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  • Rebekah James 10:15 am on July 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , writing goals   

    Plotting and Scheming 

    This has been a long week, so long in fact that I just realized I was in danger of not posting either of my updates for ROW80. A lot of what happened was boring busy work that just seemed to pile up and needed to be done all at once, so nothing exciting to report, but combined with a summer cold, it just makes the days go slowly.

    I am still “on track” for my projects, but I am not necessarily generating a large word count – one of the things I realized was that I didn’t really know my characters, and that since I didn’t know them well, the plot I had etched out for them, wasn’t working because I suddenly found that they all were acting quite predictably  and honestly I was getting a little bored with the story. If I am bored, that is a very bad sign because it means that anyone who reads it will be bored – and worse, I caught my MC whining.

    So this week has been about character development. I have been metaphorically sitting down for a cup of coffee and talking to them (Well the coffee wasnt metaphorical for me but you know what I mean.) It has been an interesting week. I asked them about where they grew up, how they got where they are now, pulled pictures off the internet for them and even talked about favorite foods.  I’m probably scaring the neighbors since this means I have been spending a lot of time walking around talking to myself, but I now feel that I know them better and I can only think that will translate to a better story. Of course this also means that I have spent some time reworking the plot a bit too.

    Plotting always seems to be the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. I know people who are adamant that plotting is evil and that it ruins their creativity, and a first draft is all about making your mistakes. That may be true for some people, but as Terry Brooks, says in his book on writing Sometimes the Magic Works you will either solve the problems now or later because you will have to solve them eventually.  The question for me is never IF I need to plot, but rather HOW.

    Some people use index cards, others use sticky notes. I have a very large sheet of glass in my  office that I scribble all over with dry erase pens, but I am always looking for better ways to work things out. Do you do a synopsis of the story first like Margaret Weiss does for her books, or do you take a very long view and map out the major events in all 20 books in your series like Jim Butcher says he has for the Harry Dresden series?  I read an article yesterday that J.K. Rowling wrote scenes from all seven of the Harry Potter books before she  even really started on the first one, and then went back and built the plots for all of them.  Are you putting every scene on index cards and rearranging them? Do you use bullet points or maybe an excel sheet?  Do you develop your characters back stories first and let that determine your plot, or do you come up with the scenes first and then let them tell you from there?  How do YOU plot?



  • Rebekah James 2:01 pm on July 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Donna Newton, , , , , , writing goals   

    ROW80 Update for 7-14-11 A Crash course and a close scrape 

    This one is  yet another short update. I have been very quiet on the twitter/Facebook/blog front lately because I have been really busy this week, and  with limited time available, I would rather focus on the writing.  My close friends already understand this, and well, those who are going to ‘unfollow’ because I was quite for a few days, probably were going to eventually when I wasn’t entertaining enough anyway.

    On Monday, I was in a small accident. Someone stepped in front of me in a very narrow space and I jerked the wheel to miss him and ended up hitting a very sturdy metal gate instead.  Aside from a very ugly scratch on the paint, scaring me to death and finding out that my inhaler needs to be refilled, everything is fine. Of course there has been some time devoted to taking to the insurance company and so on. (and explaining it to my husband several dozen times who swears HE wouldn’t have scraped the truck) As I told him and the insurance company –  I’m human and the sight of a living being about to be mowed over by my vehicle scared me and I veered away to prevent it. The guy I missed didn’t even realize his near miss until someone started yelling at him for stepping in front of me. I’m OK with this outcome even if I do have to get the truck repaired.  For the record, it is one really sturdy gate that I hit- didn’t even scratch the paint let alone cause damage to it.

    On the plus side, I did get a lot of things done this week while I was in my busy mode.  First and foremost, the deadline I was working on is finished and I actually did submit the work I intended to submit. Yay me right?  Now to wait for the reply.

    Part of the experience of this was that I asked Donna Newton, whom I respect tremendously, to go over the story for  me before I submitted it and she was gracious enough to do it for me.  I was thrilled that she liked it, but even more so, it was really impressive to see the master at work.  A few sentences smoothed out, a couple of little details added, and suddenly my story went from pretty good to nearly shiny.  I am very pleased with the result, and it was like getting a crash course in setting the scene and knowing which details need to be included.

    I also was asked to do a review for a book that will be released in September. That review will be posting on this site tomorrow, and I have been adding the review to my accounts everywhere else I can as well.  I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to be allowed to review Riever’s Heart, especially since Renee Wildes, the author, is not only a wonderful writer, but a wonderful person.

    Very proud of myself – I have managed to not only stay on track with my writing goals, but I am actually getting ahead of myself now, and have found a renewed enthusiast for my other work in progress.  The next few days will offer little in the way of writing time for me, but I am still confident I will make my daily goals.  I’m going to develop a little more backstory on my characters before going forward again.




    • Rebekah James 8:41 pm on July 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      In his defense, Hubby hasn’t yelled at me, he isn’t happy about it, but he isn’t mad at me either. 🙂

    • Maria Zannini 6:58 pm on July 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      The accident sounds scary. I can’t believe the guy wasn’t even aware he almost got hit.

      I’m glad at least you didn’t get hurt. You’re hubby should have congratulated you for saving that man’s life.

  • Rebekah James 12:31 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , writing goals   

    ROW80 – update for 7-11-11 

    Quick update about my ROW80 goals – why quick? Because I am busy with new projects and actually keeping to my goals so far and don’t want to lose momentum. This weekend I did pick up a new project which I think everyone will like. I started on a series of book reviews, and I finished – sort of – my short that is headed for submission later this week. I’m not entirely happy with the ending, and I think I dragged out a particular point too much, so this afternoon and tomorrow are going to be used for editing the story. I think I am still on schedule and averaging roughly 2k a day, which is actually above my goal of 1.5k. How is everyone else doing?

    • Sonia G Medeiros 10:57 pm on July 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Congrats! This is my first ROW80 and I’m loving it so far.

    • Sarah 6:12 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Woot!! I love hearing about people who are doing great. It makes me feel like I really should be doing more, while also realizing that if I set my mind to it I really can just sit down and write.

      Congrats!! This short post helped boost my spirit. 😀

    • Julie Glover 5:38 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like you’re keeping it up great! Hope the edits go smoothly. (That’s not always my favorite part.) I’m doing fine, but I may need to adjust a goal or two (one up, one down).

    • Cate Morgan 4:27 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like you’ve been productive! Good job, and good luck the rest of the week. 🙂

    • Erin Brambilla 12:43 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Great job surpassing your goal. I’m on track which is great. Good luck this week.

  • Rebekah James 9:56 am on July 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , writing goals   

    ROW80 – Update for 7-6-11 


    So far my first few days of ROW80 is a success. I spent a bit of time seriously considering what reasonable goals are to me, and having a talk with M about what is reasonable for our lifestyle overall. I am particularly blessed in that M is extremely supportive of my writing dreams, and he agreed on the proposed shifts in things. That done, I actually did do what I had scheduled for myself. I outlined both the plot and the MC for the short I have going this week. I did a LOT of research on what I needed to know for this as well, and actually started writing the initial scenes – about a third of the way done.  The deadline for this is July 15, so I am not on schedule for my terms.  The focus for the rest of the week will be about word count. Normally when I start writing, the first thing I do is to go back and edit what I did yesterday – checking that I am still following the same outline, or making adjustments as needed then add new.  Since I am writing a short and already have the outline, this time I intend to plow through to the goal (5k) in the next couple of days and then edit.  It feels a little like having one hand tied behind my back to try to do it this way, but I think since it is so short, it will be better overall.

    • deniz 8:22 pm on July 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Congratulations! How great that you might actually be finished the story soon. Wish I had a short story idea 🙂

    • Cinette 11:11 am on July 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I tend to backtrack endlessly in my writing, having to make it perfect before moving on, so my word count tends to lag behind. Once I read that Dean Koontz will edit page one 32 or more times before writing page 2, I didn’t feel so bad about it any more.

    • Jess 11:17 am on July 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Great progress Rebekah! I’m very proud of you. I’m also concentrating less on word count and more on focusing efforts on really crafting my story carefully.

      It’s hard to NOT focus on word count when we have such prolific friends cranking out novels left and right…you and I can be the slow and sure tortoises in the back. 😉

      • Rebekah James 8:03 pm on July 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        LOL yes Jess, and that is the ultimate reason I dont like the word count contests – it forces you to compete with your friends, and then feel like you are not putting enough effort in or something.

        Sitting Bull was called Slow Turtle for the first half of his life before the incident that earned him his name – and look what he managed without writing a single word! LOL

    • Julie Glover 11:00 am on July 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      It’s so nice to have support on the homefront! Sounds like you’re kicking it off well. Best wishes for ROW80!

      I need to get crackin’ on my ROW80 goals!

    • AmyBeth Inverness 10:50 am on July 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Huzzah for a good start!
      I’m also “shifting things” in order to make better progress in my writing.

  • Rebekah James 1:47 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Kait Nolan, , , , , writing contests', writing goals   

    A Round of Words in 80 Days: Jumping in 

    OK, I am taking a plunge here and joining in on ROW80 an informal writing contest organized by Kait Nolan. It is a self-paced, self-moderated writing goal, and for me is a big step to take on another writing contest. I’m setting what I think are realistic goals for myself – finishing up a “fast” project for a submission I was invited to do by July 15, and polishing up on my larger MS that needs to be turned in by Sept 1.

    This is a big thing for me because – while I adore the people in my writing group, and I have been fortunate enough to cultivate many encouraging, talented, and supportive friends – I hate, hate writing for word count goals alone. I really have come to hate writing contests that insist that you need to meet a specific word goal, or you have failed. Even if you do “win,” it is guaranteed that someone else did three times more than you did, so you still are inadequate. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a little less than 50k and would have lost the most famous of the word goal contests, NaNoWriMo. Dan Brown took 5 years to generate his most recent best seller Lost Symbol. Word count alone does not equate with quality.

    Don’t get me wrong, word goals are important. Goals keep you focused and on schedule. Word counts are a fact of life for a writer. Word count is your time clock. Daily and overall goals tell you if you are keeping up enough to go ahead and go out to dinner with the girls, or if you need to glue your backside to the chair and let your fingers dance instead.

    That being said, word counts alone do not make you a writer. What the word count contests ignore is that word count is only part of the writing process. Whether or not you are a plotter like me, at some point you do need to figure out what is happening and who your characters actually are. For me, these contests encourage sloppy writing habits. The last contest I “won” produced 80k of utter trash. I ended up editing it down to just under 29k just to get it to make sense and I’m still not done slashing at it. Nothing is more frustrating to me than knowing that I spent a month working on something that I knew was rubbish when I was writing it, feeling that I would have to just keep going and fix it later. It has been 2 months of editing to try to fix the mess. (Worse, I spent that time imposing on the good will and support of my husband who was neglected without complaint so I could spit up the trash I am now deleting.)

    The other thing that these contests forget is that you do not live in a writing bubble awaiting the arrival of a Muse who hands you a fully formed story ready for print. (If this has actually happened to you, send me an email because my Muse is definitely not offering that kind of service and I’d like to know where you hired yours.) They play to the romantic notion that writing is something best done in isolation, preferably by feverish starving artists who scratch out their masterpieces in some drafty garret and pen in “the end” as they finally succumb to the death throes of whatever tragically incurable disease they have. The truth is that the most successful writers have real lives. They have day jobs, families, friends, and laundry that all need to be taken care of. If you are going to be a writer on a professional level, you need to find a way to work with your real life on a long term, permanent basis or there will be nothing to write about and no way of sustaining your writing habit. One of my favorite quotes at the moment comes from James McAvoy (speaking about acting but the same principle applies to writing):  “Where it gets difficult is when you get two or three jobs back to back where you’re playing leads and doing 13, 14 hours a day, six days a week, and you suddenly think, hang on a minute, how can you have a life like this? Do I work to live or live to work? How can I work properly with no life to inform the work?”

    With the above rant in mind, I am setting what I hope are reasonable and sustainable goals for me, with enough push to stretch my limits without losing focus. I’ll be checking in on Sunday and Wednesday for this to both update and encourage. If you are interested in playing along visit Kait Nolan’s page:  http://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com/ and follow her instructions. If you meet your goals, we will all cheer for you, and if you need to reassess what you are aiming for, that is OK too. The point is to keep pressing onward while actually living your life. (Because, with respect to Verdi et al, that is what real writers do.)

    • AmyBeth Inverness 10:51 am on July 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think what hurts the most is thinking that we spent a lot of time and energy just to produce “crap”. But this is *not* time wasted! This is a very important part of the writing process. Like you said, the muse is not going to hand us a fully formed story ready for print!

      I like #ROW80 (this is my first time) because it lets writers decide for themselves what their goal should be. NaNoWriMo was earth-shattering for me, because I finally turned out an actual, complete novel. It needs a lot of work to make it marketable, and in the end I might just abandon it, but it was well worth the month I spent cranking it out. It was exactly the start I needed.

      Now I need something different. NaNo worked for me partly because I was able to ask my hubby “Please let me do this for just one short month!” but now I must find something more sustainable. #ROW80 is helping me do that.

      Good luck with your goals! I look forward to checking in with everybody on Sundays and Wednesdays (ooh! That’s Tomorrow!)

      • Rebekah James 10:15 pm on July 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Amy, I certainly hope that you didn’t take anything I said to mean that i think there is no value in these contests, or that I think that everyone who does them writes poorly. *I* produced a very poorly written novel during NaNo, because I was so busy focusing on word counts, that I didn’t go through my normal process of editing the previous day’s work that I normally do when I start “writing” for the day. For me this was a bad idea, but certainly there are a LOT of people who DO well under these circumstances. I am terribly sorry if anything I said offended.

    • alberta ross 6:55 am on July 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I use writing time in that I write – I count words at end so that I can keep vague eye on balance of parts/chapters and know if I’ve waffled too much – combination of all – haven’t tried a word count competion yet tho’ will try NaNo later this year more for the experience than not

      good luck with your goals

    • Rebekah James 7:17 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Good point Lauren “writing” time seems to be a more constructive way for me to measure goals, especially on those days when you slash away while editing and end up with a lower word count than when you started 🙂 I have been doing that for the last few months, and ending up with much better work.

    • frbrown906 7:14 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      good luck with meeting your goals. Having a word count helps me because if I set a time goal, I may just sit there staring at the screen most of that time and still barely get anything written. If I have a specific word goal though, it gives me something to work toward. I know different things work for different people though.

    • Lauren 7:00 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve seen lots of ROW80ers that use time writing instead of word count. And everyone that does it that way, swears by it. I do a combination of the two which seems to work out pretty well. Good luck with your goals!

    • Rebekah James 5:52 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Katherine, there are a lot of people who write really well with that kind of pressure and YAY for you if you are one of those does! I actually really envy you because I *know* that word counts are important, I just get so paralyzed with the whole contest thing.

    • Katherine 3:51 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I *love* word counts. Love, love, love! I’m very goal oriented and they’re the most solid way of marking writing progress. And to my eternal dismay, only 20% of my time as a writer is spent generating a positive word count. The rest is development, editing, rewriting… Such is life! Luckily, RoW80 isn’t necessarily about the word goal. Good luck & wishing you lots of words…er…progress. 😉

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