Discipline and Shiny Things

Monday, 23 May 2011

It's no wonder my three year old is turning into a little monster. How am I supposed to discipline him when I can't even discipline myself? Oh, let me tell ya, I lack discipline in all areas of my life (don't even ask me about my laundry or bank accounts), but the one area that frustrates me the most is my lack of discipline in my writing.

I know I need to write everyday. I do, really. but for some reason I just can't bring myself to actually do it. I sit on the bed, thinking 'I really need to get that scene written', but there's always something else more pressing to do. Work, coursework, housework...

BA in English Literature & Creative Writing

What's worse is the fact that in my many moons of writing, I have only ever typed the words 'The End' on two full-length manuscripts.  One of those (a Harlequin Intrigue) I recently tore apart thanks to plot holes and am hoping to sew back together and the other (a sappy teen thriller/mean girls/cheerleader monstrosity) is happily lost forever in the dark corners of my mother's attic. I hope. God forbid that thing ever find the light of day.

In an effort to stay on a project (I mean, jeez, I'm only 9 scenes from completing the re-worked first draft of that Intrigue), I have been researching techniques and even devised a couple of strategies of my own.

First off, I am spending a hell of a lot more time on my plotting. The idea is to create a 'book' of plot info. I find I write best when the scene is mostly written out in notes, anyway, so I am trying to write a rough paragraph on each scene then return to it over and over again adding more detail or information until I have enough to write the scene.

Essentially, this means I don't get to really write until after the whole book is 'bare bones'. I hope it will mean that I don't get to the point where I have lost my original 'spark' was because it will be somewhere in the notes, along with a map on how to get there. Of course, I do need a bit of the 'lovely prose' to keep me motivated. Sometimes, just reading the polished first chapter can stir excitement in me. So I may have to go ahead and write that first chapter, just to have a feel for the story and to have something pretty to come back to and go 'Awww, I love that. Let me get to work.'

Writing Romance

But my favorite strategy, so far has to be the 'reward/reminder system' I have developed. I am a girly-girl. No one who knows me would ever tell you different. We're talking ponytails and cheerleading hair bows (I'm a coach, but I still love a big bow) and sparkly, shiny things! Can you think of a better excuse to buy jewellery?

I have very little good jewelry. I only wear my little cultured pearl stud earrings, engagement ring and wedding band. Between working in an operating department and coaching cheerleading, I can't really wear much more, but I planned to start. First I set off to find a vintage pearl ring which I thought would symbolize my aspiring to be a great Southern writer. I looked and looked, but I never found one that really stood out to me. Next, I looked at bracelets. I remember a couple of years ago when Pandora bracelets were all the rage and everyone was getting one for Christmas. At the time I had no desire to ever own one. I thought they were seriously over-priced silver. This time I looked at them in a different light. And I thought 'What if'...

Just before Christmas last year I bought myself a silver Pandora with the barrel clasp and I started on an obsession. The original idea was to add one charm for each story. I met with a lovely jeweller who was looking to get out of selling Pandora and offered me fabulous discounts which allowed me to get the bracelet, clips, and a few beads. I started out with a bead to symbolize my change in degree path, a bead for writing romance, and one for writing magical realism. Recently, when I started writing non-fiction to make money for our up-coming vacation, I bought a little silver plane. I even bought a bead to symbolize my settling on a pen name, starting to build a platform, and moving seriously toward publication. And a bead to symbolize my entering the Harlequin Valentine Secrets contest.

Harlequin Valentine Secrets Contest

Since then, I have gone a bit mad with beads. I keep finding them on eBay ridiculously cheap so I just keep buying them. I haven't bought any that don't symbolize a project, though, so I guess I'm okay on that end. Sort of. Rather than bore you silly with all of those pictures at once, I'll drag it out a bit. I plan to feature one bead at a time with a little post on what it means to me or what story it represents.

There is one major issue with the bracelet, though. I cannot decide when to add the beads. Now, I plan to wear them all while I'm on holiday. Just because. But seriously, I am torn. My original idea was to add them all now as a contant reminder of the storys that need attending to, but my best friend suggested I add them once the first draft was finished as a reward so I figured I'd give that a try. I only put on the beads I 'deserved'-- university, romance, and magical realism at first, then non-fiction, contest and publication beads joined the strand.

I hate to say that I haven't seen much motivation come from the desire to add more. Maybe it's because I know they are there. Snug and sound in their little boxes. I have them. Yesterday, I decided to add the 'stories' I am actively working on-- the American, the Intrigue, and the magical realism. Already I feel differently. I keep looking at the beads and feeling a rush of emotion. I feel guilty that the manuscripts are sat lonely and unfinished. I feel warm and fuzzy over the stories behind each bead. And I feel a spark of urgency to pick them up and get to work.

So much for me is 'out of sight, out of mind'. I swear I'd forget to feed the cats if they weren't in my face at six am demanding Whiskas. I even make lists constantly, seriously like OCD lists, with everything I need to accomplish for the day. If I don't write it down, I don't remember it and it won't get done. I think I may need to return to my original idea of adding the charms as a reminder to write. A little nudge to guide me to Della each day. In fact, I think I'll go add the last three. It isn't really a cop out like my best friend thinks, is it? I can take them off if it doesn't help.

How do you stay disciplined?

Writing Magical Realism

4 Things, Late As Usual

Monday, 16 May 2011

We are now in the run up to our holiday and things are busy as can be. So, of course, this will have to be short and maybe not so sweet, at least not to start. It has been a trying couple of weeks. Maybe this time around I should say that these are 4 things which are making me HAPPY/THANKFUL RIGHT NOW...

1. Zoe. My beloved little kitty is unfortunately coming to the end of her run. She has been ill with what we believe is cancer for 6 months now, but she has responded well to treatment until these past couple of weeks. At her routine vet visit today, the vet asked to see her again in 4 weeks instead of 6 and told me to be prepared. If she has not made a miraculous recovery by then and still looks as poor as she does today, that will be the appointment where we let her go. As you can imagine, I've cried a lot today.

This certainly is not one thing which is making me happy right now; however, I am very THANKFUL to have had nearly 10 wonderful years with my lovable, sassy girl. As much as I am dreading that appointment, I am also hopeful that we can finally have some closure in this. The vet assures me that she is not suffering and I hate being the one to make 'the big decision', but it really is only up to me at this point. I am terrified that she will die alone while we are in the states and I just won't let her go alone. The past 6 months have been shadowed by the fear that any day she'd start to deteriorate. Now I just wish she'd pass peacefully in her sleep.

2. On to a happier note now, I think. I agonized over my last literature assignment. I had to analyse Wordsworth's 'Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower'. I LOVE poetry, but I suppose there's a big difference between loving to read it and picking it apart. For this assignment I had to learn to really examine the poem rather than just enjoying it. I am happy to report that analysing it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. That and the fact that I (she who writes WAY over word counts) couldn't meet the word count made me terrified of what my grade would be. It was only by a stroke of luck that I made the minimum word count! So, imagine my surprise when I just received my grade and it's my highest grade so far! Hell, yes!! I really am loving my literature degree. :)

3. I mentioned the vacation earlier. There's a million things to do in preparation, but I'm ticking them off one at a time because finally... I'M GOING HOME!!! Only for 3 weeks, but still it will be the first time I've been home in nearly 7 years! My parents haven't seen Hunter since his first birthday and we will be celebrating his fourth birthday at their house in North Carolina! There are so many things I'm looking forward to-- I get to spend time with my Mom, I get to see my best friend after 10 years, I get to introduce my son to our family in Virginia, and I finally get to see my mom play Legos on the floor with my little monster. I just hope the charm of North Carolina, which I love so much, will enchant my hubby as well. I really want to move back home. Most important are the things Hunter will experience for the first time. He's never seen a fox or a deer or a lizard-- my mom has these guys in her back yard! I can't wait to see his eyes light up when he watches his first Fourth of July parade and firework display, when he reels in his first fish, and when he catches his first firefly. This summer is going to be amazing.

4. In spite of all of the stress of finishing up assignments, trying to make money, and tying up loose ends before our vacation, I seem to be making a little headway on the WIP. Today I described some of the plot facets to my best friend and she told me that each time we discuss it I seem to have a better handle on it. I also think I'm only a short distance from determining an overall plot line. Then I just have to plot out my scenes and off I go. I've just ordered my favorite pizza (asparagus, black olive, spinach, and goat's cheese) and the little man is close to bedtime, so I think I'll curl up with a cup of tea, dinner, and my WIP once all is quiet.

Happy writing, everyone!

Zoe, in the garden, while the treatment was still working.

Quietly Procrastinating...

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Tomorrow I'll be coaching for six hours. Monday, I've got an assignment to do and a writing circle meeting. And yet, I can't bring myself to get down to writing. Instead, I'm sitting here, waiting for more thunder and lightening because it reminds me of home.

I haven't gotten to do nearly as much writing as I've wanted to lately. Now, I know, I have to 'make time' to write, but unless anyone has figured out how to add a few extra hours to the day, it's going to be hard for me to do. Between the real job, coursework, writing to make vacation money, the three-year-old and trying to stay on top of the house (or otherwise be buried in dog fur) I find that by the time my fingers finally find the keyboard I'm brain dead.

I did do some editing last night, two chapters of the romance, so tonight I plan to clean those up. As for the actually writing... I'm sad to say I have hit a wall. It's only temporary, I know, but I'm still stressing out about it. The ADHD caught up with me after my last writing circle meeting. I spent a couple of hours talking about magical realism and by the time I got home I had the spark of an idea to re-charge my old MR WIP.

I pulled out the old MR WIP, all 40,000 words of it, and overall I hated it. So I decided to pull out the bits I like and create some new characters and get on with it. Then I realised the old WIP didn't have much of a plot and I had nearly no idea how to plot the new idea. I have spent over two weeks trying to figure out what the hell is going on in this new story that's running around in my mind.

I have three characters, some great magical elements and a hell of a lot of back story. I have a starting point and some idea of what two of the characters will get up to. But what I don't have is a plotline. I need a list of scenes and for some reason my usual techniques aren't cutting it.

I pulled up all of the sites I've bookmarked regarding plot. I pulled some old books on plot off my shelf. I bought a new one for my Kindle. Then today I bought 2 books from Amazon. All in hopes that I can kick-start my plot, because honestly, I cannot take this journey without a map. And all I know is this is a story I need to write.

So, how do you plot?

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