Tag Archives: writing a book together

Writing a Book Together: Staying on Course

This is the third time I’ve tried to post this blog entry. For some reason yesterday, every blog post got lost.

Today is a simple post. I’m interested in how many pages you’re feeling you can write each day (now that a few days of writing together have passed).

I’ve joined the JanNoWriMo that Bruce Luck set up for an easier month of writing plus I’m supposed to make an accounting of my writing in another WIFYR group. But life has a way of creeping in. In my case, right now, it’s the needs of others. But I’ve heard these excuses, and maybe used one or two:

“I don’t have enough time.” “I’m waiting for the right moment.” “It’s too hard.” “I have to work.” “Some day . . .”

When I was just beginning to write, I worked at an ice cream production plant in Florida. I packed ice cream for hours every single day. There was lots of time to think through writing troubles. But when the urge to write came, there wasn’t time or a place or even the material to do anything. I finally solved this by writing in the 30 second intervals of free time I had when working with another ice cream packer. (Man, I was NOT good at that job. I was so uncoordinated. Come to think of it, I still am).  I wrote entire sections of my stories on ice cream sandwich boxes. Those stories wound up in my first book, Kelly and Me.

My sweet friend Laura Torres taught herself to write in 15 minute increments. She sold millions of her crafts books (see Friendship Bracelets).

So what are your goals? How many words do you plan to write each day? How much do you plan to rewrite? And the better question is this: How do you plan to accomplish that goal?

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Writing a Book Together: An Opening Line Every Day of January and February

So what’s happened since last week? Have you gotten a first line? Found a way to start this new adventure? Has anyone stepped out of the dark, taken your hand and led you toward a novel that feels to have lots of promise?

I have an exercise I’ve shared here about opening lines. It’s one I do every few months. For thirty days, every day, I write a first line to a new novel. Every time I start  I think, “This time it will be easy.” And every time I find out an opening line is hard.

Why? The more days I play with openings, the harder they become. I realize I need to think more about characters–where they are in their lives, their situations, who they are. I worry over what would be the best line for that person I’m writing this book about.

These are not throw-away words. They need to mean something to me.

At the beginning of last year I played this game with myself and came up with more than a month’s worth of first lines, including this one: “When Momma finally died, me and my sisters weren’t surprised.” This line came several days into the exercise, but as I kept writing , day after day, it called to me. I listened.

Last November or so I finished the book about three sisters who lose their mother on page two of the novel. It’s now on submission. Here’s a bit of the synopsis:

“Momma is dying and Mister Paisley wants the land Iris, Ella, and Rory have grown up on.

It’s 1960-something and death isn’t the only thing complicating life for the Flynn girls. Daddy is gone and has been since before Rory’s birth. There are unwanted evening guests who creep around the house, angels who tap at the windows, and the meadow is dangerous to all, including the girls, after dark.”

Here’s a first line Ann Dee came up with when we were teaching a workshop class together:

“My dad ate an airplane one bite at a time.” We’re almost done with the novel. Don’t ask us what we’re doing. We have no idea.

Here’s what I do know about first lines–they have to have enough promise, intrigue, worry, feeling and wonder that you, the writer, can keep going.

So let’s do this together. For the rest of January and all of February come up with a line for a new novel every single day. I write my lines in pencil on a large blank calendar. For me, it’s an easy way to see my progress. HINT: I find I actually end up with more than one sentence. So write small if you choose to do the challenge this way. ANOTHER HINT: If you find you have an emotional connection to your line, this may be the book you want to follow.

PS My daughter just gave me my first line for my novel. It’s from her own life and she texted me this earlier: He wants me to dust the plants. All the plastic plants.

I think I now have a story.

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Writing a Book Together: Ann Dee Ellis and Her Inspiration

Last week we talked about how you have that moment, that idea, that one second when you know you can proceed with writing a novel. I asked Ann Dee to tell us a little of what she does. She’s talked about it before, but since we are looking at this a tiny bit more closely, here’s what she says:

“It takes me forever to figure out what to write next. I just write first chapter after first chapter until one of them feels like I know the MC and I want to follow her/him.”

I asked, “Is it like constructing the main character, or is it more like finding her?”

“Finding her. That’s why I wrote so many first chapters.”

everything-is-fine.jpg

I have several friends who write like Ann Dee does. She doesn’t mind throwing away words. I’m like, Wait. We wrote that. And she’s like, Pfft. There are more words where that came from. And I’m like, But I like my words.

But she gets how to write clean, startling prose for kids.

Everything is Fine is one the must read books in my class this semester. I love this novel. No words are wasted. Nothing is lost. It’s clean, to the point. I think Ann Dee is one of the best middle grade writers in the US of A. Really.

Here’s this about her: http://anndeeellis.com/

And here’s this: http://anndeeellis.com/category/8mm/

So what are you discovering about how you begin a novel? Have you figured anything out about your process? Is it hard? Easy? Is it different than the last time you tried to write a book? the same? Scarier? Easier?

PS Don’t forget the January 11 kickoff at the Provo library. Go here  for more information!

https://goo.gl/forms/NgPm8PuwnAZrfk1P2

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Writing a Book Together: Before the Beginning

This year I thought it might be interesting to write a book from scratch with you. From start to finish. Together.

Can we do that? I think we should try.

At this point, I don’t have anything to work on. There are only thoughts. No real facts or characters or ideas. No first lines. No plot points. No anything. I’m starting off fresh with you.

But in this moment I have learned something. Just now. Here it is:

  1. Sometimes, in order to come up with an idea, I have to write. Sit down and write.

Maybe it’s practice or muscle memory or training, but I can feel I am already headed in the right direction. I’m thinking.

Here’s what I’m thinking–I have an editor who’s interested in a romance from me. Could that be the novel I work on?

I’ve wondered for a long time if I might write a sequel to The Chosen One. That wouldn’t be fun, but it would be possible.

I could try my hand at fantasy. Hahahahahah! Okay. We all know that isn’t possible!

Here’s how I will decide: At the beginning of a novel, when I know absolutely nothing about it, I sit at my computer and stare off into the distance. This is when I’m hoping a character will introduce herself to me with a first line. So that’s what I plan on doing today. I’ll open a blank page on the computer and sit there.

Staring off into space is work! Daydreaming is something you can put on your novel writing resume!

Later today, I’ll sit around awhile and see who asks to be let in. See what she has to say. Maybe this book, whatever it’s going to be called, will come to me a little differently. If so, I’ll let you know.

How do you find that seed that grows into a novel? Are you inspired by history? People? Emotions? A first line? Something that happened to you? Something someone said? A creature? A bad dream? A kiss?

Let’s meet again tomorrow and see what we’ve come up with. I know for sure we’ll all do this writing experiment differently. Whatever I do is right for me and that’s mostly what I’ll talk about. But I’ll also see what published people are saying about their books and their writing. I’ll try to learn more about this crazy part of writing I’m calling Before the Beginning.

 

 

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Writing as a Team

So here’s how Ann Dee and I wrote our first draft.

Ish.

Basically.

We were very, very organized. We met together for several hours, plotted carefully, wrote everything down. We kept a log of words, characters, events and both knew where the story was set so well we could see Riverside, Florida, in our heads like a picture. We knew (after our hours planning) the beginning, the middle and the end of the novel. We’ve had to do few corrections because of this.

Lies! Lies, lies, lies!

I never know anything about a book when I start writing. In fact, when I begin any novel, I’m feeling my way along, listening to the character, seeing if I’m interested in stalking her for 250 pages.

It was no different in this book with Ann Dee.

In fact, we started out writing a dystopian–each writing just one section (all about food, mind you). Then Ann Dee, who was uncomfortable with the topic because of world events, set the idea aside and started something new. (I think we’ll write that other book at some point. The idea is dark and different for both of us and we’ve decided we want to write the thing we aren’t as comfortable with when we write together. But we might not. Who knows?)

That first chapter came from her and I had to decide if I took the novel from where Ann Dee ended or if I backed up in time a little. Howq was I going to tell my character’s story when the novel wasn’t–at this moment–about my character at all?

Writing with Ann Dee gave me permission to push my character, push the situation she was in. As I wrote, as we wrote, we discovered so much. Daddies–all kinds of daddies–good, dead, dying, crummy. All kinds of mommas–neglectful, fat, liars, the kind that ignore problems and grandchildren, the kind that dote. Two lonely preteens who need someone and happen to find the wacky kid next door. Girls who search for mysteries and solve problems they didn’t even know were there or didn’t even know they had the strength to solve.

I lead the novel in one direction, and during our first gentle rewrite decided (after talking to Ann Dee), that direction had to change. We made the book more mid grade by cutting out that plot point and now, in this last rewrite we’ll make the book solidly middle grade.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that YOU decide how you want to write with your partner. However, I’d make sure that you and the person you write with are equally balanced. This isn’t a “I got an idea for a book, why don’t you write it,” kind of deal. You each need to carry the weight of the book. That’s what I found so cool. When we finished that first draft I was surprised we’d written 50,000 + words because the weight was equally distributed between us.

Ann Dee did worry a little more than I did. In fact, when we got through with the book I was like, “Let’s send this off to my agent for a read-thru!”

Ann Dee blanched. “Now?”

“Sure, why not.”

“It’s not ready.”

“I know, but it’s close.”

“But . . . it has plot problems.”

“Who needs a plot? We have these two great characters.”

🙂

So now you and your writing partner will work on your ideas. Will you plan heavily or just follow along and see what’s gonna happen? What are each of your strengths? Do you both love to write? Both write often? What is your partnership goal for this week? Ann Dee and I can’t wait to find out.

 

 

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