Self Assessment

Some of my finest art yet…

Self Assessment

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Reblog: How Do You End a Story?

So, for the last couple stories I’ve written, I’ve really struggled with endings. One of them, the best I could squeeze out of myself so far, was just thrown together into a cobbled flop across the finish line; the others didn’t even get that far, ending when I simply couldn’t force myself to keep working on such profoundly flawed projects. It’s been really frustrating because I don’t like quitting on things, especially not things that I’ve devoted so much time and heart to.

Cue DIY MFA. This is a really cool blog that I’ve come to quite a few times with specific questions, or even just to browse. And sure enough, they had a nice article go up about this very problem of mine just a few weeks ago. How timely is that??

Without further ado (since I have so much catching up to do with my NaNo project, ugggggh), enjoy Elizabeth Kauffman’s How Do You End a Story? Hopefully you’ll find it as helpful (or at least encouraging) as I did! Happy writing!

Ask the Editor: How Do You End a Book?

 by Elisabeth Kauffman

I’m nearing the end of a novel–or, I’ve been nearing the end of a novel for some time–and each time I hit the 90k mark, I have an uncontrollable urge to throw the whole thing out and start over. (Uncontrollable as in, I already have. Several times.)

Basically, I look back through the draft under the guise of trying to make the ending gel. Over the course of rereading the first few chapters, I convince myself the problem isn’t the climax, but that the whole book is so deeply flawed a full rewrite is probably the best thing I can do. On some level, I’ve recognized this as a form of creative resistance, and understand routinely scrapping my projects isn’t part of a productive writing process. But it’s also hard to ignore the fact that there are some serious structural issues with my draft.

So, in every sense of the question, how do you end a book?

Need Some Resolution

 

Ready to read the reply? Click through for sweet, sweet knowledge! Link!

Sample Chapter: Copper

Howdy, friends! I am sick and behind on my word count, so I’ll dispense with the pleasantries and vomit up this first chapter of my current project, Copper. Enjoy, and don’t catch plague!

Chapter One

Phoebe stared up at the single naked lightbulb in the room, suspended hiiiiigh out of reach from the ceiling. It flicked on every morning at six. It flicked off every night at eight. It was a tiny sun, beyond her control and beyond caring for someone like her.

It wasn’t a particularly strong bulb. The corners of her room were always in shadow. The darkness was under the bed; she would move the thing if it wasn’t bolted down, just to see what the floor looked like in relatively bright detail, rather than lying on her belly coughing on dust bunnies with her cheek to the cold concrete floor. Like every other inch of the floor and the walls as high as she could reach, she knew every bump and grain and gouge. Nearly every moment of the past five years had been spent in this room. She knew every inch of it by touch and sight and smell and even taste and the sound it made when she tapped it with a knuckle or slapped it with a palm or stomped it with a bare heel.

But on the days she was strapped onto the bed, sedated half out of her mind, bored out of the other half, she had nothing to do but stare up at that one dim bulb and think about how grand it would be to take it down and handle it and peer at its little insides. It was the one great mystery left in the room.

The room Phoebe had had before the electricity had been put in had had a window high up by the ceiling. She could trace its path along the wall and have a kind of clock. She missed that.

The room before that had been in a different facility entirely. It hadn’t seemed nice at the time, but Phoebe realized now that her grandmother had probably chosen the place with care, not realizing they would decide within months of her deployment that Phoebe was too dangerous to be kept there, and off she went to Bloomingdale. Phoebe used to wonder if knowing where she would end up would have changed her grandmother’s mind, but had decided it probably wouldn’t have. Her grandmother had never been one to be bothered by anything less than the needs of the whole world. The needs of one little girl just weren’t important enough.

She had promised Phoebe she would come back for her.

She never had.

The lightbulb overhead flicked out, plunging Phoebe into blackness. She closed her eyes, and then opened them again. It made no difference.

 

#

 

Mrs. Alice Mae Phillips stepped closer to the window, staring out over the manicured lawn of St. Anthony’s Home for Aged Exceptionals, its grass still slick with last night’s rain. She watched the abandoned grounds for a few moments, absently running her large-knuckled fingers through the plush fur of the Turkish Angora lounging in her windowsill. The cat arched her back appreciatively, a low purr rumbling in her throat.

“Well, Maggie,” the old woman murmured, tired already. “Time for the morning jailbreak.”

The old woman pocketed a small cube of copper, rolling her stooped shoulders, and then ambled toward the door. She paused in the frame, glancing back at the cat again, and gave her a conspirator’s nod as she said in a low voice, “Don’t forget the plan.”

 

 

To read the full chapter, click here!

Reblog: Daily Writing Routine

Howdy folks! It is now April, and that means it’s Camp NaNo season! Wahoo! I really need this, because I have been super lazy about writing the last few months and particularly the last few days. (Holidays. Holidays WRECK my writing system.)

Speaking of writing systems, the reblog this week is from our friendly neighborhood Well-Storied, about daily writing habits- the good, the bad, and the augh-why-does-it-hurt. Read Kristen Keiffer’s take on daily writing and decide if it’s right for you! Enjoy, and happy writing!

Have you ever thought about creating a daily writing routine? In today's breakdown, I'm sharing my the pros + cons, as well as my personal experience in maintaining a 1,000 day writing streak!

“Real writers write every day.”

Unfortunately, that’s a sentiment you’ll often hear in the writing world, and for a time, I subscribed to it myself. And while I still maintain a daily writing routine, I regret the days I spent telling other writers they should to do the same.

Every writer’s process is unique, and what works for one—or even many—isn’t guaranteed to work for you. And that’s okay! The important thing is to find the writing techniques that work best with your time, your skills, and your stories. Unsure if a daily writing routine would be a good fit for your writing process?

Allow me to share the pros and cons of my own experience with a daily writing routine today!

How I Built My Daily Writing Routine…

I’m far more of a storyteller than a writer. I enjoy plotting, creating characters, world-building, and the like, but the actual process of writing the dang thing is often like pulling teeth for me. And because of that, I’m prone to procrastinating my work.

A few years ago, my writing life was a mess because of this procrastination. I wouldn’t write for weeks at a time, until I grew so frustrated with my lack of productivity that I’d practically hurl myself into the work. Obviously, working with such intensity wasn’t exactly sustainable, and I often exhausted all of my creativity energy and motivation during these times.

I wouldn’t write again for weeks, and so the cycle repeated.

I knew I needed to find a way to stop procrastinating my work, to instead spread my creative energy out throughout the week, but I didn’t know where to start. That’s when I found Faye Kirwin’s Write Chain Challenge, a 30-day course designed to help you build a daily writing routine.

The course itself runs off the principal of a daily minimum. Every day, you must meet your daily minimum writing goal in order to add a link to your Write Chain. Fail to earn your daily link, and you break your chain and must start over.

This challenge seemed like the perfect way to revolutionize my messy writing life, and in February 2015, I began adding links to my Write Chain. After nearly three years of daily writing, I hit my 1,000th daily link earlier this month. One thousand days! 

Never in a million years would I have thought I could work on my writing for so many days in a row. But the practice wasn’t always easy, and it certainly wasn’t perfect…

To read the full article, click here!

Of Productivity and Patience

patience-is-a-virtueEvery Tuesday morning and Thursday evening, I put my kids to bed and get on my computer and curse my internet connection and open Scrivener. I write every day, usually at night after having put my kids down to sleep, but Tuesday morning and Thursday evening are special because those are the times when I write with friends.

Mary has been my number one writer friend for years and years and is pretty much my soulmate. My number two is Anna- who shares with me an almighty kitchen quirk and who gave me a questionable bag of flour that I can’t get rid of because it was Anna’s questionable bag of flour and I’ll be darned if I throw it out before I figure out what it is- and, even though both of them have moved away from me, we still carve this time out to write together. I love this writing time, and it feeds my soul in a different way than just writing by myself does.

In our little group dynamic, I am and always have been The Nag. I’m constantly blowing up their phones if they forget what day it is, or talking smack when their word counts are low, or coming up with new and improved ways to extort their stories out of them. My latest scheme is our Chapter Pact of Doom. (I am the only one who calls it that.)

Every other Friday, we are each supposed to post a chapter of our current WIP to a Google doc that the others have access to. This is kind of new and terrifying for me because I once-shy-of-never show first draft material to people, and here I am posting it to the internet to peruse at their leisure. *faints* But this just goes to show you how far I will go to try and shoehorn forward writing progress out of myself and everyone around me, especially when it comes to first drafts.

I write rapidly. Feverishly. I squeeze first drafts out with the hurried frenzy of Peter Rabbit popping through Mr. McGregor’s fence.

But there is another end to this spectrum. As important as it is to get stories quickly to market, there is a Zen to writing as well that cannot be rushed.

No matter how quickly you can put words down, writing requires phenomenal patience. A book that takes me two months to write can also take me two years to edit. I’ve been querying literary agents with only glacial progress for years. Even if I signed tomorrow, it would in all likelihood be years longer before a book of mine ever hit a bookstore shelf.

So here are a few things that I’ve learned to be patient about over the years.

Editing As quickly as I draft, I am at least that slow in editing. Everything about this process is super slow and thoughtful. A passage that took me minutes to jot down can take months to tweak into its polished final state. Drafting is all about just getting ideas onto the page. Editing is a hundred things more- checking for spelling and grammar; clarifying; refining the voice; making sure the scene and each part of it move the story forward; putting emotion on the page; grounding the scene in sensory detail; ALL THE THINGS. And that takes time!

Submitting Even after all these years, it still burns us. Crafting submission materials (blurbs, queries, bios, etc) is only half the battle. Then you have to research the heck out of who you’re going to send all this material to- and then tailor each submission for just that person. This does not happen overnight. (Or if it does, you’re doing it wrong.) And even after you’ve finally gotten your materials perfect and sent them to the perfect people, you still have to wait for…

Responses So, waiting for responses is actually one of the things I’ve gotten decent at being patient for. When I first started submitting stuff (to anyone, really- friends, beta readers, agents, etc), I felt like I was sitting in a boiler room on a bed of broken glass. There were even a few times where anxiety got the better of me and I thought I was going to die of a heart attack or something before the whole ordeal was over. But these days, I’ve learned how to keep myself busy while waiting for responses. I have other projects I work on. I send things out in batches timed so that there’s always a few out and a few more to send. I read exciting books. I occasionally skip the country on vacations. You know, things like that.

Fame, Riches, and Glory I’m, uh… I’m still waiting on this one. Completely. And frankly, this is probably a thing I’ll be patiently waiting for until I die.

Writing is a lot of work- the kind of work that happens quickly, and the kind that happens slowly. If I worked very slowly at all of it, I would never have the body of prose that I’ve accumulated, nor gotten through the literal millions of words of practice that I have. But if I was a slave to speed in its every aspect, sure, maybe I’d have a lot of work, but none of it would have the kind of polished refine that it requires to garner any critical notice, whether that’s from agents or publishers or readers. A writer requires both. And that is something that took me a long time to learn.

So whether you’re pouring on the heat to try and muscle through a first draft in three weeks flat, or reining in the horses to make sure you really get this one line just right, take pride in knowing that you’re giving your work just what it needs- a push of productivity, and a pinch of patience, each in due course.

Happy writing!