Dark Crystal Authorquest – The Final Stretch

December 2, 2013

I’m entering the final stretch of the Dark Crystal Authorquest, and much as in the frenzy of NaNoWriMo, I’m starting to feel as though I hardly have any words to spare for non-Authorquest writing endeavors. I did manage to write last week’s  Young Adult Catholics post while in the car on the way to Rapid City for Thanksgiving, and I got half of an entry written from A Year in the Life on Saturday, along with a few short journal entries.

My goal was to have 10,000 submittable words by the end of November, and I didn’t make it. Instead, I’m at about 12,000 words that are not yet submission-worthy. I have one or two more scenes to write before I’m going to stop to focus on revision, some of it substantial. I’m hoping to write that last scene tomorrow. Tonight I’m drained after writing about 1,500 words and am surprised I’m even managing to squeeze this entry out. I’m looking forward to having this submission all tied up and sent away, hopefully early enough that it won’t plague my holiday preparations. And perhaps when it’s finally out the door, I’ll have the energy to detail how I managed to get it written.

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NaNo’Ers, I’m With You in Spirit

October 28, 2013

Although I usually take one year to “recover” between attempts at NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at November the same way again.

This year, I’m on “recovery,” still working on the novel I pounded out last November (I’ve discovered that novels written in a month take two years to revise). But as November draws nearer, NaNoWriMo is still very much on my mind. On Wednesday night (October 30), I’ll be leading an online chat about NaNoWriMo at New Moon Girls, which is free for members. I’m also leading, “So, You Want to Write a Novel?”, a webinar for girls ages 8-14, in which I’ll share some of my tips for writing and finishing novels.  Girls need not be members of New Moon to attend. The webinar is offered twice — once on November 5 and once on November 7. If there’s a girl in your life who is tackling NaNoWriMo or novel-writing in general, send her my way!

As for me, I’ll be finishing up my Dark Crystal submission in November, while a friend is working on producing one short story a week. May this November find you keeping the winter writing spirit in your own way!


Where to Begin?

September 11, 2013

Recently, a writer friend of mine told me that the opening line for one of my stories wasn’t really working for her. Like most negative feedback, it wasn’t easy to hear–but it will ultimately lead to a better story. Luckily, I wasn’t particularly attached to that opening line–it had already been changed several times:

  1. Shortly after I wrote my initial opening for the story, I knew it was a typical “throat-clearing” opener, in which I stalled while I figured out where I was really going to begin. Only my writer’s group ever saw that opening. That particular draft had a question next to the place I would actually open the story that said, “Start story here?” They agreed that I should.
  2. The next opening line stayed around for quite a while–perhaps a year? But I got feedback that it sounded too “modern” and gave the wrong impression of the character’s “voice.”
  3. The third incarnation of the opening line (which apparently wasn’t a charm ;)) no longer sounded modern, but perhaps too archaic, and was a little confusing to boot.

There’s always this old fall-back …

At first, I felt as though I was out of options (that’s probably actually never true in writing). And I felt a little sad that the opening line was causing me so much trouble, because opening lines used to come so naturally to me. In fact, they used to be the first glimpse of a story I would get. That hasn’t been my experience for several years … I think because I’ve tinkered with so many openings professionally, and read so much about the supreme importance of opening lines, that I no longer trust my first instinct for them. And now it seems that instinct has deserted me altogether.

This is a problem, since not having an opening line makes, well, opening a story daunting. I started with a not-so-great opening line for my Rapunzel novel because November had arrived, whether I liked it or not. In revisions, I gave it a better opening line. Now, I’m poised to begin my Dark Crystal novel, but I’m hung up on the opening line again, although my mind is swirling with images for the story itself that continue to come clearer and clearer to me. But without an opening line, I feel as if they’re all locked behind a gate I can’t open.

I know that’s not true. I can climb over the gate. I can bust it open. It may be messy, but at least I’ll be inside, and I can come back and fix it later.

My friend also offered some insight that makes me feel less daunted about the whole opening line conundrum, and which I think is good advice for any writer to follow, especially those who fill their brains with too much writing advice:

“Your opening … might be a victim of overthinking. It might be a problem of you trying to figure out what’s ‘right’ in writing, and not what’s right for your story. I think you need to figure out what the story needs, and not what the writing advice columnists need. Maybe the reason that opening lines had always come naturally to you is because that was before you spoiled your brain with too much writing advice.”

Indeed. Back when openings came easier to me, I was young enough that I felt I had plenty of “time” to become a successful writer. I wanted that, of course, but I didn’t feel like a failure for not having it yet. All I wanted to do was to tell that story, so I never put locks on any of the gates.

After letting it percolate for a bit, I do think I’ve arrived at a better opening for the story my friend read, and the story will be better for it. And I’ll come up with an opening for my Dark Crystal novel, too. I just have to be OK with accepting that it might not happen at the beginning.


The Only Cure for Writer’s Block? Writing.

August 26, 2013

When I teach writing, I always tell people that the only cure for writer’s block is writing.

Now it’s time for me to buck up and follow my own advice.

I’ve read all the Dark Crystal books I can get my hands on, cover-to-cover, poring over the pictures and taking notes. I have enough bare bones to begin writing my contest entry. There’s no more excuse now for putting it off. Except that I’m intimidated.

The world of the Dark Crystal is lush and complex and ancient and, above all, visually stunning. A world meant for the eyes to devour. And capturing that same sense of awe and beauty in writing will be difficult, so difficult that the task of transforming a blank computer screen into something similar seems almost impossible.

But starting a new project always feels impossible. And by not writing, I’m not using the part of my brain that knows how to make those connections, that can break through writer’s block. There are things that can happen in your mind when you write that just won’t happen when you’re just thinking. That’s why writing through writer’s block works. It gets your mind engaged in the right way again, and even if you have to write pages of crap, usually in the midst of it there’s an “aha!” moment that you never would have uncovered if you just tried to solve the issue while washing dishes or walking the dog, staying in your mind, not using the tools that you will need to break through this wall. You can’t nail a board back onto the deck by just thinking about a hammer, and you can’t break through writer’s block by just thinking about it, either.

Mondays are my blogging days, which give me a reprieve. And tomorrow I blog for Young Adult Catholics. But on Wednesday morning, my task is clear: I will be writing my outline for the Dark Crystal’s Authorquest. Here’s hoping that will help my story “crystalize” enough to write those crucial 10,000 words.