Writing Early

Sometimes you have to be flexible.

Today my routine has been flipped on its head.  My workout partner has to be at work early this morning, so we’re postponing our swim until this evening (which will interfere with, or at least limit, my time for writing).  Since I’ve been getting up early to work out, I figured I’d leave the alarm set for its usual time and write this morning instead.

There was a small part of me that was concerned that disrupting the routine would disrupt the writing.  I don’t know that the concern was entirely baseless – I only wrote a little bit, filling in a gap I had intentionally left earlier – but I was able to write something, at least.  (I wrote a description of a kitchen, to replace my placeholder of KITCHEN DESCRIPTION HERE.)

I had to put in the placeholder because my brain did not want to picture the kitchen when I originally wrote the scene, and I wanted to finish getting what was in my head down on paper before the library closed.  This can actually work to my benefit from time to time, letting my creativity mull over something in the background while I do other things.

I’m not sure how good my early morning writing turned out (we’ll see when I do the next basic edit) but at least I filled in that gap and kept my writing habit going.



When Pieces Fall Into Place

I love it when pieces of a story fall into place naturally.

Since I’m greatly expanding the story of my first novel, there are several necessary adjustments that have to be made to the original plot.  The big concepts and major moments are still there, but lots of small detail pieces are getting tweaked.  Fortunately, the scene I just wrote helps a few of those pieces settle into a good spot.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m realigning some timeline elements to make things more age-appropriate for the characters and bring their three stories more in line with each other.  Because of this, one of my characters needs a new way to meet her mentor.  She’ll be older now when the woman comes into her life, and less trusting, so the original meeting is not going to work.

Today I wrote a fun scene where the character is introduced to someone who will be a weekly fixture in the girl’s life.  Everyone calls this character Mama, so to keep things simple, I will, too.  Mama is well-connected and a pillar of her own community (slightly seedy as it is), and I’ve decided that she will provide the introduction between our girl and her mentor.  I haven’t worked out all the details, but it both bridges the challenge of trust and resolves another issue of location.

My original plan for this rewrite was to give each of the three girls about 20,000 words, plus an additional 10,000 or so for two additional, less important characters at the end.  Even with some time skips (one of which is about to come up, in two scenes or so), this current story is on track to be at least 25,000 of its own.  It will be interesting to see if the other two girls can carry the same, or if the stories end up a little uneven.

Here’s hoping the continuing tweaks and adjustments can work out as easily as this one!

Outside the Library Window

On Tuesdays, I write at my local library.  I got into the habit during NaNo, and you have to admit, it’s a pretty good choice.  My nearest branch is open until 9pm; unlike a coffee shop, I don’t have to buy anything to sit here; and the chairs are pretty comfortable.

I come to the library after work, and food, and a change of clothes, so I usually arrive around 7pm or so.  The giant windows that I sit near have always looked out into a dark night, holding reflections of the well-lit building behind me.  I had spotted bushes near the window, but not much else.

Tonight is a different story.  With Daylight Saving Time and the arrival of “spring” (it snowed here today, so the scare quotes are legitimate), I now have a view of the scenery outside of the windows.  My preferred table is near a post, so my view is obstructed; still, a view is a view.

Our weather today is miserable and grey, and the aforementioned snow is still dusting everything.  There’s a small lawn leading to an odd little ravine.  Given the brown stalks of cattails and reeds, I suspect it holds water when the weather is warmer.  To my immediate right is a stand of about a dozen trees, all still starkly bare, with complicated trunks rising in clusters of three or four.

Beyond the ravine I can see the corner of a school, and beyond that a house.  If I lean forward to peer around the pillar, the playground of another school is visible.  There are other homes near that, which I can spot from my usual semi-reclined position.

Fortunately for me, the view just above my computer screen is that of chairs and tables inside the library.  The curve of the wall narrows what I can see of the windows, limiting them to indecipherable slices of glass between the black metal frames.

I like looking around when I need inspiration, but distraction in the midst of thought is not my friend.  When it warms up, and there is movement and life outside these windows, I will be thankful that the best views are outside my peripheral vision.

Routine Reset

Last week’s technical challenge threw my writing routine off.  My brain had gotten ahead by several scenes, so I had lots to write, and then the opportunity slipped.  The scenes are still there, but cloudy.

Tonight, in addition to the cloudy scenes, I also had to work late (which meant a later start at the library).  Changes in the writing routine make writing more work, as anyone who’s been in the same boat will tell you.

Instead of giving up, or forcing the words to come, I gave myself a reset.  A few weeks ago I did a rough edit of the first section of the story.  Tonight I went back to where I left off with that, and did another rough edit.  It got my brain back in the story, fixed a few wording issues, and filled my writing time.

Here’s hoping I can get back on track and write a scene (or two!) next week!

World Building Details

When you write fantasy, you run into all kinds of details that require decisions and creativity.

In expanding the story that I’m currently working on, I’ve had to think of a variety of details that were glossed over in the first incarnation.  I changed where the girl was being kept, from an empty warehouse into a laundry.  That meant establishing the routine of the laundry, the layout, the technology (however primitive), and so on.

Then I had to find a way for her to get clothes once she escaped.

Now I’m working on currency.  There are many considerations with currency, from what it’s called to how it’s subdivided, how it’s used to who generally carries what.  If I use a real form of currency (whether or not it’s still in use), I add baggage and layers to the story that I might not want.  It’s been a bit more involved than I expected, but I think I have it figured out.

I’m sure there are more details that will end up posing similar challenges – that’s part of being a writer.

(On a side note, my tablet has quit talking to its external keyboard, and typing at my usual pace is very frustrating on a touch screen keyboard. There will be no story efforts tonight!)

Image Search

One of my biggest challenges as a writer is describing people.

As I’ve worked to improve my writing, and had other people read my stuff, that’s one thing that has come up several times.  My visual friends – the ones who process the world in images – all complain that they don’t know what my characters look like.  Sure, I might mention green eyes or that someone is tall, but I never give enough description to create a complete image in their head.

This is because I am not a visual person.  When I’m reading and someone is describing a person, or a place, or even an item in great detail, I don’t get an image in my head.  I hear the description mentally, as if someone were reading an audiobook in my mind, but words don’t build pictures for me.

(Related but off-topic: my memories are more likely to be sounds, too.  I can hear my mom’s voice in my mind way better than I can picture her.)

In order to help myself with this challenge of describing characters, I’ve started making use of the internet.  By searching things like “black woman with braids” and “brown hair freckles kid” I’ve been able to find pictures of random, real people that look close enough to my characters that I can use them as reference.  I can describe things if I can see them, and now I can see my characters!

I had to pause in tonight’s writing for an image search.  Three kids have just appeared in the life of my main character, and they’ll be around long enough that my readers will want to know what they look like.  I already know how they act and sound; now I can make sure my friends have something to picture, too, as they read the story.

Without a Word

I’m trying something unusual with the current story I’m working on.

The character that I’m following right now is a little girl with a rough childhood.  She’s smart and tough, but has to be independent at a young age.   (Her mother sold her as an infant, and she was raised at a laundry that serves as a front for human trafficking.  She escapes and lives alone as a street urchin for a while before joining up with several other children.)

While she has the ability to talk, and certainly does so throughout her life, I’ve decided that she isn’t going to speak in the first scenes in which we encounter her.  She communicates just fine, with looks and nods, and no one questions her lack of words.  It’s made me think more about the dialogue around her, and how to describe her responses.

It didn’t start out as something intentional, but I noticed it after the first few scenes and decided to see if I could keep it going.  It’s worked so far, and I should now be at a section where she’ll need to say something.  The next chunk of story that I have planned is when she first encounters the group of kids she joins, and I have a great line in mind for the first time we hear her speak.

She’ll always be a character that listens and watches first and speaks only when necessary, and I think this is a great way to establish that personality trait with the readers (even if they may not realize that it’s been done intentionally).

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