Writing Without Fear

 

My latest WIP has been a bit of a challenge. I’m a panster, not an outliner which can be both freeing and completely stifling.

I usually start with an idea for a character, or characters, and then build a story and plot around them. I know, it’s backwards, but it’s the way my brain works.

I’ve started my current WIP three different times.

First, the plot wasn’t strong enough, so I set it aside. But the characters kept talking to me, and telling me they had a story to tell.

So I picked it up again. I tried changing the plot and making it more appealing, and it seemed to be working for a while. But it was still missing something and I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I set it down again.

The third time I picked it up I realized that the story was focused around the wrong character. I was trying to make a supporting character the protagonist. One of the side characters had a much better story to tell and made a much better protagonist: the kind you want to root for even when you know they’re going to fail miserably.

So I started over…again.

I also decided to write with a different approach. No editing. No rereading. Just keep writing. I know that means there will be a LOT more editing at the end, but it’s been kind of fun writing without fear.

I’m also writing completely prepared to cut out scenes, even chapters if necessary. Many times, as writers (or at least it’s this way with me), we’re reluctant to take out scenes, especially the ones that we really love. We don’t want to let go of them. But this time I KNOW there is going to be changes, and I’m good with that. Sometimes as I’m writing a particular scene, I may have an idea that it may not make it to the final cut. I’ve even found myself thinking “that doesn’t fit there” or “that chapter really sucked.” But I just keep writing.

This WIP has turned into a sort of writing exercise in free writing. Who knows if it will work? I’m not sure what I’m going to gain from it, but I’m not afraid even if the whole thing needs to be scrapped. As long as I finish it, then I will have reached my first goal.

Writing without fear may turn into editing without fear.

What do you do when a WIP isn’t working? Do you scrap it or do you try to re-work it? Are you a panster or an outliner?

Jane & Maria – 2nd Installment of the Coffee Shop Vignettes

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Maria wrapped her hands around her coffee cup to warm them.

“So, tell me…how did it go?” Jane asked Maria, as she handed her son a coloring book and some crayons, and moved her coffee out of his reach.

“I’m not sure,” Maria said.

“Well, was it a good interview? Do you think you gave the answers they wanted?”

“I’m not sure,” Maria said and slumped back in her chair.

“Oh, come on. It couldn’t have been that bad,” Jane tried to be encouraging. She turned to her son, “No, no…only in the book…not on the table.”

Maria smiled.

“It’s just that it’s been so long since I’ve been out of the workforce, you know?” Maria said.

“Oh, I’m sure that won’t matter that much. You have the experience they’re looking for.”

“Yeah, but from 200 years ago!” Maria said and laughed.

Jane laughed at Maria’s exaggeration.

Maria sighed. “I don’t know. Part of me is excited to go back to work now that the kids are in school full time, but the other part of me wants to be home for them. I hate the idea of sending them to daycare. I should be helping them with their homework, not some stranger.”

“I’m sure there will be plenty of homework for you to help with. Besides, don’t a lot of their friends go to the same afterschool care?” Jane asked.

Maria nodded.

“What about the job? You’re scared, aren’t you,” Jane said.

“I hate to admit it, but yes, I am. I haven’t had to work for anyone in a long time. I’ve been the one telling people, well, little people that is, what to do for the past ten years. I don’t even know if I remember how to take orders from someone else,” Maria said.

“Sure you do. I’ve seen you take orders from Sarah all the time!” Jane teased.

“Oh, please! I don’t take orders from my 14 year old.”

Jane raised her eyebrow.

“Okay, okay, maybe sometimes I do. But don’t you dare tell her that!” Maria admitted.

“Mama…other book, other book,” Jane’s son insisted.

“I see you have your own dictator,” Maria teased.

Jane frowned at her as she got out another coloring book for her son.

Maria’s phone rang, and she looked at the number. She put her finger to her lips, and Jane told her son to be quiet.

“This is Maria,” she answered, and listened.

Jane kept her son occupied and watched Maria’s face for any indication.

“Yes, I’d be happy to. Okay. Okay. Thank you. I’ll talk to you then. Bye,” Maria said.

“Well?” Jane asked.

“I got a second interview!” Maria exclaimed.

“I knew you could! See, I told you! When do they want to see you again?” Jane asked.

“Tomorrow morning,” Maria said. She let it sink in.

“How does going back to work sound now?” Jane asked.

“It sounds pretty good, actually. Look, I better go. I have to find something different to wear tomorrow. I haven’t had to wear a skirt for two days in a row in a long time! I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Maria said as she got up. She waved to Jane’s son on her way out.

“Bye!” Jane called after her, but she was already out the door.

“Bye bye,” Jane’s son imitated.

Jane smiled at her son, grateful that she had a few more years before she’d have to go back to work, but excited for her friend. She picked up a crayon and helped her son color his picture.

If I wrote the same way my husband plays video games…OUT LOUD

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There’s an evening ritual in our house. After we’ve had dinner, and everyone’s done with homework, we usually go our separate ways to relax.

For me, that’s writing; for my daughter, that means drawing; for my son and husband that usually means video games. While my daughter hums along to whatever she’s listening to in her earbuds, my son is usually chatting with friends while they play minecraft. My husband has recently started playing OverWatch…and he’s very vocal when he is being shot at, or things aren’t going his way. And we mock him, because his noise cancelling headphones make it easy for us to do so.

So it got me thinking: what if I wrote the same way he plays Overwatch?! OUT LOUD! Could you imagine?

It would go something like this: “What?! How did that that guy just die? Who shot at him?! Where did he come from?! I can’t believe that! Come on, that was a cheap shot! Am I the only one in this mission?! Why can’t I hit anything?!”

The funny part is that as writers, we do ask our characters questions. We do get mad at them sometimes. We even get frustrated when they don’t turn out like we want them to. But I’ve never known a writer that does that OUT LOUD! And never with as much vigor as my husband playing Overwatch.

You can see that it might bring a whole knew dynamic to my writing. Especially considering that I write women’s fiction.

It might sound more like: “Why won’t she just kiss him already?! What does she want from him?! How come they can’t just be friends?! Don’t walk out on her again! She knows better than to do that! How could she not see that? It was so obvious!”

Then again, maybe I should “write out loud.” It certainly would draw some great looks from my family…well, except for my husband, because he wouldn’t be able to hear me…you know, because of the headphones and all.

How about you…do you write out loud?

Introducing “The Coffee Shop Vignettes”

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Sometimes it’s hard to think of an idea for a Blog Post, but it’s much easier for me to think of a story. I think I get it from my dad.

When I was really little, he used to sing a bedtime song to me that he made up called “Jackie Penguin.” In the song, Jackie Penguin would just happen to have the exact same day I did. And Jackie Penguin’s day always ended happy or learned a lesson, just like I did. #thanksdad

That’s where the inspiration for “The Coffee Shop Vignettes” came from: for the days that I don’t have a Blog Post, but I do have something to share…or at least my fictional characters do.

My hope is that the reader would see themselves in the situations, or their friends, and would find connection and comfort.

This is a compilation of encouraging conversations from everyday life. Imagine yourself sitting at your local coffee shop cozied up with a book, surrounded by other patrons. It is alive with conversation, of people coming and going, and slowing down just long enough to get a glimpse into one another’s lives. These are the stories of your neighbors, your friends, your family, and maybe even your own story. They may sound familiar to you, and you may have even overheard a similar story at the table next to you.

My hope is that some of the stories bring you comfort, reminding you that we’re all in this together. Your stories are my stories, my stories are yours. Please check out the first installment of “The Coffee House Vignettes” listed under the “Categories” sidebar.

Book Banning in Virginia

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Last week, a temporary ban was put on two classic American novels “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by the Accomack County Public Schools. The books were pulled from the shelf after ONE PARENT complained to the school board about racial slurs in both books.

It was a reading assignment for a high school class, and the mother of a biracial child said her son couldn’t get past a certain page in Huck Finn that used the N-word seven times.

I’m sorry her son felt that way, but BANNING BOOKS IS NOT OKAY!

Both books are statements AGAINST prejudice, so she has totally missed the point of the stories.

Writers often use offensive and harsh language to evoke emotion out of their readers so that they will feel empathy for the characters and fight right along with them. Is it uncomfortable? Sure…it’s supposed to be!

Banning books is a frightening and slippery slope.

When you think about it, books are the one true form of freedom of speech that we have left! Our news is slanted, our magazine and newspaper articles are often skewed, but books are still FREE from censorship.

There was a peaceful protest outside the courthouse last night where students and parents gathered to express their frustration that ONE PARENT’S complaint can disrupt the entire district’s curriculum.

This parent missed a huge teaching opportunity to talk with her child about his feelings and for that I feel sorry for them.

As writers and parents, I hope we can all agree that when we start to erase history through censorship, we will forget what we’ve already learned from it.

I haven’t seen an on-line petition circulating yet, but will post an update if I find one.

By the way, my books tend to have a Christian message…some may find THAT offensive.

End of NaNoWriMo

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It’s almost the end of November which also means that you should be reaching your 50,000 words if you participated this year. If you have, Congrats! Most people will never even start a novel their entire lives, so kudos for reaching such an amazing goal. #gonanowrimo

I wish I could say that I reached it with you, but unless I’m going to be able to write approximately 35,000 words in the next few days, then I won’t quite make it this year. But I’m okay with that. #nanowrimofail

I had a lot on my plate with month which encroached on my creative time.

Writers participate in NaNoWriMo for a lot of different reasons. Some start a novel from scratch, some use it to finish a current WIP, but whatever your purpose, it’s a great launching pad.

I used it to find out that the manuscript I was working on was meandering and really going nowhere. I’m a “Panster” and not an “Outliner,” so it’s a risk I always take when I start a new story. #panstersunite

The problem with my current WIP?

I was being way too nice to my characters. I needed to rough them up.

My premise is good and my characters have good bones, but those bones need to be broken, put in a sling and broken again to make an amazing story. Characters need to fight for something, whether it’s a moral dilemma, a physical challenge or a person who is standing in the way of their goal. That’s what keeps readers reading.

So I did the unthinkable, something they tell you not to do…I started editing. Instead of having a side character as a handsome love interest, he became the main character’s nemesis, brash and insulting to her respectability. The story now has so much more depth and is, quite frankly, more fun to write.

Maybe now the ideas will start to flow, and I can take all the baggage from my messy November and channel it into my WIP.

Did you reach your 50,000 words?

Writing for my toughest critics…my kids

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I usually write Women’s Fiction. Not romantic women’s fiction, but stories about women of all ages in real-life situations.

I’ve mentioned before that I live with a bunch of nerds who all prefer fantasy, manga, or comic books, so getting one of them to listen to my story ideas or help me proofread is next to impossible.

I recently decided to branch out, if you will. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I figured it would be a perfect time to try something different: YA Fantasy. Besides, there’s a good chance I might never be published, which leads me to question, just who am I writing for?

It would be really nice to write something that my kids might actually want to, or at least pretend to, read.

Now I realize that there’s no guarantee they will read this one either. After all, they are all a bit particular. #booksnobs

My daughter cried (One Piece Spoiler Alert!) when Trafalgar Law died in the One Piece series. And both my daughter and son refuse to watch the Percy Jackson movies because the actors don’t match the book characters. So their standards are a bit high.

Let’s face it…my first attempt at YA fantasy doesn’t stand a chance. And I haven’t even written it yet! But what have I got to lose? If nothing else, it could be a really cheesy comedy.

As I said earlier, there’s a good chance I might never be published, at least in New York Best Seller standards. But I have this “back-up” fantasy. One day, when I’m gone, my grand kids will be going through my belongings and find my writing: all my poems, my short stories, my novels, and my unfinished manuscripts. And it will inspire one of them and THEY will write a New York Best Seller.

Is anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you trying something different?

Who is your toughest critic?