I will show you. I need to show you what I've learned.

That is my purpose in writing this novel. 

So now, I'm writing again, and it's so clear. Not easy, no, never that. But I understand what I'm doing, and why. I know now, clearly, what must be there in every chapter, every character, in the words and between the lines. Because I have a theme, people! I have Something To Say.

I guess you never really know where answering a few questions with thoughtfulness and honesty will take you. ;)


PS: The book: Structuring Your Novel by Robert Meredith and John Fitzgerald

March 03, 2014

When All Else Fails...Study

I've been making good progress on my WIP drafting by hand (who'd have thought!?) and using the computer for outlining and note-keeping only.

"Writing" by J. Paxon Reyes

But here I am - stalled. Again. I just don't feel like writing the next chapter. 

I have it all planned out, so...what's the problem? Am I burned out (ha!), blocked, bored? Wait, is this next chapter boring? If so, why write it, because if it's too boring to write, it will be way too boring to read, right? Or am I just making excuses to skip it? Do these scenes need to happen? I think so; skipping it feels wrong. Or am I just being stubborn and sticking to my outline with an OCD inspired reflex? DO I need to write it?

I don't know. I'm stumped. Gah! Welcome to the inside of my brain, friends.

Momentum: gone. Thinking about my WIP makes me want to take a nap.

So, I've decided to study pacing and plot progression by doing a chapter-by-chapter analysis of a book I really enjoyed reading (Blood Red Road) and comparing it against my outline. I know some of you (all you, admit it) are thinking avoidance tactic! and perhaps you're right. But if I'm not writing, I want to at least be thinking of writing and trying to find ways out of this lull. 

So there.

I mean, really, what else can I do? Any ideas? Do you wanna read my outline and tell me whether or not I need to write this next chapter?

I didn't think so. 

I'll let you know if this helps me work it out. ;)

PS: What do you do when/if you aren't sure if what you're writing needs to be there, or is it just a block?....jeez...

November 01, 2013

Off to NaNoLand

So, I'm even more off the grid now than I have been for last several months. This time, though, it's not due to a trip abroad, it's a totally different kind of trip: I'm off to NaNoLand (National Novel Writing Month). Though, this year is rather different from last year. This year, I'm a 'NaNoRebel'. Meaning, that I won't be following the rules of NaNoWriMo. Instread of writing 50,000 words on an unprepared manuscript, my goal is to write 25k-30k words to finish off the manuscript I'm already working on: A BIRD'S EYE VIEW. So, instead of averaging 1,666 words per day, my goal is closer to 800-1,000 words per day. 

As soon as I can get it working, I'll put a word-count widget here on the blog, so you can track my progress (keep me in line!). Thank you for your understanding while I try everything I can think of to get myself to finish this damn WIP!

Off I go!

October 10, 2013

Weekend Writing Warriors: October 13, 2013

"Dead Flower" by kaneda99
 The Double-Sided Coin

I wanted you
I never needed you
I wooed you
I never believed you
I chose you
I never knew
I couldn't hate you
Without loving you

Please remember to go check out the other fantastic writers at WeWriWa, you won't regret it!

Weekend Writing Warriors

August 05, 2013

Don't Do What You Love - Unless...

We've all heard it: Do what you love. It sounds so simple. But I think there's more to it than that. 

Do what makes you love yourself. 
Do what makes you feel good about yourself. 

Many assume it's the same thing, but it isn't. Not always.

"Self-love" by Loving Earth

I love to read. When I was fifteen, my family staged a reading intervention on me. They, my parents and two younger brothers, opened my bedroom door (without knocking!), walked in, and sat on the floor facing me as I sat against my headboard reading. I was so stunned by this wildly aberrant behaviour that I did little more than blink for several moments. They all just sat there, and stared at me. Then they told me they were going to stay there until I stopped reading and came out to participate in life. I was livid. I glared at them, a real lazer-eyes burn-you-to-a-crisp glare. I'm stubborn, what can I say? After a prolonged and very uncomfortable stare-down, they gave up and left me there with my wall of books. I was so mad, and so embarrassed, and so sad when they walked out. As much as I love to read, it's never made me feel particularly good about myself.

On the flip-side, I hate to write. I find it immeasurably difficult and tedious and frustrating. But, I LOVE having written (hence the frighteningly apt Dorothy Parker quote at my profile; at least I'm not the only one). Even if I've written crap, I love how I feel about myself after I've written. Something inside me rests. I always smile and sort of do this bragging-to-myself thing, where I read and re-read what I've just written, as though I've just topped Mt. Everest or something equally painful and monumental. Sometimes, I forget how good writing makes me feel about myself. Sometimes, I get caught in that DO WHAT YOU LOVE trap, which is fatal for my writing and almost as bad for my social and mental health. 

As I'm writing this post, I'm on my second day pulling out of a minor bumbed-out-rut-thing. Last week, I read nearly fifteen books in 6 days. I wrote nothing. I felt like crap. Yesterday, I felt compelled to write down the details of a memory from my corporate-working-girl days. Then I felt better. Doing what I love, is not loving myself. Doing what is hard, but rewarding - that is loving myself. 

I must never forget the subtle difference.

I hope it's easier for you. I hope doing what you love makes you glory in yourself. I hope it brings you peace and soul-satiation. And if it doesn't, I hope you'll find something that does - even if you hate it.


And because I'm still doing that bragging-to-myself re-reading thing, here is the memory that I wrote yesterday:

Pickle Jar

She watched the four guys at the lunchroom table wrestling with the giant jar of pickles and smiled to herself. Well, she thought it was to herself, but apparently one of them noticed.

“Don’t laugh, we really want these pickles,” he said, grinning.

She walked over to the table. “Here,” She reached for the jar. “Let me try.”

One of the other guys leaned back, eyebrows raised, “We’ve all taken a turn, what makes you think you can open it?”

She smiled, “I’m a girl.”

She took the jar to the counter and grabbed the dullest butter knife she could find from the cutlery drawer. She slid the tip of the knife under the lid as far as it would go, then angled it away from the jar. Her lips trembled, she tried so hard to restrain her triumphant grin as the air trapped in the jar hissed out and the lid popped. She withdrew the knife and easily unscrewed the lid from the jar.

She had to use both hands to carry the enormous jar back to the table, it was so heavy. They stared at her as she set it down in front of them.

“I don’t get it. How did you do that?” one of them asked.

With a cheeky smirk, she unapologetically gloated. “I told you, I’m a girl. I solve problems with my brain.”

Then she left, walking out of the room with swag.

July 13, 2013

Weekend Writing Warriors: July 14, 2013

Weekend Writing Warriors
It's #8sunday again! To join the gang, check out the rules HERE, it's super easy and tonnes of fun.

Last week I said that I'd start posting sentences from The Legend of the White Raven today. I hope you'll forgive me for changing my mind. I will totally post it soon, but for this week, I wanted to run with my hot hand, which has been working on a story so old, and so secret, that it isn't even in the Lore of the Islands. It's the Legend of the Sleeping Fox. I hope you like it (even though it's only 7 sentences, so far)!


There is only one person in all the world that knows of the Little Fox, and he has not yet been born. 

She sleeps in her den in the forest that has never been seen. 

She waits for him to come. 

She waits and dreads, as all sentinels do. 

His awakening will bring with it the Great Change. 

The Great Change will bring with it, She-Who-Left. 

When She-Who-Left returns, the world will burn.

"Morpheus" by Lindsey Carr

Don't forget to check out excerpts from the other writing warriors. I dare you not to get addicted to some of these great stories!

July 05, 2013

Weekend Writing Warriors: July 7, 2013

Weekend Writing Warrios

It's been quite a while, but I'm back!

If you're interested in joining WeWriWa, here are the rules. Do it, it's so fun!

Here are eight more sentences of Creation, the lore of the Dakina Islands. 

I left off (way back in March!) my last 8 with Sahlaana abandoning her children. Each of the gods took an island for him/herself and refused to reconcile. On the tiny island of Dakina, a smaller drama began to unfold...

And so there came a time of great disharmony among the islands of Dakina.
Each god turned his back on his brothers and sister.
Each god swallowed his loneliness and wore his pride on his forehead.
On Taijala's island, the New People in the north were reviled by the First People in the south, who warred with them.
These wars lasted for many generations until, finally, the First People left the broken people of the bear alone in the dark woods, tribe-less and weak.
For a time, there was quiet; each island a world unto itself.
The gods became lazy and sick, refusing to acknowledge that in breaking the world into bits, they had fractured themselves, separating the Body from the Mind and Heart and Spirit.
The people became faithless, and the world magic-less…except on the tiny island where lived Taijala, Guardian of the Spirit. 

This ends the creation myth for the world of A BIRD'S EYE VIEW. My next excerpts will tell the various stories and legends of each island, beginning with The Legend of the White Raven. But you'll have to tune in again next week for it!

As always, thanks for reading! Don't forget to check out excerpts from the other writing warriors starting HERE!
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