The Write Stuff: Stalled, but Learning

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffHoly crap, it’s March! I’m three months into The Write Stuff. Life’s gotten crazy (doesn’t it always?), so it’s a mixed bag this month. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017

Breaking out the old spreadsheet, things are looking pretty good.

The Write Stuff

I’ve made progress, but it hasn’t been consistent. I’ll work on a story like a madwoman for a few days, then get distracted by a new cross-stitch pattern or a book…or two seasons of The Great British Baking Show.

Frustratingly, I’ve also had to add another round of edits, mostly for “Beginnings.” I got a ton of fantastic feedback on the second draft, and re-worked big sections of it so much I feel like it needs another round of critiques.

Still no idea for a fourth story. Coming up with ideas is the hardest part. Or maybe it’s coming up with a first line. Or a last line. Damn it.

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

I’ve done several of these, but I’m not sure how I feel about them. I did some very quickly, and others I agonized over for so long that I just gave up.

642 Tiny Things to Write About

I don’t know how seriously I’m supposed to take these exercises. Should I look at the page and just vomit something onto it in five minutes, so should I take more time thinking about it?

Either choice is challenging for me. I’m a perfectionist, so I hardly do anything quickly. I second-guess my writing choices, which slows me down even further.

I wonder if making a smaller goal of doing at least one little exercise every day would help me get into the swing of things?

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

I still think joining Scribophile is one of my best decisions of the year. Members seem genuinely interested in helping each other improve their writing, and I’ve learned so much already (more info under Goal 4 below).

I’ve got a third draft of “Beginnings” ready to go, but word count limits on Scribophile mean that I need to post it in two parts. I have to critique a lot of other people’s writing to save up the “karma” to post it again.

Goal 4: Document it all on this blog

Get ready for total nerdery.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned from posting to Scribophile are the basics. For example, the Motivation-Reaction Unit. First describe what the character feels, then what they do, then what they say. I might have learned about this concept in high school, but in college I wrote mostly stage or screenplays — and those don’t use MRUs in the traditional sense.

My mind was truly blown when a commenter talked about a newer trend in writing: Deep Point of View (Deep POV). I’m still wrapping my head around it, so I’ll quote from the article to explain:

Deep POV is third-person subjective taken a step farther than the normal. The third-person subjective shows story through the eyes of one or more characters…Deep POV goes beyond that to take readers into the head and heart of a character, allowing the story to be seen and felt through the characters experiences and history and thoughts and feelings.

Instead of using phrases like “She felt” or “He worried” or even “She saw,” you simply describe how the character is feeling, or show how that worry manifests itself.

This probably isn’t earth-shattering stuff to people who have been writing for many years, but for me it’s all a revelation. And it’s incredibly rewarding to see my writing improve.

Onward!

The Write Stuff: Off to the Races

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffI kicked off The Write Stuff last month in an effort to force myself to exercise my creative writing muscles in 2017. I’m trying to be my own accountability buddy, so I set some goals and am doing my best to meet them.

It’s early days, but let’s see how it’s going.

Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017

It wouldn’t be a true Amy effort without a spreadsheet!

The Write Stuff progress, February 2017

The first couple columns are self-explanatory. Once I have a decent first draft (column C), I post it to Scribophile (column D — more on Scribophile below). I use feedback to create a second draft (column E), then post the new draft to Scribophile again (column F).

I’m planning to consider a story “finished” once I incorporate feedback on the second draft. That’s probably not how it works in the publishing world, but I’m not planning to submit these for publication. Plus, I need to set some definition of “finished” so I know when it’s okay to stop futzing with my writing.

You may recognize a couple of the story names from my 2016 writing prompt exercises. I’ve taken those simpler versions and blown them out extensively. Does this count as cheating? Maybe, but I needed to start somewhere.
Right now I’m well ahead of this goal, but as you can see I haven’t even had an idea for a fourth story yet.

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

I got 642 Tiny Things to Write About as a Christmas present, but I’ve barely touched it. I’m trying to be more purposeful about doing a couple of these a day. They really are tiny things, and I’m hoping one of them will give me an idea for another story.

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

The only thing scarier than making a goal to write is making a goal to let strangers critique that writing.

via GIPHY

I talked to my good friend Google, who suggested I check out Scribophile. And gurl, it is awesome!

The first thing that impressed me was the website itself: it looks fantastic, and the voice they use is clear and personable. I love that you have to critique others’ writing before you can post your own, and so far every user I’ve interacted with has been kind and offered helpful suggestions for my work.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of Scribophile’s offerings, but joining has already been the best decision I’ve made in 2017.

Goal 4: Document it all on this blog

I’m planning to post an update once per month. I want to keep my momentum going. I don’t know if my writing will ever “see the light of day” in any kind of publication, but I’m not worried about it. For now I just want to enjoy the ride!

The Write Stuff: I’ve Made a Terrible Mistake

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffHave you ever done something that scared you, and you didn’t die and it was actually kind of fun, but then you got cocky and bit off more than you could chew? Welcome to my world.

After my marginal success with writing prompts last year, I decided it was time to get back into creative writing. I was a theatre major, after all, and wrote a healthy number of scripts and short stories. I fell off the fiction-writing wagon after college, and it’s something I want to jump back into.

The only problem? It’s hard as shit.

Fiction writing is so much harder than writing about the books I read. I’m stretching muscles I haven’t used in eight years, and it’s brutal.

My goals

I need some, or this whole thing is going to collapse like a poorly-made souffle.

  • Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017.
  • Goal 2: Do as many of the 642 Tiny Things to Write About as I can.
  • Goal 3: Join a writing community (and actually share stuff for feedback).
  • Goal 4: Document it all on this blog.

Got any advice?

I’m hoping things get easier as I go, but I’d love any advice from readers who are also writers. What’s your ideation/writing process? How do you stay focused when writing? How do you ignore the little voice in your head that says everything you write is terrible?

Oh…that last one’s just me? Awesome. How could this end badly?

Writing Prompt #12: First Date

Writing Prompt(This month’s writing prompt is First Date: Write about someone’s first date. What happens?)

Lights up on a living room. ANDREW, young and nervous, sits in a chair. His eyes wander restlessly around the room. An older man, WILLIAM, enters. He is wearing a robe, and appears vaguely smug.

WILLIAM
(To someone offstage)
Take your time. I can babysit the lad for two minutes.
(To Andrew)
They always say it’ll be two minutes, but I know better than that. I’d take off your shoes if I were you.

Andrew shifts uncomfortably, then bends down as if to take off his shoes.

WILLIAM (CONT’D.)
Good grief, son, I didn’t mean it literally. You sure are nervous, aren’t you?

ANDREW
A little, sir. I never…quite know what to say at times like this.

WILLIAM
Nothing to say, really. It’s my job to sit here and be intimidating, and it’s your job to sit there and be intimidated. Can I get you a drink?

ANDREW
Just water, sir.

William grabs a bottle of water from the sideboard. He pours some into a glass and hands it to Andrew.

WILLIAM
I don’t believe you would have lasted back in my day. I always expected to be greeted at the door with a scowl and a shotgun. Never happened, though, to my eternal gratitude.

ANDREW
(Smiling slightly)
Thank you for not perpetuating that particular stereotype tonight. It was enough of a struggle to actually get the date. If you don’t mind my saying so, sir.

WILLIAM
(Chuckling as he pours himself some water)
That comes from my side of the family — we’re all stubborn as hell.

ANDREW
I’m beginning to see that.

The two men chuckle.

ANDREW (CONT’D.)
Thank you for being so welcoming, sir. Not everyone around here would be so kind.

WILLIAM
(Shrugging and smiling)
The way the world works, I wouldn’t be surprised.
(Standing raising his glass)
A toast to the happy couple. To Andrew and Liam’s first date!

Andrew stands, and the two men clink their glasses together. Stage lights fade to dark.

Writing Prompt #11: Promise to Yourself

Writing Prompt(This month’s writing prompt is Promise to Yourself: Write about a promise you want to make to yourself and keep.)

I’ve always put a lot of effort into being perfect. I spent more time studying than being with friends because I wanted perfect grades; after getting let go from my job at 10am I worked for four more hours so that my boss and co-workers wouldn’t have to finish out my tasks; I’ve spent my whole life trying to take others’ advice to “be positive” or “fake it till you make it.”

It’s hard for me to accept that imperfection is part of being human. Getting into therapy helped, but I think I’ll always be a little bit crazy and too Type-A for my own good.

I’m not making many promises these days — I save them for the big stuff like fidelity and honesty — but here are some things I want to try in 2017 and beyond.

I will try to be myself, anxiety and all

In the last year I’ve been more open about my anxiety than ever before. It was a little scary at first, because I wasn’t sure how people would react. But so far the response I’ve gotten most is, “Me too!” Which is both great (yay, I’m not alone!) and sad (why are we all so fucked up?).

I have good days and bad days, but usually I’m able to use my anxiety to my advantage. Being open about my challenges and who I am makes me feel happier and healthier.

I will try not to let my anxiety control me

Accepting and talking about the fact that I have generalized anxiety disorder is not the same as giving into it, or letting it dictate what I can and can’t do.

Thanks to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I have the tools to manage my anxiety. I recognize that these feelings are part of me, but I don’t let them stop me from trying new things.

“Between safety and adventure, I choose adventure.”

I will try to think more about others

While I don’t believe I’ve meandered into narcissist territory, I think I’ve got a noticeable selfish streak — possibly because I’m an enormous control freak (and an only child on top of that).

I want to be more aware of and empathetic toward those around me. I need to think beyond myself and my needs, and try to help others. I want to be a kinder person. That’s something the world really needs right now.

What would you like to try to do better in the next year? Let’s chat in the comments!