Finding Story in Setting

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When I needed to come up an idea for this summer’s short story contest I struggled to find a redemption story I wanted to tell.  I thought first about choices that needed redemption.  Next I thought about characters—who they were, what choices they made and what situations they found themselves in that required redemption.  Both were fine but not the “Wow!” story I wanted.

Finally I thought of setting.  One came to mind that would have lots of action and I could picture vividly.  I knew the smells, the sights and the sounds.  In my mind I wandered around my setting searching for my characters and their story I could tell.

Guess what?  I found both of them, or maybe they found me.

The antagonist found me first, probably because he would have the most interactions with everyone else in this setting.

Other character’s started to introduce themselves and their stories to me.  Then we worked together to find some action and discovers their disasters.  I threw a few rocks at them to see how they reacted.  They brushed off some like they were nothing.  They didn’t respond the way I was hoping to others.  I tossed a few more and together we found the right balance in character and action to bring a story I wanted to tell alive.

Fore me, these contests require a different creative process because my ideas need to conform to a preselected topic.  Typically I come up with ideas, write down the ones I like and develop the ones I love.  But in this situation, as with most contests and many freelance assignments, I’m forced myself to come up with something creative within the set guidelines.  That is where the ability to apply any new ways of approach idea generation can be a godsend.

Where do you get ideas when they need to conform to specific parameters?  I’m interested in what methods work for you, especially when you are under a deadline.

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Summer Writing Contest

The Summer Writing Contest from The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break is finally here!  This contest’s theme is “Redemption” and the deadline to enter is July 10th.  You can link to all the information about the contest including the signup page here.

summer-writing-contest

This will be the third time I have entered this contest series and I keep coming back for two great reasons.

First, all entrants are required to workshop their stories for a week with the other contestants.  Not only do you get great feedback from fellow writers but you also get a chance to read some great stories and see how the authors incorporate the feedback they receive.

Second, for a slightly higher entry fee, you have the option to receive written feedback directly from the judges after the winners are announced.  In the past, I received supportive and constructive feedback from two judges, so I would expect this to continue with this season’s contest as well.

If you can dream up an idea that fits the theme and have the time to pump out a 1,500 word short story in the next week, I highly recommend signing up.

I hope to see you in the workshop!

Weekly Status: June 8, 2018

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week (maybe a couple of days late!)  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

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Writing

Blogging

As a result of the progress I was making on my fiction writing, I made the conscious decision to let the novel flow without interruption from other projects this week.  I started two posts when I needed a break from the novel, so they are queued up for posting soon.  I also spent my downtime this week brainstorming other post ideas to alleviate some of the rush to get my five weekly posts published.  

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days

Fiction

I found my flow getting back into the novel I had started re-outlining.  I’ve tried being a pantster, an outliner, a Snowflaker, and a Story Gridder.  After following the Story Grid podcast and reading the book I desperately wanted to follow the Story Grid method, but for me Story Grid alone is not enough.  I discovered that I am a Snowflaker at heart.  The flow of the steps draws out and helps me clarify and strengthen my ideas.  Everything I learned from Story Grid is impacting how I approach each step in the Snowflake Method.  As I get into and complete my first draft, I am certain Story Grid will be a well worn tool to get me to the final draft.  This week I probably hit at least eight hows of dedicated work on my novel, therefore to keep momentum I’m bumping up my target by 3 hours.

The second writing project I haver this week is to come up with an idea for the Write Practice and Short Fiction Break’s summer writing contest.  The entry deadline is July 10th with the first draft due for workshopping on the 16th, so I’ve got to get working.

Next week’s target:  6 hours working through the Snowflake Method

Photography

Again, I didn’t spend any time on photography this week.  I’ll keep it on the list in case I jump into it in my spare time.  The quick tutorials are great for filling a waiting minute.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for as much time as I want

Coding

I realized my data storage method was not working so I began investigating the best approach for data structures that are more complex than used in most Swift tutorials.  My goal this week is to determine the best method and outline a plan to implement the method into my project.

Next week’s target:  Develop and Outline new data structure

Videography

Focus on my novel too precedence this week so I was not able to map out the project in Motion based on the current draft of the script.  I’m putting this on the side burner for now to keep pace on my novel.

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project using placeholders.

When juggling multiple projects do you feel guilty neglecting one for another?  Does positive momentum in one project build your overall confidence?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Weekly Status: June 29, 2018

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To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week.  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

Writing

Blogging

I think lowering my target posts by one took a bit of pressure off me this week although I struggled a bit to get my fifth post in, probably because I had a false sense of ease to accomplish my goal.  I know five posts per week fits well into my work, home and creativity schedule, I know now that I cannot take the effort I need to put forth in my posts for granted.  

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days

Fiction

I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend working on my novel.  I set aside a few specific times to work on my writing and committed to writing, outlining, or thinking about writing while avoiding doing absolutely anything else.  I did some of the writing outside and when I had that urge to check my e-mail or jump over to a browser, I held myself back and just stared at the trees and clouds until I could refocus on writing.  I am now working on setting aside more time during the week to work on my novel and other writing projects.

Next week’s target:  3 hours brainstorming and outlining

Photography

No photography work again this week, but at least I don’t feel guilty for leaving this out.  Maybe I’ll have time and an urge to play around in the next few days.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for for as much time as I want

Coding

I completed the rework of one my main views to a static view, at least everything that was in the dynamic view.  This week I will be working on adding even more components to the project in this view.  My plans are getting a bit complex but the good part for me is that each piece can be segmented into smaller chunks.  Not only does this makes it easier to work on but as I complete each segment I am rewarded with the satisfaction of making real progress.

Next week’s target:  Complete three more sections in the static tableview

Videography

Although I’ve completed the script I have not jumped back into the Motion project yet.  I expect to spend time this week mapping out the project with placeholders to see how the flow works.  This will also provide some basic Motion practice since I am still quite the novice and it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve done anything in motion.

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project using placeholders.

Have you started any new creative projects?  How are you fitting these in to your likely already packed life?

Character Assassination

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I still subscribe to and read the very first writing newsletter I discovered when starting my fiction writing journey.  Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine had an interesting article this month about Ad Hominem Attacks on Your Protagonist.  You may be more familiar with the term character assassination which is a type of ad hominem attack.

Randy defines ad hominem attacks and provides an number of examples to provide a clear context.  He also make a strong case for adding this type of obstacle to your own writing toolbox.

You can find a link to the June 2018 e-zine here.

If you haven’t heard of Randy, The Snowflake Method or advancedfictionwriting,com I encourage you to give this month’s e-zine a look and when you’re done explore the rest of his site.  He has a vast amount of material for any fiction writer.

If you’ve heard of the Snowflake Method, have you used it in your writing?  Was it useful or not?

Creativity, It’s Own Reward

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The time has come to rethink rewards.  As humans we reward ourselves for good behavior, such as a successful achievement.   We also reward ourselves for avoiding bad behavior, like not biting our nails.

Many of us use rewards to play internal games to get through the stuff we really don’t want to do. “If I do the dishes right after dinner, then I can watch an extra hour of Netflix without feeling guilty!”  Or, “If I finish the yard work, I can spend the afternoon on the deck with a couple beers!”

This system often focuses on rewarding the wrong part behavior or not using rewards we truly covet.

We love our creative pursuits, so why do we feel a need to reward ourselves for accomplishing small parts of our projects or completing them?  Why isn’t the end result enough of a reward in itself?

Why isn’t the end result enough

of a reward in itself?

The answer here is “work”.  We are not rewarding the success of reaching a milestone.  We are rewarding the end of hard work.  If it was hard work to polish off a dozen red velvet cupcakes, you can bet we’d be finding a way to reward ourselves for such a feat.

We need to change our mindsets.  We can continue to reward the hard work, but why not choose a different reward.  Instead of picking something fleeting like a sweet treat or streaming videos, give yourself uninterrupted and guiltless time for something you love.  Hell, let’s reward any achievement with more time for creativity.  “Wow, I just finished binge-watching this Netflix series, I’m going to reward myself with an hour of writing!”

Let’s admit to ourselves that creativity should be our reward in the mess of both responsibilities and leisure activities in our lives.  Our passions should be the rewards for which we strive.  Sure the work is hard, but we aren’t seeking the “phew that’s over feeling.”  We crave the “Wow, I’m proud of what I created” euphoria.

“Wow, I’m proud of what I created”

We should reward hard word while at the same time the reward should be something we love.  Choosing rewards is as important as choosing what efforts to reward.

So, for the hard work of finishing this post I’m rewarding myself with a half dozen donuts, and the hard work of devouring these sweet treats will be rewarded with more time for writing.

Are you rewarding the achievements or the efforts?  Do you ever use more creative time as a reward?  What do you think of rewarding yourself with more time for creativity?

Heartstrings

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The rescue was full save one cage.  Empty soft bed, food partially eaten. The one gone tugged at her heartstring, tied in knots for days, weeks even years.  The knot would never go away, but, with time it would blossom into a bow where it would remain with the others for eternity.  Her heart was full, yet always room for more.  Infinite heartstring for infinite love she held for those that had crossed the bridge.  Never forgotten by her.  Never.  They are her loves, her joys, her mission.  She was their savior, their advocate, their last chance, their home.

All cages are full again. So many to save.  So much love to give. Infinite.

 

 

Don’t Think, Just Write!

So, I’m beginning to be quite a fanboy of The Art of Blogging. This article has seven great suggestions for getting down to writing, but one stuck out as particularly helpful.

The quote by Raymond Chandler in the seventh suggestion hits home regarding the importance of making the time set aside to write FOR WRITING!

I have a few hours today to give this a go. First I’ll turn off my Wifi. Since I use Scrivener, I can shut out all the other apps on my computer. I’ll get my coffee ready, leave my phone and iPad in another room and get down to work.

If I’m not writing, outlining, drafting character descriptions or anything specific to moving the project forward, then I’ll probably just stare at the wall (I’m not sure my balance is good enough to stand on my head).

Hopefully some of these suggestions can make your writing time more productive, too.

The Art of Blogging

If you’ve done the proper amount of research on your topic, you know what your audience wants, and you know what you want to say, then taking action and starting to write should be simple and require no particular effort. Right?

Not quite. All writers know too well that sometimes this just isn’t the case. Getting down to the physical act of writing can take a lot of will power.

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Weekly Status: June 22, 2018

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To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week.  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

Writing

Blogging

I’m getting into a good rhythm with my blog posts.  Now into my 3rd week I made five more posts and have decided this is the right number that gives me enough time to complete my other responsibilities with enough time left over to work on my other interests.  Going forward I have adjusted my target to 5 posts each week.

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days

Fiction

I worked a little more on my novel but not as much as I wanted.  I’m finding it difficult to sit down and do the work as I become distracted with other projects.  I read an interesting bit of advice about writing time this week.  (I cannot recall where or who originally said it, so if you know could you post a comment so I can give the author credit!  Edit:  I found the article I ready on The Art of Blogging.  The quote is by Raymond Chandler and included in the article Don’t Think, Just Write! by Cristian Mihai)  The gist is that during your set writing time you need to write.  If you aren’t writing you shouldn’t be doing anything else.  Period.  Your alternative to writing during this time is thinking about your writing or staring at the wall.  I’m going to give it a try this weekend.

Next week’s target:  3 hours brainstorming and outlining

Photography

I didn’t work on photography at all this week.  For now, I’m leaving this creative category as a “nice to have” and will play around with tutorials and practicing on my own photos when the impulse strikes me.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for for as much time as I want

Coding

I began reworking one of the complex views in my project.  I originally had it as a dynamic tableview but have since determined that it should really be a static tableview and insert dynamic tableviews within certain sections of the static table view as needed.  I’m sure if you are not into coding all you probably read was “blah, blah, blah-blah, and blah!”

Next week’s target:  Complete the change to a static tableview

Videography

I completed the script for my Motion project.  The best part about writing the script rather than jumping in head first to build the project was coming up with alternative ideas on how to present the full concept.  Near the end, I originally thought the animal shelter would rise from the ground, but as I finished up the script I came up with what I think will be a better way to show the shelter moving from idea to reality.  Now comes the fun part—getting my hands dirty in Motion!

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project in Motion.

What projects are you passionate about this week?  Are you finding time and success in your creative adventures?

Reading Only Act I

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As I continue outlining the novel that I originally started as a pantster, I’ve developed a strange obsession.  I keep starting new books, only reading through the end of Act I and starting a new one.

I’m hung up on seeing how other authors are building their opening act.

  • Is the opening scene an introduction to the character or can I see bits and pieces hiding among the description and action that will be important to remember in Act II or III?
  • What is the call to action?  Is it strong enough to keep the protagonist in the game?
  • Is a mentor introduced?  How natural or forced is her relationship with the protagonist?
  • Is the point of no return really a line in the sand that the protagonist can never cross back?

So many questions and they all come back to structure!

What at first seemed like losing interest early on has turned into a writing tool.  I’ve always read that I should keep reading other author’s works while I am in the midst of writing.  On the surface I had considered reading while writing to be a distraction and feared I’d subconsciously steal ideas from the book I was reading.  This experience has opened my eyes to the real reason we should read while writing and for me it’s all about understanding structure.

Are you an avid reader when deep in writing mode?  I’ve been mixing up genres from the one I’m writing.  Do you think you should stick with your writing genre or do you think varying reading genres can offer some interesting insights into your own work?