Does it feel right?

Done with Camp NaNo, a couple days early even!  Woo hoo!  Now that I’ve found myself with a bit more spare time I thought it might be a good time to write about an interesting little experience I had during this project.

The first week of April I was on a trip overseas.  I knew that it’d be hard to keep my word count up but I had almost two days of flying involved so I figured that’d give me a chance do some writing, even if I didn’t get much done the rest of the week.

On my return flight, the story was feeling a little slow so I write this really intense action sequence.  It was fast paced, lots of back and forth, it was awesome.  Probably the best action scene I’ve ever written.  I ripped out six or seven pages in no time.  Word count, smerd count, I’m the man.

But about an hour later, something was bugging me.  I wasn’t sure what it was, I just knew that there was something off about the scene.  I kept tweaking it, trying to make it feel better, but there was some underlying problem that unsettled me.

One of the things that I have learned as a writer is to pay attention to those gut feelings.  Often the subconscious will pick up on something before the conscious mind does.  So I paused the story while I tried to understand out what was going on.

It took me a while to figure it out but when I kind of stepped back and looked at it, it was obvious. I had wanted to write a certain type of scene so bad that I forced the characters into it.  My main character was way too savvy to get sucked into that situation, it should never have happened.

It didn’t fit, I’d forced it.  No amount of tweaking was going to change that.  So, with reluctance, I chopped the entire seven pages.  Seven pages!

This was so frustrating because that’s one of those holes that writers are often advised to avoid.  If you’re true to your characters than the plot flows along, if a character makes some decision that doesn’t make sense that’s probably a sign that the writer is forcing the characters to fit into a specific plot point.  I’d always thought that wasn’t a problem for me since I’m more of a pantser, but now I know better.

My word count suffered, it felt like all that work went down the drain, I had to rewrite pages and pages, but in the end the story was so much better for it.  I’m glad I listened to my gut, figured out what was wrong and fixed it.

(Side note: I saved the pages in another file and was later able to salvage some of it in a more appropriate place in the story.)

The Snowball is rolling

I roped one of my friends into participating in Camp NaNo this month.  She’d always wanted to write but never made the time, so I convinced her to give it a shot.  Over and over I told her that it was so much easier to keep up the word count every day than it was catch up later on.  Over and over.

I wish I’d taken my own advice.  The month got busy, and I’d known it would, but I’m about two days behind on my word count from where I wanted to be and I’m rapidly running out of time to get caught up.

Hopefully all of you are doing better than me.

The good point out of all this is that the story is finally getting to the best parts, so at least it’ll be fun to write.

Win or lose, NaNo is always an experience.

Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve decided to do something a little different for Camp NaNoWriMo this April, I’m going to post each section to Wattpad as it’s written.  This is purely for my own amusement and as motivation to keep up my word count.  Afterwards I’ll go back in and start doing the edits, but I think it’ll be fun.

I’ve already put up a prologue, which will not be counted toward the 50,000 word goal.

So, if you want to follow along with my progress or post encouragement:

Geeks-greens-and-guns 3 s

Geeks, Greens, and Guns…

 The unfortunate side effect to a busy schedule and a daily word count requirement of 1,667 is that I probably won’t be as active on WP for the next few weeks.  So, good writing to all of you and hopefully I’ll see you on the other side.

Writing about fear

I got to hear a really fascinating TED talk about fear the other day.  The speaker went over the difference between the things we fear versus the things that are actually dangerous.

A recent example could be the fears about Ebola in the United States compared to the fear of the common flu.  Every year the flue kills thousands around the world (1)whereas Ebola infected two people in the states and both survived (2).  Rationally, the flu should be far scarier than Ebola but fear isn’t a rational thing.

The speaker for the event used a fantastic example of what fear can do to us.  The crew of the Essex, a whaling ship, was struck by a whale (inspiring Moby Dick) and sank in 1820.  The crew managed to escape the ship on the smaller whaling boats and faced a big decision; they could either make for the Marquesas islands (closer) or make for South America (far, far away).  The crew was so afraid that the islands were inhabited by cannibals that they tried for South America despite knowing they didn’t have the food or water to make the trip.  A captivating, unrealistic fear versus a very realistic, practical fear.  Most of the crew died of starvation and dehydration before being rescued by another ship 95 days later.

To me, this TED talk is interesting on multiple levels.  It affects how I see things on a daily basis, helps evaluate what is a “real” fear versus an unrealistic fear.  As a writer, it interests me because we live in the world of unrealistic fears.  A book about the flu killing .05% of the world’s population, or dying in a car crash, wouldn’t make for a very interesting read.  Our imagination is what fuels our stories, as well as our daily fears, so it’s a fascinating subject.

You should check out the talk if you get a chance:

https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_thompson_walker_what_fear_can_teach_us?language=en

Why I’m not editing my NaNo draft this month

One of the fun things about being in a few writing groups is that you get to hang out with other people doing the same kinds of things you’re doing.  Last month it was NaNo, we were all obsessing over word counts, racing each other, and generally just having a good time.

Now that NaNo is done, most of these writers have turned to finishing their incomplete draft (50K words didn’t quite do it), or they are in the process of editing their complete first draft.  Most of those writers shook their head at me when I told them that my NaNo draft went on the shelf and I had immediately started my next project.

Why am I shelving Summerton Blues for now?  Because Stephen King is my hero.  In his book “On Writing” he suggested that instead of editing a project, start the next one.  When the second project is done, then edit the first.  That process gives us some mental, emotional distance from the first work that lets us get far more critical and spot all the things we missed the first time through.  Following this advice has made a big difference I’ve found in the overall quality of the work.

It’s also the same reason that I write a lot of draft posts, let them sit a while , then go over them before posting.  A bit of time and distance does wonders for spotting problems or things that could be clarified.

Additionally, I’m not in any hurry to publish anything, unlike some NaNo writers (I’ve already seen a few popping up in my reader).  I’d rather let Summerton Blues sit on the shelf for six months, work on a few things in the mean time, spend plenty of time editing it before even considering publication.  There’s no hurry, I’ll take my time until I think it’s ready, the same as I will with anything else I’ve written.

So, I’m already twenty pages or so into my next project.  I could talk about it but then I’d have to kill you.  Kidding.  But really, it’s kind of a surprise project, I don’t want to get into it until I’m closer to done.  Until then, Summerton Blues can wait, it’s not going anywhere.

NaNo

I haven’t been posting much over the past few weeks.  I’ve had some personal things come up and I’ve been sick for the last week and a half.  Being sick is no fun.

I’ve also been focused on a Halloween short story I was writing for my daughter.  She’s been out of town for a while and I thought it would be fun to share something with her.  I wrote a fun story with a little bit of everything in it, ghosts, monsters, bullies, and adventure.  Using Scrivener I formatted it so it could be read on her iPad and emailed it to her and her mom.  She hasn’t finished it yet but I’m hoping she enjoys it.

In other news it’s November, NaNoWriMo time!  I met up with the regional group today and got started on my new project.  In three hours with them I got almost 4,000 words knocked out.  Not a bad start, if I do say so myself.  I won’t be able to keep up that rate but I figure the more I can get done earlier the less pressure there will be later.

Good luck to all the other NaNo writers out there!

WFCF voting is still open!

All of the stories have been submitted and are posted on the Write Club Fight Club website.  I know we’re all busy but if you’re interested in writers or want to support writers you should definitely check it out and vote for your favorites.

If you’re interested in my submission and haven’t checked it out already, visit J.M. Payer vs. N. J. Layouni.

I’m not going to tell you which one to vote for, just read the two and vote for your favorite.  Feedback is also appreciated, I know I’m always trying to improve my writing.  My story is Mr. Jingles, you can leave feedback there or here on my blog.

I hope you guys enjoyed the process as much as I have, it’s been a blast and I can’t wait for round two!  If you’re a writer you should definitely think about participating, it’s a whole lot of fun.

 

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Whooooo!  After weeks of working out, training and sparring it’s time to fight!

Write Club Fight Club.  The writing is done, all that’s left is the fighting and today I’m up against N. J. Layouni.

J.M. Payer vs. N. J. Layouni.

I encourage all of you to visit the site, check out the two stories and vote for your favorite.  Honestly, I don’t even care if I win or not, I’m just having a blast participating in the adventure.   I’ve already learned some lessons from reading the other stories that have battled so far.  Any excuse to stretch the writing muscles in a different direction is worth the time and effort.

Feedback on both stories is encouraged and I’d love to know what you think about mine.   I don’t even want to name mine, that might skew the results and I want a straight forward battle.  I’ll just say it’s the one about the cop and a cat.  If you read it and have any suggestions or feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Battle on!  Go to WFCF and vote!

Three days until battle starts!

I’m so excited, it’s three days until the first Write Club Fight Club bout!

I’ve been plugging away at a couple different pieces; Sadie’s Adventures, Larry’s Dead, and another story project.  They’re all coming alone, though slightly slower than I’d like.  I think I’m learning moderation when it comes to writing, slow and steady rather than sprints and rests.  But the project I’m most excited about is the WCFC submission.  I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with.

Bouts start the 29th at WCFC.

My bout is on October 2nd with N. J. Layouni.

WCFC Submission

I’m happy to say that despite all the complications, the busyness, I’m wrapping up my first submission for Write Club Fight Club.   It’s not as perfect as I would like, but that is a topic all it’s own and probably familiar to most writers.  With the time and energy I had to put into the project I think it turned out alright.

There were several guidelines for the submission:

Story begins with “It began last Fall in the woods”, it has to be involve revenge, must be below 8,000 words and the word “said” is not supposed to be used.  Full rules can be found on the post Hit the Gym.

Writing the piece was a lot of fun and definitely made me flex some writing muscles.  It would be nice to win my first bout but I’m less concerned with that than having a good time.  It’ll also be really interesting to see what all the other writers came up with.

Battles start September 29th.  Each day for the following week two pieces will be put up against each other.  My battle will be on October 2nd, I’m up against N. J. Layouni.

The fun has just begun, stay tuned here and on WCFC.