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

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