You spend 24 hours with your main character.
What do you do?
What do you talk about?
What do you notice as quirks?
How does she make you cry?
What stories about her past does she tell you?
You go shopping. What does she buy?
What does she eat?
Can she cook?
Name three nice things she does for you.
What does she want you to do for her?
What does she read?
How does she surprise you?
How does she sleep? On her back? Curled up? Does she toss and turn? Snore? Talk in her sleep?
Does she want breakfast?
At the end of the day together, does she thank you for telling her story or curse you?
I just challenged one of my writing friends to this writing activity.
Now I will challenge you all.
At the beginning of the day,
before you write,
set a timer for three minutes, then write the first line of a new work.
A new picture book, a new short story, a new YA novel, memoir, poem, piece of nonfiction, etc.
Just one line.
Keep each one on a 3X5 card.
If emotions comes along with that line, jot them down on the back. A few ideas follow?Put those notes on the back, too. When the timer beeps, you stop writing and go to your WIP.
Put the 3X5 card next to your computer and watch the pile grow.
Let’s do this until WIFYR on June 12. We’ll get about 30 starts. Take off a day or two, if you want (I try to take the weekend).
On your mark, get set,
I’ve just learned something I need to do, or stop doing, when I’m trying to flesh out my character and find her voice. I need to stop reading British mysteries. It’s doesn’t work well when trying to write a contemporary 17-year-old American girl. The MC in the novel I just finished is alternately a 15-year old girl in Cornwall in 1931, and then an 85-year old woman in London in 2003. The storyline jumps forward and backward in time a lot. Anyway, while I’ve been on vacation, I’ve been writing and reading, and what I’ve been reading is bleeding into my character’s voice, as well as my own. I used the word “ghastly” to describe the huge ugly cacti that we saw all around this island, as we were on a bus taking us to a beach excursion. I wasn’t trying to sound British, it just came out! My husband looked at me funny, “Ghastly? Since when do you use that word?” I don’t. Normally. And the MC in my novel would never use it. I realized I’ve been having a harder than normal time writing in a close 3rd person that sounds anything like an American teenage girl. Good thing I also brought a YA book to read. And maybe I need to hang around the cruise ship’s hot tub more. Although, with all those half-naked teenagers packed in there, it’s definitely hormone soup.
Does anyone else have a hard time developing an authentic voice when you are immersed in reading a different genre?
Every spring I think, This year I’m growing a garden. And I try. Last year? TONS of cherry tomatoes that I picked off the vine for breakfast, a few green beans and peppers and a big mess of potatoes.
Growing a garden is like writing a book–a lot of hard work. But it’s worth it. Writing just the right word is kinda like eating those warm tomatoes. You can’t believe YOU did that. Well, with help of course.
Right now I am in a hard place in my YA murder mystery. It’s like putting together a puzzle with weird edges. But when I read some of the words I think, Maybe I can do this.
The truth is, most people who want to write books never finish. It IS hard. If we rejoice in the small things, the tasty bits, there will be more joy in the work.
And One More Thing
I just made up a word. Slag bottom.
Or so I thought.
What word did you think YOU made up?
Quality or Quantity?
In every writing class I’ve taken, the question of quality or quantity comes up. Each of us has to grapple with it. I tend to go over and over the same first couple chapters, thinking I can’t move forward in the story until the first few on chapters are perfectly polished. Do I do this because I don’t believe I know where the story is “supposed” to go? That I can’t move on there’s a perfect beginning? Do I not trust myself?
I get in my own way and don’t make enough progress toward finishing the dang draft, and in truth, spinning my wheels on those same pages doesn’t help me become a better writer.
I came across a writing tip that was linked to a study about a high school pottery teacher’s teaching technique. How could he help his students produce better pottery?
He required half the class to produce one perfect pot. The other half was required to produce fifty pounds of pottery by the end of semester. The pots didn’t have to be perfect, there just needed to be fifty pounds of work.
What this teacher found is that those who had to do just one perfect pot got hung up. They threw the same pot over and over. Those who had to produce the quantity, learned what worked and what didn’t. By the end of the semester, they could throw a perfect pot.
So, the more chapters you write, the better your writing will become. I’m too close to it right now, but I know that I’ve just got to show up every day and write something new. Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to ‘throw’ a better chapter.
One of my biggest weaknesses is description. I don’t like reading descriptions, and I definitely don’t like writing them. But if you can’t describe your world, your reader can’t see it. You are their eyes and ears.
I’ve been trying to practice. For instance, this week I had to report for jury duty. If you’ve ever had to do that, you’ll know it’s a fast-paced, exciting event filled with dramatic monologues from precocious lawyers.
Okay, not really.
There’s a lot of time spent sitting around and waiting to be dismissed. So I used the time to try figuring out how I would describe everything.
Of course, I kept slipping into my old ways and creating backstories for everyone (the judge and the court reporter never looked at each other. Was this deliberate? Could they be having a secret affair? Scandalous, he’s at least twice her age…) But I did try. And it helped, both for my boredom and for sharpening my skills.
What are the weak points in your storytelling? How do you strengthen them?
Ann Dee has decided to try things that scare her. She is brave. I bet she did a great handstand.
I love this challenge when it comes to writing.
This past year I started a murder mystery. I’ve never done this kind of book before, so that has been scary.
But there’s more about this project that scares me. This is a YA. How much of this raw story should I put on the page? How do I make the murdered character likable (for a while there, she deserved to be killed because she was acting so nasty)? What happens if my editor doesn’t like this book?
What are you working on that scares you?
Things I Have Learned in the Last Month
- I have found if you are always cold, your heating bill isn’t as much as when you are warm.
- If you make goals and then watch TV all the time, you never reach your goal. Even if you are watching all the Friends episodes. Or all the Sherlock episodes starring Engelbart Humperdinky. Or all the House episodes even when you hate House.
- Lots of dogs make lots of dog hair. This does not make you warmer, and yes, you will awaken with a hair in your mouth and or war. I bet even very clean Cheri earl has dog hair somewhere at her house. Maybe not in dinner, but somewhere.
- Grief freezes you.
- If you write the emotion you’re feeling when you come up with a new book idea then set the book idea aside, later when you come back to it you’ll remember why you love this new idea.
- The older you get the more tired you are. Unless you’re eating right and exercising. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
- Adult children, and writing partners, are even more naughty than little children.
- The more you brain storm, the more you can brain storm. This goes for ideas for new books, plots you’re having trouble with, and where to store your canned corn.
- Babies are amazing.
- Writing for just five minutes each day keeps a story alive, keeps you interested, means you’re that much closer to publishing success.
I’ve been missing Rick a lot lately.
Telling everyone I’m missing him.
Wondering why all that crap had to happen.
Wishing so much things could have been different.
I think, at the end, he was in lots of pain. But he couldn’t speak anymore, or even squeeze our hands.
Grief can inspire us to write. Or can immobilize us. I think the latter has happened to me.
Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee:
This year Kyra will have lots of interviews with upcoming and established authors.
Pretend Three Thing Thursday:
1.Come to the party we’re having this month at the Provo library!
January 20, potluck, lots of prizes to win!
Go here to learn more and register:
2. February ERIN HARRIS from FOLIO!!! YAHOOOOO!!!!
Go here (again) to learn more:
3. Writing Question:
What is the worst thing you could do as a writer? Take some time to contemplate this question. If you’d like, share.
So far I have completed almost two of my three goals I made with you all.
One and one third to go!
Just a moment to say what I would have said on Monday if I hadn’t had a daughter in the hospital.
This new year?
I have so many hopes for what’s to come.
Last year was so hard.
We started the year off losing our sweet and amazing Debbie and ended the year losing hilarious and wonderful Rick. Before and after those terrible days, more people we loved left this earth life and moved on. It’s been a long, hard time.
Today, though, I’ve been thinking how I’ve already fallen behind with my goals.
But each day is new, right?
Each day I can stretch and reach and hope.
That’s how I hope to treat each moment in this joyous new year.
Ann Dee, Kyra and I hope you have a perfect 2017. Sure, there’s going to be hard times. But there’s going to be a new moment, a new chance, and always we’ll have the opportunity to write for the love of words and kids and ourselves.
Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Kyra