Wednesday, January 31, 2018

ROW80 #7: Perseverance furthers!

Using Randy Ingermanson's SNOWFLAKE method is taking me down a different path to writing productivity. What I've learned so far -- it's hard to summarize a story when:
  • I don't know the characters very well.
  • I don't know the ending.
  • I haven't figured out the plot points (act 1, 2, etc.).
The beauty of his method, though, is as I discover (and decide on) these elements, Randy suggests going back and revising. This way, the basic story premise takes shape out of the work I'm doing. So I feel pretty good about that. At least until . . . 

I printed out the working blurb for writing group that meets Thursday to read. Only then did I discover (oh, horrors), I don't like the ending. It's not a happy ending. And I realize that a major plank is missing from the story -- the relationship between primary characters (yes, I'm going for somewhat of a romance), and the source of the opposition (a complete blank beyond a generic descriptor). 

So Thursday's face-to-face could be a disaster. But I'm still going in to share that blurb and take any hits. Meanwhile, I'm working hard and trying to be reflective as well as reactive. 

Here's Weds progress on goals set for Sunday (done, progress, not yet):

1. TAPESTRY PROJECT: By Weds wrote 2,000 words on story blurb using  Randy Ingermanson's SNOWFLAKE.  By SUNDAY: May have feedback on story premise from 3 sources.

2. DECLUTTER. Had over 300 e-mails. Now down to about 100. Still much reading to do.

3. Write a POEM this week. Done. See "On Swimming in a Cenote" on Writing Blog!

4. Develop writing prompts using 750words that build conflict into that classic 3-stage story structure. Continue to write 750 words a day/4 days a week. Making progress. Wrote M (214 words) and Weds (825 words), so 2 out of 3 days so far.

5. Decide whether to rejoin IWW's NOVEL group. Still unsure. 

6, BLOGGING. Draft IWSG post due February 7 question - What do you love about the genre you write in most often? Got a running start, but may write about the SNOWFLAKE process instead. 

And the rest of the story: We've got three weeks left here in wonderful, tranquil Merida. Hubby spent 2 hours at dentist today so I finally got a little hand sewing done. Company arrives on Friday. My time for writing just might shrink.

Feeling a little sad I can't play on WEDS WIPpet with a new scene, but my main preoccupation this week: Is my current story of interest to readers? Can I find that happy ending that's been pretty elusive in the past?

May the rest of the last week of January go well for you! Visit our FACEBOOK group or on our WEBSITE to check in with other ROW80 writers!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

ROW80 #6: Back to basics

This week has been hectic with company and touring (all lovely), but dismal progress with the writing. In fact, I read nothing at this week's writing group here in Merida, though I enjoyed very much what others read.

I want to improve my writing productivity, but I keep working in circles on this Tapestry project, changing characters, setting, and scenes. An article by David Holcomb, "The Short Feedback Loop," in this week's e-mail from StoryFix, talks about the importance of feedback -- even at  the premise stage.  And I'm back to work.

GOALS for the coming week:

1. TAPESTRY PROJECT: Use Randy Ingermanson's SNOWFLAKE process to start over (with a new file) on my Tapestry story and share PREMISE with Thursday's writing group. It's not about rescuing usable parts. It's about finding the story that works for me – and will intrigue my audience.

2. CATCH UP with e-mails and decluttering.

3. Write a POEM this week.

4. Develop writing prompts using 750words that build conflict into that classic 3-stage story structure. Continue to write 750 words a day/4 days a week.

5. Decide whether to rejoin IWW's NOVEL group.

6, Draft IWSG post due February 7 question - What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

So in the last 7 days, we visited 2 Mayan ruins, a stunning natural preserve for thousands of flamingos, and several hours of walking around Merida with out-of-town company. I even cooked 3x (not an easy task as the water is not trustworthy). I did write 4/7 times on with 3 entries over 750 words, but only added a measly 678 words to my Tapestry project. Did read & comment for 6 ROW80 writers. Note: While I always appreciate when others comment on my posts, I don't always respond here. And, I didn't write any poetry, but one is simmering.

I honestly don't know why I'm optimistic about the coming week. Maybe because I have a plan! The company is gone. My morning time of writing has returned! 

Flamingos at Celestun Preserve (January 2018)
Visit our FACEBOOK group or on our WEBSITE to check in with other ROW80 writers!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

ROW80 #5: Taking the Plunge

I know it's Thursday and Wednesday is check-in day for ROW80. I'm late one day. Yet, despite few words, I'm feeling pretty good about progress so far on this week's goals:

1. GOAL: Write 1,000 words on Tapestry project. Write 1 poem. UPDATE: Wrote 2 out of 3 days. Total: 180 new words. No poetry yet.
2. GOAL: Post ROW80 x2 and read x6. UPDATE: Posted Weds late (that's today). Read 6x.

So, why do I feel pretty darn good this morning?

Yesterday, we visited Chichen Itza, a Mayan World Heritage site about an hour and a half away from Merida. Our guide was knowledgeable and kind, but much had changed in the 25 years or so since we were last here, especially considering what the archaeologists have discovered. So, we wandered until we could walk no more, amazed by the beauty of this site, despite the fact that millions (yes, about two million) tourists visit each year.

This smaller building to the east of the main site, is called the Church, because it's right next to what has been dubbed the Nunnery.

We could translate very few of the symbols that cover this building; the guide explained some 30K people lived in this religious center, roughly 1100 years ago. 

Wikipedia says that the name of Chichen Itza means 'at the mouth of the well of the Itza people'. We did not visit the 'well' that's part of this site, but our guide said we would stop at a smaller cenote (well) on the way back to Merida. These sacred cenotes are an important part of Mayan religious rituals and, as a source of water, of value to the whole complex.

So our small group of 8 people stopped at the X-cajum cenote. Several had brought bathing suits, but Allen and I were the only ones to swim there. We hiked down a little over a few hundred feet on a beautiful winding staircase to the cenote. Allen swam under a waterfall, while I simply floated for a few minutes in the black water in the center of the cenote, and felt aware of the prayers and sacrifices once made here.

View from the top of the X-cajum Cenote (January 2018)
Read more about Chichen Itza in Wikipedia HERE.

I'm still optimistic about reaching this week's goals. Let's see how other ROW80 writers are doing so far by checking in with our FACEBOOK group or on our WEBSITE .

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

ROW80 #4: Back on Track

Happy to check in for this week's A Round of Words in 80 Days. Finally, I'm settling into a routine, that is up about 6 in the morning with a good 2 hours on writing, and can report real progress this week.

1. Write 1,000 words on Tapestry project. Wrote 5 out of 7 days. Total: 3,700 new words.
2. Write 1 poem this week. Not yet.
3. ROW80 posted Weds (Weds WIPpet) & Sun Read x8.
4. Other writing: Met w/writers' group here in Merida, worked on reading at Auntie's Bookstore Feb 23, Spokane; and actually drew a little.

The writing still feels exploratory. I'm not getting as much dramatic intensity as I'd like . . . at least, not yet. But, the characters are clearer, as is the plot line. And I'm closer to sensing the inciting incident and mapping out the antagonists. At last the relationship is clearer, art appraiser Sandra has fallen in love with Cal McDonnell, construction worker! 

Meanwhile, back at la casa here in Merida, friends have arrived from Philadelphia. We walked 5 miles yesterday, and my feet may never recover. As we made our way home, a driver of one of those cute flower-festooned carriages asked us in a mix of Spanish and English, if we needed a horse taxi home. I was too tired to even take a picture, but here are three from our visit yesterday to a popular art museum here in Merida.

Traditional woman's dress, Yucatan, Mexico

Jaguars guarding the bathroom (a display)

Visions of Frida
Yes, I read a poem about Frida Kahlo to the writer's group on Thursday this week (and posted it on my writing blog here if you want to read it). I can read my fiction easily, but poetry? Something about poetry digs deep and sometimes is very difficult to read aloud. Is this true for you?

And that's it for Sunday. Have a good week ahead. May your writing go well. If you feel so inclined, hop over to our FACEBOOK group or on our WEBSITE to find out what other ROW80 writers are up to this week.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

ROW80 #3: The Plot Thickens . . .

How could it be Wednesday already? Here's a quick check-in for progress so far
for A Round of Words in 80 Days. I can only post the goals for this week, as I've made absolutely no progress on writing or reading since Sunday last, other than minor editing and more work on developing the theme and character back stories. So, by Sunday, I hope to:

1. Write 1,000 words on Tapestry project.
2. Write 1 poem this week.
3. Read x6 ROW80, IWSG, Weds WIPpet.
4. Post snippet from current project weekly to Weds WIPpet. Done! See below.

If you've checked out WIPpet Wednesday, you know this online challenge, hosted kindly by Emily Wrayburn, asks us to post a 'snippet' from our current writing, using some sort of formula derived from today's date. Following, you'll find 17 lines (for January 17), in rough draft form. 

Background: Sandra Robertson, an art appraiser, has driven down from Edinburgh, Scotland, to investigate a Narwhal Cup for her employer.
Mrs. Haversham rose and held her hand out for the portfolio. “I'd rather not discuss the details, at least for now.” She paused. “Thank you for coming today, Miss Robertson. I will be happy to learn of your evaluation of the cup. When you have your report ready, please call me.”

I felt as if I were being dismissed. But that was all right. If traffic held, I should be home by nightfall, certainly early enough to prepare my pictures for a slide show for the morning briefing with Mr. Ferguson. That is, if Tom didn't come over tonight to pick up what he called “his personal effects.” I think he should have used his key to pick up what he wanted. What could I possibly say to him that hadn't been said before? 

Actually, I wanted to toss his things out the third story window into the courtyard below, right next to the Writer's Museum. No doubt that would have horrified the tourists who clumped through the close in small straggling groups on the hour. But not as much as it would have horrified Tom.

The cell phone rang through with a voice mail, just as I was circling the block, seeking that elusive parking spot. I glanced at the notification to see Tom's name.

And that's it for Wednesday. Have a good week ahead. May your writing go well. If you feel so inclined, hop over to our FACEBOOK group or on our WEBSITE.

Distraction #1: Merida Central Plaza

Monday, January 15, 2018

ROW80 #2: Mixing the known with the unknown

Got distracted last night, so it's very early now on Monday morning for that Weds check-in for A Round of Words in 80 Days. To report progress on my goals for January (very simplified while we are here in Mexico):

1. Write 2,500 words/week on Tapestry project. So far, 1,307 (3 days).
2. Write 2 poems a week. Wrote "Visiting Cafe de Frida."
3. Read x6 ROW80, IWSG, Weds WIPpet. So far, read 14.
4. Post snippet from current project weekly to Weds WIPpet. Posted Weds.

Our new home is very comfortable in that disconcerting way of being both familiar and new as we become acclimated to Mexican culture. I have several nooks for writing that work well late at night or early in the morning.

Last Thursday, I met with an expat writers' group that meets weekly at the Merida English Library, though I may not be able to attend every week (outside company). Here, we read our work aloud and then comment. No paper handouts! I don't have a printer here, which makes critiques a little more difficult, at least for me but we do listen attentively!

My biggest writing challenge this week has been exploring that balance between story and theme. Still not sure I have a theme that resonates for me in this story . . . which makes developing the plot a little difficult. So far, character studies and little scenes are the result. I know the inciting incident, the setting (sort of), and the protag (heroine), but not the antag or the protag's hero. Most likely, my story is a quest. The external quest is easy to plot out. I'm less sure of the internal quest.

Another highlight this week was a visit to the Cafe de Frida, a homage to Frida Kahlo. Imagine having lunch or coffee here:

Cafe de Frida, Merida
Have a good writing/reading week. Check out what ROW80 writers are up to in 2018, click on over to our FACEBOOK group or on our WEBSITE.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

ROW80 #1: Checking in with a Cup

I'm just settling in to a new home, a new routine of writing, and a new writing project. So, it seems appropriate for this first post for A Round of Words in 80 Day (ROW80), to also post a snippet from my current project, In the Shadow of a Tapestry, for WIPpet Wednesday. Thank you, Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, for posting your snippet, also rough draft (and also historical fiction).

NOTE: The weekly WIPpet Wednesday is hosted by Emily Wrayburn and asks us to use some sort of formula derived from today's date. Following, you'll find 10 lines (for January 10), in rough draft form. 

The first time I held the Narwhal Cup, I almost dropped it. Mrs. Haversham had unwrapped the cup from packing materials and placed it on the large oak table in her drawing room. I had taken the usual precautions. I was wearing gloves. I held it with both hands. 

The outer face of the carefully carved bone cup was covered with sea-unicorns floating on an ocean of stylized waves, surrounded by finely lined circular symbols. 

I couldn't help but remember all the stories about how such a cup was supposed to prevent poisoning. Except for the Duc du Lac, the Monseigneur Claussier, and now, perhaps, the very recently deceased Mr. Haversham. 

That's when the cup wobbled and threatened to fall right out of my grasp. Or maybe it was the fourth cup of coffee I had grabbed to keep me alert on the three hour drive south from Edinburgh.

UPDATE ON ROW80 GOALS: Since we are in Merida, Mexico, for the next seven weeks, my only goal is to work on this latest project x5/week. So far, so good.

To read what other ROW80 writers are up to in 2018, click on over  to our FACEBOOK group or on our WEBSITE.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018: Beginning again . . .

I wasn't quite sure how to check in to A Round of Words in 80 Days this time. Perhaps we're always 'between' this moment and the next.

I've just finished a major project by publishing (hooray!) Rivers of Stone in December. In 6 days, we leave for nearly a two-month stay in Merida, Mexico, truly a tropical respite, and I'm not quite sure what to write next.

So, 2018 is looking a little murky at the moment. I want to shake my head and make a list, but I also want to stay open to possibility.

Usually I set up specific goals by the month, track progress daily with journal notes, and assess as I go. Something happened in late November, though, perhaps in talking with my daughter as she organizes her busy life and attempts to balance that sometimes overwhelming triad of work, family, self. I recast what I want to do as "Big Picture Goals" and put these in chart form (who doesn't love a check-it-off-chart?).
I still like the scope and flexibility of these goals, so this chart captures my 2018 goals. What's next? Each month, I add a column to the right that spells out those action steps we love. And I keep a running journal to set priorities of the day, rough notes about research, progress, unanswered questions, etc.

Something new: And for the second time, my writing friends gathered for coffee, and we each set our 2018 goals together. These goals were rather more specific than above. We recognize the value of keeping a short list, and we are all willing to change. Mine are simply:

  1. Finish and publish Mothers Don't Die in 2018.
  2. Draft story ideas/scenes for In the Shadow of a Tapestry Jan/Feb.
  3. Work on memoir (scan pictures, write and research).
Sandy, Sue, and me (December 2017)
Happy New Year to all. Happy writing and reading to all. Doubt not! Persevere!