WIPMarathon Report #2 – March

Hooray for WIPMarathon!

I’m so glad we’re continuing to check-in with each other, mostly on Twitter right now but also with monthly blog posts to note our progress on our respective current manuscripts. Lately, I really appreciate accountability for much-needed motivation.

Having said that, however, I am officially a week late on this, but my excuse is I was in London last weekend and then this week seemed to be playing catch-up no matter what I did.

On Waterloo Bridge
On Waterloo Bridge

Last report wordcount + chapter count/scene count: This time last month, I was still in the idea sketching stage. So, a month has passed . . . I must be WORLDS ahead by now, eh? EH?! 

Current report WC + CC/ SC: A month later — words: 13,195; chapters: 3; scenes: 6. Draft #1 is on its way. Slowly. I hope it picks up the pace.

WIP Issues This Month: As I’m now keeping a spreadsheet in Google Docs containing notes on what I set out to accomplish each day versus what I DID accomplish, I can actually look back and answer these questions with some accuracy. This is the first time I’m starting a MS with a 3-act structure diagram and (vague-ish) outline from the get-go. Each day before I sit down to type out a scene, I’m trying to sketch a brief outline with ideas for what NEEDS to go in the scene, in a notebook. I’m hoping this gets me into a kind of routine that helps push me forward each day (thanks to Susan Dennard‘s recent blog series).

The problem I’m finding is that not every scene has an obvious “magical cookie” (i.e. the thing that makes you really excited to write that particular scene). I agree with Susan that each scene SHOULD because of the old, “If it’s boring to the writer, it’ll be boring to the reader” maxim. I believe that 100%. Susan says that if you can’t think of a magical cookie for a certain scene, go back to your original inspiration for the story in the first place, and find it there. This is excellent advice, but I’ve not been doing it. I’ve been trying to force a cookie out of thin air. So I need to work on that.

St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral

Four things I learned this month in writing:

1) Reading books you once adored and thought were the BOMB is healthy — because you might realise you no longer think that. Or you might learn what specific things you loved about them, but where they went wrong that you were idealising all this time. It’s healthy! Though a little disenchanting.

Example: I’m rereading a book that was one of my favourites in my early teens. I haven’t read it since I was about 20. It’s a re-telling that expands on someone else’s characters; sort of an old-school fan-fic. What I loved about it all this time is the *characters*, the idea behind them, the gothic tone, and the historical reseach the author did. The prose and dialogue is actually rather elementary. It’s nowhere near as detailed as I remembered it. It’s a little bit of a let-down, but I’m glad I’m rereading it to find the gems that drew me to it in the first place. It’s nice to know I’m becoming more objective.

2) What kind of story should *you* be writing? I won’t sum this up but simply point you to a great article by the always wonderful Janice Hardy: http://diymfa.com/writing/writing-right-story

3) Don’t know why a scene is happening, or what its motives are? Find the love in the scene. Figure out what the characters love (what they want to happen), and you’ll figure the scene out. Brilliant and surprisingly simple advice from Biljana Likic over at Pub(lishing) Crawl: http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2014/03/28/motives/

4) When someone you really admire gives you compliments mixed in with advice (that you might not agree with)… and I mean, someone you REALLY admire, would love to get to know, etc. etc., take those compliments. This person is not a crit partner, nor a friend of a friend, but someone with a position to know what they’re talking about. Take those compliments, and move forward with them 🙂

What distracted me this month while writing: My sister had a baby (her third! A girl!), and thank God for Facetime 🙂 I had some disappointing news mixed in with the good that brought me low for about a week; I had my first (I think) migraine which lead to a week of panic about my eye health; and I had a weekend away in London. I also recorded my first Vlog this month, for Write Away! Lastly, I read the truly inspiring Jim Henson biography by Brian Jay Jones. For someone who grew up with the Muppets (only the originals, please!!) and Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, this is a must-read. It’s hugely inspiring especially for those in creative fields, and I found Jim’s eternal optimism, when when networks and critics panned his work, is as magical as his body of work. I found this distracting because I essentially spent a week watching Jim clips on YouTube and crying my eyes out.

If this video doesn’t move you, you have my sympathy!

Goal for next month: For real this time, I would like to have the entire first draft of this WIP completed by May. We’re already 5 days in to April so I need to get a move on, but I’ve at least made it to Act 2.

Last 200 words: (this is a very, very first draft!)

Without pulling her eyes from the heavens’ arresting mélange, she knelt to the ground, neck still craned. The stars took turns in their luminosity, one color intensifying before ebbing as another outshone it. It was a night sky ballet of twirling tulle and organza of light, donned in all shades of the rainbow. How long she had slept, how she’d fallen without major injury that she could suss, what time or even day it was — Luma knew none of it. She knew only this: she wasn’t in Cornwall. She wasn’t in Britain. And she wasn’t in her right mind.

She sat cross-legged, hugging her knees as though doing so hard enough would prompt the dark earth to swallow her up and spit her back out beside the engine house. Night sounds closed in; a susurrus of scuttling as though from a creature with too many legs, and the dissonant melody of wind rustling leaves filled her with frightful wonder. With unfamiliar constellations pirouetting above, and the inexplicably small barrow at her back, Luma at last took in the ruins of an enormous statue, its pieces dotting the clearing. The limbs were mammoth, and marble perhaps. Arms shot upright like macabre trees, and a giant head leaned crookedly in the center.

In the midst of her disorientation, of alien lights, no mine in sight, and a sense of otherness she could not escape, Luma’s prevailing worry was how Brielle would get to work without her car.

– – –

Thanks for stopping by!

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P.S. Had a fun weekend away in London with my lovely friend Lauri from uni. We saw Phantom from the 3rd row, frolicked along the river, and had many adventures (some of which included the ever-popular game of suitcases-on-the-Tube).

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14 thoughts on “WIPMarathon Report #2 – March

  1. Wow, you’ve been busy!

    Love what you said about finding the love in a scene. So important and definitely something I need to remember.

    Wow, there was some amazing description in that excerpt.

    Happy writing and best of luck meeting your draft goal in April!

  2. Sounds like you’ve had a busy month! I’m an outliner but I do sometimes find it tricky to pinpoint the “magical cookie” in some scenes, especially if the scene has to be there by necessity but I’m not necessarily looking forward to writing it. I need to work on that!

    1. Exactly my trouble… I think the idea might be to find something about WHY the scene is a necessity that we’re excited to write. And if I can’t find anything exciting write about, then I have to question whether the scene really is necessary, or if that necessary info/action can’t fit into another scene. It’s difficult but I’m hoping practice will make it easier 🙂

  3. First of all, beautiful picture of you!

    I guess it’s that fear of discovering “feet of clay” in books I enjoyed as a teenager that stops me from re-reading them (*coughs* Twilight). I’d love to just have that good feeling about them untarnished, but who knows, I might change my mind. I re-read the first four Harry Potter books late last year and actually loved them more!

    My might-be-wrong opinion about magical cookies is that some scenes might still have magical cookies, but they are not just the brand of cookies the author likes. I love writing “detective” scenes more than I love writing the fight scenes, so of course, it takes me longer to get through fight scenes. Someone else might hate writing character relationships scenes because such scenes might be slow, but there are still cookies in there.

    Also, I read your comment on the article and I’d agree, yes, if the scene is just to show transition from one point to another, then it’s best to speed it up by telling. This might actually be the only kind of scene where there are no magical cookies.

    And wow! Such beautiful turns of phrase in your excerpt! This is the second time, I believe, I’m reading your writing and there’s no doubt you have a good command of your words!

    Good luck this April! You’ve got this!!

    1. Thanks so much, Ifeoma! 🙂

      Haha… I know what you mean. There are some books I reread yearly, or every other year (LOTR, Simon R. Green’s back catalog, Harry Potter) and find their worlds both comforting and still exciting. And then there are books like this one I’m referring to that say a bit more about who I was then than anything, for the mere fact that I put them on such a pedestal 😉

      You bring up an excellent point that I needed to hear… not every magical cookie is created equal. I love writing high tension, when the protag discovers something horrible that rocks her world. I love fight scenes, but I struggle with them more, so you’re totally right… I need to remember that. Thanks! 🙂 I need to look for places to put cookies in scenes where I might not necessary naturally find them.

      Thanks for stopping by! 😀

  4. “She knew only this: she wasn’t in Cornwall. She wasn’t in Britain. And she wasn’t in her right mind.” LOVE that. Good tension with a tiny note of humor.

    Dang it, I want to go frolic and play in London! (That was said with a huge whine, in case you couldn’t quite hear it).

    I’m intrigued now by this whole ‘magical cookie’ concept, so now I’m off to go check out Susan’s series.

    1. Aww, if you do come frolic and play over this way, give me a shout 🙂 I love re-discovering London with people who don’t live here. I think because no matter how long I live here, I’ll always feel like a tourist.

      Susan’s blogs are awesome. I’ve picked up so many tips from her so I hope you find a few as well!

  5. This is such a great post I had to pin it on Pinterest halfway through!

    I hadn’t heard of it called a “magical cookie” before, but I know exactly what you mean, and I’ve been failing to do it too with my current scenes.

    And I had the same experience re-reading a book I loved as a teen–only, I didn’t finish it. But now I think I should, if for no other reason than to figure out the parts that did make me love it once upon a time.

    Thanks for all the helpful links, and good luck meeting your goal! Your excerpt is absolutely beautiful!

    1. Awww, that’s a HUGE compliment! Thanks, Amanda! 🙂

      Rereading this book has been such an interesting experience. I can SO see what 13-year-old me thought was swoonworthy and amazing about it, but after everything I’ve read and learned since I last read it, it gives me a kind of boost, knowing that I can pick those things out from some of the possibly less-polished bits 😉 I am highly tempted to skim at times, though!

  6. Great progress this month! And those pictures are great! I saw the Phantom in London about…9 years ago now (oh gosh!). I was also in the third row! I got lost afterwards because I panicked and got off the tube too soon, but oh my gosh, it was worth it. It was such a fantastic show. ^_^

    Sometimes I reread something old and it’s fantastic, but once and awhile I do and I think, “How did I ever get through this book?” You’re so right, it’s healthy, good for our writing, and disenchanting sometimes all at same time.

    I recently discovered Susan’s blog, but I haven’t gone through this series yet. Now I know what a treat I’m in for! Good luck finishing your draft by next month!

    1. Thanks, Krystal! That’s so cool that you saw Phantom from the 3rd row as well! I hadn’t seen it in years and that was from the nosebleeds, so this time I was actually rather frightened when the chandelier fell since it’s right on top of you in those seats! Haha… Enjoy Susan’s awesome blog series!

  7. Awwwww you went to London without me!! 😛 But then again…you LIVE in ENGLAND without ME! Ugh! So not fair.
    You sure are coming along with your WIP. I wish I could get back into it. But with work, TheHubs’ pain levels skyrocketing, TheBoy’s school, and doing all the MomMom/Wife/Caregiver things….I’m exhausted. At least someone helped me cook for the month! That’s something!

    Jamie Dement (LadyJai)
    My A to Z
    Caring for My Veteran

    1. Come on over, I’ll gladly go back 😉 I understand… life takes over sometimes, and that’s often a GOOD thing. When it slows down again and gives you time for writing once more, you’ll have that much more experience to put into it. Hang in there. You’re amazing!

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