Michaeline: One More Thing You Need To Start a Story

A little girl offering root beer syrup to a young woman in black.

Older and wiser, but still obsessed with root beer. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

If you read Saturday’s blog post, you already know three elements you need to get your story started: a character, a setting/situation and finally, another character to play against.

The final thing you need to get the ball rolling is an inciting incident. You need the spark that sets the whole ball of wax on fire, and starts it rolling toward the finish line.

Yesterday, I talked about Rachel, who is producing illegal root beer on a spaceship. She is up against Ms. Pratchett, an atmosphere engineer who is disturbed by the sudden increase of carbon dioxide in the air – and she isn’t very fond of exploding bottles of semi-alcoholic liquid in the cabin next door. Plus, she hates the smell of root beer. It reminds her of an old Chinese remedy her mother used to force down her when she was under the weather.

In this case, the inciting incident is pretty easy to find. In fact, if you put your mind to it, I bet you could think of several. The first one I thought of was having the carbon dioxide detector go off in the middle of the night, awakening both Rachel, the fussy Ms. Pratchett, and the entire ship.

But hold on a minute! The first idea MIGHT be the best idea, but then again, it might not. It would be better to brainstorm at least a half a dozen ideas – things start to get very interesting around idea 12, they say.

So, here goes:
2. The captain calls Ms. Pratchett into his office, and orders her to investigate (strengthens Ms. Pratchett’s position, but a lot less exciting than an alarm going off).
3. A bottle of soda explodes, and Ms. Pratchett must investigate. (I do like a good explosion.)
4. Change the perspective: Ms. Pratchett is the hero of this story, and Rachel is an evil rule-breaker. (This is worth exploring: the villain is often the hero of her own story in a good book. This could deepen Ms. Pratchett’s characterization, and who knows? Ms. Pratchett, or Susie as we come to know her, might be the real hero.)
5. There’s no root beer yet. Susie Pratchett finds Continue reading

Nancy: On Gratitude

In the US, it’s that time of year again: the beginning of the holiday season. First up, American Thanksgiving. From an historical context, this holiday and the ‘facts’ we Americans know about it have their problems. In the modern era, the day has become associated with overeating, dealing with disagreeable relatives, and watching a lot of football. But at its core, both historically and currently, there is something truly lovely that Thanksgiving reminds Americans to do – be grateful.

Speaking for myself, fellow Americans I know, and the general aura we project as a nation, we are not great at gratitude. So, an annual holiday that reminds us to give thanks – whether we do it in a spiritual or secular context – isn’t a bad thing.

Earlier this year, I began a (sporadic) practice of meditation to help focus my energy and calm my nerves in these…er…troubling (to say the least) times. One of the most interesting guided meditations I’ve done is to be used before a meal. It leads the listener through a series of gratitude exercises, thinking about each person who ‘touched’ the food – from planting to harvesting, to packaging and shipping, to stocking shelves and checking out food at the store – and being grateful for the way each of them contributed to getting that food in front of you. Even for the most basic salad, it takes a village to make a meal.

As I’ve gotten back on track with my writing and have been following the Jen Louden’s GSSD (Get Scary Shit Done) program, I’ve been reminded by her lessons and my own reflection to be grateful for all the things that allow my writing time to happen, from the weird way my brain works to create story, to the amazing technology that allows me to get it all out onto the page. Even during a crappy day of writing, I can find reasons for gratitude. I’m grateful when I have the strength and energy to show up, the support of other writers when the going gets really tough, other stories to read for inspiration and solace when my own story is stuck (like my WIP is today). And it turns out, I’m reaping a whole host of positive things from simply finding and reflecting upon a reason to be grateful every day. Continue reading

Nancy: Boom and Bust

Several weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar place. I was coming off a big day-job project, which had included long hours every day for the last couple of weeks to complete it. I hadn’t been able to touch my writing during that time and for weeks before that, because even when I wasn’t working quite as many hours, I was expending all my mental energy on that other job. But now that I and my team had completed that project and submitted it to the customer, I was able to reclaim my life, including my writing time. “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” right?

Um, no.

When last I’d communed with my writing, I’d been on a hot streak (despite that pesky novella that I’ve struggled to revise). I was writing for long hours and wracking up word counts, knowing all the while it couldn’t last. I’d signed a consulting contract. A company was going to write me a monthly check; it stood to reason at some point they’d want me to do something to earn that money. Then I got a call saying a project that was supposed to start in October was actually starting six weeks early. I went cold turkey on my writing. Turns out, by the time I finally got back to it, it had gone cold turkey on me. I had one novella and one full-length novel in need of revision, and the first act of a second full-length novel all set in the same story world. I also had the first half of my women’s fiction story waiting for completion. But when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t get back into any of those story worlds. I’m not going to lie – some panic set in. After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get the next call about the next day-job project, and then I’ll have to go cold turkey on writing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Continue reading

Nancy: Retreat, Recharge, and Reclaim Your Writing Mojo

This past weekend, I got to do one of my favorite writing things. I joined good friends (all writers, go figure) and had a writing retreat: two and a half days of working on my own stories, hearing about others’ work, sharing story (books, movies) recommendations, and discussing the ever-evolving publishing industry. Now all we need are house elves to deliver coffee and wine chairside, and we’ll have perfected the art of the writers’ retreat.

In the early days of the 8LW blog, I talked about my writing retreats with this particular group of writing friends. A few years later, I was lucky enough to gather with the other Eight Ladies in Arizona for a retreat of our own, which inspired me to share my top five favorite things about these outings (spoiler alert: number one on my list is bonding with fab friends). Now it’s 2017, time for our bi-annual reminder that writing retreats are an awesome thing, and if you are a writer as well as a joiner of any kind, getting out of your writing cave and spending time around real, live people might just be the thing to kick-start your creativity and reconnect you to the joy of writing.

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Michaeline: Prime Results

An 1890s man in a dressing gown tells a harem girl stories about her eyes.

Oh, I think I could tell you a story about his eyes! Image via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I had a good writing week, and I’m afraid I’ve been squeeing about it in several places. It’s the first time I’ve written “The End” since the end of November 2014, so I’ve been ridiculously happy and maybe somewhat obnoxious about it. I could put a lot of qualifiers on it – it’s just a draft, it’s not even 7,000 words, there’s probably some big and gaping hole that I can’t even see in the creative afterglow – but I don’t care about that. I just want to do it again. And again. And again!

So, I’ve been searching for something I’ve done differently – something that I can adapt into some sort of talisman or ritual, something that doesn’t involve blood sacrifice or extra housework. Something that would be a pleasure to do every day.

Well, I’ve reviewed the week, and there are three things that are different.

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Michaeline: A Magic Pill

Magic pills are not always what they seem. The Conjurer, Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1450-1516, via Wikimedia Commons

Magic pills are not always what they seem. The Conjurer, Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1450-1516, via Wikimedia Commons

Writers, especially speculative writers, are very fond of the magic pill – the potion that’s going to solve all the problems, create everlasting youth, and give one the psychic powers to predict the ponies or win big at the stock market.

And, through the ages, we’ve been told, “There is no magic pill.”

That said, The Atlantic Online has an interesting article about a precursor dopamine  pill for Parkinson patients. And some neurologists are noticing that their patients are more creative than average elderly person. Could there be a pill for creativity?

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