Monday, March 21, 2011

A Writer's Game

When I decided to start writing "more seriously" (i.e. actually write on a regular basis rather than sporadically) after graduating from college, I knew plotting would be involved.  From my limited writing experience, I understood that I would have to plot my way from a happy point A to a shocking point B.  What I didn't realize at the time was that I would need to plot my own life too.

I’ll spare you the messy details, but it occurred to me recently that if I don’t make some changes to how I approach my writing, I’m never going to get the crappy first draft (and I say that with great affection) done.  My writing has been like the caucus race in Alice in Wonderland.  You don’t know whether or not you’ve won, let alone reached you’re desired destination.  So you keep running until you tire yourself out and drop the project for not better reason than you don’t want to race about with it anymore.  And that thought scares me.  How can I become a better writer if I can’t even follow through with my stories?

Since figuring out that writing without concrete goals is the best way to guarantee that I wouldn’t be motivated to write, I happened to read Michelle Ward's recent guest post on Writer Unboxed.  She wrote about working through obstacles by taking one step at a time and one of sections stood out to me: “…You might be overwhelmed with the scope of an idea.”

*raises hand* yep, that’s me.  I’m ¾ of the way through and that’s still me.

In the body of the text was this handy-dandy link that went to her site and something Ward called the Goal Game.  Figuring I had nothing to lose, I figured I’d play a round and see how it went.
It ended up looking like this:

Not bad, right?  Okay, it’s a bit messy, but it’s a great start.  Because of all the long division scribbles, I figured out that if I write 2000 words a week (that’s only 285 words each day!), in seven weeks or so I should have 14000 more words, in which I hope to finish the first draft of my novel and can move onto revisions.  I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty big.  No, HUGE!  If I can win this game, it’ll be my first ever completed novel draft.

And if for some reason I shouldn’t finish in this time period, hey, I’ll be that much closer to finishing.  Either way, as long as I play the game, I’ll win.

So, dear reader, are you game?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wet Paint

After two tumoltuous years of semi-blogging, I decided in a few whimful seconds that Informally Yours needed a newer, brighter look.  While I'll miss the simplicity of the classic blogger template, the soft yellows and greens in this template make me feel calm and happy. I even chose a background that reminded me of vintage wallpaper to make this small bit of space feel more like a home.  But I guess that's what a blog is to all who chose to write in the public space of the internet.  It's a home and the readers are the party guests.

On that note, welcome to my home and I hope you enjoy your visit!  I've set out a big, linen covered table with glasses of sparkling juice (or something stronger if you prefer) for you to drink.  Let me know if you brought something for everyone to nibble on, whether it be an hors d'oeuvre of a juicy bit of writing news!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why Writing Groups Are Like High Pressure Systems

Today I would like to tell you all that I am grateful for my writing group.  I know that I've expressed  frustrations about being in this group and not always feeling it fit my needs, but today they were a bigger help than maybe they even realize.

For the past two months I've been trying to work on finishing up my winning NaNoWriMo story.  While big changes at work didn't help me have time to write, I struggled with more than just the time crunch: I had hit a wall.  It wasn't just the plot or characters, but suddenly anything I wrote sounded flat and left a stale, cardboard taste in my mouth.  I was at a transitional, potentially pivotal, part of the story line and I couldn't get past it.  

It was the perfect hurricane of doubt: insecurity and perfectionism spinning together with a few key, unanswered questions sitting idly in the eye of the storm right above my head.  I wanted to swim away and break free, but the storm was so daunting that I didn't even know which way to go.  So I gave in and floated there, stranded at sea.

Today was my first opportunity to attend writing group since the new year (can I just say again that my work schedule in Jan and Feb was horrendous?) and I finally confronted my hurricane of doubt.  I started to explain my story to my group members and asked the questions that had been sitting in the eye of my own personal storm.

And you know what?  My group had insights that ultimately lead to answers.  It was as if they were a high pressure system moving in, lifting my spirits and sweeping my storm away.  For the first time in two months, I thought, "I can do this.  I can still write this story."

So the moral of today's story is don't be afraid to talk to other writer's about your frustrations.  Thinking I wouldn't find the help I needed held me back for months and while I'm not foolish enough to think moving onwards will be any less challenging, I certainly am more clear headed and optimistic about it.