Sunday, June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day

Our favorite family pastime since moving to our new home is visiting the beach. I love it because there is roughly 90 minutes one way in the car for me to think. Although I am unable to read in the car without becoming terribly ill, I have discovered I can write. Most of the time, the kids are quiet or asleep and my husband and I can just talk. I get to share some new ideas I have, he gets to help me develop them, and I get some much needed time to process without anyone needing anything from me!

The good thing about working on a short story, is I got to print it out and bring it with today! Check out my desk.

Don't worry, I didn't spend the entire time working. I just gave the kids some extra father time and took a few minutes to read through the last few pages. I am approaching the end and I want to make sure the premise is strong and that I have good promises that are fulfilled.

Fathers are interesting characters to create. In my mind, fathers are human manifestations of a guide book. They are full of useful information and an occasional perspective. I have many vivid memories of learning things from my dad. He taught me some very useful OCD habits like how to fold and pack a tent and roll a sleeping bag. I remember him teaching me how to see shapes in objects I want to draw and I watched with wonder as a page full of tiny triangles quickly became a detailed drawing of my mother's philodendron. I carefully observed for many winters before I was allowed to neatly roll a half-dozen pages of newspapers and fold them underneath a perfectly stacked trio of logs in the wood burning stove. He taught me how to draw floor plans and find studs in a wall. I learned how to identify and use any tool you could find in a typical garage or workshop. I know how to pull a well pump, fix faucets and toilets, install flooring, and keep the couch from hitting the ceiling. I know a great many elephant and dead baby jokes. He even taught me how to understand and accept my best friend after he came out to me in middle school. That's what dads do. And if you can learn what a dad knows, you can learn anything.

Whenever I write a scene involving a father and child, I try to infuse it with this natural flow of knowledge. I enjoy including a lesson in the character arc, and hopefully a followup scene involving the father's pride for the child's success. It is like a miniature master and apprentice plot that fits into any larger story.

What is your favorite father story? Father figure? Father joke?

I'll leave you with one from my PawPaw...
What did the dog say when his tail got caught in the lawn mower?

Lucky to have my Dad!

Won't be long now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

New Short Story Project

I've been working on a new short story. I am hoping to enter it into a contest this September, so I won't get to share any of it here. But it is inspired by the novel I'm working on, and somewhat of a prequel. I thought I would share some of the challenges with this new format.

One challenge is that I am trying a new point of view. Until I watched Brian Sanderson's lectures, I didn't even know it had a name. Epistolary is a story told through a series of letters (or other forms of documentation/correspondences). I have read a number of these in anthologies over the past few years, and I really enjoy them. It creates a sense of mystery and makes reading more interactive. The reader must piece together multiple perspectives, and read between the lines.

In my short story, there are two sources for the correspondences. These are from two main characters. The third main character is telling another point of view in standard first person. So far I think it is coming together. I have a little over 4000 words and the contest requires 4500 - 6000 total. I feel like I'm around two-thirds of the way through my plot, so this lines up nicely.

Another challenge is working with voice. I was a little concerned at first, because one of the characters is a male scientist, which I obviously am not. I will definitely get some readers to help me make sure the text is realistic in terms of character voice. Other than this, the project has been a fun one. I was lucky to receive some advice from a writing coach about a good method for planning, and I tried it out on this story. I feel more confident now that I have a little more structure to my planning process (sort of). I plan to hire a coach full-time after this contest is complete so that I can focus better on finishing my novel.

I want to elaborate on the "sort of" from the previous paragraph. Through writing, I have discovered much about my own mind. Although a test in high school told me that I was categorized as Abstract-Random, I see it now more than ever. My mind is like a crystal, casting light in every direction. But if I can angle it just right, if I can rotate it and capture my thoughts in the proper way, I can create a beautiful rainbow. The trick is getting all that scattered light to focus at the right points. I almost felt like having the plan made the writing harder, but if I look at it like a way to focus, then I can look forward to seeing all the colors line up nicely.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Flash Fiction Activity

I have written some flash fiction and I'm excited to share it with you!

This story came from a cool activity that was on the lecture series I've been watching. Here is a link to the video if you want to give it a try. The guest lecturer walks you through the steps to writing a 250 word story. It was fun.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group - June

It is time once again to express those doubts and concerns and discuss my struggles and triumphs. The writer's question is a little tricky this month, but I shall try.

Doubts & Concerns:
I have spent this month seeking knowledge. I have browsed online sources, skimmed a few books about writing, read a few fiction samples, watched a creative writing lecture series, and talked to other writers. In this quest for knowledge I have been gifted with multiple perspectives and plenty to consider. As I contemplate my path forward, I find I am concerned that there is too much to do. I doubt that I will ever get the time to accomplish what must be done in order to successfully finish my current novel. A recent promotion at work means I am now expected to do my old job, and my new one (at least until I am fully replaced), and home life is as chaotic as ever. I haven't let these things weigh on me and the intensity is honestly quite low. I am packing away these doubts and concerns as there is nothing to be done about them. But I am aware that they exist, and I think it is only fair to be open and honest with others that they exist. Maybe others will find comfort in knowing they are not alone in their doubts? (Misery loves company?)

Struggles & Triumphs:
My current struggle is my plot structure. I have decided it would be most beneficial to create an outline for my plot structure. Having reached more than 200 pages in the manuscript, I felt that I needed a concrete guide to help me finish. I have filled pages of notebooks with ideas, plot archetypes, plot structures, character arcs, etc. I have found the ending to the book and scribbled it during a quiet moment in a campsite while my in-laws had my kids on a walk and my husband was fetching dinner. In those 15 minutes I accomplished more than I have accomplished in the two weeks prior (see doubts and concerns). My struggle, however, is that I like holding this knowledge snugly in my mind and fear writing it down. Why? Maybe I am afraid it will not be as good on paper? Maybe I am afraid of the effort of creating an outline, which to me seems like extra work? It is that frozen feeling that I can't accomplish what I want to accomplish, so I refuse to accomplish anything. But at the same time, I did accomplish something. It is a triumph, too! I have an ending, I have a very basic sketch with arrows in every direction, I have the first half(ish) of the manuscript drafted. This is definitely a triumph! As my dad always says, "All I lack is finishing up." (Applicable no matter how much you have accomplished. If you have taken the first step, all you have to do is finish.)

The Question:  Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Honestly, most of my secrets could be known from my work better than they could be known from my person. And it isn't that I have secrets, it is simply that I choose to not share things with people whom I feel cannot handle reality. 

The best secret I suppose that would not be clear in my writing is that I used to hate writing. I've always written poetry, even as a young kid. It is in my blood. But when it came to school, I hated everything about English Language Arts. I was even in a remedial class in junior high because I couldn't pass the vocabulary tests the previous year. I had terrible spelling and couldn't finish the books I was assigned to read. In ninth grade I shadowed at a college prep school (based on my math scores), and when the English teacher noticed I wasn't particularly excited to sit through her presentation, she questioned me. I told her I hated English class. My friend, who also attended the recruitment day, took it upon herself to blurt out that every time she saw me I had my nose in a book. The teacher then asked what I was reading at the moment, and I replied, "Dune." She told me that she took an entire course on Dune when she went to college. The following year, Ms. Tyler became the first English teacher to make me enjoy the subject. (It all went south my junior year again, but for one year there was this glimmer of hope, this one time when I had a teacher who loved Science Fiction as much as I did. I remember every book we had to read that year, and whether I liked them or not, I finished every single one.) During high school, I tested out of all the college core classes and never took another English class again.

The second secret is connected to the first. I was a math and physics nerd. I actually started college in architecture school, and was one of a dozen out of more than eighty who actually had an A for the first semester. But I transferred. It is strange how things change. There are two things I truly hated in grade school:  English and Biology. And now, I am a writer and my other loves include gardening and beekeeping and my horticulture books are only outnumbered by all the philosophy books I kept from my college days. Maybe my secret is that my past self is my own worst enemy? Honestly she thwarted me at every turn...