Writing Marathon Day 2, and Our Next Contest Winner

Calendar Day 2Second day of the marathon! Here we go:

The Writing Day

Today I got through the majority of Chapter 10: Swamp Times. I have about a third left (and I may have to delete half of that, I’m not sure yet). There was a tricky scene in the beginning that took several hours to sort through and re-write, but I admit the rest of it was already fairly polished, so the cleanup was pretty smooth-sailing—in hindsight, anyway. It still took a while. These things do. I also spent some time working out a timing issue with how the whole end of the novel goes down, and adjusted a few bits in earlier chapters accordingly.

I had a headache again this afternoon, and so I present to you:

Tips for Writing with a Persistent Headache of the Dull, Achey Variety:

1.) Make a blog event and contest out of your writing struggle. Writers need accountability. If people are expecting a progress report from you by the end of the day, you’re gonna make some progress. (Seriously, you guys are helping so much.)

2.) Write in Bed. This is a terrible idea on a good day. Usually, you’ll do your best work sitting upright at your desk. But on a bad day? When you’d really rather be sleeping? Working in bed can be just the compromise you need to trick yourself into being productive.

And I guess that’s all I have on the subject. Do any of you have any tips to share?

Don’t forget to read yesterday’s post for yesterday’s winning blog topic, in which I elaborate on the inner thoughts, feelings, and frustrations of a Boston street lamp. Also, you can still get in on this contest thing; I’ve made a temporary link under the website banner with the explanation and the rules, with the form at the bottom. There will be six more winners after tonight.

Okay. Drawing tonight’s winner.

And the winner is...

Grace, of Homeschool Hijinks! Congratulations, Grace!

Grace’s Entry: What does your planning process look like before you begin writing? Do you have huge detailed outlines or do you just jump into the fray or something in between? Do you chew on a story for hours or months before deciding to do something with it on paper?

What a good a good question! And the answer is that my planning process looks like everything, at some point or another. Usually, though, there is a single idea or an image that captures me, and I “jump into the fray” with it. A lot of these don’t go anywhere. I have tons of notes on scraps of paper (and, more recently, in computer files) of fragments and beginnings of stories. Sometimes I get an image first; Vanya, the main character of Wanderlust, came to me after a period of artists’ block (which is exactly the same thing as writers’ block, if you’re wondering). Suddenly (in the middle of math class, my junior year of high school) I drew this sad little boy, and it was one of the best things I’d ever drawn. I knew exactly who he was, too: the wandering harper. I drew him alone for a little while before I realized his best friend Taniel, and at the time they both existed in a medieval fantasy world. I tried to use them in a few comics/graphic novels that didn’t go anywhere, but it wasn’t until a whole year later that I thought, “Wait, wouldn’t it be cool if they lived in the modern world?” This was good for a few Vanya-in-fishnets illustrations for me and my friends to swoon over (we were into emo boys at the time) but it wasn’t until I decided to write a book for my senior project that I realized Vanya and Taniel were the perfect subjects. And so, Wanderlust was born! I don’t remember how I planned out the plot for that first book, but then that book sat around for five years, while the idea continued banging around in my subconscious and I got better and better at writing and arting. Five years later I’m working on the book I’m working on now. It has a plot very similar to the original, but it’s overall way more awesome.

That was a little round-about, but it demonstrates a pattern I’ve followed over and over again. I get really excited about something and just start doing it, and then later, often MUCH later, I pick it up and bring all sorts of new ideas and experience to it and turn it into something so much better than the original thing. And since I’m mostly working on Wanderlust right now, all those other things I’m not working on are undergoing subconscious development right now. A 70 page hand-written story about a dryad I wrote while homeschooling in seventh grade re-surfaced as a series of art projects in college, along with a partial rewrite that has so much more going for it than the story did before. Didn’t have enough time to actually finish it or really work on it at the time, but someday it’s going to come up again, and it’s going to be awesome. As for huge detailed outlines, for me those come later. I make an outline when I’m a third of the way into a book and realize I have no idea where it’s going. I make outlines to figure out what I’ve already written, and to help me get it straight in my head. Today, I outlined the entire plot of my novel by days of the week (it starts on a Friday and ends on the Saturday a week later). So I use outlines as a tool, when “pantsing” it (writing by the seat of my pants) starts to break down.

Thanks for the blog topic, Grace! If there’s a moral here, it’s that I am so grateful for all the writing I did in elementary school, middle school, and high school. It made me the writer and storyteller I am today. You’re already doing awesome work (hey everyone! You can read some of Grace’s stories at her blog!) so keep it up, and you might be surprised where it takes you. 🙂  Also, you will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February.

And hey writers: How would you answer Grace’s question? Do any of you work in a totally different way than I do? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

-G

Writing Marathon Day 1, and First Contest Winner

Race to the 8th Day 1It has begun! Now, the savvy among you may be looking at that cool calendar graphic and wondering if I spent the whole day creating it, rather than writing. To you, I can proudly say that I stayed up late to finish it last night so I’d have the whole day free today. More of you might be wondering what is up with the unicorn and the sparkles. Well, did I mention we’re doing this whole thing because the 8th is my birthday? My birthday has always been about unicorns and sparkles. That’s just how it is.

The Writing Day

Well, today was not perfect. I was tired, headachey, and dealing with all sorts of cravings for all the foods I’m not eating. I was not in any way immune to the distractions of the internet, or to the temptation to check and see if I had any new contest entries every five minutes (I didn’t). Still, I did okay. I made a good start. I’m proud of myself. Today, I completed my revision of Chapter Nine: To the Wolves. Admittedly I’ve been working on this chapter since, god, since Christmas, but I’ve been working on it so long because it’s tricky. There’s this one part I finally polished off today where I’m writing about one thing and trying to reference this other thing, but it has to be done without looking like I’m referencing the other thing, and without being too obvious. This is what I meant when I said my progress reports wouldn’t make much sense to you. But hey, Chapter Nine down. Tomorrow I can move on to Chapter 10. In total, there are 12 chapters and an epilogue. Seven more days. This might be doable. There are, of course, still a few clean-up matters to attend to in the earlier chapters, and I’m just now considering ANOTHER re-write of my opening pages, but still. We’re moving along. Tackling Swamp Times (Chapter 10) tomorrow!

One More Thing

before we announce the winner, because it is too good not to share. I had a series of interesting dreams this morning. In one of them, I found my soul mate at a very dodgy, second rate carnival in Michigan. I know it was second rate because they wouldn’t stop the ferris wheel even though I was CLEARLY only holding on by one hand and about to fall to my death. I found him (my soul mate, who was someone I had never seen before in my life) just outside the paintball room/funhouse. We were both so surprised :). In my next dream, however, I was back in Maine and in the same house as a serial killer. You will be happy to know that I did the right thing, and set Beyoncé free. My own fate was still up in the air, however, so it’s good I woke up when I did!

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for. I realized pretty quickly that I wanted EVERYONE to win, so we’re doing this by a totally random draw. I’ve got names in a container beside me at my desk. I like the noise they make when I shake them. I NEED MORE NAMES, PEOPLE! Entries are still open.

Okay. Drawing a name now.

And the winner is…

Elise! Congratulations!

Elise, by the way, is a friend of mine from school, and she is also the lady who is marrying Leftenant Weatherby (Tom Rich). I am so excited for both of them. 🙂

Elise’s entry: Rewrite one of your favorite (or most hated) scenes from the perspective of another character or onlooker.

Oh geez, Elise. This could be a five-day prompt! It’s a really intriguing proposition, and I recently saw something similar on another website as an exercise for fleshing out secondary characters. There are also some really cool ways I could respond to this that I wouldn’t actually be able to share, because of spoilers for Wanderlust book 2, if you’d believe it. But here goes:

Conveniently, I have this scene illustrated, although there is not actually a streetlamp in evidence in this picture.

Conveniently, I have this scene illustrated, although there is not actually a streetlamp in evidence in this picture.

The street lamp at the corner of Baker and Fifth* was uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable because there was a person standing underneath it. Not that the streetlamp was unaccustomed to humanity passing by on the sidewalk below; it was just, that, well, they usually passed by, and didn’t camp out holding a sign for several hours. Actually, this little bit of humanity had been there even longer. It had first showed up when the streetlamp was still lit, a good bit past the point when the late hours of the night transitioned into the early hours of the morning. It had stumbled down the street from the direction of the tavern on 7th, and had curled up in the lee of the steps of the print shop. It slept until the streetlight followed its program and shut itself off, and until other passers-by made noise and got on with their business of passing by. Then it—which the streetlamp supposed was a boy, or a young man, even though it had long blonde hair like a girl—had woken up, looked miserable, and sat in the grass for a long while. He was carrying a few heavy bundles, though he didn’t open them. Go on, thought the streetlamp. Go get breakfast. I bet you had a hard night. But you can make today better. Go on, move along. The boy just sat there. It was infuriating. Finally he stood up and picked up his bundles. Alright, thought the street lamp. Now you’re getting it. But instead of walking down the road, the boy went into the print shop. The streetlamp couldn’t hear anything that happened in there, but the boy came out carrying a sheet of paper with something written on it. And then he proceeded to stand underneath the street lamp, just stand there, holding that sign. The streetlamp wasn’t used to this kind of treatment. This wasn’t one of those neighborhoods. They didn’t even get much homeless here, and what they got usually preferred the other side of the street. So what was up with this kid, and why here, of all places? And why did he look so sad? And what did it say on that sign? The streetlamp waited over an hour to find out. The whole time, the kid barely moved. A few cars slowed down as they went past him, presumably to read the sign, but they sped along quickly. Finally, a blue ford pickup truck came down the road. The ’92 model, unless the streetlamp was mistaken. The pickup truck slowed down. The street lamp would have held held its breath, if it could breathe. Then—yes, the pickup truck stopped. The boy let his sign flutter to the ground, and put one of his bundles in the truckbed before climbing into the passenger side and closing the door. The truck drove away. The street lamp looked down, and saw that the kid’s sign had landed face-up. The streetlamp could just make it out: “Broke Rock Star Needs Ride.” Huh, thought the streetlamp. Glad he found what he was looking for. And then the street lamp got on with its daily business, entirely oblivious to the fact that it had just witnessed the beginning of a grand adventure.

That was fun, thank you Elise! You will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so (and definitely by the end of February. That’s a promise.)

I will see you all tomorrow. Happy Writing.

-Grace

*Totally fictional street names because I never bothered to research actual neighborhoods of Boston.