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

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Hope today’s post finds you happy and well.

I’m currently watching the news and listening to the plans for the gradual re-opening of my local area.  Though I’m not particularly eager to be in close contact with other individuals, I do have a longing to aimlessly brows the aisles of the local bookstore or the fabric store.  For now, the online library app will have to do.

Regardless of what happens next week, I’ll be doing Ye Olde Day Jobbe from my house for months to come (since office buildings are some of the last places to re-open) and dutifully wearing my mask whenever I leave the house.  I’m surprised how quickly it has become second nature to slip on a mask as I pick up my keys and purse.

Since heading out to paint the town is not on the agenda any time soon, I think I’ll pour myself and refreshing adult beverage and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try after work today.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Break-Even Point

I’ve recently been reading my way through my TBR pile.  I seem to have landed somewhere in the 1950s (give or take a few years) and have been alternating between English mysteries and “strong independent woman” set-pieces.  Portable typewriters have featured prominently in many of the stories and fledgling writers have abounded.  There was at least one family saved from penury by an enterprising heroine who knocked out a novel in no time at all and received a nice advance check just in the nick of time.

Even my non-fiction reading has included authors and references to advances, though in one case it was an author who had missed a deadline and had to return an advance check- ouch!

Anyway, all of this has gotten me thinking about advances and book sales and led me eventually to the question:  Just how many books do you need to sell to earn out an advance?  Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy “It’s Almost the Weekend” day.

For those in the United States, this is is a holiday-weekend.  Monday is Memorial Day–a day for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  It is also typically the unofficial kick-off of summer, although this year there will be nothing typical about it.

While the grocery stores are sporting plenty of meat for grilling and a variety of red, white, and blue items for that patriotic feel, a pandemic is hardly the time for big holiday gatherings.   My state is pretty much still in time-out, although we are moving into the curb-side phase of things.

My neighbors apparently got a head start on the “meat grilling” portion of the holiday program this evening–either that or their house was on fire.  Judging from the smell of lighter fluid wafting across the street, I’m going with the grilling answer.  I won’t be doing any grilling of my own, and not just because I don’t own a grill.  I have stocked up on spinach salad fixings, fresh fruit, and some refreshing adult beverages, all in an attempt to slow the impact of being stuck at home and away from the gym for more than two months now (online workouts can only help so much).

Growing up, holidays always seemed to require jello salad–often with some kind of unidentifiable fruit suspended in the jiggly mess and covered in cool-whip or some other nutritionally vacant substance–but there will be no jello salad for me.   I’m thinking that’s probably a “life-extending” decision.  I can’t guarantee that there won’t be donuts though.  Someone has to help keep the local bakery in business.  It’s my civic duty. 🙂

Before I succumb to a sugar high or imbibe a refreshing adult beverage, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Choosing a Path

Once upon a time, half-a-dozen years ago (give or take), writing moved up to the top of my To Do list.   I had just made it through some major life changes and decided it was time to focus more on “want to” and less on “should.”

Though I had been writing all my life, in one form or another, I thought getting some solid foundational knowledge would be a good idea, so I headed off to grad school and studied craft-first from the literature perspective (where they mocked genre fiction) and then from the more helpful romance-writing perspective (where there was no mocking).

With that knowledge under my belt and the 8Lady network in place, I joined the Romance Writers of America and began seriously working on book #1, a Regency Romance.  Publication was a far off-crap shoot of a goal, but after attending my first RWA conference I had what felt like a more achievable goal in my sights:  finish the book and submit it to the RWA Golden Heart contest.   Finaling (or winning) would have been the icing on the cake, but finishing the book and submitting it seemed a more realistic goal since, what happened after submission would be pretty much outside of my control.

I wrote and attended conferences and worked on my craft.  In due course, I finished that first book and submitted it, along with a second book, and later a third.  None of the entries made it to the final round, but the the scores they received convinced me that I wasn’t completely wasting my time.  (I found it interesting that, for all three books, the judges either really liked them or really hated them; there were no “middle” scores.)  There were also some other local contest finals along the way, several with agent requests for a “full” or a “partial,” but nothing quite clicked.

Then an unfortunate thing happened. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday.  It is Friday, isn’t it?

To be honest, I’ve had my days mixed up all week, though that isn’t really such an unusual occurrence these days.  The only day I’m completely sure of is Wednesday, since that’s when the garbage trucks rumble through the neighborhood, grinding and clanking (and obsessionally thumping).

I don’t know about you, but my weeks at home have been filled with more seminars, webinars, phone calls, and Zoom meetings than I would have though possible.  Almost every email I get is either someone offering to teach me something or sell me something.  Ah well, at least it is proof that there are actually people out there somewhere.  As a plus, I’ve learned all kinds of new things–all of it for free!

In our work meetings, very few coworkers have been bold enough to turn on their cameras so we can see them when they talk.  Almost two months with no haircuts or coloring, plus no visits to the gym coupled with “working in comfortable clothes” has left many unwilling to make themselves visible once again.  I’m planning to brave the camera in my morning staff meeting, even if it means I will have to change out of pajamas and wear real clothes.  We’ll see how that goes.

Once my work day is done and I’ve gotten over the trauma of turning on the camera, I think I’ll reward myself with and adult beverage and then give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me (in either or both)? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Musing on Story

Now that we’ve been “sheltering at home”  for almost two months now, things are starting to settle into something that may not be normal, but is a little more organized.  The first few weeks at home were a bit of a free-for-all: figuring out how to work remotely; being reassigned to help on critical projects; wondering about who was going to get sick and when; being unusually concerned about the status of the grocery store shelves.

Between trying to keep my normal work tasks on track during the days and my special project tasks on track nights and weekends, there wasn’t a lot of spare time for reading or creativity for the first month or so.  Things eventually settled down, as they generally do, and, with a bit of organization, time for non-work pursuits became available.

Sadly, my creative mind did not seem to become available at the same time.  Fortunately, I had many other things to do while the Girls in the Basement binged-watched the news and hogged all the hand-sanitizer.

First, it was mask making (convenient, since they’re now mandatory here).  Then, it was making a quilt out of the scraps of material left over after said mask making.  Jigsaw puzzling would have come next, but apparently everyone sheltering at home discovered the joys of jigsaw puzzles all at once, so there were no new puzzles to be had.  I tried an online puzzle, but it just wasn’t the same thing. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of another week.  Or is it the beginning.  It’s getting harder and harder to tell.

I actually got to leave the house this week for something other than my weekly trip to the grocery store, which I’ve been treating like a game show.  Can I get in, get what I need, and get out this week faster than I did last week?

Wednesday included a trip to my actual office.  I needed some books and files that I hadn’t initially brought when we all were sent home and thought it was just going to be a temporary thing.  I’d forgotten what I nice view my office window provided (though all of those people out there without masks, what were they thinking?).

It was a little weird being the only one in my part of the building, not to mention strange to have to have my temperature taken before I could get to the elevators, but I appreciate the care they are taking.  I was also able to pickup my allotment of masks, so now I have a backup stash.  My computer apparently appreciated being attached to the network after such a long time; it took almost two hours for it to do all of the updating it needed to do (which was another reason I was in the office).  I was on conference calls most of that time, so it wasn’t too much of a problem.  I should have made a list of what I needed before I left home though.  I managed to forget one of the main things I stopped in to get.  In my defense, I got distracted just as I went to pick it up  by the package of batteries in my drawer that had gone on an acid-trip in my absence.  I seem to have that effect on batteries these days.

Anyway, now that I’m back home–having survived the crazy drivers on the road who seem to consider both speed limits and turn signals to be for “other people”–I’m ready to get back to sheltering in place.  Seems like a good time to pick up a favorite book or maybe pop a good romcom caper movie into the DVD player.  Before that though I think I’ll see what I can to with today’s writing prompt and random words.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Doing Things, Making Stuff

These past few months have been interesting, to say the least.  What started out as a minor adjustment (working from home instead of the office) turned into an anxiety-inducing pandemic (masks, social distancing, stay-at-home orders), and now feels like a weird kind of new normal.

In the beginning–ignoring the worry part–it wasn’t too bad.  No more commuting.  I could work in my pajamas all day and no one would know (not that I did).  And suddenly my neighborhood actually seemed to be populated with people (keeping their distance, of course).  Sure, I had to cut my own hair periodically and Amazon 2-day shipping turned into 2-week shipping for the items that were actually in stock, but the local bakery and Chinese restaurant remained open for takeaway orders, so I could continue to get treats while feeling good about helping a small business stay in business. Continue reading