Quick Question Over Coffee

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I’m current focusing most of my creative writing efforts on a single novel, but my creative energy keeps pushing me to jump around to different ideas.  I’ve always read that I should simply jot down a few notes when new ideas pop up but remain focused on one project until completion.

I recently took a week break from my novel so I could dive deep in a short story I wrote for a contest.  Maintaining focus was easier, probably due to the short timeframe, but it may not be indicative of how I function best on more expansive works.

How do you work best?  Fitting your own style into a three answer poll isn’t always inclusive enough, so if you would like to expand your answer, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Entries Are In…

and the waiting begins.

AgainstTheCurrent

Judging for the Summer Writing Contest from The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break  has begun.  Our entries were due over a week ago and earlier this week the authors who chose to have their stories published are now available for your reading pleasure here.

This season’s theme is “Redemption” and the stories are limited to 1,500 words.  All entries are workshopped with the other authors for a week before the final versions are submitted for judging.  I received nothing but constructive and supportive feedback and had the opportunity to return the favor to other authors.  The contests are seasonal if you are interested and I posted more about them here.

You can link directly to my short story by clicking the book cover above or through this link – Against the Current.  I would love to hear what you think about my entry whether good or bad as any criticism can only serve to help me improve my future writing.  If you have time to read an add a comment below, I would greatly appreciate it.

I hope to meet you in one of the future writing contest workshops.  Thank you for reading and, just by reaching the end of this post, thank you for supporting my writing.  I make every effort to visit the sites of anyone who comments and perhaps I can return the favor.

Finding Story in Setting

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Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

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.

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.

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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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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Avoiding the Inevitable End

If you are an avid ready, you know the feeling when you find a really good book and can’t put it down?  I’m always excited when I come across one of these gems.

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For some reason I have a very strange habit when I get 80% of the way through one of these—I can’t seem to keep going at the same pace.  I start to take in small chunks at a time.  Three pages now, several more pages a few hours later.  The last 20% drags on for another couple of days when I should have been able to plow through in a matter of hours.

I’ve even started the same habit when streaming series on Netflix.  As I reach the final three or four episodes I take in just enough of an episode to get a fix before switching to another activity.

I’ve finally figured out why.  Simply put, I don’t want the story to end.  I fear the feeling it will all be over soon.  I’ve fallen in love with the characters and the story so much, I begin to mourn this loss before it’s reached it’s conclusion.

On a good note, I am almost always satisfied when I finally reach the end and eagerly await more.  What else could any author want but another reader hooked on their characters, story and style.

I resign myself to the fact that I can only wait patiently for the next novel, seek out the author’s other work or hang on for the next season to start.

Do you put off the inevitable when nearing the end of a great book or television series or do you push through at the same “can’t put it down” pace?  Do you have any odd quirks or habits when it comes to finishing books and other series you enjoy?  Let me know in the comments.

Superpowers

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Bubbles floated up and settled around the side of the thick edged coffee mug. John watched the steam float up and dissipate.

“Thanks,” he said.

“And I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see you today,” the waitress replied before making rounds to fill coffee at her other tables.

John slipped his superhero comic from beneath the menu where he had shoved it before Maggie took his order.

As he flipped to his place in the comic he mentally made his 1,819th mark on his attendance list and his 763rd mark on Maggie’s witty retort list. He was getting close to his five year anniversary. Sitting in the same booth, drinking the same coffee and enjoying his brief and repetitive conversations with the only waitress he ever had. Only the comic was different each day.

He promised himself he’d splurge and get eggs and a muffin on his quinquennial. John dreamed of Maggie bringing it to him with a candle, but she probably had no clue of the approaching day’s significance.

He gazed back at the few remaining bubbles and watched them pop leaving a perfect black mirror in an off-white frame.

The mirror rippled first before the thin metal silverware and his empty muffin plate bounced around the speckled Formica table. John grabbed the shiny metal edge expecting to stop the shaking but it had no affect. His eyes darted about the diner. The trays of mugs behind the counter rattled toward a destructive fall. The pendant lights swayed above the other surprised patrons. Even the glass in the front picture windows shimmered with the increasing vibrations.

With a boom the front door disintegrated and the shaking stopped. A whoosh pulled all sound from the room which was replaced by slow and deliberate boot steps, each one ending with a distinct “ting” of a metal toe tapping the tile floor.

Black cargo pants stretched tight against the intruder’s powerful legs. His white t-shirt revealed every upper body muscle including some John didn’t know existed.

He tossed a duffle on the counter.

“Valuables and cash!”

No one moved.

“Now!”

Maggie reached the cash register first, but couldn’t seem to get it to open. John could see other patrons fumbling for their wallets and removing jewelry.

John wrapped his hand around his mug and drained it in one swig.

He breathed in expanding his chest to twice its size. The muscles on his arms bulged with veins throbbing.

The intruder tore one of the counter stools from its bolts in the floor and tossed it into the kitchen. He stepped forward and slammed his fist through the counter breaking it in two. He snatched the duffle before the counter collapsed and flung it to a nearby table of four.

“You don’t want me to ask again!”

John slid from his booth and rose.

The intruder pointed at John and said, “Now, there’s a smart guy.”

John rose to full height and still breathing in grew another foot. He strode toward the intruder.

The intruder flipped an empty four-top over his shoulder like a piece of trash where it smashed against the men’s room door.

John stopped within arm’s reach of the monstrous figure who still towered over him. He sucked in one more breath growing enough to look him eye to eye.

“I think I’ve been more than patient,” the intruder bellowed.

Behind him, the few patrons still capable to moving began tossing their cash, jewelry and electronics toward the duffle bag. The intruder ignored the noise of most items bouncing off the table and skidding across the floor. Straightening his posture, the intruder rose an inch above John’s eye line.

John sucked in air through his nose and grew to meet the intruder’s change in height.
The intruder dropped his open hand on John’s shoulder and squeezed the skin and muscles into his fist. He stared deep into John’s eyes. “We don’t want any trouble, now, do we?”

With a sweep of his arm, John lobbed the enormous man across the room where he landed where the counter once had been. In the blink of an eye, John sped to where the intruder lay, grabbed him by the collar and dumped him outside on the sidewalk against a “No Parking” sign. He twisted the pole around the intruder like the stripe on a barber pole.

“Here ya go.” Maggie slipped the check onto the table.

John jerked his head up, snapping him away from his hard stare into the coffee.
“See you tomorrow? Enjoy your superhero comic.” She winked and moved on to her next table.

John flipped over the paper and considered the $7.50 check. He pulled out three twenties, tucked them and the check beneath his mug.

Maggie wiped off the pristine counter as John strolled past. He half raised his hand to wave but Maggie didn’t see him.
Outside, John could see Maggie clearing the booth he had just left. He watched her pick up the two twenties and a huge smile crossed her face. She looked up in time to see John looking in and mouthed “thank you”.

John smiled back. Everyone has a superpower, maybe this was his.

Feedback, For Better or Worse

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve never been afraid of getting feedback.  Perhaps I have had mostly positive experiences (definitely not all positive feedback, I must add), or perhaps I’ve been graced with receiving feedback from people who know the best way to give it.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

Receiving feedback can be scary especially when you don’t personally know the people providing it.  Some feedback could be hurtful unless presented in a constructive and encouraging manner.

It takes skill to give well-delivered feedback–start with some positive, offer some constructive, always include specifics and end on a good note.  It’s a pretty simply formula although you’re probably not surprised how many people screw this up.

Start with some positive, offer some constructive, always include specifics and end on a good note.

I recently received the judges feedback from the second writing contest I’ve ever entered.  Receiving feedback directly from the judges is one of the two best features of the writing contests sponsored by The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break.  By the way, if you’re interested in future contests, jump over to either site and sign up for their e-mail list.

The other best feature of these contests is the pre-entry workshop.  All contestants are required to workshop their stories with each other in the week prior to the submission deadline.  My experience workshopping my stories has been extremely positive and some suggestions have been enormously helpful.  I’ve also learn quite a bit reading the other contestants’ stories and providing feedback.  Although some people disappear from the forums after making their final submissions, there are still a number of people who respond to requests for last minute feedback.  What an incredibly supportive community of writers.

If you are interested in reading the entries from the Spring Writing Contest, head over here, or you can link directly to my entry, Stolen Reflection.

Have you had incredible or horrific experiences with feedback?  I’d love you hear about them in the comments.