Friday, April 30, 2010

The Looooong Hallway

A few weeks ago this is what my story looked like - the ending was in shadows, there were many doors to open and even another hallway to explore! I have opened a few, found them empty (devoid even of furniture) and simply closed them. Others I have lingered in awhile, delighting in new characters or a new twist. I glanced down the other hallway, but it didn't look very enticing. With all the distractions, it has been hard to stay focused! I set my goal for the week at 4,000 words. I fell short at 3,900. Instead of setting a word count goal, I'm going to work differently this week. My goal is to solve the final riddle and retrieve the last two items. Not as easy as it sounds. While the stones disappeared, I have figured out where they are. It won't be easy for Jenna to get them. Well, the getting in is easy. The getting out won't be. That's the fun of it, though! The riddle simply needs some touching up and there shouldn't be any surprises from here to THE END. I'm scared, though, that the hallway is going to start looking more like this now. It's a bit intimidating, isn't it? I think that is the door out at the very end. Taking a deep breath, being brave and strong as I move towards the end!

(I have been so busy, I neglected a very important blog for an entire month and just got sad news at the beginning of the week. In Memory of beautiful, brave Eva. Deep Breath. In. Out. In. Out. Love Love Love.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trapped in the Shadows

I am leaving my character backed deep into the shadow of a peak tonight. Something is tracking her. She will need to make her way somehow across the meadow without it catching up. She has a few tricks up her sleeve that just may help her. I'm not sure yet. It's up to me whether she makes it safely or not. While this is a scary place for her to spend the night, lurking in the shadows and hoping to avoid detection, it's an exciting place for me to leave off and resume in the morning. I made some notes so I have ideas for tomorrow. It's fun to think that I have a plan, but don't necessarily have to follow it. I can explore other options once my fingers start clicking across the keys! I am her biggest fan and her worst enemy. We'll see which comes across the clearest in the morning!

Friday, April 23, 2010

And the Beat Goes On

I have wandered very far off my outline at this late stage in my W.I.P. I think I can push through to the end without going back and reoutlining. I have written my story down in my "working doc" over and over and over to refine it, to hone it, to figure out what the story truly was. It's there. The beats developed the more I brainstormed and they haven't really changed. When I sat down to write Wednesday, I really got in my characters way. Big time. In doing so, I may have actually gotten in my own way. We shall see. At this point, I'm just going to push through until the end. It is, after all, a Zero Draft. This means no going backwards through the forest. When the trail peters out, we struggle through the dense undergrowth to find another way. Growing up, dad always taught us how to find our way out of the forest in case we got separated from him while we were bushwacking and fishing. Follow the river out. If you can't hear the water, head to the top of the mountain where you can see it and find a clear path down to it. Then, follow the river out. This has worked very well in my adventurous zero draft. My characters have crawled their way through some pretty tight spots, which makes it all the more gratifying when they reach their own little mini goats! I feel like we have always kept sight of the river, for the most part. There were a few times where we had to head high to find it (and a clear path down to it) again. Those might not end up in the first draft! Only the rewrite will tell. All in all, it has been a grand adventure through this forest together.

This week my goal is to hit 4,000. I set a more modest goal for the week for two reasons: 1) my anniversary is coming up and we will be hiking with diggity dog for two days which may mean no writing on those days, and 2) I'm getting really close to the end (I keep saying this and it seems like I'm walking down that endless corridor that keeps elongating each time I reach out for the doorknob) which means I have to spend some time on that last riddle over the next week. I'll be calling my Dad, the riddle writer, for help and some clarification. I set my story in modern day and in a real location - the mountains of Eastern Oregon that I explored every summer as a child with my brothers and cousins. The riddles lead to actual locations, this will make it fun if the book ever gets published, for readers to take the book and actually go to the locations themselves!

There is also one last small part of my story that has huge significant impact that I haven't quite figured out yet. My character has to remember something. This something was whispered to her long ago and it is crucial to her success at the end of the story. I haven't quite figured out how she's going to remember it. I flew by the seat of my pants through the story with several theories and none of them has quite fit. Perhaps, I don't have to solve it in my zero draft, though. I can use one that doesn't fit and go at in the revision, if I must. Or perhaps it will come to me as it comes to my character. With that, I'm off to see the Wizard...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


When I started reading, I discovered the wonder of books. I grew up in a small town in Southern California, but when I opened the cover of the book I could be anywhere! Each book opened new and wonderous worlds to me - it was magical! Now, I find that I will be stepping into my own written world as an escape. We have a search for new housing coming up and a move. Not fun. I'm an anxious person with things like this. We have a "pit bull" and this hampers our search for rentals because most people are ignorant sheep who simply believe what they see on tv or read in the papers, missing the correction that the "pit bull attack" was actually a lab, boxer (this has been the most popularly reported "pit bull" in the past month) or rhodesian ridgeback, that the "family pet" was actually a resident dog who lived on a chain or in the backyard with no training, no socialization and only occasionally being fed. The damage has been done so it's an uphill battle for two well educated, intelligent, responsible adults who thoroughly researched the breed, were surprised to find that most of the 'pit bull owners' were educated, intelligent adults with families, to find a rental. People miss out on the joy that is our dog and on two great renters. I like to settle. We've been here for three years. I was at the last apartment for eight years. We are a steady income with our rent check always on time. We fix things ourselves and don't make a fuss. Our dog goes everywhere with us. Buying would fix the problem, but I don't want to buy in Los Angeles. This isn't where I want to spend the rest of my life so I have sealed our fate when it comes to housing. I feel guilty about this at times, but I am stubborn and won't budge. This week as the feeling of being unsettled washes over me, I'll be forcing myself to retreat to my story. I'll hide out in the forest with my characters. I almost added "where it's safe." It's not really very safe there at the moment. I'd probably be safer walking the streets of downtown L.A. at night by myself right now! There is a lot of turmoil in the forest. My characters certainly aren't safe. Who knows what I will throw at them next! It will be interesting to see if what happens outside the book affects what will happen IN the book. Who knows what might open the computer and crawl in unaware. Like my nephew in the picture below, off I go into the scary, wide world. I want to run fearlessly like he is in this picture - unaware that steps can cause you to fall and that falling can hurt. That is the best way to approach life and to approach our writing, I think.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Something Was Wrong

This is where I left off yesterday: Her breath gone, she plummeted to the surface once more. Eirick was no longer on the rock. She looked around her to find the shore empty. No sign of Lily or Einar. It was too quiet. No birds sang out. Dread filled her. Something was wrong. What an enticing place to start back up again! I actually had to fight going back to this yesterday. Ideas needed to percolate. There were so many possibilities as to what was happening, they needed time to roll through my mind and get kicked around a bit like a soccer ball (or hackeysack, if you're old enough to remember those!). I have my document open, but I'm not sure which way I'm going to go even now as I type this!

When I was in college, I had a sitcom writing teacher who taught us several "rules" of writing. Stanley told us (imagine Darth Vader with asthma for the voice here) "You always leave off on a roll. If you write to the end of the scene, you'll be less likely to return tomorrow because it is finished. Leave in the middle of the scene and you can't wait to come back and complete it." I've found this to be sage advice over the years whether I'm writing for television or writing a story. Given that I wrote 1800 words yesterday and wanted to come back to it last night, I think it reinforces his idea. It has worked for me, anyways. Thanks, Stanley!

The closer I get to finishing, the more obsessive I am about the writing. I have burned through several outlines and am now flying by the seat of my pants. Why? Because I keep venturing off the path anyways. I know where I'm going to end up. I have a general idea of the next few beats. But who knows how we will get there and what grand adventures we're going to have along the way! We'll get there in the end, which is the most important part. The 'how' doesn't matter so much at this point. We're currently being hunted, which makes our task a little harder. Avoid being murdered while riddle solving and retrieving. Unexpected things are happening! I may not be big on surprises in real life (I'm a planner, a list maker) but I seem to be very, very open to them when I'm writing. It's fun to be able to relax and go where the writing takes you!

I surpassed my goal of 6,000 words this week! I shall set a goal of the same for next week. Happy writing everyone!

(Note: Pictured is my beloved sitcom writing teacher, Stanley Ralph Ross. Stanley was a bear of man - 6'5", but an absolute teddy bear. He really did have a voice that sounded like Darth Vader with asthma. He also had unruly, black hair (though it looks perfectly tame in his picture). I think he had a comb over, but it would never sit straight on his head so most of the class, he would be brushing it back over with his hand. It would pop back up a mere moment later so he would brush back down with his hand again. This was repeated the entire hour and a half class. I spent four years at USC, three of them avoiding his class because you had to do a fifteen minute stand up comedy routine as part of it. I was entirely too shy and insecure for that. Twice a year at the mixers, Stanley would corner me and say, "Jennifer, darling, when are you going to take my class?" I would drub up some lame excuse, but he finally wore me down and I enrolled. On the first day of class, I sat at the back of the room. He was facing the chalkboard, writing down the requirements "You will be developing your own sitcom and writing the pilot script for it. You will be writing and performing a fifteen minute stand-up routine...Jennifer, SIT DOWN...You will be choosing a current sitcom and writing a spec script for it." He didn't have eyes in the back of his head, but he knew instinctively that I had gotten up to leave because of that darned routine. I was the very last person to do my routine in class. A friend who was a comedian came in to watch my routine that night. He had to physically move my chair to the front of the room. I did it. I survived. People laughed. I got an 'A'. Stanley passed in 2000, lung cancer being the cause of death. He left a huge, gaping hole this world and in USCs sitcom department. He is sorely missed.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Unexpected Company

My husband is gone for the weekend. With no responsibilities (save the dog and she simply needs two walks a day), I was looking forward to settling in to some writing. I had a date with my computer that was supposed to last for three straight days. I started off well yesterday - leaving clothes where I wanted to, ignoring the dust on the coffeetable, leftovers in the fridge for when I got hungry...then it all went awry. I made my pot of coffee, sat down to my computer and stalled. This latest twist in my story has really thrown me for a loop. It's not a bad twist. In fact, I think it's a much needed one. It fits. But it's like the unexpected company that shows up in town. The bed isn't made, there is no food in the house to make them a nice home cooked meal. You haven't dusted or cleaned properly because you weren't expecting them and Sunday is usually your cleaning day anyways. They popped up on a Friday afternoon! You were caught completely unaware. Now you're left trying to entertain them while finding those darn cleaned sheets for the guest bed, washing the towels in the guest bathroom (they're not dirty, but they've been on the rack for two weeks so you know there is bound to be dust on them!) and trying to figure out where to take them for a dinner out you didn't have budgeted for the month. Eventually, you settle into the fact that they are here and it is what it is. It ends up being a lovely visit. You just have to get over the initial surprise. That's what I liken this arrow to. I just introduced a band of people who weren't in any of my outlines or my notes! My characters are shocked because THEY weren't expecting them. They're trying to regroup. We're all coping as best we can. I am hoping today we can settle more into the idea of this new company that has come to visit our pages. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April Challenge Week Two

My adorable little nephew had his tonsils removed this week. This is a picture of him enjoying a popsicle after he woke up. He's been through a lot in his first four years - two surgeries to put tubes in his ears (we didn't know he wasn't hearing a word we were saying until he was almost a year old), adnoids out (they've grown back), tonsils out. He's such a happy guy, though. So bright and charming. I just love him to pieces. This has absolutely nothing to do with my April writing challenge, but I love him and love this picture and wanted to share. I couldn't find a way to make it metaphorical so I just threw it up there. Now on to the challenge...
I had a bad first week. I started strong with two very productive days that netted me over 3,000 words. Then I fell flat on my face. I start to get that mental itch when I am away from my story for too long. I've had it for three days now. As soon as this blog entry is written, I'm going straight back to it. I set a modest goal of 6,000 words this week, which I think I can accomplish. I have written two outlines for this story. I will now need a third at some point. In the middle of my last chapter, an arrow came out nowhere and a new threat was introduced. Just like that! My characters were walking along, all proud of themselves after cracking a riddle and retrieving the first item on their list when out of nowhere - Jenna was forced to run and Eirick was trying to figure out how to protect her. It was all very exciting even for Jenna. Thrilling when you don't know what the threat is and whether you're going to make it out alive. Scary when you're writing it, didn't see it coming and have to ask NOW WHAT? Who are these people and what is with that arrow? It changed the story direction entirely, but not in a bad way. So once again, I have veered off the path. This time I went racing off into the dense underbrush, vaulted over a fallen tree and landed in old, gigantic fern. I can hardly wait to see where I will go from here! Laini Taylor warned that you don't really know where you are going with your story until you're IN it. You think you know, but you don't. She was right! It's scary, but fun. Like a roller coaster that you have never been on before. The wind is in your hair, you're plunging toward the bottom, your stomach is up in your throat and you aren't sure if you take another second of dropping! Then you level out, but before you can catch your breath, you turn hard left, then race up into a loop! This writing is an adventure.

Happy writing everyone! Welcome to April! What's your goal for the week? Month?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hocus Pocus FOCUS

Have you ever had one of those days where you just can't focus? My younger brother has ADHD and I feel like him today. I've gone from one thing to the next this morning, easily distracted. I sat down to write and hour and a half ago. I haven't written a word. I've been surfing the internet. It started out innocently with SCBWI events for April, which triggered a search for proper manuscript format, this somehow landed me back at my Blog but I got distracted by my own Blog List and ended up over at BAD RAPs blog to see which "shock jock needs to be muzzled" (Len Tillum, for anyone who is interested).

Now I have finally returned to my own blog. I have a wonderful day all to myself while my husband is at work. I'm about halfway through my W.I.P.! I stopped at a good point yesterday so I would be encouraged to come back to it this morning. I was really excited after walking the dog to sit down in front of my computer and start plunking away. Not one word plunked. Not so much as a letter! It doesn't help that my one-eyed cat has been walking around meowing like she is being tortured. This happened for about an hour. It's a beautiful, sunny day outside and Pip wants to go explore. Her sister is laying in the yard, soaking up the sun as dogs so often do. But for 7 years now, Pip has not been outside. Oh yes, there were a few adventures last week when Lily and she were in cahoots and Lily was letting her out. Lily doesn't keep secrets well, though. Her tail was wagging furiously in the yard and she was dashing around grabbing toys. I finally stepped outside to see what was up and - lo and behold, Pip was in the yard. She was strolling around in cool Pip fashion just checking things out. Lily, meanwhile, was so excited to have her there, that she was showing her every toy in her arsenal as if to say, "Look, Pip, we can play with this! No? Okay, we can play with this one instead! No? That's okay, I have this pink one that's fun too! No? Okay, would you like this one?" Sigh. Lily loves to play and share her toys. I scooped Pip up and brought her back inside. Lily came back in as well. Five minutes later, they were both back out in the yard. So now, this little one-eyed cat has tasted freedom and longs for more. The problem? She has one-eye. We have coyotes. We had one in our yard just last month at 8am. Sun is up and coyote is in our yard. My cats are not going outside. Pip thinks if she protests enough, I will give in and let her out. Not so. I stood firm. But it rocked my morning focus (yes, I just blamed the cat).

I'm hoping by blogging, I can get back on track, but you can see from this entry how scattered my brain is today. We started with internet surfing and went into a story about my one-eyed cat. My characters are calling me, I'm getting closer than ever and I just can't be wasting any time! Hurry up, already! Let's get to that finish line! I will force myself this afternoon to focus. Once I get started, I'll be sucked back in to the forest and wandering through the trees for hours. I have my Balsam Fir scented candles burning. Perhaps some rivers flowing on you tube will help get me there as well. The magic door is just ahead and it's more than time for me to step through it already! Back to the woods, I go. Good day, everyone! Happy Writing!

(NOTE: That is the one-eyed cat, Pip, snuggled in blankets on a cold winter night years ago. Isn't she sweet?)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Baby Goat

It's been almost a month since I started a writing challenge. We all set goats (it's an inside joke) and did our best to reach them. Some surpassed them, others made them and some found that life really does its best to get in the way. Though I reached my baby goat, I still have a ways to go before it's a full grown goat. There is still a lot of feeding and nurturing to be done. What helped tremendously about this challenge, though, is that I found out I can do what I set out to do. When life tries to knock at the door, I can just ignore it and pretend I'm not home. The blinds are closed, the tv is muted, life will eventually give up and go on to the next house. When it pours down like rain or oozes in through the cracks in the walls, I have other rooms to retreat to. Each room contains my story. I don't have to have my laptop with me to write. Two days out of town without it produced handwritten pages. My story is my love. It pulls me in like a vacuum, shutting everything else around me out if I will let it. Many days I have. I have earned this baby goat, earned the right to hold it up and show it off. I plan to nestle my face in it one last time, smell the baby goatness of it, before putting it down and letting it run off to play. I have more work to do and a bigger goat to get to. I have another four weeks to do just that. I am in the company of some really great ladies, all of us striving towards the same end. The world really should be quivering in anticipation of all this great writing that is happening. Readers will be delighted when we have finished, each one of us creating something new and exciting. Here's to precious baby goats everywhere and the bigger goats we are reaching out for! On to April, ladies!