Thursday, September 12, 2013

How contest entries improve my writing...before I even enter!

In an effort to resume my writing on a more regular basis, I have entered one writing contest and am working on an entry for a second one. In doing so, I've been reminded just how helpful the act of preparing a contest entry can be.

Case in point - the contest I want to enter this month has a word count limit, rather than a page limit. This fact has forced me to edit even more closely than before. After going over and over this manuscript I was certain it was as tight as it could be, yet without too much trouble I managed to cut at least 20 words. Which left me wondering why they were there in the first place. How had they slipped through so many other times?

I realize that most likely I was editing for other reasons - not strictly for word count. Does that make sense? And it's not as though the words I removed were serving as padding, they were just, in the end, superfluous. But I didn't see that before because I wasn't focussed on making my prose tight - I was focussed on story, dialogue etc. 

Do you still enter writing contests? If so, how do you find they help you with your writing?

Monday, April 08, 2013

Some progress...

I had a rough couple of weeks (nothing really serious, but just not fun), however by Friday I was feeling well enough to tackle some writing. I'd booked the day off more than a month previously so had a good chunk of time, especially as Sean was working a double shift. Rather than messing around with plotting etc, I just opened my ms, read through the previous couple of scenes, then picked up where I'd left off (mid-scene) and just forced myself to write. Yep, didn't wait for the muse or hope for inspiration, just started listening to my characters and typing.

Is the scene perfect? Is it even finished? No and no, but it's more than 800 words longer than it was before, so I'm happy. As I've learned to do with other mss, when I ran into words/phrases etc I a) wasn't happy with or b) wasn't sure if they were in period, instead of stopping to mess about, I bracketed them and kept going. The ONLY thing I did do was look for some historical furniture to help set myself in the scene...but even then, I kept writing, rather than allowing myself to get lost in an endless search for the perfect sofa and wall paper for the parlour. I'm determined to keep moving on with this as the not writing is now getting worse than the seemingly awful dreck I think I'm producing.

I keep reminding myself of Nora's words about "fixing everything but a blank page."

How do you motivate yourself?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Plotting...the bane of my existence...

I've had problems lately with my plots. I get so far and the story peters I went looking for help on the internet and found some good advice. A lot of it is stuff I already know, and which, in earlier mss, came naturally to me. Now, however, I'm reading again about Three Act Structure, character goals, theme and resolution and hoping they help jar something free so I can finish at least one of my three unfinished manuscript and, preferably, all three.

Here are some of the sites I bookmarked:

The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool You’ll Ever See That Fits On One Page

Your Plot, Step by Step

PLOT---Part Three: Making Plans and Consulting the Maps

How to Use a Plot Notebook When Writing a Book

I know part of my problem is that I'm so caught up with so many projects that I'm not focussing enough on just my writing. That comes from having sacrificed (willingly) so much while I was in school. I thought at first I'd just lost altogether my ability to write and plot, but discovered in the library at Whistler in January that when the ONLY thing I had to focus on was my story, I accomplished more than I had in a while. Maybe that's my secret - I need to lock myself in the Whistler Library!

How about you - what do you do when your story stalls?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Decisions, decisions...

I'm trying to decide whether or not to enter The 6th Annual Alaska Break-Up Contest. I like the sound of it because it's a welcome change from the "First Meet" which always seems to focus on the first 30 pages or so of the manuscript. Not that I have a problem with my first 30 pages, but I've had lots of feedback, having entered them several times, both in local contests and in RWA's Golden Heart. And I do actually love the scene in What the Heart Remembers that sees the characters break up - it was a tough scene to write, but I believe it is a strong one.

Still, it's been a while since I've entered a contest and I know they can be real crap shoots (if you'll excuse the expression). While most judges are great, one can occasionally draw a judge who either just doesn't get your work or who doesn't have either the experience to do the job properly or the interest in certain types of stories. OTOH, I realize that this might be the best way to get back into the swing of things before submitting again.

What do you think of contests? Have you entered any lately?


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Revitalizing my neglected blog...

I have been terribly neglectful of my blog of late, I cannot deny that. While I was in school, I blamed my workload for my rare posts, but I've been done for almost a year now and still have been uninspired to post. It's odd, really, as I love this blog and have been keeping it up, at one pace or another for over seven years now.

Part of the problem, I believe, is not being focussed enough. Since finishing school I've been caught up at work, both my official job at the library and my volunteer work at the local museum. My writing has suffered as a result, though I am making more of an effort these days. I think a lot of the reason for my lack of interest in the blog lately relates directly to spending 3 1/2 years meeting constant deadlines in school. Having to blog felt like another of those deadlines. However, now, I find I'm missing it.

My writing is at a crossroads of sorts. Part of me wants to keep working on the three unfinished mss I already have, yet another part wants to go in a completely different direction. Every time I think I might be able to abandon one of those mss, the characters protest and I come back to the. That tells me that really, I have to write their stories before I can move on.

The biggest obstacle, however, is the problem with my plotting. I've mentioned this over on Facebook - my sudden inability to clearly see the end of the story. A plotter by nature, I've learned that I have to have at least a general outline of the story before I can move to far with it. That doesn't mean I have things worked out scene by scene down to the last detail and won't deviate, but it does mean I need to have a specific final scene in my head. With my earlier mss, this was always the case - the scenes were there from very early on in the writing process. Yet now, it just doesn't happen. I can't tell if this means it's the wrong story, the wrong characters or just that my mind is now filled with so many other details, that I"m not able to focus on my writing.

I did work before, but I wasn't as involved with it as I am with my work at the library. Part of that revolves around my work with the public - I give a lot of myself during the day, so a lot of my energy that would go to my creative side gets drained. Also, at least while I was writing my first ms, I used the writing as an escape from a job I really didn't like much at all. That is not the case now. OTOH, every time I think maybe I should just forget about writing, my characters protest very loudly and draw me back into their worlds.

Learning to balance my work life with my writing life is something I have to work on. Unlike some of my writing friends, I cannot function in that capacity at 5 am - I wish I could, but I just can't. The most I can do just after 6 am is drag myself down to the elliptical trainer or my yoga mat. My brain has never engaged at that early an hour. So it's back to evenings again - something I had to do in school. I fooled myself into believing that I'd be so well trained from doing work at night that it would translate to my writing. No such luck - I found I was so relieved to NOT have to do work in the evenings, I only wanted to read or surf the web.

Now, however, I realize that I have little choice - my characters want their stories to be told and given that I have evenings relatively free, I have to dedicate at least some of that time to my writing. No excuses. Writing has been a part of my life for so long that I can't just give up on it now, especially when it's clear that the stories are still viable, given that my characters demand my attention.

I'm hoping that by blogging about writing related topics again, on a frequent basis, that I will keep myself more focussed on writing and begin to produce new work on a much more regular basis.

What about you? How do you stay foccussed on your work?