The Write Stuff: Halfway Home

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffI’ve been on The Write Stuff journey for six months. Let’s see how it’s going!

Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017

The Write Stuff progress spreadsheet

Not much official movement since last month. I’ve incorporated most of the edits I got on the third draft of “Beginnings,” but I got a couple bigger pieces of feedback that need more work. More info on that below.

Goal 2: Write one in-character scene after every D&D session

(Formerly: Do as many of the 642 Tiny Things to Write About as I can)

Our next session isn’t until mid-July. I’ve got a couple ideas brewing, and I hope to post something short to our Facebook group before then. I love diving into my character and learning more about her.

Goal 3: Join a writing community (and actually share stuff for feedback)

The big thing someone pointed out to me about my writing is that I overuse the pronoun-action way of describing things. She pulled, He flinched, They turned.

I do it a lot: 106 times in a 4000-ish word story. Now that I’ve seen it I can’t unsee it, so I have to fix them. Trouble is, I’m not sure how.

Fortunately the internet provides. I found a thread where people give great tips on fixing this sneaky issue. Now it’s just a matter of me sitting down and hacking through my story. Lord give me strength.

Goal 4: Document it all on this blog

Are you not entertained?!

How’s your writing going?

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Review: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Morgan MatsonIt’s been three months since Amy last got behind the wheel. Her father’s death in a car accident fractured their already-fragile family — her brother’s in rehab and her mother has decided to move across the country. And now, Amy has to somehow get the family’s remaining car from California to Connecticut.

Fortunately, Roger needs to get to the East Coast, too. And if they follow the route Amy’s mother planned, it should only take four days. But what is it they say about the best-laid plans…?

Just perfect

The only thing harder to portray accurately than teenagers is grief. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour does both perfectly.

My heart aches for Amy. She blames herself for her father’s death, and has spent months pushing away the people who care about her most. Author Morgan Matson portrays Amy’s grief accurately and without histrionics — it’s brutal and beautiful.

I also really like Roger, mainly because he’s just a good guy. Plus I think most people can understand the idea of hanging onto a relationship you know is over because you’re scared.

Matson’s book also left me jonesing for a road trip, preferably one with my husband. I’d love to see some of the places she describes, and feel my troubles blow away on the wind. Who wouldn’t want to forget the rest of the world for awhile?

But Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour isn’t about forgetting. It’s about journeys, questions, and having the courage to face your fears.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. June’s challenge was to read a book in which the characters take a trip, travel somewhere, go on a quest, or find themselves on a journey toward something.)

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Quickie Reviews: Time and Space

Yesterday on the way home from work, my car said it was 102 degrees. It’s officially too hot to do anything but sit on the couch and read. Here’s what’s been keeping me from melting for the last few weeks.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud, Atlas, David MitchellSome sadist recommended David Mitchell’s novel for our book club, and we’ve all spent the last month trying to wrap our heads around it. While I wouldn’t call it a “fun” read, I really enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone. Our club’s discussion on it was awesome! It was cool to talk about what we liked and what we didn’t, and to puzzle out the mysteries together. The stories are interesting — Sonmi for the win! — but you shouldn’t tackle it if the phrase, “I really love reading” has never passed your lips.

Minding the Manor

Minding the Manor, Mollie MoranMollie Moran’s memoir of her time as a scullery maid and cook in 1930s and 1940s England. Down-to-earth tone, excellent storytelling, and tantalizing glimpses into the lives of those working “below stairs” at the end of an era. Perfect for fans of Powell’s Below Stairs.

The Spirit War

The Spirit War, Rachel AaronThe continuation of the stories begun in The Legend of Eli Monpress, and one of my two current reads. It’s been a couple of years since I first picked up Rachel Aaron’s series, and I’m playing catch-up. So far this novel is just what the doctor ordered.

What are temps like in your neck of the woods?

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Review: The Secrets of Wishtide

The Secrets of Wishtide, Kate SaundersWidowhood does not agree with Mrs. Laetitia Rodd. A woman of her age and situation should be content to sit by the fire with a bit of sewing, but it’s simply not her cup of tea. She prefers moonlighting as a private investigator in the service of her brother, a popular criminal barrister.

Her most recent assignment, however, does not provide much in the way of excitement. Charles Calderstone, son of the well-connected Sir James Calderstone, has fallen in love with the wrong sort of woman. His parents are convinced that Helen Orme is not who she pretends to be — and they ask Mrs. Rodd to ferret out the truth. It’s an open-and-shut case.

But the walls of Wishtide, the Calderstone’s home, hold many secrets. As the bodies pile up, Mrs. Rodd discovers that nothing is what it seems.

Manners and murder

I’ll read almost anything, but I always end up back at murder mysteries — and books like The Secrets of Wishtide are why.

Author Kate Saunders has created a character with the manners of a queen, the brains of Hercule Poirot, and a spine of steel. I loved getting to know Mrs. Rodd. Scarcely less wonderful is her landlady, the unflappable Mrs. Benson. It’s like a Sherlock Holmes story, but with less cocaine and more actual investigation.

The mystery is good, if a trifle over-complicated. Saunders gets a bit heavy-handed throughout; she gives Mrs. Rodd plenty of opportunities to judge some “unfortunate” for their situation before magnanimously announcing to the reader that she’s being judgy and patting herself on the back for walking a mile in said unfortunate’s shoes.

Those complaints excepted, I loved The Secrets of Wishtide. It’s the first in what looks to be a great series. I’m always excited to read about strong female characters who kick ass and take names.

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The Write Stuff: Back in the Game

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffWe’re sliding into summer like a greased pig, and The Write Stuff is back on track.

Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017

The Write Stuff progress spreadsheet

Look at that! We’ve got movement in row four. It felt good to get the second draft of that chapter posted and critiqued. And most of the feedback was pretty nitpicky, which is generally a good sign.

Now if only I could come up with that fourth story idea…

Goal 2: Do as many of the 642 Tiny Things to Write About as I can

I think this one might be a bust. The writing exercises are too tiny and focused, and I don’t enjoy doing them.

Last month I talked about how several members of the D&D campaign I’m in are using our Facebook group to post in-character stuff. I’m really enjoying that. Our DM has plopped us into a great world and story, and it’s fun exploring my character.

Let’s adjust this goal. Write one in-character scene after every game session.

Bam.

Goal 3: Join a writing community (and actually share stuff for feedback)

Scribophile is still amazing. But I think I’ve been trying to “eat the elephant” by unhinging my jaw and swallowing it whole when everyone knows the best way is to take one bite at a time.

I started critiquing just one story per day. It took me longer to earn the karma I needed to post both parts of my chapter, but I felt much less overwhelmed. I also felt like the single critique I left was better and more comprehensive.

Posting my chapter was less scary this time, mainly because I knew it was in a good place. I pulled all the critiques into Google Docs, and will look at them this weekend when I have spare brainpower.

Goal 4: Document it all on this blog

It’s always easier to post when you have something to post about. June and July are going to be crazy, and I’m hoping to use the energy from feeling successful these last couple of weeks to coast through.

How’s your writing going?

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