Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of another week in what feels like the longest Twilight Zone episode ever.

Apparently whoever is authoring this episode thought that we were getting complacent and the stakes needed to be upped a bit.  As if those earlier murder hornets weren’t enough.  Now we have skyrocketing infections plus a new strain of H1N1 on the horizon.  A perfect time for my dentist appointment on Monday.

Nothing but good times ahead.

For now, we’re kicking off a holiday weekend here–celebrating our breakup with Mother England.  I’m sure everyone will wear their masks, wash their hands, and observe appropriate social distancing as the celebrate.

Oh, who am I kidding.

Well, I at least will do all three as I continue to shelter-in-place here in the Writing Castle, which now has a (mostly) working sprinkler system but is still lacking a repaired retaining wall.

To take my mind off reality and give myself something to do other than worry that one of the idiots shooting off illegal fireworks will set my hillside on fire, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Dominant Narrative

A few Wednesdays ago I posted that I was planning to attend a virtual writing convention.  It was a plan that, sadly, went awry, due in large part to my writing the reminder about the class down on my calendar in the wrong month.  I realized my mistake today, one day after the conference had concluded.

Quel dommage!

Thank goodness I had forgotten to register as well!  On the whole, I wasn’t too terribly devastated. A four-day virtual conference was always going to be a bit of a stretch for my attention span.  Though I was sorry to miss the Prizes! Prizes! Prizes!

Lucky for me, that wasn’t the only virtual learning event on my calendar.  I happily spent a portion of this past Friday and Saturday at another, shorter virtual conference and came away with more than I expected for my $25 fee (though, sadly, without prizes).

The event got off to a bit of a slow start, with the kind of Zoom-technical-difficulties that have become commonplace in our Age of Coronavirus, but once everything was straightened out we were up and running.  First up was a talk by LaQuette entitled “An Intimate Conversation about Representation and Authenticity in Fiction”  I wish I had taken notes, since I’ve already forgotten almost all that I heard (fortunately, I can listen to a replay of the session later), but she was definitely interesting, engaging, and someone I’d like to hear (and read) more from.  Coincidentally, she’s teaching a short course that I’ve enrolled in, which starts in . . . just a few hours. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Summer already?  How did that happen?

I don’t know about you, but time just seems to be slipping away for me.  Fortunately, despite my tenuous grasp on time, progress has been made on a few fronts this week.

I finally found someone to help repair my ailing sprinkler system.  It’s still not fully functional, but that broken valve that resulted in a water-gusher has been taken care of.  Even better, my neighbor finally hired someone to replace the retaining wall and fence that separates our yards so now his yard will stop sliding into mine and privacy has been restored.  All I had to do was write a check for my half.

Better yet, I was able to hire that same repairman to fix a small retaining wall on the other side of my property and to replace some decaying house-trim.  By this time next week, that will mean several of the major problems that had been on the “must take care of these” list for quite some time will finally be taken care of.  Next up: time to replace the disintegrating back deck.  Guess that means I’ll be taking a socially distant trip to the lumberyard this weekend to place an order for the necessary supplies.  Good times!

For now, however, I’m going to enjoy my first day off work in quite some time.  I’ll be spending at least part of the day at an online writing workshop.  It’s a small $25 test-drive to see just how well a virtual writing workshop can work, before I register for the longer conference that I mentioned a while back.  I’m sure the workshop will leave me bursting with creativity and ready to attack today’s writing prompt and random words.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Creativity Challenged

In our new viral-normal, it can sometimes be challenging to give free reign to creativity.  I have found myself with much more free time in recent months (thanks to no work commute), but have little to show for it in terms of words on the page (though I did make 2 dozen face-masks and a quilt).

In her Getting Unstuck post last week, Kay gave some great suggestions for how to keep your story going when you’ve hit a wall, but what if the problem is not that you’ve reached a sticking point in your story, but that you’re stuck in reality.

Conveniently, I ran across a couple of posts in my news feed, as well as a list from work, that may be helpful.

First is a post from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University entitled Why You Can’t Concentrate Right Now. In a nutshell (you can read the article for the details) concentration can be challenging for folks right now because our brains are busy keeping an eye out for threats and maintaining a level of hyper alertness. If your brain is busy managing the Bodily Intruder Alert Command Center, it makes sense that there may be little bandwidth left over for creative pursuits.  So, I take that to mean that my lack of creativity is not because I’m lazy or that I’m too busy perfecting my pastry-making skills, but because my brain is busy making contingency plans to address potential death and economic collapse.

Makes sense to me. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Can you believe that 2020 is almost half over already?  I can hardly believe that another week is over already.  I guess it’s a good thing that I’m at home instead of being out and about.  The stores are probably already stocking up on Halloween costumes and candy, and nobody wants to see that.

My house has apparently gotten tired of having me around and seems to be plotting against me.  First it was the dishwasher.  Then the sprinkler system.  The refrigerator has been making an odd moaning noise that either means one of the belts is wearing out or I accidentally closed a ghost in there with the frozen foods.  Today the automatic garage door decided to get into the act, making it’s own odd noise that, if memory serves me correctly, means that the main spring is about to go at any minute.  Or maybe the garage was just annoyed that I left the house to buy groceries today.  Hard to tell.

I fixed the dishwasher–thanks to the help of a couple of YouTube videos–and I think I’ve finally found someone to come and take care of the multiple issues with the sprinkler system.  Now I just need to hear back from the garage door maintenance folks and all (except my bank account) should be on the road to recovery.  I’m ignoring the refrigerator noise for now and keeping my fingers crossed.

To take my mind of my plotting house, I think I’ll make a nice root beer float (wouldn’t want that ice cream to go to waste if the refrigerator goes out) and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try after work today.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your if your character takes up a new cause?

Feel free to interpret the “What” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:

habit          absorb         airship         endless

frisky         eraser           weird           hideaway

bouncy      bludgeon     groaning     future

tooth         elegant        vibrator        crab

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Elizabeth: Always Something to Learn

My daily news feed is full of all kinds of random information and, if it’s a Tuesday, more than a few #BadJokes.  One of the items that caught my attention today was a post about the upcoming 2020 RSJ Virtual Romance Book Con.  Normally I would have just skipped past the link, but I must have had training on the mind, thanks to Jeanne’s post yesterday about her takeaways from a recent deep POV class.

For those who are unfamiliar with RSJ, it stands for “Romance Slam Jam.”  According to their website,

“Our book lover events celebrate diversity in publishing with a focus on romance and women’s fiction and the readers who love them.”

The upcoming virtual event takes place June 24-28th (from the comfort of your own living room) and unlike other book related events, this one includes both readers and writers. There seem to be a number of interesting workshops planned including: Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Good heavens, I almost forgot it was Friday.

In my defense, I’ve been busily reading, working my way through the Ngaio Marsh mysteries (staring Inspector Roderick Alleyn).  One finally made its way to the top of my ToBeRead pile last week and once I finished it I dug around and found two more volumes further down the stack waiting to be read.   After that, it was (virtually) off to the local library for the eBook versions they had available.

Set in England and New Zealand in the 1940s, the stories are fairly short and the equivalent of fictional popcorn:  It’s hard to stop after just one.  I think I’m on about book sixteen and there look to be at least a dozen more to go.  I may lose interest before long, but for now they are distracting and entertaining.  Just what I’ve needed.

Of course there are many other things I should be doing, like writing or finishing an assignment due in about 24-hours for a class that I am taking, but for now I’m reading.

Once I’ve finished this current story (and maybe my homework), I’ll be giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: From To Do to Done

After weeks of sheltering-at-home (84 days, but who’s counting), working remotely has taken on a relatively normal work-like feel.  Although I don’t have a broad expanse of industrial desk to spread my work things out on, an ergonomically adjustable chair to sit in, or a lakeside view to gaze out upon, I have the basic necessities:  a computer, a box of files and reference books, a ledger-sized calendar, and on-demand access to a kitchen with all the coffee I can drink (which is a lot).

The calendar spent the first few weeks . .  okay, months . . . in the box with the files and reference books, but when I started losing track of days and booting up the work computer on weekends, I decided it was time to pull out the calendar and put it back to use.

Around the same time, I started rummaging around in the box of files and reference books and pulled out a file folder that had all of the random scraps of paper, notes, and post-its that I had packed up from my desk before leaving back in early March, along with pages from notebooks that (theoretically) had something on them that I either needed to do or to remember.

I figured I should do something with those too.  The shredder was my first thought, but it was full. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday.  Has it only been a week since last Friday?  It seems like it has been a lifetime.  To say we are living in interesting times would be a massive understatement.

Though there is a focus on what is going on in the broader society, our own personal lives need attention too.  There are meals to cook, dishes to wash, laundry to fold, not to mention a that day job that seems to want eight hours of focused productive time each day.  Somewhere in there is worry about whether or not it is safe to be going out and about again, and conjecture regarding what “normal” life will look like in the coming months.  And don’t get me started about the wasp and mosquito who have taken up residence in my living room!

Pandemic-wise, things are starting to loosen up around here, though it sounds as though I and my co-workers will be working remotely for much of the summer.  Funny, when I used to envy those who were able to work remotely all the time, this isn’t quite what I had expected.

My cat, at least, is thrilled with the my working from home.  He is free to wander in and out of the house all day long and get “on demand” attention.  I’m still wishing I had paid for faster internet.  While it was amusing at first to attend virtual video meetings where the video and the audio were out-of-sync, it has long since lost its charm.  Ah well, in the grand scheme of things, I’m lucky and I know it.

This past week I managed to fix my dishwasher, thanks to assistance from several random people via YouTube videos.  With that success under my belt, I’m thinking of tackling the leaking sprinkler system next.   Or maybe I’ll just read.  What I definitely plan to do is give today’s writing prompt and random words a try after work today.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Living the Conflict Box

“May you live in interesting times.”  That’s a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it, but there is no doubt that now we are indeed living in interesting times.  And they don’t look likely to take a turn toward the ‘boring’ any time soon.  While watching the news this morning, I couldn’t help but feel that we’re all trapped in some author’s crazy story or maybe a long-running Twilight Zone episode.

In storytelling, creating a strong central conflict, and backing that up with escalation along the way, is how you get a compelling story.  That can be a real challenge and many first drafts are lacking in that aspect.  To establish strong conflict, your characters need clearly defined goals that are in opposition to each other, backed up with believable motivations, and tried by challenges throughout the story.

One of the things we were taught in the McDaniel program (that I have to re-learn every time I start a new story) was the conflict box.  It’s a great way to really get clear on what your characters want and what each of them is doing to thwart the other during the course of the story.  Whether your characters battle it out to a “winner takes all” conclusion or join forces mid-stream to tackle a bigger conflict, they need to have goals.

A plan doesn’t hurt either. Continue reading