Tag Archives: 15 minutes

And Finally, Task Five

Last week I related how I was gently returning to the saddle of working on my current novel, The Other Side of the Sky or my “Work In Progress,” by means of with five tasks that I pursued in 15 minute increments:

Task 1:  write in my log or do morning pages

Task 2: Declutter organize the office (this project is coming along nicely. Soon I may not have to devote any time to decluttering the office)

Task 3: Read something about writing (I’m reading my old log from 2000)

Task 4:  Answer fan letters

and now Task Five:  do something that specifically relates to Sky.

Last week that was writing a nonstop — fast, stream-of-consciousness writing capturing my thoughts about the book at the moment.  It was also looking through one stack of 3×5 cards, each with a question and jotted answers on it relating to basics of the book. I got these from a Writer’s Digest article (Feb 1992) by Jack Bickham called Short Story Blueprint, and have used them to start off every book I’ve written. Questions like,

1. What kind of story is it?  — in this case, Sky is an action/adventure, science fiction/allegory with romantic subplot…

2. What is the setting? — alternate world, underground civilization without connection or direct referents to earth. Thanatos is the name of the empire, and yes, it might be clichéd, most people might know that Thanatos is Greek for death, but right now, I don’t care. I love the sound of it. Like the sound of its inhabitants, as well: Thanosians…

3. In what time period is it set?  — irrelevant since it’s a created world, but the culture will be Roman flavored.

4. Who is the main character? — Lucius Tyrus Meranius aged 24 at the start; ten years later called Talmas. A former aristocrat and decorated soldier in line to be made heir, betrayed unto death, but survives to become an Ouranian. He returns to his family and home city only to be betrayed again and for the bulk of the book is a slave to the Delphenian Ambassador.

A secondary main character is Nolenius Iylantia or Iyla, daughter of the Delphenian Ambassador.

The remaining questions are:

5. What is the main character like?

6. What does he want or lack?

7. Why is it vital to have this?

8. Who is the antagonist?

9. What is the antagonist like?

10. What is his/her plan? How will he fight the protagonist and try to thwart him?

11. Why is it essential to the antagonist’s happiness to fight the hero, persuade him to make the wrong decision or keep him from discovering what might bring him peace?

12. What secondary characters are there who help or hinder the hero?

13. What is the story’s time frame? Hours? Days? Weeks? Years?

14. How does the story start?

15. How does the story end?

16. What dramatic scenes do you envision?

17. Who will your viewpoint characters be?

All of the questions do have answers on the cards, but some of them are not answered very well. Seeing as they were intended to help with the generation of a short story (and for people who had never written one, at that,) and that not only am I writing a novel, but a complex one, I have to tweak them a bit — I have multiple antagonists, for example. I have a hero and a heroine. So I answer the same questions for each of them. I’m not exactly sure what the hero wants. I have an answer, but I’m not sure I like it. I’m also not sure why it’s vital to the hero that he gains what he wants.

I think sometimes this sort of exercise is helpful in jogging some thoughts free, but at the same time, for me the characters kind of have to show me. I can’t just say, he wants freedom. Or he wants a wife and family which he knows that as a slave he can never have… But there is value in setting down wrong answers, just as there is value in setting down right ones. If you set down a wrong answer, at least you know what you don’t want. Or if you can’t think of anything better, at least you can proceed with the not so good answer and see where it leads. Always it’s led me to where I want to be, though sometimes not until the third or fourth drafts.

Right now I know how the story starts. I have an idea how it ends. I know who some of my viewpoint characters will be… I have five chapters written, and some ideas for dramatic scenes…

Now I’m going back through it all, reacquainting myself with my characters and the world I’m developing.

Tentatively Back in the Saddle

As the title of this post suggests, I’ve tentatively returned to the saddle of actually attending to my Work In Progress, hereafter, as much as I can remember, to be referred to as my WIP.  (That’s the official, professional writer designation…)  Anyway, for a whopping TWO consecutive days now, I’ve actually gone into my office and done something somewhat related to writing.

When I found myself repeatedly avoiding the work, bored by the very thought of it, unable to figure out why it bored me, I decided to be very nice to myself, gently insisting at first that all I need do was come into the room for a period of time. I’ve been in here working on decluttering, taking stuff out of the closet, getting rid of some of it to make room for stuff from other rooms and the stuff on the bed in the office … and berating myself for not attending to the writing.

So I turned it around. Using the essential Flylady timer, I decided I would do writing things in the 15 minute blocks Flylady likes to call baby steps. I aim for coming into the office around 9 or 10 in the morning, but if that doesn’t happen, afternoons will work too. Then I decided on five things I would do while I’m in here.

In keeping with the spirit of The Artist’s Way, which you may recall I was working on last winter, first up would be 15 minutes of writing in my writing log or doing morning pages, whatever I wanted to do/call it.

Next, 15 minutes of decluttering the office until it’s done. After all… I was doing it anyway, it was in the office and writing related since the clutter and mounds of stuff have been very distracting mentally .

Task 3 is 15 minutes of reading about writing. I have a number of writing books on my shelves I haven’t read, and others I have and could easily reread to my advantage and it was to one of these I thought I’d turn. Instead, I felt led to pick out my own journal kept from May 2000 through January of 2002, chronicling my journey through the beginnings of Enclave (then referred to as Black Box) and my current WIP (ha ha! I remembered the acronym!).  One of the first things I came upon in reading my own journal from over ten years ago– at least two years before any of my books had sold — was this:

“Well, I’m officially at work on Black Box now, after several days of easing into it. I have some pages of log on the computer, beginning (over a year ago) the day I first developed the characters — very sketchy, but names and some form at least. My complaint then was that it does not seem Meaningful like Arena and (The Light of) Eidon, just a ditzy little thriller…

“The next entry was (a day later) — I checked out books. After that, the next one is this month… So here we go… I feel blank and at a loss, but hey that’s old hat. That’s almost the way I’m supposed to feel…”

Several paragraphs later…

“I’ve made some progress but… This is interesting. I am bored. I’m trying to get going on Black Box and I’m not excited or inspired at all. Is it me? Is it the spark of life that’s missing? Is it that I’m pretty sure Arena’s not going to be bought this month and thus Eidon is a complete waste? It’s a good book, but it’s not going anywhere (publishing-wise). The only one with hope of going somewhere is Black Box and I don’t care about it. Is that a problem?”

Well, seeing as this is exactly how I’ve been feeling about  The Other Side of the Sky, minus the angst about whether it’s going to sell or not, since it already has, that was quite encouraging. And this even more so:

“I’m feeling restless, like I’m wasting my time, but I think all this is part of my process and is okay.  Understanding what I’m doing and why, will help me look in the right direction when it comes to my ruminations. Last night I spent some time listening to Lorie Line and trying to get hold of who Cameron is and why I should admire him…I also went through the oldest of my journals I could find — May of ’93 –wherein I was already to chapter 10 of rough draft on Arena and feeling lost, frustrated, etc. I was basically feeling my way along. Nothing but the broadest of outlines (at the time)…”

This is all SO familiar. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I never seem to be.  And yet… and yet, as I mentioned in the pages I’ve just been quoting from, it’s clear that God’s intention for me is that I do the work as unto Him, with the proper power system (filled with the Holy Spirit) and motivation (to bring glory to Him; to obey Him in using this gift He’s given me) and leave the results to Him.

It’s just so darned uncomfortable. It feels so much like I’m doing nothing but wandering around. It feels very incompetent.


“By means of faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, NOT KNOWING WHERE HE WAS GOING.” ~ Heb 11:8