Don’t wait to write

Karalee’s Post #128

rock on beach

Our 5/5/5 group have all in our own way expressed how we try to organize ourselves to write, how procrastination is a non-starter, and how life pulls us from our offices and computers where our characters are developing and waiting to be born.

And we all know how we hate waiting.

We don’t want to wait at the doctor’s office, or the dentist, the ferry lineup, in traffic, or in the grocery line. We complain miserably about all of this waiting, yet we do it because it is part of our everyday lives or put into our lives on some sort of schedule.

Imagine then, how our characters must feel. We leave them half-formed physically, mentally and emotionally. They literally can be abandoned mid-sentence just about to be shot or die in a car or airplane, or while falling skiing with their leg in the middle of snapping as they hit a tree.

Then we return and change their names, alter their physical, mental and emotional attributes and dump them in a different situation, and then once again LEAVE them hanging.

Waiting.

How can we as writers go to bed at night knowing that we’ve abandoned someone that really needs our help to move out of the situation that we’ve put them in? Guilt should keep us awake at night every night until we have the decency to grab up our computers and do SOMETHING. Even if the situation worsens, at least it is changing and our characters aren’t suffering the same instant over and over.

Be empathetic. Imagine it’s you sitting in an airplane about to crash. You’re strapped in with the oxygen mask over your face and the plane is in a nose dive. You know you are about to die, yet it goes on and on and on. Days. Weeks. Months. Sometimes years. It goes way beyond the laws of gravity.

So I sincerely ask all the writers out there, especially my dear 5/5/5’ers, be empathetic and PLEASE keep writing so you can let your characters do what has to be done. Don’t leave them waiting any longer than necessary!

_________________________________________________________________

Short Stories Written:  Two. I committed to finishing them and that was the inspiration for this blog and the reason I didn’t get a blog written last week. I chose to keep writing. I didn’t want to leave my characters hanging in limbo while I went to bed . I wrote. I created. I finished.

Short Stories sent to Competitions:  Two. Great incentive to be kind to my characters and reach The End. Thanks Joe, for lighting the fire under me to get my work off. Now it’s a different kind of waiting game to see if my stories pass the judging stage.

Exercise:  I must be one of the three people Joe knows that runs. In the past couple of decades I’ve completed one marathon, a dozen or so half-marathons, and many 10 km races. My race days are over due to sciatica (accumulation of wear and tear on my back over the years and exacerbated from dragon boat racing). I still run 3x/week but slower and shorter. Joe is right, what the exercise is doesn’t matter, rather it’s getting out there and doing something to get the circulation and muscles working.

____________________________________________________________________

Perspective Photos:

Tammy close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umbrella B&W

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

 

Make it believable

Karalee’s Post #127

As a writer, this quote is powerful. In a writer’s mind anything and anyone can be real in our imaginary world.

The challenge is writing our stories so readers outside our world believe it too.

The challenge is developing our characters so that they react in a believable way to the circumstances they are put into.

Would Mickey Mouse make a good Superman? or Homer Simpson ever be the president of the United States? Or if Homer was, how would the author make the story believable?

You can imagine the Hulk squeezing water from a stone, not Romeo in Shakespeare or the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. An alien world can have ten moons and a couple of suns with dragons flying or transporting from here to there, but in that world the characters (no matter what species they are) still need to act and react in a believable way.

No matter who, what, where, when or why, authors must understand their characters, what motivates them and how they will react to situations in the story.

Writers must make it believable.

I’ve been reading a few short stories and studying how settings and story lines are developed quickly and keep moving with tension and conflict towards the conclusion.

Short and sweet.

Actually most are not on the sweet side at all. More like short and dark. Or short and heavy.

A few ideas have come to mind. I’m challenging myself to write a short story with a surprising twist. For me, that means surprising myself at some point during the writing process. Often this happens when I’m “in the zone” and let the thoughts flow from nothing to something.

As long as I can make it believable.

_________________________________________________________________

Perspective Photos:

tomatillos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jocelyn basketball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/5/5 word count: half of two short stories written. Don’t know why I’m doing it this way, but often what I write isn’t in sequence, so why should my stories be from start to finish before I start another?

Hallowe’en treats eaten: I was unselfish and let the 300+ visitors to our door take all but a rather big handful I snatched from the bowl.

Happy writing!

What is a short short story?

Karalee’s Post #126

My fellow 5’ers have stated in their blogs that they think that writing 5 short stories in 5 months may be as or more difficult than a novel. To put things in word perspective, I came across this table in Wikipedia:

______________________________________________________________________

In fiction
Classification Word count
Novel over 40,000 words
Novella 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story under 7,500 words

Word count – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

______________________________________________________________________
So in effect if I write say, 7,000 words for each short story it would be 35,000 words. That’s close to a short novel, but about 30% of the length of a typical novel.
I’ve found that it’s common for many short story contests to set the word count somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 words. If I did this then I would write somewhere between 15,000 to 25,000 words.
Then there’s the short short story. What in the heck is that?
short short story
Apparently a short short story is under 1,500 words. Not an easy task.
Writing a short story or a short short story sounds like it should be a whole lot, I mean a WHOLE lot easier and certainly faster than writing a complete novel.
And, truth told, in the end (pun intended) it is, in my opinion.
Certain challenges are the same. There needs to be a beginning, middle and an end. There needs to be a story to tell, some conflict, some changes, and an ending to make it all work and make sense. What makes a short story easier and faster to write is the confines that the length of the story dictates. The “shortness” doesn’t allow a whole lot of character development with growth and changes. Heck, it doesn’t allow a whole lot of characters period. There aren’t enough words to give many to a sub-plot or to introduce more than one or two conflicts. Long descriptions take too many precious words that are needed to keep the story moving.
What a short story does command are strong characters, conflict up front, concise descriptions and quick flow of story.
In a short story the end comes quick. Make sure the story ends in time too. That’s the hard part.
____________________________________________________

5/5/5 challenge this week:

Short story word count:   Story 1 –  still at 1000 words. Maybe I will have to do a couple short short stories…

Candy eaten:  All I can say is that it’s a bad idea to buy Halloween candy before the aforesaid event.

Gratitude for:  Connecting with my daughter that lives across town with her husband. I always appreciate when she calls for a check-in chat. With social media these days, it is refreshing to hear her voice.

____________________________________________________
Perspective Photos:
mist in park
bee on flower
Happy writing!

Routine. Is it a help or hindrance to writing?

Karalee’s Post #125

To Do BinderRoutine.

It’s important. It allows me to get stuff done during the day. Important tasks, like going to work, writing, having a clean house and clothes, cooking and eating, yard work, sleeping, being social with friends, being a mother and wife in my family.

In its own way each item is important.

Regarding my”routine” writing time, does having a set time stifle my creativity? If I “have” to write between noon and three, can I simply sit down and get to it? Or does worrying that it takes time to get going, and that once I do, I have to stop at a certain time reduce my productivity to nil, like trying to squeeze juice from a dehydrated lemon?

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the definition of routine is:

Noun 

: a regular way of doing things in a particular order

: a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way

: a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance

Adjective

: done very often

: done or happening as a normal part of a job, situation, or process

: easily done according to a set way or method

So apparently, routine is regular, boring and repetitive.

Does it really have to be? I beg to differ.

ClocksWhen I set a certain time to write, sure the time on the clock is regular, boring and repetitive, but what I do during that time allotment can be as exhilarating as I want to make it. My characters can be caught up in a hurricane, go down on a sinking ship, have affairs or a sex change, lie and cheat and play the innocent, get fired or murdered, or race in a police car or a hot air balloon for all that matter. My creative juices can take over, making my fingers fly on the keyboard to keep up with my imagination.

My perspective is what makes the difference. Routine can jump start my creativity. Imagine having a full three hours allotted to the pure joy of writing without the interference of “the rest of the world.” My subconscious is the key. It can be constantly working in the background so when it’s time to write, I write.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Make routine your friend!

My nemesis is actually writing down my To Do list every day and make it part of my routine.

________________________________________________

5/5/5 challenge this week:

Short story word count:   Story 1 –  1000 words total so far. I’m behind and need to step it up. See my nemesis above!

Pies eaten: Hey, it was Thanksgiving last weekend and I was very thankful for the multiple pieces of pumpkin and apple pies.

Gratitude for: Having the family together this week. Two of my children now live on their own and it takes more organizing to make time together.

________________________________________________

Perspective Photos:

Fall Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

float plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

Write for the right reasons

Karalee’s Post #124

Tammy hidingI have let my attention be diverted away from writing, hiding actually, telling myself that everyone self-publishes these days, so the chances of me “getting noticed by the big world out there” is minimal at best.

I’ve also been putting effort into my new business and enjoying getting out of the house and the seclusion of writing and being a stay-at-homebody-mom.

I have no complaints about my privileged lifestyle, yet in these last few months I’ve felt an inner pressure building. I’m full of words and ideas that I’ve let wall up inside like a dam somewhere between my stomach and my fingertips. I’ve also been feeling like I’m letting my writing group down, being constantly late responding to almost all communications.

Procrastination of the guilty kind. It’s like being stuck in the muddled middle of life.

But then our group forges ahead, determined to jump-start our writing that we all love to do, yet somehow we let it take a back seat to other things in life. I’ve made a six word commitment: 5 short stories in 5 months. Six words full stop. I haven’t written another beyond that.

So today I started writing. Deadlines are amazing motivators. I carved out three hours away from all distractions in the house and purposely sat down in new territory.

The words started flowing.

Oh, I looked out the window at Granville Island and took pictures of the spectacular view, but it didn’t distract my thoughts. I was in the groove!

What I noticed was an overwhelming feeling of being in the right place. Not only physically, but emotionally too. Excited peace overcame me. An oxymoron I know, but that’s how it felt. Reuniting with writing has shown me how much I truly enjoy creating something from nothing using the power of my mind.

Right now it doesn’t matter in the slightest if I get published or not. What matters is feeding my passion. That is what is needed to become good enough to be published whether traditionally or by oneself.

Beyond everything else, I need to write for the right reasons!

I give a huge THANKS to my fabulous group for not booting me out and for coming together once again to make personal commitments that give us direction.

And thanks to Elizabeth Lyon commenting on my blog last week. She helped put into perspective that we all have many things in our lives to distract us from writing. Our passion brings us back. You can check out her new book Crafting Titles. I’m going to use it to help me in naming my 5 short stories!

5/5/5 challenge this week:

Short story word count:   Story 1 –  500 words

Blog posts written:  1

Gratitude for: The changing colors of autumn and the beauty of the city of Vancouver.

________________________________________________

Perspective Photos:

heron in flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tugboat and bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

Putting it in writing

Karalee’s Post #123

I willI’ve missed a couple of weeks of blogging. Sometimes unexpected things happen in life that changes your perspective and stuff that seemed important really isn’t. These things change one’s perspective and even one’s view of the subject matter in one’s writing.

This has happened to me. I’m making adjustments in my writing too. My short stories may take on a completely different bent from my norm of mystery, especially murder mystery.

I’ve committed to 5 short stories in 5 months. Five in five. Sounds quick. Almost easy. Go ahead, say it. Five in five. It has a good ring to it. Sounds almost lyrical. Must be easy. Right?

It’s easy to write down. But, once it’s down, well, it’s in writing! Suddenly it’s a stronger commitment than a thought kept between the ears immersed deep in my grey matter where no one but oneself has a clue about it.

That got me thinking. Putting something in writing can easily be a one-liner (unless you’re a lawyer, and I believe that’s an impossibility). What that one-liner can represent though, can demand a HUGE amount of work behind the scenes. HUGE.

Here’s what I mean:

Things that are easy to jot down:

  1. I will write a novel in 5 months.
  2. I will write 5 short stories in 5 months.
  3. I will run a marathon.
  4. I will quit eating sugar.
  5. I will visit my mother for a week.

What those things really mean:

  1. I will sit at my computer for hours, HOURS, making stuff up; outlining; mind mapping; researching history, science, backstory, and character development; PLUS manage all the other aspects of my life like a job, cooking and eating and doing the dishes; PLUS actually writing 1000 words a day of good stuff that adds conflict and character development and moves the story forward.
  2. Ditto for 1 above x 5 minus the big word count.
  3. Starting 3 to 4 months before the marathon I will run 4 days a week building up time and distance slowly to a good 4 hour run 10 days before the race; work on interval and weight training the other days; eat properly which means more time shopping and cooking and doing dishes; and get a proper sleep every night. Oh, go to work every day too!
  4. This is a mind and body game that can drive a person mad. Substituting with salads and other good home-cooked meals means more shopping, cooking and dishes. Distracting oneself by writing, reading, gardening, watching TV, sitting on one’s hands, or training for a marathon to remove oneself from temptation can take hours of time.
  5. This one takes lots of prep. Phone calls, multiple times to arrange and remind said mother. Then there’s organizing my house affairs to leave, packing clothes and dogs, driving 14 hours, visiting and spending all day helping sort my mother’s house and garden, looking after the dogs, driving home again only to get my house back in order.

See what I mean? All these activities started out as a simple one-liner. Each represents an immense amount of work.

In conclusion I must say that the moral of this post is that when you put something down in writing, make sure you are a lawyer so you get paid for it!

______________________________________________

Short Story Progress:   I’m thinking of themes and am inclined to write outside my box.

Perspective Photos:

Vancouver fog

 

 

 

 

 

 

airplane landing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing.

 

Commit to finish

Karalee’s Post #122

Well, Paula threw down the gauntlet to challenge her group and the world at large to write a first draft in five months starting September 5th. The date was chosen three years ago to signify the five of us in our writing group with September being the month for new beginnings. For many of us September coincides with the end of summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year when we were children. As adults, September is often the beginning of new projects or a new set point after holidays.

September is for renewal.

A new commitment makes sense and is imperative really. So why not choose something you love to do? It doesn’t have to be painful like needles and a full sleeve tattoo, or piercing parts that were never meant to be pierced. Or running up hills or spinning in spin class until you throw up all in the name of getting into shape.

Choose something challenging and satisfying. Then do it!

That’s the reason I’ve titled my blog post ‘Commit to finish’ as opposed to ‘Commit to start.’

Why?

I find that myself and many of us in the western world are good to go at the starting gate. Take New Year’s Resolutions and the thousands of people that start in the gym and go whole hog for a couple of weeks only to peter off. The same can be said for diets, or keeping the house clean, gardening, sorting old photographs, purging your closets, and on and on.

And of course, writing the book you always said you would.

I can bet that most of us have many starts to many books. We have an idea of what happens in the middle and maybe a good feel for what will happen at the end or what needs to happen. The beginning though, is my nemesis.

All of my stories have taken an extraordinary amount of time to perfect the start. My beginnings have sucked up too much energy, causing an overload of angst, cursing, emotional highs and lows, and so many rewrites that it seems impossible to even get to the muddled middle, not to mention nowhere near the exciting slide to the finish.

My beginning often takes away from my end.

It can be extraordinarily difficult to reach the finish gate, so if you are like me, put blinders on and get past the first two to three chapters. Accept they are far from perfect. In all likelihood, you aren’t even starting at the right point anyway, so don’t waste time on it. Keep going.

Keep going ……… and going ……. and going ….. until ……… the …….. VERY …… end.

Siwash RockI refuse to get stuck at the beginning, so like my fellow 5Writers, I’m throwing in my gauntlet too and making a commitment to write. I’m choosing differently though. That is, I’m choosing a story type that I can manage with my new business where much of my energy is focused at the moment. I’m choosing to write short stories.

Five short stories in five months! 1writer5shortstories5months

 

_________________________________________________________

Perspective Photos

Siwash Rock

The Nest UBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

Exploring characters in short stories

Karalee’s Post #80

I’m going to dedicate some time on writing short stories as this seems to be where my mind set is lately. With all the self-work and personal growth I have been pursuing over the the last year or so, keeping a whole novel story going seems to be too much for my brain at the moment.

Life has had its challenges, and believe me, one’s childhood, one’s back story, plays a very strong role that is difficult to overcome. Building trust and belief in new ways of thinking about the world is hard work and emotionally draining. My insight into one’s past though, will be great fodder for future character development in my stories I’m sure.

That said, character development is where I struggle. I want complex characters with challenges as well as expertise, intelligence and fears and successes and regrets. Why do I have such difficulty in creating such people in my writing?

Paula in her last post Just Ask hit my fear button. Paula is a great thinker and talker and seems fearless in asking anyone anything.

Just ask her!

Not me. Not all of us 5Writers are fearless interviewers. That’s where my own back story comes in and plays a role I wish it didn’t. I’m a smart person and once-upon-a-time was eager to participate in classes and groups and didn’t mind speaking up and be noticed. That is, until one of my teachers humiliated me in front of her class for being, well, ahead of the class so-to-speak, and she didn’t handle the situation professionally. Looking back at other childhood experiences before then, this was the last straw, and my courage to put myself “out there” has never returned.

So to me even the thought of just asking is daunting.

But Paula is right, and I’m glad she has challenged us writers to sit down with real people and learn about real life so we can write more realistically. I know that if I can do it, most of you can too. This is an area that I need to push myself to participate in in order to improve my writing, and my confidence in my writing.

In general I’m a good talker in small groups. Asking someone about something you know nothing about doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t cause real pain. Besides it’s a great way to get to know other people, which is a good thing as writing is a lonely job.

Most people are more than willing to give of their time and expertise and divulge what they know. Who doesn’t like talking about what they love doing? And generally people don’t smell or bite either, and they won’t laugh at you for asking questions they may think are weird or not-so-intelligent because they don’t expect you to know what it’s really like to be a fire-eater, or dog whisperer, or trapeze artist, or forensic psychologist, or sniper, or any other profession that takes years to learn or become expert at.

So just ask. After preparing your questions of course, which means that you need to have some idea of what your story is about, and therefore what you need to learn about. Do some research, or do a lot if you are like me and nervous about asking relevant questions or the “right” questions.

I will take Paula’s suggestion to heart and break into my discomfort zone and push myself to just ask. For the next few months, especially with travelling for a month in Europe this summer without my computer, I’ve decided to write a few short stories and explore a few characters to see if one compels me to bring him/her along into a full length novel story.

I will make a point of meeting real people and interview them, after all I do enjoy talking. It could be fun too!

Characters I’ve liked in previous books I’ve written seem to be my secondary characters, as often happens with writers. I may bring one or two into new light, maybe even together and see what develops. I’m looking forward to exploring a few story ideas too.

I’m wondering if other writers have written short stories as a way to explore their characters?

Happy writing!

 

You can’t win if you don’t enter

Karalee’s Post #54

My children will often call on a friend’s cell phone if theirs is out of battery, so I answered an unfamiliar number the other day.

“Hello, you have won…”

I pulled the phone away from my ear and was about to hit the ‘end’ button when I heard “… the eyeball counting…”

The what? The subject caught me off guard enough that I kept listening.

“… eyeball counting contest.”

I didn’t remember entering an eyeball counting contest, but when the voice said it was my optometrists’ office, my memory slid into place and I remembered the jar on their counter. eyeball jarI had donated some money towards their cause and guessed the number of eyeball candy I thought filled the jar and then left without thinking about it again.

Then I got the call and not only did I become the proud owner of a jar full of chocolates the day after Halloween, I was also credited $250.00 on my account.

Well, I was feeling pretty smug and glad I hadn’t hung up the phone, so when I went into my email on my regular routine before writing, I had to laugh when I saw the Writer’s Digest email. Karma must be at play.
WD contest I think most of us are a bit superstitious or at least feel that some days things go our way for whatever reason.

I didn’t have to ponder about the energy in the universe or the stars lining up my way or such for me to think that maybe I should dust off a couple of short stories I have filed away in my computer and send them in.

I’m working on rewriting one that was short-listed at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference a few years ago. It’s 4800 words and this contest is a maximum of 1500 words. I take this as a good challenge for me to put to task what I’ve learned the last couple of years.

No matter, it has jump-started my creativity again so all is good.

The top twenty-five will be notified by February 28, 2014. I will let you know if I do the happy dance!

Wish me luck. Maybe other writers out there with short-stories in hand will send their work in too?

Happy writing.

How to write a short story (or how not to)

Joe’s Post #54

short storiesAnother confession. I find short stories very hard to write. Like getting a rusted nut to turn with your fingers hard. Like doing math in your head hard. I like big stories. Novel size stories. GRR Martin novel size! With grand sweeping storylines, a thousand characters, clever themes and epic final battles.

Hard to put all that in a short story. Yet, there was an open call for one so I thought to myself, self, let’s give it a try. It’s sort of the same process I went through to do zip lining (minus some of the screaming).

So, here’s how it went. First, I needed an idea. The magazine was looking for stories about Cyborgs and I love cyborgs so this was a good fit. I immediately went into full-on nerd mode and thought of an idea. Zombies and Cyborgs. Oh, I love both, so why not put them together? Like an undead Sarah Connor and the terminator. Oh oh, or how about Robocop and the zombie apocalypse?

Then I read the submission guidelines closer (note to self, read things carefully before going into nerdgasms.) The editor said, and I quote, “Zombie stories. Seriously. NO.”  Now call me crazy, but it seems to me like he wasn’t a whole ton of keen about the walking dead. So, I had to rebrainstorm. (my new word.)

dogNow doing this alone isn’t easy for me, especially if I can’t use any zombies. But I started with a character – as I now start all my stories. In this case, a dog. A cyborg dog. I named her Daisy, cuz, like, that’s a cool dog name. Then I gave her a problem and a companion and threw them both into a post apocalyptic world where mutation runs rampant and power-armored Crusaders roam the land with big ass flamethrowers incinerating anyone with tainted flesh.

Then I just wrote it.

And you know what? I had fun. But when I finished, I went back and looked at it.

It needed more. So I looked at adding more conflict, more humor, more emotion. I raised the stakes a bit, then a bit more. I made sure everyone had a goal and wanted something important to them. I made my characters suffer.  I cut out anything that wasn’t amazing or awesome.

Now, this took a whole lot longer than it really should have taken, but I got it done, and, despite a few technical glitches, (rot in hell, word 360!), I submitted it today.

It felt good to get something new out there.

Wish me luck.

It’s back to the novel tomorrow.