Category Archives: Writing Log

So What Happened to the Writing Class?

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Well, in three words… It’s on hold.

I progressed through three weeks of it, and really enjoyed it, learned a lot of things, was reminded of even more things, read some interesting short stories I never would have otherwise read, that I hated at first, and then came to see were quite compelling in their way. I still remember some of the images they conjured up, and the fascinating techniques that were employed. And I even think I may have the start of several short pieces of my own. So I definitely plan to get back to it once I have a little more of The Other Side of the Sky under my belt… like perhaps a first draft!

So why did I stop?

Well, for Lesson three we were to go somewhere and observe someone and make detailed notes in our writing notebook. I went to Starbucks, got my latte and blueberry scone and a table to go with them where I sat and observed a young girl on the other side of the glass, seated slightly facing away from me as she focused on her smart phone.

It was fascinating. I took lots of notes. Then I came home and looked through the accompanying class sheets designed to aid us in developing a character and realized that I had already done all that when I was developing my characters for Sky. I have a huge notebook with all the notes… I didn’t need another character!

Also, by that time I’d begun doing the writing exercises from the standpoint of my WIP, and the lights began to come on again with respect to the book, so that I started working regularly on it…

But then came an emergency trip to California in October, followed by visits from our son and his family for Thanksgiving, followed by the all-too-soon advent of Christmas and another trip to CA, and my writing work took a back seat to all of that. I’ve picked it up again these last couple of weeks and…dare I say it? …things are going well. Which is to say, I’m moving through chapter 13, rather than staring out the window blankly..

None of which is to say that I’ve abandoned the class, because I haven’t. Sky just happens to be the writing project with the (sort of)  deadline, while the class is self-regulated. I can stop now and take it up again as I choose. In fact, I’m looking forward to doing that when I have the time…

Back to the Writing Diary

 

writing journal

Back in February of 2006, when I began my first blog  (Writing from the Edge over on Blogger), I started out by saying that since I’d been keeping a writing diary for almost as long as I had been writing, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to start one online.

Thus the tagline for that blog became “The Writing Diary of Novelist Karen Hancock” and that was the fallback formula for the posts that I aimed to publish there. If nothing else, I could always put up a writing diary entry.

So, in view of my lengthy/erratic absence from the world of blogging, I’ve decided that maybe… just maybe… I can resurrect the spark by simply going back to that earlier format. For one thing, even though I haven’t been blogging, I have been keeping a writing diary.

Today’s entry began this morning at 10:19am…

I could’ve come in (to the office) at 9:30am, but my (retired) hubby came home and discovered the hawk has gotten another pigeon — my favorite pink/red one. 🙁  I believe it was female. It got her inside the broken down pigeon coop. And there’s an egg on the nest.  So that’s disturbing.  😥

Then I called our computer fix-it guy right after that about my computer issue (last week IE-11 refused to open in the desktop and was repaired; this week it refuses to open in the live tiles, but works fine in the desktop, which is really okay, because I can do everything I need to do through the desktop and furthermore I am declaring a moratorium on reading blog and news sites, but still… it bugs me that the program is not working properly). Alas, the computer guy had never even heard of that issue. I spent last week doing all manner of things trying to resolve the issue, including running the Apps troubleshooter, which gave me some error messages, which the computer guy asked me to email to him, so I did.

Anyway, then I hung out the laundry, and now I’m in here. Just read Sarah Selecky’s letter for today, What I’ve learned so far about how to write a novel.”  Amusing and familiar and comforting. Also comforting is the fact that I’ve written 6 novels and am working on number 7 and I actually know more about it all than she does! (Seeing as she has yet to complete her first one)

It’s hard. It’s messy and confusing — in fact, she talks about confusing herself with all her notes written in little notebooks, and says next time she’ll use index cards. Ha! I confuse myself with my notes all the time and cards don’t help. (But it’s comforting to know other people get confused by their notes, too!)  I use business-sized cards to keep notes on…

notecards

…notes about possible plot events, incidents, character bits, world bits, questions… The advantage (or disadvantage) is that you can spread out MORE of the little cards than you can the index cards, which ends up being even MORE confusing! Especially when I suggest on one card that Talmas should do “A” and on the other “Opposite-A.” Which I do. A Lot…

Sarah says she “can’t work with an outline and can’t work without one.” Yes, indeed. That is SO true. At least in the beginning anyway. You can only use a general outline then… because, as another writer put it,

“How can I know what I want to write until I see what I’ve written?”

For me everything kind of goes together — plot, character, backstory, events, incidents, the climax, the spiritual analogy — and so it must emerge together. Whenever I try to get hard-nosed about any of it, I end up running into walls.

Anyway, yesterday I worked on chapter 13, which at the start was 25 pages of confusing mishmash. I’m going slowly through it this week, editing, trying to find and fix what A/Not-A conflicts I could. In fact, discovering that I had portrayed one character as being of two different opinions in the same scene because I couldn’t decide which I wanted and just put them both in, very broadly, I decided today to just write it one way very clearly. That immediately showed me I didn’t want it that way, but the other way, so I went back and wrote it that way.

I’d forgotten that trick to deciding between two options when you can’t seem to do so: just pick one and “decide” to do it that way. Somehow going through the deciding and writing shows me just how committed I am to that option.  Coin flips work, too. Should this secondary character’s hair be blond or black? Can’t decide? Flip the coin and it comes up in favor of blond. Okay, he’ll be blond then. So off you go to write it thus and immediately you realize that no, he’s not blond at all, he has black hair…

Yes, I know. Writers are weird.

Anyway, I worked through about 7 pages today, adding two additional pages of material as I did so, leaving the rough chapter at 27 pages. So far.

I Won’t Say the Block Has Broken…

free clip art guy reading

…but I put in some very consistent hours working on Sky last week, and, so far I’m doing even better this week. Two things happened to enable this (at least the observable things; the unobservable aspect, of course, being God’s gracein answering my prayers). Those two things were:

Number 1:    I decided that I needed to get into the office earlier, (first thing in the morning, in fact) and as part of that, to go to bed earlier the night before. To get to bed earlier, I have decided to stop watching all the TV I’ve been watching, staying away, in particular from shows that end at 10pm. It’s helped that during this time most of my favorite shows were either not on or reruns. (And last week’s new Elementary, with both the insertion of the gay character and mention of Sherlock’s interest in yet another perversity, “prurient writing,” helped me decide that it was not worth spending any more precious time and mental “space” on.)

Number 2 :  One of my biggest problems with actually working has been in trying to force myself to make decisions about the world or the next step in the narrative, and getting confused and overwhelmed to the point I do nothing.  So this time I decided to simply read through all my collected notes and plans. I have a notebook already in progress (my world-builder’s “Bible”) where I keep lengthy writings on the characters, the world in a fair amount of detail, situations of conflict, plot ideas, etc., so the plan is to simply read through that, making no demands upon myself to decide anything or figure out anything , or even like it all. I only have to read it.

And perhaps jot down any notes or questions that come to mind.

Well that’s been VERY effective.

Why, you might ask, haven’t I done this before? Well, because, you see, I know all that stuff! (Even though some of it dates back to 2001, and much of the rest to 2005) It would be a waste of time! I need to get with the next step in the narrative, not fiddle around reading old notes about the world I’ve constructed for that narrative to unfold in.

Well, maybe…though in truth I’d forgotten A LOT.  And what rereading it all has done, is give me a way to connect with the material that’s not threatening. If thoughts or questions occur — and they have been — I need only write them down, not Make a Decision!  This way I can relax and just proceed, and now I’m finding that it’s not just easy to stay in the office, it’s hard to make myself stop! And it’s getting me inspired again.

Like, when I read through the character “Bio” I have on my hero Talmas, last week. I got very excited and wrote in my writing log, “Wow! I am jazzed! I LOVE this guy!”  Two days later, having pulled out an old journal from when I had first taken up Sky after finishing The Enclave (because I was having problems similar to what I’m enduring now) I wrote, on Sept 8, 2009,

“Wow! The Lord kept nudging me to read my old notes and finally I gave in …. Oh, my. I’m in love with Talmas! He’s the center of this story… I am jazzed. This, I think is where I must focus.”

So, things are happening. Two weeks ago I averaged 4 hours a day. Last week my daily  average was 4.6 hours (and this despite multiple very strong distractions). This week, though, I hope to do even better…

 

 

Four and A Half Hours Today!

In the spirit of this blog having been inaugurated as my “Writing Diary”, I am hereby reporting that I put in 4 1/2 hours of concentrating on Sky today!  Hooray!

And last week I got into the office and worked everyday but Sunday. Daily tallies went from 1 hour  to 4 1/2 hours, with my average being around three. Today was the first day that things began to clarify slightly. The first day I did not feel hopelessly lost, adrift, no idea what I was doing, no idea what to do… So. I’m happy.