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: http://www.weronikajanczuk.com/2010/04/page-day-challenge.html.

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!

ScriptFrenzy: Too much of a challenge?

6 04 2010

I stared at my script for ten minutes today. I didn’t do anything with it–I just stared at it. Why? Because I have no idea what to write next. I feel like the material I already have written is laughable, and so I’m in that slump of thinking, “So why should I continue this challenge if all I get out of it is a pile of crap that I’m even embarrassed to re-read?”

***Beginning of script for internal argument

JESSIE: (sighs) I just don’t know if it’s worth it. Is the thrill of writing my first script worth the pain of having to look at what I’ve got every day and know that it’s horrible?

INNER VOICE: (a tiny whisper) Every writer has to start somewhere.

JESSIE: But what if some writers are only meant for one medium? What if I’m just not meant to be a screenwriter?

INNER VOICE: You’ll never know if you don’t try. You might end up learning something in the process.

JESSIE: If this were “Leave it to Beaver,” I’d smile and say, “By golly, you’re right!” But this isn’t “Leave it to Beaver,” and I’m swamped with school work and life and other obligations right now. I can’t even remember why I thought this was a good idea.

INNER VOICE: You wanted to try something new.

JESSIE: Next time I want to try something new, I’ll reach for the cookbook and find a new recipe. I won’t choose something that takes a month and a lot of work to complete.

INNER VOICE: Next time… Sure. But how about you make it through this time first?

JESSIE: (rolls her eyes) Yeah, yeah. I’ll try. But if I can’t make it past the twentieth page because I can’t stand wading in any more muddy words and faltering plot lines, I’m giving myself a “free out”.

INNER VOICE: How about we wait and see how it turns out before planning to quit?

JESSIE harumphs.

***End of script

Now that’s some quality writing… Is anyone else out there stuck in the middle of a writing challenge and wondering why in the world they decided to take it on in the first place? What are you doing to make it through?

On Characters #4: Description through a Mirror

5 04 2010

When you’re writing–especially from a first-person point of view–it can be difficult to throw in a description of your main character. Many authors, when faced with this conundrum of how a character should describe him/herself, will turn to a clichéd method for description: a mirror. The main character will stop in front of a mirror and describe what (s)he sees, which might look something like this:

Walking through the hall, I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye of where the light hit a mirror and reflected it back toward me. I stopped and slowly turned toward the mirror, subtly checking to make sure I was alone in the hall. I hadn’t taken the time to really look at myself in more than a month, so I was almost afraid of what I’d see there. I stared. A medium-height woman with muddy green eyes and slightly frizzy, long blonde hair stared back. I smiled. Her lips pulled up at the same time to expose slightly crooked front teeth and smile lines around her mouth.

I understand the temptation to do something like that, but as a reader, I’m tired of mirror scenes. If a character looks in a mirror, I want it to be because something is out of the ordinary. If the mirror is an excuse to describe the character as (s)he looks everyday, I get frustrated. If a mirror scene is the only way an author can introduce a character’s looks, then I start to wonder if the character’s looks weren’t really that important in the first place. I start to wonder if  some authors simply add that information in because they think they have to or they think readers have to have the same image of the main character as they do.

While complaining about using a mirror scene, I will say that well-done mirror scene can be totally justified. For example, compare the following paragraph to the previous one:

I ran out of the apartment, hoping I would make it to the next block before the city bus pulled away from the curb and left me with 15 blocks to walk to my interview. My feet pounded into the concrete sidewalk, and I kept my head forward, but I couldn’t help but notice the people around me turning to stare at me. What are they staring at? I wondered, running my hands down my outfit to make sure my clothes were where they were supposed to be. Nearly every day since I had moved into my apartment, I had seen at least one person running to catch a bus, but not once in those times had I seen everyone on the street turning to stare at the running person. “Wait!” I yelled as the bus at the end of the block roared to life. “I need that bus!” I ran closer to the curb when I passed the bus and turned to look at the windows to signal to any passengers inside to tell the driver to wait. What I saw in the reflective bus windows brought me to a sudden stop. My blonde hair was mussed from the run with little stragglers of frizz framing my now-red face, but I could deal with that. My cheeks flamed with embarrassment as my muddy green eyes stared at the dark streak of paint across my forehead. The bus drove away as I watched my reflection move down the windows and then disappear when the bus had gone.

Was that scene a perfect description? No. But it was an example of how a character might describe herself as she looks at her reflection for a reason. I don’t want the character to use the mirror as an excuse to tell me what she’s wearing–if her clothes are important, her clothes should be mentioned some time other than when she’s standing in front of a mirror.

Now I’m just starting to rant… What do you think? Do you mind the clumsy mirror scenes authors use to describe their main characters? What better examples do you have of how an author might describe a character without relying on a mirror?

Panic over a script

1 04 2010

It’s April 1, and ScriptFrenzy has begun. I should be excited–after all, this is my new writing adventure, and I have no expectations beyond a page count. So why am I staring at a blank screen and freaking out? Because writing a script sounds like it should be … not easy, but also not torturous. I’ve been planning out a storyline for a couple weeks, I’ve got my list of characters, I’ve created backgrounds for those characters, and I’ve got ideas for the settings. And yet, I have no idea what to do with any of that. I’ve read scripts, I’ve seen how they’re arranged, and I understand the basic principles of putting fingers to the keyboard and writing a beginning script. AND YET, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH ANY OF THAT. Holy cow. What did I get myself into?