Monday, December 28, 2015

Reflection On 2015

I didn't think I was going to be able to find time to work on this blog again next week. I might have to deal with the fact that yet another year passed that I wasn't able to get 52 updates in. I've done a lot better than the last two years. A lot closer with 50 posts; maybe 51, we'll see how this week goes. The last time I had 51 posts in a year was 2012, so there's that. Maybe 2016 will be the year of true weekly posting all year long.

As possibly the last post I make this year, I want to reflect on how 2015 treated me in the writing department. I don't want to think about how it treated me otherwise...

I won't go as in depth as I did last year, but I do want to do a reflective overview.

I had six resolutions that I wanted to follow this year in order to improve my writing and make it a much more serious part of my life. I started out real well with all of them, but none made it through the full year.

Resolution #1: No More Than Three (3) Zero Days In Any Given Week

    I haven't talked about Zero Days in MONTHS. That in an of itself is a bit pathetic. What I need to do is what I've been suggesting to my fellow writers at my bi-weekly groups: get a small pocket calendar whose sole purpose is for me to mark what days I write. This way I can keep track of my Zero Days and try to eliminate them. As of now, I have no real recollection on how long I was able to keep up with this resolution. Heck, with help from my MasterClass in September and October, I even had a set writing hour. Still, I barely wrote anything this month, and I don't recall writing much more the previous month. So, at the very least, this resolution fell apart two months from the finish line. Most likely died months before that, though. I guess I'm trying to tackle this beast again this upcoming year. With the improvements I made this year, though, maybe I can actually follow through with this in 2016.

Resolution #2: Read At Least One Book A Month

    Oh, this one died and died hard. I missed January. I read in February. And then I spent the rest of the year painfully slowly reading two different Rick Riordan books: "Percy Jackson's Greek Gods", and "Kane Chronicles: The Throne of Fire". Normally I tear through Riordan's books, but there's just something about these two. Hubby and I try, lord we try. We love Riordan's Percy Jackson books so much. Even when the first Heroes of Olympus book didn't include Percy at all, we still loved it. The Kane Chronicles though.... Out of all mythology, I was also the biggest into Egyptian, and so I thought I'd love this series the most. Nope. Something about how he wrote the two main characters Carter and Sadie just makes them seem whiny and spoiled. It kept a while to go though the first book in the series too. Still, I try. And here it is, like eight months later, and I'm only about half way through the book.

    As for "Greek Gods"? Well, it has Percy's playful snarkiness, but there's something a lot more childish about the whole thing. Sure, the whole series of Percy Jackson and Kane stories - and now the newest, Magnus Chase - are written for middle graders. Basically, for 10 through 14 year olds. However, none of the other novels, even the Kane Chronicles, really READ as aimed towards kids, per se. "Greek Gods" just really hits home to me that I'm reading something aimed at a 12-yr old. It's still fun, but I ended up using it more as a reference book than one to read cover-to-cover. I'll give it another go, though.

    All-in-all, my point is that I have struggled through two books, and even then, I barely set any time aside for reading. At least I read three books last year. This was just pathetic. Granted, the main reason why writers should read is to see how others have honed their skill to tell stories, therefore improving the reading-writer's skills as well. And me? I do that, just through analyzing TV show, movie, and video game writing instead. It's not an excuse for me to have such a pathetic reading record, but at least it's proof that I AM doing what reading is supposed to for writers, just, with other medias...

Resolution #3: Log On To Writers’ Huddle Forum At Least Once A Week

    I was doing really well on this one too. After I caught up on my backlog of posts, I even did what I suggested at the beginning of the year: evolve the resolution to "be an active member of the Huddle at least once a week". I was doing soooooo well. Then November happened. Once again, during the last two months of the year I fell off the face of the planet in regards to that site. If any Huddlers still read this blog, know that I love you, I miss you, and I'm going to try this resolution again next year.

Resolution #4: Complete At Least One Writers' Huddle Module

    Oh, yeah. Didn't even bother with this one. Not even the module where Ali Luke Skype interviewed me for part of the lesson on NaNo. I kept meaning to, but just didn't have the discipline to sit down and go "OK, This one. Now. Go."

    I feel a little better that I at least did the MasterClass that my mom gifted me. It's the same basic principle as to why I wanted to do at least one module this year. However, I still feel like I'm wasting my WH's membership by not being more active on the forums, and by never doing any of Ali's modules. This is yet another resolution that is getting another go in 2016.

Resolution #5: Beta Read And Return Notes Within A Fortnight

    Um, yeah, about this one.... Especially after the MasterClass, and hearing how quick James Patterson is with his notes for his co-writers, I really REALLY wanted to stick to this one. However, no one really gave me anything to Beta this year. I mean, I did hop on whenever Ronoxym had something new for me to read, but that was mostly because I was so excited about the story that I was ready to gobble up any advancement he made. Plus, I knew that if he was in the mood to write that I needed to jump on that and get notes back to him ASAP before his writing attention drifted to a new project.

    The only true beta request I received was from poor DFL just before Thanksgiving, and I have yet to do more than open the document she sent. Considering it's a good 100pgs, it's a bit daunting, but I still should have read at least 15pgs by now to get back to her about things. Baby steps. Still, November and December have been a complete writing hole. I think THAT'S what I need to conquer next year. In the meantime, I REALLY need to start beta-reading DFL's story!

Resolution #6: Have At Least Six New Stories/Chapters And 52 Blog Posts Published Before The End Of 2015

    You know what? Aside from missing two weeks this year, I think I actually accomplished this one. It didn't look good for most of the year since I was so laser focused on Please, Let Me Explain, and I haven't been able to update that since February. However, I did post a couple new chapters of X-Future: The Second Generation Begins after Ali's Summer Challenge on the forum. I also started posting those super-short one-shot writing prompts after joining the writing group a couple months ago. All of that bumped me up to my goal for this year; barely at eight total prose updates, and nearly all at the end of the year. Still, it's one resolution I didn't completely fail at, and so I'll take it!
For any of you that somehow missed the stories I posted this year, here's my complete list.

From "Please, Let Me Explain":
"Chapter 1: Devon's Cell"
On DeviantArt           On FanFiction

"Chapter 2: In the Kitchen"
On DeviantArt           On FanFiction

From "X-Future: The Second Generation Begins":
On DeviantArt           On FanFiction

"You're In Trouble, Son!"
On DeviantArt           On FanFiction

And for my original writing, I have the newest anthology of my Writing Group writing prompts:
"Fashion Gone Bye"

"Memory Tap"

"The Power of Pink"

"What a Crumby Day"

Alright, so I at least have that. I have eight updates this year. Not the larger chapters or fresh new stories that I was originally planning, but it's something. So. Tada!

Even with all of my failings at these resolutions, I have grown a lot as a writer.

I may become busy and miss one or two, or post a few days late, but for the most part, I have learned to set aside time for me to update this blog regularly. That's the first improvement.

I've taken that MasterClass, and I joined that local writing group. Even if I don't feel up to going, or I'm too busy to take two hours out of my week, or I slacked off and don't have anything to read, I still force myself to go. It's a way to really demonstrate to myself that writing is important enough for me to make a priority in my life. Plus, I always feel weird NOT having something to read at the meetings, and so it forces me to sit and write out the writing prompt at the very least. It may not be much, but it keeps me writing even if I don't feel like I have the time to. It forces me to MAKE the time. Another improvement.

It only lasted about a month or so before life got chaotic, but for a brief point in time I spent an hour a day on my writing. I may have spent that hour researching. Or spent it plotting. Or spent it character/world building instead of actually sitting and writing prose. However, it was still more than I usually allotted myself, and so I am proud and going to try to get back to this again. I enjoyed making writing a priority, and seeing how Hubby really supports me vanishing for an hour a day doing so. Improvement number three for 2015.

I've become a bit more confident in my writing, and have picked up on what I need to really focus on in order to make my stories better. I've taken a few chances with writing decisions I've made - you'll see this when I post my next writing prompt - and while I may not be 100% on board with how the story turned out - such as with "What a Crumby Day"- others seem to enjoy it, so that's what I care about. I'm challenging myself to break from my comfort zone in writing. I'm also enjoying being a sort of writing mentor of my own with a few of my friends and the ladies at the writing group. I still feel like a teenager in a world filled with mature, accomplished writing adults, but at least I now feel like an 18 year old instead of 14. Small improvement, but improvement none-the-less.

While I am hoping for a drastic improvement in my overall life come 2016, I am content knowing that I can build on this year's writing success to improve on my craft even more next year.

Who's coming with to see how it turns out?

Monday, December 21, 2015

What Video Games Have Taught Me

Finally figured out that this is Knives from the graphic novel series
"Scott Pilgrim" by Bryan Lee O'Malley
I really am starting to hate December, and I hate that I'm hating December, because I should love December. December has my husband's birthday, Spink's birthday, Christmas, and a slew of other holidays that my mother had us celebrate while growing up. Aside from the cold, I used to LOVE December.

The family time together. The decorations. The music and movies. The traditions.

Yeah, all that went in the toilet as soon as I moved out.

Crazy retail work weeks due to hectic holiday shoppers. Exhaustion from running around work in order to pay the extra bills not included in living at home with Mommy. Football taking over nearly every evening. Lack of children negating the "need" to do all the normal holiday extra stuff - decorating, checking out the neighbors' lights, watching movies, listening to music, baking cookies, etc. With just the two of us, December becomes the last minute run to the end of the year. I routinely forget what day of the week it is, let alone what date it is.

Hence me missing last week's blog post. Didn't even notice that I missed it until today. All my focus is on finishing the crochet project for my nephew, cleaning the house, finishing gift shopping, wrapping said gifts, and kicking this head cold's butt.

Oh, and my faithful car that I've had since 2006 is on death's door - has been since July, truthfully - and so I finally pulled the trigger and bought a new car. Problem being, the one that we found within our price range is a standard five-speed. I don't know how to drive stick. The only other option was an automatic - that I did love, by the way - that was more than three times the price. I couldn't justify spending the extra coin on the automatic. So, standard it is, and now I need to learn how to drive the darn thing!

So, it's probably pretty clear that writing has fallen to the back burner this past month.

Oddly enough, though, it kind of hasn't.

The wheels have still been churning over the past month. I don't have one thing I'm focusing on, though. I keep trying. While I'm spending hours mindlessly shelving and dusting at work I keep telling myself "This is a great time to let your mind wander and for you to mentally write something. Anything!" In the end, though, because I'm not working on a particular project, I come up blank.

I keep trying, though. Always keep trying.

I finished up the writing prompt for the last 2015 writer's meeting tomorrow night. It's definitely not my best work, but the concept didn't really catch my interest enough for my full heart to be in it. Still, it's one of the only pieces of the anthology that I put up on DeviantArt that was favorited. Two different people within three days of me posting it. So, maybe what I think is good is vastly different than what others believe to be good. Who knows?

"What a Crumby Day"

It's actually super short compared to my normal works. It only clocks in at like 1200 words or something. I'm not very good at slice-of-life stories, which is what that turned out to be. It didn't need to be, though. I could have gone in any genre I wanted. All I needed to do was include the following elements from each sense:
  • Feels Satin
  • Smells Musky Perfume
  • Sees Ice Breaking
  • Tastes Apple Pie
  • Hears Bells
I don't know why I ended up writing slice-of-life when I'm so bad at it. I didn't even do so on purpose to try to practice and improve. I just went with the story that came to me. Part of the "Channeling Methodology" of writing, I guess.

Besides working on the writing prompt to read tomorrow, I've been brewing things in my head the past few days. Mostly taking note on what I need to do for further world building.

It's the holidays, and it's been crazy. Both Ronoxym and Cyhyr work retail as well, plus both have much larger families than Hubby and I do. So I figured their crazy must be a step up from ours, and so I halted on my playful harassment of Ron on the progress of Please, Let Me Explain. At least, until the new year. Come 2016, I'm going Life Coach on him about this story.

In the meantime, as I mentioned, I've been brainstorming more world building.

A friend lent Hubby his copy of Skyrim. Yes, we are slowpokes who haven't even attempted to play this game in the 4yrs since it came out. Our friend thought that was a travesty, and he's too fixated on Star Wars Battlefront right now to really care about playing Skyrim anyway. So, Hubby's been playing for the past few days.

Hubby's one best man Shadow - AKA The Bard, as he was previously referred to in this blog - has always stated that the best thing about the Elder Scrolls games was the lore and background they put into the open-world storytelling. You could become just about anything. You could do just about anything. You can wander just about anywhere. The game world was your oyster. So the thing that really ties it all together - since the actual game plot is very vague and buried under all the open-world fun you can have - is the depth, complexity, and realism of the world you run around in.

Everyone has their own problems that don't rely on you. You can help them solve the problems, or they can take care of themselves. Just like in the real world. Characters don't just sit around and wait to hand you another piece of the plot's puzzle. They are having their own arguments and conversations that you walk into. Just like in the real world. I love it. This is what role play games should be like. Granted, I am horrible with first-person game play, which is the default of these games, which is why - despite the genre - I haven't been much of a fan. However, if I can learn to drive a standard car, perhaps I can master dual-thumbstick maneuvering in First-Person games.

This is all besides the point.

The point is I'm watching the detail and complexity of the world that Bethesda Games created. I'm loving it! I really am. Hubby needed to finish a side quest that required him to bring booze to the town drunk. Is said drunk just sitting and waiting for Hubby's return like in most games? NO! He had to run around the town for about five minutes before he found the guy, who was off doing whatever it was that he was planning on doing that day anyway. Hubby also runs across open fields to stumble upon people being attacked by raid groups that completely ignore the "hero" that just appeared. Hubby's character is so insignificant to the world he's running around in. Fantastic!

So, I'm realizing that I need to work on doing the same thing while creating Gyateara. I need to think of it as a large web of stories all unfolding together. Building lives that would run without the main characters of my stories ever getting involved. If I do what I originally planned with Gyateara, and have it as my own D&D world for campaigns, I need to make sure that the parties that run through my campaigns are just as insignificant to the world around them. That is, until they do something major enough to affect it. Having the world sit and wait for the players or the main characters is just poor world building and boring writing.

Nothing has really come to mind quite yet, but I'm setting the gears in motion to come up with these other mini-stories and conflicts to have in Gyateara. At this rate, I might not run a single campaign or write a single story in that world until I'm 50, but by gum, they'll be fantastic when I do!

In theory....

So, in case the week gets the better of me and I don't get the chance to make up my missed update by posting on time this week, have a merry Christmas. Even if you don't celebrate it, still have a merry and blissful December 25th.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Trying To Stay In The Writing Mood

Have I mentioned that the last six or seven weeks of the year are just a production black hole in regards to writing? Because I feel this needs to be said yet again. Between getting ready - and traveling - for Thanksgiving, and crocheting Christmas gifts while getting ready for Christmas, and the hectic hours at work, and the exhaustion of trying to get everything done while time seems to go by in double time.... well, there's really no time for writing.

Heck, I didn't even realize that I missed my update until today. I'm so good at this, aren't I?

Again, I am grateful that I joined the bi-weekly local writing group. Sure, we still don't seem to accomplish too much; I was yet again the only one who brought anything to read, and no one seems to have problems they need help tackling. However, it is the only time I pause life long enough to even think about writing. Two hours every other week. It's not much, but it's better than my writing hibernation I go into between October and February.

Sad to say, I'm still in that disappearing act for Writers’ Huddle. Knowing that I have a large backlog of posts to read, and potentially comment on, has kept me off the forum for MONTHS. When I finally have the time to just sit and read again I'm going to have about 18hrs worth on that forum...

As for the local writing group, as I mentioned, I was the only one who read anything again. I attempted to read off the new bit that I sent to Ronoxym for Please, Let Me Explain. I know that last time I stated that it was about four pages long, and we like people to keep their readings to about a page or two. However, I noticed that most who read their prose have it set up traditionally: single spaced with indented paragraphs.

Since most online publications don't allow indented paragraphs, the standard has become single-spaced paragraphs, with a space in between them to indicate a new paragraph. With all those extra spacings, the bit I wrote hit four pages; without them, it was only two. Score. So, I generally had just about the max amount that we generally would like read aloud. Again, just for ease of absorption; it's hard to take in much more than two-pages worth.

Once again, I had some nice feedback. Keaton had a few notes, but it was mostly her complimenting my descriptions of some things. Her only real critique was my ad libbed description of the new character; something I'm waiting on Ron to give me feedback on. It was placeholder description, and so I took note of what Keaton thought better fit the actions he portrayed.

The other issue? "Please, Let Me Explain" is a companion - although mildly Alternate Universe - story of X-Future, which is based in the X-Men world. The X-Men world in and of itself - due to how long the comics have existed and the spin-offs it created - is long and complicated. Add in the fact that the X-Future game has taken on a sort of Soap Opera-like storytelling; adding more complexity. Sprinkle in one last layer of complications that Ron and I included in PLME. If you follow the story, it should be fairly easy to comprehend. If you go in cold like those ladies on Tuesday? I can completely understand why it was a bit hard to follow what was going on. I had to explain about four different events just to lead up to the segment of PLME that they heard, and then added a few more clarifications after the fact for minor things I forgot I had included.

Poor things. They tried so hard to help critique, but you could tell that they were lost. Now I'm really really hoping it's easier to know what's going on if you went from the beginning. I mean, even for people who have nothing to do with X-Future who are reading PLME; I hope we explain the X-Future happenings well enough that these readers still get what's going on.

We finished our meeting with all four of us having basically forty minutes of "free-writing" as we independently worked on the latest writing prompt. A practice for finding our writing voice. I'm fairly confident that I know what mine is, but it was fun to just sit and write, so I didn't care what the exercise was for. Turns out what I had originally pictured with the prompt is fairly different than what ended up on paper, so that was pretty cool. Kind of reminds me of the creation of Trish: originally designed to be Devon's love interest, only to end up despising him and hungry for his blood.

For the prompt we all agreed to jointly come up with a single character, and then we would each take the character on whatever journey we envision. The fun is to see where we each went with her. Thing is, somehow what we agreed upon got lost in translation, and instead of creating a character for us all to play with, we created an environment around the character.

Keaton suggested going with the five senses. I thought that meant we'd come up with how the character - which we agreed would be female - looked, the texture of her skin/clothes, how she smelled, the sound of her voice, and then take it inward a bit by coming up with what taste she had in her mouth. This should have created a picture of the character.

A stocky, 40-something, woman with course skin, a raspy voice, the smell of gasoline as her perfume, and the taste of slightly burnt grilled steak still lingering on her tongue gives off one image of the character and her possible story. A slender, 92-yr-old woman with loose, soft skin, a whisper of a voice, excessive perfume, and chalkiness in her mouth is a completely different image of both the woman and the story she'd tell.

That's the sort of thing I was expecting us to jointly build. Instead, we figured out what our character sees, hears, feels, smells, and tastes. So, the scene she's in. We can still come up with different stories because the scenes are so broad, so it will be fun to see where we go with it.

Our character sees ice breaking, hears bells chiming, feels satin, smells musky perfume, and tastes apple pie. I think Keaton said she had an older woman as her character - which is what I almost did too; switched to a young girl. Red said hers was middle-aged and a seductress. DFL wasn't feeling well, and so she left before we got to writing.

I've gotten a lot written in the last half-hour of the meeting, but not enough to finish. I'll attempt to finish up and have it posted for next week's update.

I also really want some free time to work on character builds more. Really get a nice profile written for all of my characters. I have Lia, Willow, Trish, and Amara pretty much figured out, but I also want to rework Connor and Natalie from my NaNo story from a few years back.

I'm hoping to have something to show you folks next week, and once again I'm also hoping to post at my actual update time.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Short And Sweet - Post-Thanksgiving "Meh"

As predicted, I couldn't find time to just sit and write over this past holiday week. How was yours, by the way?

Thanksgiving itself, Hubby and I did a small meal with two of our friends. Friday was the drive to my mom's, and then a visit from my bestie and godson that turned into an over-nighter. Saturday was more time with them before going to the extended family Thanksgiving. Spent the rest of the day socializing with the fam. Sunday was some more time with an uncle and cousin from across the country - they spent the night - before they left to fly home. Then football!

I was planning on doing some writing, but I was getting too easily distracted. Besides, we were supposed to put up my mom's Christmas tree; sadly, we neglected to. Monday was a last hurrah with the family, and their early celebration of Hubby's birthday. Then the drive home before more football.

Tuesday was errand-running-day. Quick restock of things we let wind down due to us being gone for half the week. Hitting up the DMV. Researching health insurance for 2016. Paying bills. Boring adult stuff like that. It must have been enough to tire us out, because every attempt I made to write anything my eyes would glaze over. So, Tuesday was a wash.

Then there's yesterday. Hubby's birthday. So the day was pretty much all about him. I'm fine with that, but it also meant I didn't step away to do things like the dishes or my writing.

The funny thing is, I had something I wanted to write! I had it in my head since Monday morning. Sadly, not as vividly now, but I'm hoping I can get it decently enough when I finally crack down and write it. Preferably today after I'm done with this update.

It's not something I can really share because I'm aiming for it to show up in Please, Let Me Explain. Thing is, I haven't even had the moment to type up an email to Ronoxym to let him know what I'm thinking. For all I know, he might reject the idea. Perfectly fine, he doesn't have to accept everything I come up with. If this ends up being rejected, it might end up in X-Future: Snippets; something I haven't updated in like a year. If that happens, I'll be sure to let you guys know, and drop the link for you to see it.

With any luck, I'll find time to work on a writing prompt for the next writing group meeting on Tuesday as well. Something to share with the group. If I manage that, then I'll definitely have something to share with you next week, maybe two things! Yay!

Trick is I'm still going to try to go through at least some of DFL's story and have some notes for her this meeting as well. Golly, I'm going to be busy! Especially considering I'll be setting Saturday aside for Spink's birthday! Hectic week....

Now, I don't want to really say too much about my idea for PLME, because it will give some spoilers to the story, but I was thinking of adding a new character. We'll see how Ron feels about that decision.

At the same time, it occurred to me that I really DON'T know my characters as much as I thought I did, aside from Amara. See, while I know their flaws, I don't know what they see as their flaws. What they see in the mirror when their confidence is lacking. What is it that they hate themselves for? What about them would make them think the world wouldn't miss them being gone? In the darkest parts of them, what are they hiding? It's those hard-hitting questions that I need to figure out for all of them. It's not enough to know their hopes, dreams, goals, etc. What would they give the world up for? I also need to know what would cause them to give themselves up for the world. Where their "rock bottom" is. So, I have some character soul-searching to do.

Well. Considering how freakishly long all my other blog posts tend to be, without any real writing advancement to talk about, I'm fairly brief. So, I'm going to use the rest of my free time to attempt to write something. Catch you guys next week!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I Met a Demigod This Week

To all of my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving to you. For all of my non-American readers, today is still a real nice day to reflect on the past year and note all the blessings/good things in your life. Dwell on the positive; something Humanity seems to have forgotten how to do. 

Me? Well, I'm watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and then prepping a small meal, enjoying the food and football, and then heading to my mother's for the weekend. Shortly followed by Hubby's birthday.

In other words, not the most productive time for writing purposes. At the same time, I knew this already. It's never a good time to think about writing the week of Thanksgiving. Always on the go preparing for the holiday, and the trip to my mom's, and then getting set for Hubby's birthday.

At the same time, I don't have a new writing prompt to share with you fine folks today. However, both tie together, because next week will be the same as this week. Namely, filled with me mulling more things over in my head while waiting for a moment to write those thoughts down.

I stated this last week, but I'll do so again today as a refresher. Last week, one of the writing prompts that was emailed to us was a quote: "The difference is, I lie for a living."

Now, I had already completed my short story based on the two Dove chocolate wrappers - which was well received at the writing group - and so I wasn't really all that focused on this quote prompt. It still took hold of me, though. I'm still trying to figure out who lies for a living, and why that tidbit would be brought up. Here's what I have so far, and I apologize in advance if you have one of the below professions and are offended by the generalization. I worked at an ad agency myself for a few years, if that's any consolation:
  • Lawyers
  • Ad Agents/Copywriters
  • Con-artists
  • Politicians
  • PR Reps
  • Prostitutes/Escorts
  • Sales Rep
And for the situations:
  • Cheated on a significant other
  • Caught for a crime
  • Reassurance that lying won't be hard
  • Explaining why one got away with something the other didn't
I'm still brainstorming, but I KNOW there's a story there. I just need to find it.

I've also thought a bit more about Please, Let Me Explain. Is that part any sort of surprise? Anyway, I think I may have thought of a few changes that might help with a few sections that have been bugging me lately. I wrote up my notes and sent them on their way to Ronoxym. In surprisingly quick fashion, he already responded. Seems the things that were bugging me about the story were exactly the same ones bugging him, he just couldn't put his finger on why. Now that I pointed it out to him, he's a geared up to fix those issues. We may have some progress yet again. However, as I mentioned above, this week is a crapshoot when it comes to writing, so please don't expect any update on PLME next week.

That is, of course, unless I just can't get it out of my head. For instance, while pointing out my issues to Ron, I realized that I might have some studying and researching to do. Something I might work on throughout the ten days of my vacation from work.

The other thing I've been really thinking about all day yesterday, is the NaNoWriMo story that DFL is writing. At the Tuesday meeting, she talked about how she finished the story, but she's still a few thousands words shy. Her struggle now is to go back and quickly fluff up the story before Monday in order to "win" this year. She seemed frustrated, to the point of shaking and having difficulties talking, but at some point that shaking transitioned into excited anticipation. She really wanted to dive back in to the book when she was done with our group. I love that! That's one of the great reasons for having a support group around you. They're people you can talk to about your story, which helps you iron out the bumps, as well as keeps you excited to write.

Anyway, back on topic here, not only did she talk about her story some more, but she READ some of it as well. Of course, just like with poor Ron almost two years ago, or Delaroux close to four years ago now, the story just erupted inside me. It took hold, and I wanted a part of it; even a small one.

The entire time I was at work, I thought back through DFL's problem, as well as remembered the opening chapter she read to us. For me, little miss wordy, it was easy to pick up on tons of places where she could erase some repetition, as well as add description in order to increase that dreaded word count. Over the course of my lunch break, I wrote up an email to her explaining my perspective of things.

True to form, she started off by acknowledging that they were sound points. Very diplomatically. She didn't say one way or the other whether she'd use the suggestions, just that they were valid ones. I dig that. I disregard suggestions about my work frequently enough that it's only fair I understand that others might disregard my opinions too.

The long and the short of this story is that I might be back into Beta Reading, unintentionally, because I agreed to read through her backstory in order to help give some insight. So, that will be neat to check out.

Keaton didn't bring anything to share, and we focused a lot on the rest of the group on Tuesday. Yet another reason she reminds me of an older version of myself. Even when I ran the in-person writing group among my friends, I always seemed to focus more on the rest of the group and getting a dialogue between them. No room for my writing troubles or triumphs. I feel like Keaton's in the same mindset. Anyway, she didn't bring anything to share, and DFL only brought her NaNo story. So, moving through that part of the meetings went by super quick.

In truth, I was the only one there that night that had followed through with the Dove chocolates assignment. That's fine though, it was crunch time for DFL to get her NaNo story done, so I had no problem focusing on helping her.

I also met a "new" member on Tuesday. I say "new" because she actually joined the group at the start of the year when she moved up here from NYC. She just hadn't been to the group for a few months, and so it was the first time I met her. Seeing as she openly admitted to have both dyslexia and ADHD, among others, I just HAD to promote Rick Riordan and his Percy Jackson series. She seemed intrigued, but she also could have just been humoring me. Either way, until I think of something better, her blog nick-name shall be Demi, for demigod.

Demi is both a short story writer and a poet. You can feel the raw emotion in her poems, and the short story she read to us was amusing as well as equally raw. You can tell the woman was hurt, and is working through it via her writing. And I love it. It's so beautiful, and I'm grateful that she's allowing others to peak into that hurt.

She has also self-published for years, and is now trying to transition into traditional publishing. Self-publishing is just too much work and not enough writing for her tastes. I can see that. I'm hoping to learn a lot from her.

So glad I joined this group; so diverse!

Alright, I can't really think of anything else, and I really should focus more on my turkey now. Enjoy your day, and remember to reflect on those good things. I know you have some.

Take care, everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Too Many Bunnies

"Peace For France" by Jean Jullien
First and foremost, I want to say that my heart is with all of those in France. It was heartbreaking to hear the news of the terrorist attacks there. Still having vivid memories of the September 11th attacks here in the United States, I can only imagine the shock and fear the French are dealing with. However, I also know the strength that comes out of tragedies like this. So, stand proud and firm, France. We are with you in your time of need.

I'm also going to get a bit political here, so please bear with me. It is a shame that the Muslim community – a generally PEACEFUL people – has always had to face some sort of persecution and ridicule. It's also a shame that because of extremists – like Crusaders or Zionists – the whole Muslim community faced extreme hate, fear, and prejudice after the September 11 attacks. Even worse that they are just barely shaking off the stigma from that, only to yet again be blamed as a whole for the atrocities a small extreme committed. My heart and prayers are with you all as well.

May France and the Muslims weed out the evil that infects them, and may they find peace. In the meantime, may the world understand that a whole is not always the sum of its parts. Just as your whole body isn't a disease simply because you have cancer in a part of it, a whole community is not evil simply because a part – that the rest cast out, by the way – creates so much violence.

On a completely unrelated note. Today, the third Thursday in November, marks the Great American Smokeout. An event promoted by the American Cancer Society, where Americans are asked to give up their tobacco vice for the day in hopes of taking the first step towards quitting. If you're thinking of quitting, check for hotlines and other sources in your area for help.
In the US, the hotline is:
Or go to the following sites: 

Alright, enough of that. Let's get to why you're here: my writing.

I was determined to have this post up on time this week. It's killing me to have to work Thursdays now that I determined they are my new update day. Happens every time. I watch to see when I regularly have a day off, change my updates to that day, only to then have to work it every following week.

Once again I used first thing Sunday morning for writing time. I updated on the X-Future boards, and then I finished up my writing prompt for the writing group. Thing is, DFL sent out an email reminding everyone about the meeting this upcoming Tuesday, while also including the writing prompt for those who weren't there last time. The writing prompt is different in the email. Maybe she came up with a random one to make up for the fact that there were people that weren't there to eat some Dove chocolates?

Well, actually there's two prompts to choose from. The first one is to use two Dove messages: Lend an ear, and a chocolate." as well as "Wing it!" The second prompt option is the quote "The difference is, I lie for a living." Since I am already done with the prompt I had, perhaps I'll again have two to read off. Maybe I'll work on one of these prompts so I have something new to post next week too. I'm not completely determined to do so, but it would be a fun practice. Keep your eyes open for those possible updates to Writing Prompts: An Anthology.

In the meantime, you can check out the current update based on the Dove chocolate prompt “Learn something new with an old friend, and rock a bad hair day.”
"The Power of Pink"

My anthology updates are now one crime scene from the perspective of a possible suspect, one fanfiction about a crime lab show, and one semi-autobiographical story about a Murphy Day.

While I do like having the variety in order to test the waters with an assortment of narrators and styles, I hate that I've lost focus. I wrote a variety of things for the MasterClass too. Aside from Please, Let Me Explain, I haven't had any real focus on one story in a while. Honestly, that really bothers me.

The last writing group session, as I mentioned, was more socializing than actual discussion of writing. Myself included, no one really critiqued anything that the others read. Granted, it's a bit easier to critique something when you can see it and mull it over, and so it's a bit hard to critique based solely on listening to a passage, especially when it's just one listen. Add in that none of us are the greatest orators and tend to trip over what we're reading. So, yeah, it's a bit rough to pick up on things to critique, but still. How are any of us going to grow if the only point is to meet up, socialize, hand out a prompt so it's still writing focused in some regard, and then part ways for two weeks?

I figured, “Well, maybe if I bring something there specifically to talk about...” only to realize I have nothing. I don't have a spot where I'm blocked because that involves me actually being actively writing something in the first place. As I pointed out in the last update, I have an ever-growing Plot Bunny Farm, and I lost focus on which bunny to cultivate next.

I'm just too fixated on PLME still. I NEED this story to be completed. Or, at least have the massive middle section figured out so I can upload it. I haven't updated that story since March, or something like that.

But when I pretty much blew a shotgun-sized hole through the outline Ronoxym wrote, he had to go back to the drawing board, and I haven't heard from him since. The worst part is, now I'm obsessing over Devon.

I think I'm annoying my husband, because I see the potential for Devon, and so now nearly every male character we see IS him. Any time there's a male character whose well-intentioned actions are misinterpreted as villainy: Devon. Whenever a male character is trying to convince a female one that he's “not that bad”: Devon. The male character shows an interest in fire, or refers to himself as a pyro? Devon. Heck, ever since his heel turn, one of the characters from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reminds me so much of Devon, and Hubby doesn't see it at all. Granted, the character embraced his villainy eventually, and he can definitely kick way more butt than Devon could, but I still see so much character similarity. This guy is what Devon could be if he embraced his villainy, or, if the character remained as loose and fun but returned to being a hero – or at least anti-hero – it could be what Devon would eventually mature into. Hubby still sees the guy more of a Screwdriver; another of our original Brotherhood of Mutants character, similar to Trish. However, Screwdriver has a complete bloodlust that the Agents character doesn't seem to quite possess, so he lies somewhere between Screwdriver and Devon, I guess.

Point is, I'm seeing Devon everywhere. And anything brings me back to PLME. Even songs. There's one or two out on the radio right now that makes me think of Devon and his anguish while trying to show Willow he's not evil. I can't get the character or the story out of my head.


Maybe that's what I'll do. Maybe I'll focus on my interpretation of the ending based on Ron's goal for the story. Send it to him. Maybe we can find a happy medium between the two, or it can at least inspire him to redo the ending his way. Something to get this back on track, so we know where we're headed. Once that's figured out we can go back and edit the middle section, and finally post that at least. Ya know, before spending another seven months working on the next part of the story.

As of right now, we have the two chapters I already posted. The third one could really be three in and of itself, but there's no natural stopping and starting point since it all happens as one really long scene. The fourth one is relatively small, but I can't get to it until we finalize the third chapter, obviously. Based on Ron's outline, I can see the end of the story having another three chapters or so. Which means the finished project SHOULD have about seven chapters, at the rate we're going. A possible sad ending as well, which could possibly spin off into a sequel story, but let's not go counting chickens before this story's hatched.

I just need to get Ron writing again! I wish we either lived closer to each other, or I had a reliable car. I'd be stopping by his place at least once a week for writing sessions; drag his wife Cyhyr in too, since I haven't heard mention of her doing any writing since she started her job. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. Unfortunately, he still lives something like forty minutes away, and so I can't poke him into writing as much as I'd like.

It is what it is.

Still, I don't know if the physical group I go to is of the right audience for me to bring the outline of PLME to them to ask for advice. Which leaves me with the original conundrum of figuring out what I should bring to the meetings to get assistance on.

I could bring my list of plot bunnies and see what takes. Then again, I tried forcing myself to write something for MasterClass, and I STILL haven't even finished figuring out the names of my characters for that Percy Jackson fanfiction. There's that, I guess. Maybe try working on that story a bit more and bringing that? I did say last week that I've got an urge to go back and rework my NaNo project from a few years ago. Perhaps that? Or work more on the rebooting of X-Future into a comic? I also have the option of continuing X-Future: The Second Generation Begins. Or writing Devon/Trish's fight scene. Or working on Willow and Chayse in Japan for their summer vacation. Or Lia and Ripley in New York City for THEIR summer vacation. Lots of X-Future options. Then there's still world building for Gyateara. Lots of possibilities, but only one passion: Please Let Me Explain.


I need to figure this out. I hope to have something more solid to focus on along with my writing prompts next week. Let's see how that goes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Getting Closer to My Writing Group (And 7 Deadly Sins)

Sorry for yet another late post. My last day off was the 2nd, and even then I spent the entire time battling the mess I call “home.” So, I haven't really had a day to sit and unwind in about two weeks now. I'm boarderline homicidal rampage mode. To calm the beast, Hubby has had me snuggle with him: Netflix and Chill. It works wonders for destressing me, but it's crap for my productivity.

My place still has that wonderful “recently ransacked” look, and my mind can't really form anything cohesive enough for me to call “writing.” Worse part is that my day off – FINALLY – is Sunday; Football Day. So, you can bet I STILL won't get anything accomplished. Then it's again Full Steam Ahead, until my next day off: again, Sunday. Then chugging along until Thanksgiving and visiting my family out of state. Followed by Hubby's birthday, as well as Spink's birthday spent at David's Bridal looking at bridesmaid dresses for her wedding. Sprinkle in rush jobs on my crocheting projects in order to get them done by Christmas, and productivity for the remainder of 2015 looks grim.

Not all is lost, though. While I failed at my New Years Resolution to go through one of Ali's webinars, I DID do the MasterClass instead. So, there's that. I do plan on still going back and doing Ali's modules, but that might have to wait a bit more. I've also made sure to not allow myself to slack off completely. While I'm not doing NaNo this year, I DID just join a writing group. I need to write at least every other week for that, so that's something to make sure I don't completely fall off the writing wagon again.

Speaking of which, Tuesday was my second go at the local writing group. Spink and the two guys from the college didn't attend this time, but neither did two of the “regulars.” On the plus side, that gave me time to start figuring out what to call them when I refer to them here.

My friend's mom has vibrant red hair, so until I come up with something better, she's Red. “Future Me”, as I referred to the one woman, is laser-focused on her novel about the silent movie actor Buster Keaton – so much so that even the writing practices HAVE to somehow relate - so she's Keaton now. The last woman – who was actually the first one to introduce herself last time – claims that no one person is in charge of these meetings; we're all on equal footing and may run the group if we have something we want to share. However, she's the one who sends out the group email reminders, and seems to be the one that directs the conversation whenever there's a lull. So, she's basically our de facto leader. As silly as it is, until I think of something better, I'll refer to her as such: De Facto Leader, or DFL for short. And thus I yet again showcase my amazing naming abilities.

It was a lot more of a relaxed and social environment this past go. We each read off what we wrote for our writing prompts, and then I asked DFL how she was doing on her NaNo story.


Day 10 out of 30, and she was already well over half-way to the 50,000 word goal! I can't even to 25,000 in a month, and she's surpassed that by the tenth day of the event! The Worst/Best part? She didn't even take the full ten days! She spent the first week writing out an outline and finishing up some quick research to prepare herself for the story. That way she wouldn't get stuck throughout the month. Then she wrote over 27,000 words IN JUST FIVE DAYS! That's about 5400 words per day. I struggle with the recommended 1667 words per day in order to “win” NaNo. Which, in and of itself, is an odd fact considering I typically write 1000 word blog posts...

Anyway, she stated that this was the first time she had an outline set up before working on a story, and it worked wonders for her. Further proof that James Patterson was on the money while preaching about outlines.

I commented as such, and added that he feels so strongly about starting with a solid outline, that he spends about four months just writing one. Going back through, tinkering the story, adding suspense, adding details, cutting scenes or characters that don't work. Essentially perfecting the story before a word of it is written. It really helps with the revision process as well because you don't get stuck with a character or passage you really love and don't want to cut. The outline should be considered a vague story in and of itself. The reader should know exactly what happens, but without the details or dialogue.

Well, after I was done going on and on about Patterson and his love of outlines, Keaton kind of rolled her eyes and grumbled about how OTHERS write his stories; not him. Well, that's true, but only SORT OF; based on the Co-Author lesson from MasterClass. She didn't seem to really want to hear the counter-argument, though, so I let it drop.

Thing is, he does spend a lot of time on the outline. It truly is the story in and of itself. Then he passes the outline over to his co-author who adds the meat to the bones of the story he created. The details are added in and the dialogue is written. That doesn't mean he doesn't write the stories, though. Nor does it mean his co-authors aren't just as skilled. It's not a matter of them writing the story and then having him tag his name to it in order to sell more copies. Nor is it him passing the story off to someone and then stealing credit at the end in order to avoid doing work. He puts in all the effort in the start. They put in the effort in the middle. They work together in the revision to make it a blend of both of their efforts. And I'm not just assuming as much, the co-authors interviewed stated just that.

Saying they're not true co-authors is like saying the director and script writer aren't equally involved in a movie. Granted, in that case it's the director who gets most of the credit and is the name that sells the movie, and they DO tend to have more involvement just because of everything they need their hands in, but still. The script would be nowhere without the director to bring it to life. The director wouldn't have that movie to tell if a script writer didn't write it first. They both are equally important to the story.

As are both Patterson and his co-authors.

I think I also took some offense to that because it's so similar to how ChibiSunnie and I work. When we co-write stories – or that Jungle Movie fan-written script – it's usually Chibi coming up with the fantastic ideas and the over-all outline of the story. Then I take what she wrote and I run with it. I plug in the details and the dialogue to bring it to life. At no point is this HER story with me just hopping on to pick up the slack. Nor is it MY story since she never wrote a word of it in the actual prose/script. It is BOTH our story with equal effort put in.

Alright, enough of that.
*Hops off High Horse*

While attempting to change the subject off of James Patterson, DFL passed out some Dove chocolates to everyone. For anyone who hasn't had them, the Dove brand has something amusing, sweet, or inspirational written on the inside of each wrapper. DFL thought it would be brilliant to use these sayings as our writing prompt for this week. Keaton wrote down what everyone had, and we agreed that you could use any of the prompts that anyone at the table got, as well as write using as many prompts as we wanted.

I had already interpreted that what we were doing was finding a way of combining the two wrappers we each got in order to write a short piece, so I basically ignored what everyone else's were. Mine were “Learn something new with an old friend” and “Rock a bad hair day.”

At first I was going to go with something to the extent of two mothers who gave up on how they looked; pulling their long hair back in ponytails and messy buns just to get it out of the way. They decide one day that they need some “me time” and set up an at-home spa day while the kids were off somewhere for the weekend. This “spa day” leads to them attempting new hairstyles by cutting each others' hair; it doesn't end well. They proudly rock the bad styles because at least it's something new and exciting, and they never really cared about their hair anyway.

I may still write that story, but when I started up the prompt at the library I ended up writing something much more autobiographical. I still put a creative spin on it, though, so it's more “inspired by” something that really happened to me. I'm still working on it, so I don't have it to share today. Next week, kiddies.

In the meantime, I DO have the prompt from the last writing group session. Or rather, the prompts. I managed to write both Sunday morning after dropping Hubby off at work.

This first one is what I thought of, and started writing while at the library that first meeting. I hit a bit of a hiccup and switched to the second version before coming back to finish up.

"Fashion Gone Bye"

When I read my prompts off to Hubby, he joked that “Where's the time capsule?” is a question asked by a drug dealer to some punk he's beating up. I really liked the idea and was going to run with it. However, I couldn't find a way to explain that “time capsule” is a name of a drug without it seeming spoon-fed to the reader. That's when the FanFiction side of me kicked in, and I realized that maybe my binge-watching of “CSI: NY” was exactly what I needed for this prompt, especially since the place I got was New York City. Perfect!

Hubby was watching another episode after I decided to got to bed leading into his Sunday overnight shift. I heard the muffled sounds of the characters describing what they figured out in the lab, and the dialogue just hit me. Granted, it's probably not the best in the world; a bit rushed, but that's because it was really hard to write in prose instead of a script, and I tried to limit myself to the page or two recommended for easiest reading while at the group.

Anyway, I polished it a little bit Sunday super-early morning before work.

"Memory Tap"

It's not much. Between the two of them, I think I wrote about 1800 words. Still, I was the only one who had to relatively distinctly different stories based on my one writing prompt, so there's that.

Now to just get some more actual writing done! I do have some posts on X-Future I need to respond to, and maybe poke Ronoxym into working on our outline a bit more. Then again, I have had the NaNo spirit hitting me a touch, and nudging me to open up “A Race to Destiny” again. See where I can go with that. Maybe I should start with reworking the outline and the backstory lore so it's not so blatantly “Fable meets Legend of Zelda; now with more InuYasha.” Hubby and I also just finished up a quick Netflix-exclusive anime called "The Seven Deadly Sins" and I sort of want to do something based on that.

Each Holy Knight that made up the squad known as "The Seven Deadly Sins" has a mark of a sin on them; represented by a different animal. Having never read the manga, this is all I know:
  • Wrath is the Dragon Sin
  • Greed is the Fox Sin
  • Sloth is the Grizzly (bear) Sin
  • Envy is the Serpent Sin
  • Lust is the Ram Sin
  • Gluttony is the Boar Sin
The anime never introduces you to Pride - something that annoyed the heck out of me, but they at least acknowledge it at the end of the season - and I don't recall them mentioning an animal we weren't introduced to. So I'm not sure what animal is supposed to be connected to Pride. Lion, I'm assuming. All the more reason to dislike not meeting him; lions/great cats and foxes are my favorite animals.

Most of the characters didn't seem to portray either the sin or the animal they were linked to - although we were shown a little bit why Wrath, Greed, Sloth, and Envy had their sins - but I still really like the concept. Also, there are five main races - or "tribes" - in the world of "The Seven Deadly Sins", which also appeals to me. There's obviously the Human race, but there's also the Fairies, Giants, Demons, and Goddess. The Lust character comments about each one of the five Sins present at the time being from a different race. Interesting note, which leads Hubby to believe Lust is from the Goddess clan somehow... the actual race is never mentioned, but it is poked at on occasion.

Point is, I really like the idea of people being marked by an extreme character trait. Each Sin was dubbed so based on a crucial, defining part of their past where they themselves felt they failed the most. That if they had conquered that "sin" back then, life would be a lot different and better. It's their greatest regret; their cross to bear. Another way to look at it, is a Fatal Flaw. I also like the idea of it being symbolized by an animal that seems to perfectly portray that fatal flaw. Dragons, for instance, are almost always thought of as beings of wrath and rage. Foxes do seem quite greedy, although, I'd peg that more as an American raccoon. Boars, or pigs in general, are obviously very gluttonous, etc.

I'd really like to try my hand at this concept myself, but I need to find a new angle for it. There's already so many animes centered around the Seven Deadly Sins, or that demons/The Devil isn't really evil, or animal possession. It's hard to find a new angle. I know it's out there, though, because another manga/anime always seems to find it.

Either way, another one to add to the Plot Bunny Farm. Geez, lots of writing possibilities bouncing around in my head. Perhaps I'll start bringing them up at the writing groups.

No promises on getting the blog update up on time next week, but I should have a prompt for you at least. Catch ya then!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I'm So Bad At This Remembering Thing...

Yes, I took the time to watch "V for Vendetta" today.
Personally, I'd be content with remembering what day of the week it is...

I haven't had a moment to stop all week. Between Halloween, and football, and work, and cleaning, and the Daylight Savings Time switch; it's chaos. I mean, you KNOW I haven't had a moment of down time when I haven't been on Facebook in the last five days! Which also means I haven't really had a moment to write. Sadly, this results - as many long-term readers may have guessed - in me being a moody crank all week.

Seriously, it's like when an athlete can't exercise. I get angry easier, I get mildly depressed, I start tearing up at the drop of the hat, I get sluggishly sleepy, and I get lethargic when I do have an hour or two of down time; now too stressed to focus enough on writing anything.

So, I am sorry, folks, I neglected to work on that "co-author" assignment YET AGAIN. I WILL get to it, I promise you. Perhaps if I have a day off again when I'm not volleying between frantic cleaning of my apartment and raging about how I just want to blow it up and forget about the mess.

On the plus side, Ronoxym finally continued Please, Let Me Explain; so to speak.

I'll hand it to James Patterson, those outlines really do wonders. I went through everything we hand so far, all 27 pages of it, and wrote down an outline. That way Ron didn't have to wade through so much in order to refresh his memory and jump start his muse. Unexpectedly, since the story is so long, and I wanted to include every main action so far so we can watch for redundancy or parts that don't belong, the outline was still 9 pages. I went over the outline to create an even broader one, just the main bullet actions, that's it. However, add in questions like "What is the point of this scene?" and "What feeling(s) should the reader get?" to each scene - of which there ends up being 16 of them - adds a few pages. The "broad" outline - which was meant to be a brief overview of the story - clocks in at TEN pages after Ron kept going. Whoops. Either way, it's important stuff.

Especially those two questions. Something else I learned from the MasterClass lessons. Each scene should have a set purpose. That purpose can drive the characters or plot forward, but it has to do at least ONE of those two options. Then, make sure everything - EVERYTHING - in that scene falls into that pre-established purpose. Next, figure out the feeling of the scene. What are the characters conveying and/or what should the reader feel. Make sure every action portrays that feeling.

You're pretty set if you follow those two guidelines.

Anyway, so the outline was done and sent to Ron. It kept him a day or two, but he went OFF with it. Sparks started up again; gears turning wildly. After an "emotionally exhausting" writing session, Ron finished off as much of the plot - via the broad outline - as he could. The last bit relies on how Willow reacts to a "grand reveal" and he wasn't really sure where to go with that. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out the result myself. I see it going horribly, horribly awry.

It kept me a couple days - again, I've been non-stop - to get to read the outline. I have to admit, while I was excited for Ron writing again, and I enjoyed what he came up with, it wasn't as strong as his opening. Probably because he hasn't been with the project for a year or two, whereas I feel like I've been living with it daily for that long.

Also, the real reason the newest part doesn't seem "strong" is because it doesn't push the story forward. So, I blame it on my improved knowledge of story writing. Don't get me wrong, like I said, the plot is good. It just feels like it belongs in a companion story or an anthology of some sort. When I read that Ron write Willow huffing to Devon that he needs to get to the point already, I almost snorted. She's so me! I was honestly thinking the same thing: what's the point? Why does this belong to this story? If WILLOW thinks this, why wouldn't the reader? And if RON wrote it in the outline, I think at least a part of him feels the same way.

So, I'll help him work on what he originally wrote at some point, but right now we're reworking so the back end of this story actually stays on track. We'll see how that goes.

I really wish there were more writing-related news to report; this post feels so short, and after being so late to boot! However, as I mentioned, there really wasn't a lot of time for me to do much of anything.

I'm really REALLY hoping to do better this upcoming week. We'll see how it goes. Especially since I have the next writer's group meeting on Tuesday. So, I REALLY need to kick my butt into gear and write at least ONE of the two concepts I had for my writing prompt.

Good news! That means I'll have SOMETHING for you guys to read next week. Possibly a start to a new anthology; a place for all of my writing prompts to sit together. Yay.

Alright, I got to jet. Catch you next week, and hopefully on time!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Standing Appointment

I did a thing this week. And I'm not just talking about actually publishing this update on time.

I was searching the community events board online in order to figure out what time to expect Trick-O-Treaters on Saturday. In the past four years that I've lived in this neighborhood, I've always had to work nights and came home during the tail end of the event, so I really didn't know. While on the site, something else caught my eye. A writing group was meeting at the community library a block from me.

I knew that this was a thing, but I never seemed to either catch when they were meeting, or I would find it out but chicken out in joining in.

As I just explained to both my husband and my mother, I have this awkwardness about my writing and writing groups. Before I go and meet everyone I always have this preconception in my head. These people were assertive enough to start up a writing group and/or attend one for a while before I joined in. This seems a lot more dedicated than me to the craft. This seems more mature than me. So, my mind instantly jumps that they're more skilled than I am.

Given the right atmosphere, that's not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, on Writers’ Huddle. It's a great community in which the more experienced are kind and generous teachers for the others; helping the less-experienced miss the pitfalls they fell into.

However, before I find out whether or not the particular writing group is as kind an environment as WH, I always feel like I don't belong. That comparatively, I'm too amateur an author. I believe the analogy I used is that I feel like an eleven-year-old in high school. Sure, the others haven't mastered the craft either, but they are more skilled at it and more mature about it; more time to hone it.

Even in my thirties, whenever I think about joining a writing group for the first time, I always feel like some preteen tag-along younger sister that everyone groans, rolls their eyes, and reluctantly tolerates.

In all honesty, even with the welcoming environment of WH, I still feel that way in regards to sharing my work. I have still done so a couple of times, and I've always received very gentle constructive criticisms. However, I still get nervous that someone will look at my work as if they're a college professor asked to grade the short story of a middle schooler.

So, even though I'm a fairly brave person, this one point really terrifies me a bit. One of the main reasons I was so grateful that Spink said she'd come too. Part of me believes that I would have been a Nervous Nelly, but gone anyway. Another part of me has a strong feeling that I would have chickened out; purposely lost track of time so I could go “Oh, darn. I missed it. Whoops.”

Knowing that I'd be meeting Spink there really helped encourage me to get my butt over to the library. I couldn't leave her high and dry.

When we got to the meeting room there were two women already there. Very welcoming; about my mother's age, probably a little bit older. The one took the lead at the meetings, and the other self-published the book she wrote during last year's NaNo, and is even doing a book signing for it next week.

Another woman soon joined us. The “resident poet” of the group. The rest of us are all aspiring to write fictional novels. Her poems were really good. Well, honestly, to me poems are like that one art quote: “I may not know art, but I know what I like.” I just don't get poetry. I've tried. The vague imagery and artistic wording just doesn't work for me. However, the woman's poem that she read when we shared samples of our work did evoke a sadness in me. That's a win in my book.

Two more women attended the meeting Tuesday night. One sort of reminds me of an older version of myself. She was very talkative, upbeat, bubbly, encouraging, and seemed genuinely interested in everyone's writing. She marked what everyone's genre of interest was, and was the first to ask the return members how their writing was going.

I was amused that the second woman – the last that joined the meeting – is actually the mom of my husband's Best Man; well, one of them, he chose two since I had a Maid and Matron of Honor. None in my circle of friends seemed to know she wrote; at least, as far as I knew. So that's pretty neat. We were never formally introduced, and so I don't know if she knew who I was, but I picked up who she was fairly quickly. It's going to be fun to get to know her better through these groups and her writing.

Just when we thought this was going to be a “Women's Writing Group”, two college boys snuck in. They both seemed just as shy and unsure as Spink and I, but the woman who played leader Tuesday night was almost giddy at the expansion of the group. They had doubled the return members, which does seem very exciting.

We went around the room introducing ourselves and the genre(s) we enjoyed writing in. Most of the group seems to like to dabble in historical fiction. I did have a nice internal chuckle in regards to one of the two men who joined us. He was listing off the genres he enjoyed writing in, and – I lost count – but I think he has something like five or six Works-in-progress; each it's own genre. He finished off his list with “that's all I have right now.” We all chuckled, and the leading woman joked “Oh, is that it?” I wanted to reassure him that I too have about eight open WIPs, but I was still feeling out the room at the time, and didn't find an opening to talk to him about it once I got comfortable. I'll have to make a mental note to do so.

The ladies that were return members then read off the writing prompt they had last week, and then read what they wrote based on that prompt. I had a feeling we were going to be doing something like this, which is why I wanted to prepare before going. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, and so I didn't know what to bring. Thankfully, the library has free wifi, and so I was able to jump on GoogleDocs to find something to share. Same with Spink and the two guys. Future Me made sure to point out something she liked about everyone's share, which is nice.

However, I later joked with my husband that I feel I should be a bit concerned for my writing. Since I usually write such large pieces, I decided to share one of the assignments from MasterClass. I explained to the group what the class was, and then I explained the prompt. I finally prefaced my reading by stating that it was purposely incomplete. I then shared the Devon/Trish suspenseful scene that I shared here last week. Difference is that I read the entire page leading up to it too.

Future Me commented that she really loved the imagery of Trish's hair falling in her face, as well as Devon's note that with all the gasoline one spark would have “the whole thing go up like a Michael Bay set”. I told her I was a bit concerned that the drop of humor there relieves too much of the suspense that I built up. She responded that a sprinkle of humor throughout is a good thing to make sure it's not too intense. I'm still skeptical.

Anyway, with the comment about my imagery and reassurance that my humor wasn't misplaced, no one asked to know what happens next. No one seemed to want more. I don't know if that's simply because the name of the game with their prompts was to leave the reader hanging, and so it didn't occur to them to comment about the cliffhanger. Or is it because my suspense wasn't large enough that they cared to know?

After everyone read off their samples, the woman who self-published wanted people's opinions on a query letter that she wrote for her second novella. This was pretty cool for me since I just learned about query letters in the MasterClass. Seeing one first hand was a bit exciting for me.

As a cold-reader who knew a little bit about query letters, I was sort of the Devil's Advocate. I deduced that if I had questions or issues after reading the letter, that the agent might have the same ones. The ladies that were regulars obviously knew this woman's story because they must have talked about it in their meetings. They didn't see the issues I did because they knew the answer, and so it was a bit rough going as they became sort of defensive of the woman's work. However, the leader of this meeting did chime in with a bunch of “that's a good point” and tried to mediate between me and the author. In the end, I'm really hoping that my critiques help her sell her book. I really do. In all honesty, it sounds like something that would be right up my mom's alley.

We finished off the meeting by coming up with a new writing prompt. No one had one in mind – I was going to offer up the burning house one from MasterClass since I still need to do it anyway – and so it was suggested that we make custom ones up. It was still randomized, though. Each of us were to write a person – not necessarily a proper noun – a place – same deal – and a mystery of some sort. I wrote down “A workaholic who just got laid off”, “A city penthouse”, and “The smell of the main character's lover lingers in the new house purchased after the death.” We then put our suggestions into their proper piles, and then chose one at random. I ended up with “Salesman/woman”, “New York City”, and “Where is the time capsule?”

Frankly, I was stumped. What does a salesman have to do with a time capsule? And why would it matter that it was missing? And “salesman/woman” is so vague. What do they sell? Stocks? Retail? Grocery? Airtime? Street vendor? Everyone else was using the last ten minutes of the meeting writing away, and all I came up with is question after question.

Thankfully, I have two weeks before the next meeting, and so hopefully I'll have something by then. Which means my goal for this week is to FINALLY stop dragging my feet, and write the assignment for the “Co-author” lesson. Then, next week – if I haven't been inspired before hand – will be dedicated to figuring out this prompt.

Spink had to run home early, and so it was suggested that I give her the same prompt I got. I did, and she already knows exactly what she wants to do with it. Lucky.

I have an idea brewing in my head, and Hubby gave me a complete Left-Field idea that I kind of like too. I might have to try both. Should be easy enough, the prompts are supposed to run about a page or two long. They won't stop you from writing more if you're inspired to, but a page or two is easiest to read aloud to the group without taking up too much time. Writing short stories is a real struggle for me, but I might be able to do something similar to my MasterClass assignments. Writing two stories shouldn't be too difficult either if they're each so short.

My biggest issue will be closing the stories. With something so short I always want to leave the story open-ended for me to keep going, but I feel I need to lock an ending down on them for these exercises. We'll see how it goes.

Maybe I'll have something new for you next week. Hopefully, I'll have something new at least every other week as I continue with this writing group. We'll see where they take me.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, All Saints Day, All Hallow's Day/Eve, Dia de los Muertos, or however you celebrate this weekend. I'll be off enjoying my favorite holiday!