Round 1

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

We are already in MARCH.  Lord, how did that happen?  Spring through these last few weeks of Round 1!

Now is around the time I start thinking about next round sponsors, so if you’re interested, please dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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The Glass Is Always Full By Elizabeth Mitchell

In her New Year’s post, Kait mentioned Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, especially her remarks about the culture of scarcity, which I wager is familiar to many of us.  We focus on the lack of sleep from the moment we awaken to the shortfall of things done that day when we hit the pillow that night. Our self-perception is that we consistently fail to meet our expectations. As Kait says,“[t]his is a self perpetuating cycle of making us feel like we’re always behind and we suck.”

Kait urges a change to a culture of gratitude. “Be grateful for what words you get, grateful for those bursts of creativity, grateful for the community of writers we have here to support each other.”  The idea of escaping from the culture of constantly not measuring up has great appeal for me. Although my father was generally optimistic, he often focused on the half-empty glass when it came to my grades.  My mother, who would have been diagnosed as melancholic in the Middle Ages, focused on the half-empty glass in all areas of her life.  Her only full glass was of things lacking–not enough money, time, or attention.

After a tough Round Four, I am concentrating on the half-full glass in all areas of my life.  I gladly strive for a culture of gratitude toward writing.  In this vein, I model my behavior on two posts from last year, which point out looking at small things with gratitude, and sometimes squinting to see the half-full glass.

Last summer, Eden Mabee wrote about finding the time to write, pointing out that sometimes the difficulty lies in our notions about time and word count.  Eden suggests five sentences grabbed from little spaces of time throughout the day.  I used to pride myself on finding the little spaces of time in the day–the five minutes before the meeting starts at the day job, the fifteen minutes wrested from the lunch break, but Eden has broken it down into miniscule spaces of time.

Especially in the maelstrom of NaNo, I clung to the idea of five sentences.  Often it was more, and it became even more as the habit ingrained itself, but I could always count on the time to write five sentences.

At Thanksgiving, Kristen Lamb wrote about unseen blessings, which is really a way of finding gratitude in things that don’t at first engender gratitude. I especially liked her example about being grateful she has to wash the dog blankets, because it means she has a dog for a companion.

Every time I put on my bathrobe and it smells like my Weimaraner, I remember to be grateful for the dog who knows from three rooms away when I am crying.

I encourage you to look for ways to see the half-full glass in writing.

Be grateful for the five sentences written, words that didn’t exist yesterday.

Be grateful for the tendrils that those five sentences send into the ether, today or the next day, buzzing in the back of your mind during cooking, cleaning, meditation, or sleep. They hold promise for the next day with all the directions they can go.

Be grateful for the “zero” draft that was written in a near channeling trance, because it contains flesh that can be carved to fit bones you will create in the future.

Be grateful for the character who will not shut up because she is showing you what she needs and wants.

Be grateful for the quiet character who needs to be coaxed into revelation, because often the cliché of still waters is true, and adds depth to your writing.

Be grateful for the critical beta reader who points out the flatness of the character or the dialogue, because instead of being overwhelmed with the task of editing, your focus is clear.

Be grateful for the reader who loves everything you write, because we can always use a cheerleader.

Be grateful for the distraction that pulls you from the writing, because it gives you a chance to look at the words anew when you return.

Be grateful for the quiet time before anyone is awake, or after all are asleep, because words found in peace often resonate.

Be grateful for the laundry, the dishes, the dusting, because when the hands are busy, the mind is often free to invent worlds.

Be grateful for the helping hands that free you from the chores more quickly, and loose you into the world you have invented.

Be grateful for the words that come, whether they come easily or slowly. They are a creation that did not exist before you, and will last after you are gone.

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

The Play’s The Thing by Shan Jeniah Burton

Hi there! Today, I want to talk about playing.
What’s that? Play doesn’t sound very motivational?
Maybe not. I know traditional wisdom holds that commitment, dedication, self-discipline, schedule, and consistency are the path to attaining a goal, no matter what it is. I’m not saying these things aren’t important, because they do all have their places – unless you happen to know someone with a functioning magic wand, or your pages appear perfectly at the ends of your fingertips, with agents knocking down your door, carrying offers from publishers in their hands.
No? Me either, actually.
This space will have many posts that help with those areas of writing.
Me? I’d rather play.
Along with being a writer, I’m also the homeschooling mom of two children. Much of my time and energy is focused on providing a life rich in experience and opportunities for play and discovery. They are avid, curious, continuous learners, and what they discover, through their play-filled lives, goes far wider and deeper than any planned curriculum ever could.
To me, being part of and witness to the way my children learn is confirmation that humans learn best through play.
From infancy, we are geared to play:
  • The newborn learns to smile in playful response to mom or dad.
  • The older baby rolls over in the quest to reach a toy.
  • The toddler learns to eat while painting every surface and grasps gravity by dropping nearly everything in sight.
Most of us, at least in America, went to school as children of five or six. And there we were, for a good chunk of the rest of our formative years. Play became something relegated to recess, after school (if homework and chores permitted it), weekends, or those covert moments we could steal from other parts of our lives.
Play became something equated with “goofing off” , laziness and wasting time – the opposite of commitment, dedication, and work ethic.
But what if that isn’t true?
We are writers for a reason, or many reasons. But I’m willing to bet that most of us, when we began, were passionate, because writing brought us joy, happiness, and the pureness of play.
I have a cabinet filled with handwritten notebooks. I’ve been filling them for years, because a story grabbed me, and wouldn’t let me go, and I needed to give it a voice. Many of these aren’t publishable, and, even for those that might be, I’m not likely to do it.
I wrote them as play, just for myself. They’re pure fantasy, and I want to keep them that way. I’m developing other projects for publication; these are just for my own titillation. I share them with a few very trusted others, but that isn’t why I wrote them.
They were explorations: of my own depths and breadths, of ideas that I knew would never be for public consumption, as a place to experiment without consequence, or pour forth emotions it wouldn’t be wise to share publicly.
And they fed my creative spirit in a way that only play can.
Because I give myself space to play:
  • my other writing touches deeper and more intuitive places within me.
  • I make connections I might not make otherwise.
  • I’m braver; more willing to take chances with my writing.
  • I know what delights me, and what I want to spend my time on.
  • There is a breath of fresh air in all my writing.
  • I don’t resent the more mundane tasks that are part of building a writing career.
  • I’m generally optimistic, and probably more fun to be around.
  • My mind gets time to drift, wander, simmer, revel, renew, and rest.
This round, I’m focusing on play. I intend to approach my goals with a sense of play and adventure; to blend those important things like dedication and consistency with wonder and delight. I’m leaving myself lots of room to explore the cow trails I find along the way, to imagine and fantasize and toy with ideas even when I can’t see them leading anywhere I can exploit as a part of a career plan.
I want to stretch, discover, grow, and learn….
Would you like to play with me? =)
~*~

When the Book Isn’t Working By Julie Glover

 

This past year, I wrestled and wrangled with a manuscript over and over, trying to skillfully execute what I knew was a good story idea with engaging characters.

But it wasn’t coming together.

No matter how many times I pored over the chapters, marked up the drafts, and reconsidered point of view and setting and tense and so on, the book just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t yet the book it could be, the book I would want to pull off a bookstore shelf.

The book wasn’t working.

So I stepped back and took a fresh look at the whole kit-and-caboodle. Where had I gone astray? Why was my wonderful story with characters I loved so difficult to get onto the page?

If you feel your manuscript is going off track, don’t give up. You can turn it around.

Replot the book. If you’re a plotter, you already got down the whole story before you wrote, but maybe once you wrote, it simply didn’t pan out on the page. If you’re a pantser, maybe you may meandered a little and have some parts where the story sags.

If things haven’t turned out like you wanted, perhaps you need a different plot or a major or minor tweak in your current one. Create or revisit your outline. Make sure you can trace the story arc and the character arc. Check for plausible plot points and believable character motivation. If you see something gone awry, be willing to shift your plot to make the story stronger.

Streamline your characters. Do you really need all of those people? Do they all serve a vital purpose in moving the story along? Could you combine characters into a composite that works harder and smarter to engage the reader? Do you need to introduce any characters to fulfill archetype roles your main character needs to support his/her journey?

Check your character list, and be willing to shove out anyone who isn’t pulling their weight. If you absolutely love a character and hate to see them go, pull out the sections on him/her, save them, and later insert that character into a different story that better fits their role.

Check every chapter. Does every chapter matter? Does every chapter move the story along? Is every chapter engaging in its own right? Ask yourself if a reader would be compelled to read the whole book no matter what chapter he/she turned to first.

The difference between a good book and a great book is maintaining intensity throughout. Even in slower sections, confirm there is tension and what happens matters to the main character’s growth. Don’t cheat the reader by brushing over setting, emotion, and conflict. Dig deep and mine each moment for what it adds to the overall story. Make every single chapter strong, and the whole book will be stronger.

Get a second opinion. Sometimes we’ve been over a book so many times, we can’t see it fresh anymore. Find a beta reader and ask them to read chapters or the whole book and provide feedback. Ask specific questions that concern you. For instance: Where did your interest wane, even a bit? Which characters did you relate to? Did any characters feel one-dimensional or unnecessary? Where do you think the story could be strengthened?

A good beta reader is a valuable ally. (I’m blessed to have two fabulous ones.) Find someone who won’t sugarcoat their answers but who is firmly in your corner and wants you to succeed as a writer. Then open yourself up to helpful criticism and use their advice to help you figure out why your book isn’t working.

I’m happy to report that my wrestled-and-wrangled manuscript is now being lassoed into a proper novel. It was a bit heart-rending to kill my previous plot and restart the process, but it beats staying in a chokehold with my writing.

If your book isn’t working, do what you must to fix it. You can do this! You can tell your story and tell it well. You and your readers will be happy you made the extra effort.

~*~

Julie Glover