Too Many Challenges

28 05 2010

Note to self: When you’ve just managed to wrap up one semester and are working toward planning a new one, it may not be the best time to take up yet another challenge. Especially when you’re working toward filling three other challenges you started…

Okay, so the Page-A-Day Challenge is not going spectacularly for me. The first sign of imminent failure should have been that I couldn’t focus enough to stick to one writing goal. And yet, I felt compelled to keep trying. My second sign of failure should have been that there were many days when I realized I hadn’t written my page for the day but was getting ready for bed, so I would sit down and quickly write anything that came to mind just to get my page done. Working toward mediocrity is generally not a sign of success–especially when you add it to other little red warning flags. And then yesterday it happened: I forgot to write a page. Hmm… That doesn’t necessarily mean “failure” in the strictest sense–after all, I did write in my journal, and I took lots of little notes throughout the day. But my focus is shifting too fast for me to keep up with it. I usually am overly wrought by the thought of failing at something, but lately I’ve started to embrace it for its deeper meaning. Failure: it’s the predecessor of success. I think you have to first fail in order to eventually succeed. I think I have to fail some challenges to better understand what challenges will work for me. I mean, what’s the point of succeeding at every challenge in life if you don’t learn something from those successes and those successes turn into mediocre expectations of yourself?

It’s interesting to me how one challenge can really get me going and working toward a final goal while others can leave me feeling like I simply took on too much–even when the challenge wasn’t all that pressing. One friend and I were talking about the depression (or, in my case, hermitage) that follows the conclusion of a stressful work-filled period in life. I like her take on the situation: Humans are meant to work in cycles (some people believe these cycles follow the phases of the moon). We need to better learn ourselves to figure out when our productive times are so that we can better make use of our “down times” to gather strength and necessary knowledge to make our productive cycles as productive as possible. Does that make sense? Right now is not a productive time for me, but I find myself working little bits on things that will–very shortly–become major projects for me. I’m just waiting for my next cycle of productivity. I’m not procrastinating–I’m percolating. I’m getting things in order, I’m jotting down notes, I’m using daily life experiences to better inform what eventually will be major decisions. I guarantee you that my down time is not spent staring at a wall or passing my time doing absolutely nothing. I find that my down time is geared toward (sometimes unconsciously) doing things that will help me in the future. For instance, right now I’m going through a down time with writing. Yet I’m reading more than ever. I’m reading books I’ve been wanting to read, I’m reading books that are similar to the one I am gearing up to write, and I’m participating in rating submissions on WEbook that are in my writing genre. In other words, I’m forming a bigger picture so I can better situate my writing when I am ready to write.

I know there are writers out there right now yelling, “But writers should write every day–not just when they feel like it!” I don’t know what to say beyond, “That just doesn’t work for me.”

While lamenting one failure, I can celebrate a different success: I had joined WEbook’s Page to Fame by submitting the first page of my completed manuscript and after many ratings… my page has been elevated to the next level by readers! Woo-hoo! For any writers out there working toward getting published/finding the agent for you, I highly recommend submitting to Page to Fame. It’s a good way to gauge whether readers of your genre might want to keep reading after that first page.


Writing Every Day… or Something Like It

23 05 2010

Since starting the Page-A-Day Challenge, I have written a page per day, but I haven’t stuck with any single writing project. I’ve jumped around from project to project. It feels so good to write that I want to keep writing, but I’m in one of those frenetic moods where no single project can hold my attention. Instead of fighting those pulses in attention, I’m going with them. I’ve been writing everything from the fluff fiction piece I started out with to non-fiction. My next writing goal? To get better at writing to my friends–something I used to do frequently but that has dropped dramatically once social media entered my life. Yet I don’t think anything on the computer compares with receiving a handwritten note in the mail, so I’m trying to get back to the basics and use my writing urges to write to friends. Should that type of writing count toward daily writing time? Some people may disagree with me, but I’m going to count it. I figure that writing in and of itself is therapeutic for me, so I shouldn’t rush to put any strings on the writing I do.

My new goal is to lump all writing (outside of academic writing, which is its own field) into one: letters, blog posts, creative pieces, journal writing, nonfiction essays, etc. I have found that telling myself I have to write X daily ends up leaving me feel stifled. The only time that worked for me was during NaNoWriMo; I’m not sure how I survived that month–I think I just had the “I’m going to get it done” mentality, and I’m not sure that mentality will grace me more than once per year.

I am also going to count revisions on said writing as my writing time. If I’m in the mood to revise, I shouldn’t stop myself just because I think I need to pen something new that day. Revising can very much be like writing for the first time–especially when so many revisions end up taking out material to put in fresh material or rewording what’s on the page to make it sound more fresh.

I’m not sure if not working on the same project every day disqualifies me officially from the Page-A-Day Challenge, but in my mind, I’m doing just fine.

Also, you may have noticed a little change–I was getting tired of my old theme, and I didn’t like how the paragraphs were spaced so closely together. So I scoured the available themes and went with a new one. The bright colors at the top make me happy. They remind me of the days when I was kid and picked up those paint chip papers just because I liked the colors on them. And being reminded of those days is refreshing.

Page-A-Day Challenge: Day 1

15 05 2010

I announced in my last post that I would be participating in Weronika Janczuk’s Page-A-Day Challenge. The challenge is a writing challenge, and just as the title says, the challenge is to write at least one page a day. Obviously, I can write more than a single page in a day, but it’s not allowed to “store up” days; in other words, even if I write 10 pages in one day, I still have to write at least one page the next day.

I had forgotten that today was the beginning of the challenge until I saw Weronika’s blog post this morning about it. I very nearly backed out (on Day 1, no less!) because I am wiped out from grading end-of-the-semester work. I wanted nothing to do with brain activity. On top of all that, I haven’t been feeling inspired about the writing project I had been working on.

So I decided that instead of working on the same project, I would start a whole new project for this challenge. I had a spark this morning for a new direction, and I went with it. My favorite book of all time is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; in an homage to her glorious book, I am writing a book loosely based on the same storyline, but it takes place in modern times in America. I’m proud to report that I wrote nearly 3 pages in my short sitting today. Is this something I’ll ever share with anyone else? I don’t know. But I do look forward to seeing how much I get accomplished over the duration of the challenge.

Weronika Janczuk’s Page-a-Day Challenge

27 04 2010

Weronika Janczuk has started a month-long challenge on her blog and is eschewing word counts in favor of committing herself to writing a page a day. Of course, if she’s on a role, she won’t stop writing at the end of one page–the goal is to get at least a page and see what happens from there. The link to her blog post is here:

I’m intrigued by her challenge and think I could use some motivation. Because I write in Scrivener, the concept of a page is harder to define, so I’d very nearly have to rely on word counts to make sure I’m getting somewhere around a page (anywhere from 250-350 words, depending on the length of the words I’m using). BUT I still like the idea of lowering expectations so that the daily goal doesn’t seem as daunting. That also seems to work better than time limits–the past few days, I’ve made it a goal to write for 30 minutes a day, but then I didn’t know whether or not to include the time I spent brainstorming or outlining as part of my writing goal. It got me working on my story, but my story didn’t grow in words those days… A page a day would allow me to write a little, spend extra time on planning and/or brainstorming, and revise my other novel in the process.

Like I said, I find her approach intriguing, and I’m thinking about signing on for the challenge. I’m going to think about it first, though, because I’m a little burned after not making it through my last challenge that I signed blindly on with (ScriptFrenzy).

Inspiration from Tom Bentley

23 04 2010

While I was scrolling through my Twitter page the other day, I came across a link that InkyElbows shared: 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far by Tom Bentley. The article is a guest post on the blog Guide to Literary Agents (by Chuck Sambuchino).

In the post, an author who is already published (in this case, Tom Bentley) writes about things (s)he wishes (s)he had known before getting published. In his guest post, Bentley provides 7 pieces of advice, three of which resonated so deeply with me that I had to share them here (with modifications to the pronouns to make it more personal to my own writing journey):

  1. I’m only as good as my next sentence.
  2. Fifteen minutes of working on something is 100 times better than thinking about working on something.
  3. Reading writing blogs … is NOT writing.

The first one reminds me that no matter how happy I am with what I’ve written in the past, I can’t rely on what I’ve already written–I’ve got to keep writing and producing quality work or I won’t be a writer (I’ll be someone who used to be a writer).

The second one is the one that really speaks to me because it’s the one I’m most guilty of. I think about writing MUCH more than I actually write, which can be helpful in some ways because I flesh out what I want for the story in my mind, but unless I’m actually putting words on paper (or on computer), I’m not actually writing… which leads to the third one. I’m addicted to blogging. That’s putting it mildly. Sure, writing in my blogs is a form of writing, but it’s not the writing I should be focused on. So while I should carve time out of my days to write in my blogs because it makes me feel more connected to the world, I should’t let that be the only form of writing I do in any given day.

Tom Bentley has inspired me and given me a little shove that I desperately needed. It’s time to get back to writing!

Inspired Style in Melissa Marr’s WICKED LOVELY

20 04 2010

I recently finished reading Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

I enjoyed the book not only because I was fascinated with the story but also because Marr’s writing style gave me something to savor as I read. It was little things–the descriptions she used, particular word choices, and interweaving of different characters’ viewpoints.

A simple example comes from a conversation between two characters on page 219:

As he smiled at her reassuringly, she could smell wild roses, fresh-cut hay, bonfires—things she didn’t think she’d ever been around, but knew nonetheless in that moment.
Solemnly he nodded. “My word, Aislinn. I swore to you that your wishes would be as my own as often as I am able. I keep my vows.”
“I was so afraid. I mean, not that you would” —she broke off and grimaced, realizing what she’d implied— “it’s just that . . .”
“What can you expect of a faery, right?” He gave her a wry grin, looking surprisingly normal for a faery king. “I’ve read the mortals’ stories of us, too. They aren’t untrue.”
She took a deep breath, tasting those strange summer scents on her tongue.
I like this interchange for several reasons:
  1. Marr has a certain linguistic flair in the very first sentence when she writes “things she didn’t think she’d ever been around, but knew nonetheless in that moment.” Isn’t that a beautiful sentence? If you don’t agree, just say it out loud and notice how good it feels as it rolls off your tongue. It’s not just the words–it’s the flow of the language.
  2. Aislinn, one of the participants in the conversation, is having a hard time articulating what she’s trying to say because the conversation is about a challenging topic (I won’t give it away). Marr lets us, as readers, feel that awkwardness without making the passage painful. Notice how Aislinn can’t really get out an entire sentence, and the other character in the conversation feels that and doesn’t force the issue. Not once do either of the characters explicitly mention what is being discussed, yet the readers follow along seamlessly.
  3. Without going back and re-mentioning the previously mentioned scents, she weaves it back into the narrative and then moves on. She reminds readers that Aislinn still has the strong sensation of being surrounded by those summer scents but doesn’t “tell” the readers that. She “shows” them by saying that Aislinn could “tast[e] those strange summer scents on her tongue.” Another beautiful phrase!
When I write, I hope I can take a lesson from Marr’s writing style and let my readers feel what the characters are feeling without overtly stating those emotions.
Have you read a book recently that has inspired your own writing journey?

ScriptFrenzy a Bust?

14 04 2010

As much as it hurts me to say this, I think I have to give up on my ScriptFrenzy challenge. I’m still stuck at 11 pages, and it’s nearly halfway through the month. I’m behind on pretty much everything I can be behind on–grading, prepping classes, meeting deadlines–and I feel I should attend to those things that I am getting paid to do rather than spending more time on a script that is quickly going from it’s-so-bad-it’s-funny quality to I-can’t-even-bring-myself-to-finish-this-thing-it’s-so-horrible quality. *sigh*

I don’t like starting challenges I can’t finish, and so I’m stuck between trying to force myself to finish the challenge and keeping my head up and saying, “Next year I’ll be more prepared.” I can’t just quit the challenge and not think that I won’t try again–that’s too much finality for me.

My writing love goes out to all those scriptwriters who are keeping on task and finishing their scripts by April 30. I am saddened that I won’t be able to count myself among the winners, but I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson about switching to new written genres: it’s not as easy as it sounds. Next time around, I’ll be ready to write a not-good-but-not-horrible script in 30 days. Watch out April 2011!