Identity crisis

Okay. This week I didn’t even come close to my ROW80 goal of 1,000 words/day. I probably got 2,000 words over the course of the entire week.

The problem? I am having a writing identity crisis. I finished up Act I of my novel. Exciting, right? But it’s the first draft and I can see just how flawed it is. It doesn’t flow, it doesn’t work the way I envisioned, it is not some spectacular work of art.

It’s silly to hope for perfection the first time around, of course, but this is more than that. I’m doubting my ability to write a novel. No, not doubting: I KNOW I don’t have the ability–yet. I still have a lot to learn about how to write. And that’s okay, so long as I don’t give up.

Completing the first act is the farthest I’ve ever gone in writing a novel. And I’m definitely not going to stop now, no matter how self-conscious and nervous I am about it all. I’m determined to get back on track with my 1,000 words and to not let a temporary identity crisis hold me back from the writing that I love.

Writers: any tips on how to make a plot flow? That’s where I’m stuck. How do you keep the audience’s interest? How do you make one scene intensely exciting, followed by a less exciting–but no less interesting–scene?

I suspect these questions are so fundamental that I’m revealing just how ignorant I am. Like my 3-year-old asking, “What letter does C start with?” reveals that he doesn’t understand the concept of words vs. letters and what it means for a sound to begin a word.

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ROW80 challenge: going strong

My ROW80 challenge is to write 1,000 words a day.

Thursday 10/13: Wrote 1019 words by 6:20 am… then kept writing to finish up the scene by 6:54 with 1435 words. Exciting!

Friday 10/14: 107 words. Yeah, I’m not missing a digit. Only got 1/10 of my goal in today. But I’m okay with that. Not so okay if it happens frequently.

Saturday 10/15: 1013 words by 6:58 am. Last scene of the first act! Exciting.

Week total: 5320 words. Nearly finished with the first act of my novel. Success.

Monday 10/17: 1037 words, but not on my novel–on a different story. Also wrote out an outline for that story. I only wrote something along the lines of 100 words on my novel. I’m stuck on a tough scene.

Tuesday 10/18: 1138, surprisingly. By 7:15 am. The scene is just as tough, mostly because my outline for it is so vague and ill-defined. So I skipped the uncertain part and am writing out the battle sequence. Once I got started, the writing went pretty quickly.

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Book review: Juliet by Anne Fortier

What Works

I was wrong. Not completely wrong, but wrong enough. I expected Juliet: a Novel to be sappy, half-hearted, and predictible. Being pregnant, my sappy meter isn’t working 100%, but I suspect I would have enjoyed the book even were hormones not rushing through my system. And it was most definitely not half-hearted.

As for predictability, I could see from the first time he appeared who Romeo was going to be, and that certain characters in the opening would make a reappearance. But the way they appeared definitely surprised me.

And the ending! I was surprised at all the turns there. I love being surprised in books. It doesn’t happen much.

Paralleling the modern and ancient stories, which enhanced the meaning and importance of both. It would have been a weak story indeed if only the modern story was told.

New revelations at the end. They work because they’re hinted to–but left unsolved–through the rest of the story. Some authors try to insert new revelations at the end, but give us no foundation, no hint whatsoever of their existence. That’s cheating. Fortier did not cheat, for the most part.

The historical parts are believable. Historically accurate or not, they are believable.

What Doesn’t

Some parts were slow, some felt unnecessary. Like the fountain scene.

Keeping us on tenterhooks for so long about Romeo. I saw through that one immediately, so dragging out the revelation was neither interesting nor exciting.

Umberto’s story at the end was supposed to be exciting and interesting, but it slowed down the momentum, and so undermined itself.

The cover. I was half embarrassed to check the book out at the library, emblazoned with a giant red rose and looking, for all the world, like a romance novel (that half-respectable kind that still talks about steamy relationships even though it doesn’t have pictures of male models on the front cover). Not only is the rose irrelevant to the story, but it’s not a romance novel and most definitely not steamy.

This is a nitpicky thing, but the standard disclaimer on the copyright page–”not based on real places or people”–is a bit of a lie. Oh, there’s enough vagueness in the actual phrasing of the sentence to justify it, but when the author mentions (in the afterword) this character, who is a real person living today, running this hotel, which is a real hotel in Siena, that kind of undermines the whole “not based on real places or people” thing.


I don’t trust my pregnancy hormones enough to really recommend, but I did enjoy this book. A light, enjoyable read.

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Three days of success!

My first three days of the ROW80 challenge have been successful! I reached my goal of 1,000 words every day, mostly by waking up at 5 am to write before the kids wake. I’ve made excellent progress on my novel. At the beginning of the week, I was stuck in Act I, scene 2; now I’m sailing into scene 4 and excited to press into scene 5 before the week’s end.

Even though I’ve only been participating in ROW80 for 3 days, it’s really propelled my writing forward. And it makes me so happy to be writing so much. There’s just something supremely satisfying about writing.

Monday 10/10: 1041 words by 902 pm. Contrary to my usual belief (that my brain just can’t focus enough in the evenings to write), I managed to write just fine.
Tuesday 10/11: 1128 words by 7:20 am.
Wednesday 10/12: 1012 by 7:28 am.

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Writing Goals: updated

My writing’s been a bit sporadic lately. Here and there, when I can, when I feel like it. Ha! That will never finish my book.

A few months ago, I participated in the ROW80 challenge for a couple weeks, and the support I got from the other participants was fantastic. It’s time to try it out again, but for the full 80 days (or what’s left of them).

So, my ROW80 goal: write 1,000 words on my book each day. Every day. Sundays being the only exception.

My writing timeline includes not only completing my novel by the end of the year, but also getting Jacob (and a few other amazing people) to review it. I’m a little behind that, but I’m hoping that my ROW80 goal will help get me closer to being back on track.

It’s now 7:04 and I can hear my 3-year-old awake and trying to escape his room. Time’s up for writing. I’ll have to see if I can squeeze in today’s 1,000 words during naptime. Or after he’s in bed.

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The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Writing

I’ve been able to write a couple thousand words this week. Completed the introduction and the first scene of the book, and made major headway into the second scene, which involves wrestling, falling in love, and failed ambitions.

I’m also working on The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Writing, a not-for-publication file that examines other writers’ success and how they got there. (I got the idea from Cal Newport’s Study Hacks blog.) The idea of the Encyclopedia is to consciously create my writing career, to purposefully emulate the things I like about others’ writing and others’ careers, and to better understand the craft of writing to, of course, become a better writer.

I’ll post my updates to the Encyclopedia on this website as I research them, under the category of “Encyclopedia.”

For now, the Encyclopedia‘s incomplete table of contents includes:

  1. The Writing Craft
    1. Researching
    2. The writing process (outlining, freewriting, etc.)
      1. Laini Taylor’s Not For Robots site on the writing process. (Her idea of “Exploratory Drafts” is genius.)
      2. Shannon Hale’s blog, especially how to balance being a stay-at-home mom with a writing career.
    3. Books I love and what makes them good
      1. The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
    4. How to write/create:
      1. plot
      2. plot: classical
      3. plot: non-plot and anti-plot elements?
      4. symbolism/metaphor
      5. story spine
      6. subplots
      7. flashback
      8. creating characters
      9. flow of story
      10. intensity: how to build
      11. intensity: how to balance (ups and downs)
      12. making audience care about characters
      13. description (somehow descriptive, but wo long descriptive paragraphs)
      14. dialogue
      15. world creation
      16. universal appeal
      17. raising the stakes
      18. curiosity: making audience curious.
      19. surprise: how to surprise audience
      20. realism: give a life-like experience to audience, wo the dangers of REAL life experience
      21. try different genres?  esp one rigorously defined by convention–and then find a unique way to adhere to or break from the conventions
      22. controlling idea/theme
      23. deep characters
      24. protagonist
      25. antagonist
      26. extra-personal story
      27. psychological story (intra-personal. strictly personal, eg, cowardice)
      28. inter-personal/moral story (invoves others, usu a result of the psychological)
      29. empathizing with characters
      30. antagonist as ally
      31. love interest
      32. supporting characters
      33. amazing beats
      34. great scenes
      35. incredible sequences
      36. mind-blowing acts
      37. breathtaking climax
      38. values of the story
      39. conflict in the story
      40. inner conflict
      41. relational conflict
      42. social conflict
      43. situational conflict (life-death situations)
      44. cosmic conflict (conflict w universe, God, nature)
      45. making the story unexpected
      46. plot/scene/act/climax reversals
      47. inciting incidents
      48. progressive complications/rising action
      49. taking the story to the end of the line
      50. resolution
      51. creating emotion in audience: empathy, mood
      52. foreshadowing
      53. recurring motifs
      54. repetition
      55. contrasts
      56. rhythm/tempo
      57. archetypes
      58. irony
      59. subtext
      60. comedy
      61. romance
  2. Building an audience
    1. Blogging
    2. Networking
  3. A Writer’s Life: examine the successes and careers of other authors
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More brownies!

Good news! Baby #3 is well on its way!
The newest brownie will come around April 6.

Yep, there’s been lots of morning sickness. In the evening, of course. But far milder than it could have been, so that’s happy.

On the whole, this baby’s kicking my butt, but it’s well worth it, and I look very much forward to the official arrival in April.

Will the baby delay my publish date? Who knows? So far I’m still on schedule, but…

Even so, I have confidence that, even if I can’t publish before the baby comes, I’ll still be able to finish in 2012.

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