The Well of Ideas: Sunday ROW80 check-in

8436847014_0d31f0b935_z Rainbow WANA Commons by Dani Jace

Photo from WANA Commons. By Dani Jace.

As writers, we’re often asked if we’re worried we’ll run out of ideas—or simply where our ideas come from in the first place. For me, my stories often come to me as a single image. For my newest WIP, a novella that I just started this week, it started with a woman looking out into her yard and seeing a rainbow—and then a strange figure emerging from that rainbow. It was a simple image and I had no idea where it would go. But I’m a pantser at heart, so my stories tend to start that way—a single image or scene that I want to explore.

After I’ve got a scene or two down on the page, I’ll stop and try to do some outlining and plotting and do some character background. And then I move forward with the rest of the story, fleshing it out and filling in details as I go. My current method is a blend of pantser meets plotter, since my first drafts are much cleaner and more cohesive when I do some planning work early in the process.

Sunday ROW80 check-in

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Added two new scenes this week.
  • Write a first draft of another novella. Wrote slightly over 1K in a new story, tentatively titled “At Rainbow’s End.”
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. Finished reading “Conflict and Suspense” by James Scott Bell. Started reading Bell’s “Novel from the Middle.”

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Not so much this week. Met two of five days.
  • Blog two times per week. Blogged Wednesday and Sunday. Goal met.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Met for Wednesday and Thursday, not for Monday and Tuesday.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Where do your story ideas come from? How does your process work?

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Back from vacation with a midweek ROW80 check-in

Hammond Castle, Gloucester, Massachusetts, photo by Denise D. Young

Hammond Castle, Gloucester, Massachusetts

I spent last week in New England, visiting family in New Hampshire and spending a day in beautiful Burlington, Vermont. I’m back home this week, biting my nails as my kitty undergoes surgery. (So far, the vet says he’s doing well. We bring him home later today.)

It was wonderful to take a break and explore another part of the country. I’ve been to New Hampshire twice and loved it both times. There are so many bookstores—and there was a Starbucks right next to my hotel, so my days were filled with books and lattes. We spent time with my brother and his wife, dipped our toes into the ocean, and even visited Hammond Castle in Massachusetts, a replica of a medieval castle. All of it provided great inspiration for writing, doing what I call filling the well. I returned home rejuvenated and ready to write.

While there, we had a wonderful moment of serendipity when we wandered into RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Amber Benson, a writer/actress/director most well-known for her role as Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was doing a reading, book signing, and Q&A. When asked what advice she’d give to aspiring authors, Benson remarked that the most important thing was to get out and meet people—attend conferences, find critique partners—to do more than hide away in a room and write (which many of us are tempted to do).

Meeting fellow writers and others in the business, whether in person or online, helps us grow as writers and helps us move closer to our goals. It was good to hear from a published author that I’m moving in the right direction.

And now, a midweek ROW80 check-in:

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Wrote a new scene to help add tension to the middle of the story. Every day, the story gets a little better, and that’s what counts.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. On book one of four. Continued reading “Conflict and Suspense” by James Scott Bell.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Met for Monday and Wednesday, not for Tuesday.
  • Blog two times per week. So far, on track.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Not met.

What about you? Have you experienced any moments of serendipity lately? How are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

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Murky Middles and Sunday ROW80 check-in

Making it through the middle... image from WANA Commons, by David Jace

Making it through the middle…
image from WANA Commons, by David Jace

I’m currently up to my eyeballs in revisions of a novella, and one thing I’m struggling with—one that many of us struggle with, I suspect—is keeping tension throughout the middle of the story. I worry that the middle sags a little, not because I’ve made things too easy for my characters, but because they’re sort of trapped in a stalemate. In other words, there are a few chapters of reaction, thinking, and planning, but not much action. Sort of the calm before the storm.

This might be the hardest problem to fix in this manuscript, but it’s not impossible. I had a wonderfully productive meeting with my critique partners this week, and they made some suggestions that have definite potential: Give one of the characters more agency so she’s not completely trapped in her situation. Flesh out the secondary characters so that they can carry some of the weight. Sprinkle more magic throughout the story. And so on.

We often get so caught up in penning captivating first chapters and breathtaking endings that it’s easy to overlook making those chapters in between shine, but that’s exactly what every chapter needs to do: Capture and hold readers’ attention. Keeping up tension throughout a story can be a difficult part of the process to master.

Do you ever get stuck in the middle? Do your stories ever sag as they approach the midpoint? How do you keep things moving?

ROW80 goals check-in…

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Revised one chapter. Met with critique partners about three more chapters. Brainstormed a couple new scenes to help increase tension in the Murky Middle of the story.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. Continued reading “Conflict and Suspense” by James Scott Bell.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Goal met for Wednesday and Thursday, not for the rest of the week.
  • Blog two times per week. Goal met.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met for Wednesday and Thursday.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop.

What about you? How are your goals coming along? How do you get your characters through the Murky Middles of your stories?

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ROW80 Round 3 Writing Goals

I’m getting a late start to Round 3. I should’ve posted this Monday, but it’s been one of those weeks. (Actually, it’s been two crazy weeks in a row, but sometimes life is like that.) We just found out that one of our cats might need not one but two major surgeries, one to remove a mass in his left eye and potentially another to remove a cataract in his right eye. So we’re hoping his first surgery, scheduled for later this month, goes well and the outcome is positive. For now he’s just getting lots of snuggles.

ROW80LogocopyMy goals for Round 3 of ROW80 are fairly straightforward:

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Currently approaching the halfway mark with this goal.
  • Write a first draft of another novella.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. Currently reading “Conflict and Suspense” by James Scott Bell.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily.
  • Blog two times per week.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday.

What about you? What are your writing goals for the coming months?

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ROW80 Wrap-Up: Lessons learned in Round 2

ROW80LogocopyIt went by in a flash, but round 2 of A Round of Words in 80 Days is over. I met some of my goals for this round, but my main goal, to finish a draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic” is one I didn’t meet. Still, I’m happy with my progress. Here’s the wrap-up:

  • I finished a draft of a short story, tentatively titled “Midwinter Bride: The Goblin Master’s Tale.”
  • About a quarter of the way through revisions to “Good Old-Fashioned Magic,” a novella of about 35K.
  • My goal was to read four books on the business/craft of writing. I read five: “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb, “Rock Your Revisions” by Cathy Yardley, “Sometimes the Magic Speaks” by Terry Brooks, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King, and “Revision and Self-Editing” by James Scott Bell (a reread).
  • I didn’t do as well with my social media goals as I did last round, but I’d say I met them 75 percent of the time, which isn’t too bad.

So, I met some goals, and didn’t meet others. But I learned a lot about writing and, more specifically, my writing process during this round:

  • I learned that slow periods are a natural part of the writing process, and that what’s most important is that we keep going.
  • I learned that I need to be kinder to myself when I, being human and imperfect, fail to reach a goal. I can take lessons from a failure without beating myself up. I’m still working on this.
  • I discovered a process of revision that works for me. Instead of revising in order, I’m tackling the scenes with the biggest issues first and working from there. Since I’m bouncing between chapters, it’s harder to track my progress. But as long as every day the manuscript is getting better, I can rest assured I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m almost halfway through my first year as a full-time writer, and I’m happy to see myself growing and improving, mastering new aspects of the writing process and developing a process that works for me.

What about you? What lessons did you learn in round 2? How much progress did you make toward your goals?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is a blog hop. Click here to cheer on fellow ROWers.

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Learning a new revision process: Sunday ROW80 check-in

ROW80LogocopyOne of my goals for the second round of ROW80 was to finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” With less than a week to go, that goal is clearly not going to be met. But the good news is that the manuscript is much better than it was when I started this round. I’ve come to realize that I needed a different way of approaching revisions.

I started out trying to revise from beginning to end. That method didn’t work, and I spent a couple weeks spinning my wheels. Now, I’m revising based on which scenes/chapters need the most work—they need a full rewrite, or have major issues with character development or world development. Revising out of order has proven to be much more productive and efficient than working on the chapters in order.

Out of all of this, I’ve learned a valuable lesson about allowing my process to grow and evolve. Getting stuck proved to be a wonderful opportunity to find a new process, one that works much better for me.

Has this ever happened to you? In what ways has your writing process changed as you’ve grown as a writer?

ROW80 check-in

1.) Writing:

  • Goal: to finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Wrote/rewrote several scenes. Partial revision to one chapter. Started a character voice journal.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing.

  • 4 of 4 books read. Continued reading a fifth book, “Revision and Self-Editing” by James Scott Bell.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Goal met.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.
  • Blog 2 times a week. Goal met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

To fellow ROWers, good luck with the last few days of this round!

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Summer Days: Midweek ROW80 check-in

photo by Debra Kristi, WANA Commons

photo by Debra Kristi, WANA Commons

Summer has arrived in all its glory. What is your favorite part of summer? Making S’mores by the fire, reading a book poolside, firing up the grill, digging your toes into the wet sand, or stargazing on a clear night? Mine is definitely being able to hike on the weekends—a pastime I miss when winter rolls around.

My midweek ROW80 check-in…

1.) Writing:

  • Goal: To finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Wrote a new scene and made some major changes to the climax of the story, since I felt the good guys had it way too easy in the first version. That was my major project for the first half of the week.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing.

  • 4 of 4 books read. Goal met.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. On track to meet this goal.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. On track to meet this goal.
  • Blog 2 times a week. On track.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

How are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along for this week? And what’s your favorite part of the season?

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