Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Challenge Weeks 4 and 5, Beta-ing, and Cake (sorta)

And thus passes yet another week where I didn't update...
At least the delay was again because of massive writing that you fine folks can read. Although, looking back, it was a silly reason to delay - and eventually just all out miss - my weekly update.

I have been running behind on the recaps that I've been attempting for the writing challenge over on Writers' Huddle. Originally, I was going for little blurbs about what happened on the X-Future boards. These would be posts of about 1000 words or so; maybe even less. Because my plans originally had me writing so little, I had decided to write two recaps a week.

Well, here we are at the end of Week 5 out of a 6 week challenge, and these recaps are starting at about 1000 words each! It's keeping me about a week and a half to get the two recaps completed each time, but more on that in a moment. My point is that I'm only going to attempt one recap for this last week of the challenge.

Wow... last week of the challenge.... That's weird to think about. Maybe because the summer challenge I participated in last summer involved me writing a brand new short story every day, and so even though I only write 14 out of the 31 days of the challenge it still felt like a LOOOOONG challenge. This one with the weekly updating seemed to have flown by. I wonder if I can keep up this pace even without the challenge incentive....

Anyway, let's go back and recap the past two weeks.

As I stated before, I did have one recap finished last Sunday. Well, in truth, I had the whole thing read, written, proofread/edited, and then posted all last Sunday over my husband's overnight shift. It was a simple update consisting of about four or five posts regarding a semi-crucial event in the game. Basically, it was celestialTyrant trying to cause mischief for his character Nix. The hardest part about the whole recap was that CT left little snippets of what happened here and there, and I had to take a lot of creative liberty in order to lace everything together in to a neat little narrative.

Well, I had the recap written and posted with enough free time to write up a blog update last Sunday. However, I was determined - especially since the Nix update was only about 1000 words long - to write my second recap of the week before blogging about Week 4 of the challenge. I didn't realize that the next part that needed to be recapped would be our longest Danger Room training session. It's also one of our longest scenes on the board. Whoops.

It kept me off-and-on writing between Sunday and Wednesday to finally finish the second recap. Between finally trying to make up for the chores I had been neglecting in order to push the recap out and people visiting, well, I just never got around to either a mid-week blog update to make up for missing Sunday or working on the official recaps for Week 5 of the challenge.

So, I say the short Nix update was the last-minute recap for Week 4, and the three-day writing frenzy on the Danger Room narrative was the recap for Week 5.

Anyway, for those who haven't found them yet, here are the two recaps.

Nix Loses Control on FF.
Nix Loses Control on DA.

Capture the Flag on FF.
Capture the Flag on DA.

The writing challenge for week 4 was to write as fast as possible for ten minutes. As evidenced by the "10 minute writing exercise" I wrote for Week 2 that ended up being the 3hr long writing session that resulted in the X-Future Snippet "[Screw Driver] Attacks"; when I start writing a scene I don't stop until it's done. And most times I don't write fast enough - or short enough scenes - for it to be finished within 10minutes of writing. So this was going to be the trickiest challenge for me yet.

I solved my "I can't stop" issue by making sure to try out the challenge over my work breaks. Fifteen minute breaks that included a quick trip to the bathroom, and some time to get in to my locker to get my pad and pen. More-or-less leaving me with ten minutes to write, and forcing me to stop no matter where I was in the writing so that I wouldn't get in trouble for taking too long of a break.

I ended up repeating the challenge during three different work breaks in order to finish up the scene. It's not nearly compelling enough for me to post it as one of my X-Future Snippets, but you will EVENTUALLY get around to reading it as part of the recaps.

I had been stalled for about three weeks on what to do next with Lia. Ripley had just asked her to pack up some things for them to have a weekend away in NYC. However, her father Jamie "Multiple Man" Madrox has been depicted as an insanely overprotective father. There was no way he'd let his 17-yr-old daughter go on a weekend trip to NYC alone with her 19-yr-old new boyfriend. I thought the drama of either Jamie finding out or Lia trying to find a way around her father would be amusing and help catapult the stagnant Lia. However, I had no clue where Lia would run in to her father or what the conversation would sound like.

So I used the 10min challenge as a way to just write the dialogue. I'd figure out the location later.

For those who are curious, the short version is that Lia runs in to her dad who was terrified after hearing about the attack on the prom after party. She reassures him that she's fine - albeit a bit banged up - and that she was in the recovery ward for so long because she was visiting Ripley. Jamie then goes on a mini-tirade about her being too young to keep wasting her time spending every waking moment with her boyfriends as they get themselves thrown in to the infirmary. He then commented that he was still mad at Chayse for dumping Lia, and that he needed a good man-to-man talk with Ripley. Like the typical 17-yr-old I'm trying to have her be, Lia is beyond embarrassed about everything. She defends Chayse and Willow before begging her father to not bring out any dupes while talking to Ripley - this tactic having been used in the past to scare off possible suitors. Jamie agrees and decides that the three of them are going to have a nice dinner in order for Jamie to better know Ripley; problem being that Lia and Ripley were already planning on being in NYC when Jamie wanted to have the dinner. So now Lia is dancing around the fact that she has no clue how to "escape" the Institute without her father knowing where she's going, and of course forbidding it. The scene closes out with Lia nervously laughing as she is escorted back to Ripley's room by her father, still unsure how to navigate the whole "Dinner with Dad vs Sneaking out to a weekend in NYC" dilemma.

It will be a while before I'm far enough in the recaps for this scene to show up, but fear not. I do have at least one Snippet currently in the works and - depending on writing free time - I might have it written in a week or two. The thing with this Snippet though is that the ENTIRE thing is a spoiler. Hubby made a comment to me about how he wanted to evolve the relationship of two characters, but it hasn't been presented in any form on the forums. I just ran with the idea, however.

I had Hubby greenlight all of the details I bulleted for the scene I want to write, and so for intents and purposes what I'm going to write will be canon. The details may even sneak their way in to the role play eventually. It will be a little fun to write, so we'll see how that goes.

Alright, so all that was Week 4's mini-challenge, what about Week 5?

The challenge for this week was to keep a writing journal, and write in it after at least one writing session. I definitely need to do something like this. I can really zero in on what inspires me to write vs keeps me sitting on the couch watching TV. I can focus on what time of day I seem to get the most writing done during. I can figure out what causes the largest distractions while I'm writing and what techniques are most effective in keeping me focused. I can narrow down what music helps me write vs. the music that just distracts me more by messing with my emotions a bit too much. The list of benefits to keeping a writing journal just go on and on.

I sort of did a writing journal back when I attempted NaNo last November. I had an excel spreadsheet where one page was the count of how many words I needed to write to stay on-track with the 50,000 word goal, as well as how far I had actually gotten with my word-count. It was a nicely done calculation device and I'll definitely have to use it again this year - as well as perhaps find a way of sharing the blank file with other NaNo-ers.

Anyway, the other page in that spreadsheet was a log of my writing. It listed what I worked on - blog post, NaNo novel, or "other" - what time I worked on it, how many words I got in, what the environment was like - isolated, internet/TV free, friends around, in the work break room, comfortable chairs, laying in bed, etc - whether or not Hubby or I had work, and if the upcoming deadline was self-imposed.

I'm lazy and therefore haven't actually gone through the spreadsheet yet to see if any patterns arise, but it's there for the day when I'm not so lazy. So would a journal with more narrative specifics.

Considering my difficulties in writing in the first place, I ended up not truly writing a journal like the challenge requested. Although, I do still consider the mini-challenge completed. After nearly every writing session I posted something about it on Facebook. These statuses are sort of my journal for the challenge. As is this blog post. I mean, I'm still going over everything that more-or-less went through my mind and the distractions I had to deal with during the past few weeks of writing.
I count it at least.

In fact, I went so far as to teasingly tag Ali on one of my statuses in order to ask her if it counted. She agreed, but mainly because she was on vacation this past week and was feeling lenient.
I was able to accomplish something outside of the challenges as well this past week. Omnibladestrike - along with CT, The Bard, Ronoxym, Cyhyr, and Gunvalel - invaded my home on Friday; mainly because CT was crashing the night, and it was the first time any of us really got a chance to see him pretty much the entire summer. Well, while Omni was over to hang out with Hubby, CT, and the rest of the gang, he wanted me to help him with his story.

So, even though I still have three of ChibiSunnie's stories in my "Need to Beta" queue since June, I ended up reading Omni's story - which, to be fair, was also in that queue for about a month now - and gave him notes both in person and in the margins for him to reflect back on.

Once more the boy more-or-less completely changed his opening, and I feel like it will change about a half-dozen times more. However, I think I finally got him to realize that he needs to complete the manuscript first, and then rework the opening during his re-write. So that's progress.

Although his writing has indeed improved each go, I feel like this opening might be his least compelling. Add in that the main character Mekonraiba only makes a brief appearance, and I fear the first chapter will be on the chopping block during the first revision. He at the very least has the basic plot points he wants to focus on in future chapters, plus it's entirely plausible that the events in the first chapter can be reworked in to future chapters through snippets of flashbacks and information dropped.

Point is, I'm proud of his improvement and I'm excited to hear that he's already in the midst of his second chapter - finally.

Omni's struggle, as well as mine for a WHILE now, brings me to my last point.

Author Rachel Aaron runs a writing blog entitled Pretentious Title. I started following Rachel after one of the Writers' Huddle members posted a link to her post How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. Well, the update she posted just this afternoon was especially poignant.

Don't Stomp on My Cake talks about the stress she puts herself under and the guilt she overwhelms herself with due to her overly high writing expectations and fear of failure. She also comments about how she lost hours, days, weeks, months, and even YEARS of writing due to this morale-sucking, motivation-killing guilt and stress in regards to writing.

I completely related to everything she said, even the comment about "Oh, I only have 1/2hr to write in... screw it..."

I feel all writers should read this post, learn from it, and feel less alone in their perceived failures.

Write on, ladies and gents, and take care until the next time I can get my butt in gear and write another post.

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