Daily Challenge Check-in: June 6, 2015

Words/Time: 1124 words, revising “Pithea.” Naolin’s delusional, sick mind is shown a few more times (wow, not sick in the way that sort of made it sound…like, actually sick–poisoned, in fact). Missy and Drear don’t act so hostilely toward each other now (though I should probably find a place for him to actually tell her his name), and a lot of Missy mixing healing items and giving the unconscious man liquid (since I discovered weeks ago that that doesn’t actually work) has been removed.

Dream Every Day: Revisiting High School

 dream plan write

When I was in high school, I took a creative writing class. It’s the only one I’ve ever taken, and I couldn’t tell you how alike or different it was from other such classes. There was a process we went through before we ever started writing for the short story part of class that has stuck with me for fifteen years. It was a process of coming up with multiple story seeds, before then choosing the one we wanted to develop into a story. One day we were instructed to come up with a setting and character that didn’t really go together. For example, I chose a British soldier at a Minnesota lake. Under that, it says:
“Why–the queen of England decided she wanted a vacation in a secluded spot and he was assigned to guard the family.
Conflict–the people who live around there are secretive, don’t know why he’s there, and don’t want him there.”

The scenario sounds ridiculous to me now, and I never wrote any further with that idea. However, for some reason, this exercise has stuck with me for a long time.

On the other hand, what is just an innocuous picture–a field of wildflowers–became the short story I turned in for that class. A short story the teacher loved and helped me to remember that I enjoy writing (I had written a lot in elementary school, then abandoned it for poetry). In an essay in that class, though, I apparently wrote that I didn’t think I’d have much reason to write fiction again in the future. That was fun to dig up from my past.

flowers prompt

This colorful, foggy field became the setting of a frenzied, fear-filled search for a briefcase and a race against time for the protagonist in the story I wrote from it.

At the same time I was taking this creative writing class, I had the same teacher for English class. In English, we would get vocabulary lists, and for every list, one assignment was always to write some sort of paragraph or short story that incorporated at least 5 of the vocab words. A few of those ended up being great sources of creativity for me. One, a one-page short story, my teacher said was written well enough and had good enough character development that I could have turned it in for my short story in creative writing.

The point of all of this is to say that, while inspiration can certainly come from anywhere and sometimes nowhere, it is possible to create ideas using various methods and stimuli. Images, sounds, prompts, word lists, outlandish character/setting combos, even story scenarios provided by someone else, can produce seeds that may or may not be worth developing. The key is to keep all of the potential seeds somewhere that can be referenced later. One important rule of writing–never throw anything out. You never know if you’ll want to be able to look back at it 15 years later and write a blog post about it.

Dream for yourself: If anyone reading this wants to try their hand at some of these story seed starters, I encourage you to look at the image above, describe it in vivid detail, and use it as a setting for a scene. Then see where that takes you. Or, use the following list of words to create a paragraph or two–it can be a setting, a short story, or even a scene from something larger. (Remember, it’s from a school vocab list. If you don’t know the words, look them up! Expanding your vocabulary can always help with writing too.) It doesn’t have to produce a full story–just spark an idea. If anyone does write anything from my suggestions, feel free to share with me! I’d love to see what others come up with.

noxious
sub rosa
tete-a-tete
parvenu
a capella
postprandial
minatory
venal
quid pro quo

Continue reading below to read the short story I created with the words above (if you’re considering writing from the list yourself, don’t read mine yet; it’ll skew your ideas).

Continue reading

Dream, plan, write…

dream plan write

This has been my motto for the last year. I have tried to make sure every day contains at least a little writing work. For me, this can take more than one form:

Dream – This is the part where you ask, “What if…?” and “Why?” What if space were filled with vampires? What if the guy was the one who needed rescuing? Why would a British royal guard be camping in the woods of Montana? How different would the world be without shrimp? There are ways to force these ideas out of your head, but just as often, they just come on their own. When you’re driving, washing dishes, showering, even sleeping.

Plan – This is where you take that idea, that seed, and run with it. Meet and flesh out the characters. Decide on the right time and place. Start plotting. Not everyone does this step; some skip right from dreaming to writing. That’s okay too. But for the rest of us, it’s important to spend some time in the planning stage.

Write – This is the most self-explanatory stage, but often the most difficult to do. It is helpful to set goals along the way. Also important is saving the editing for later.

Revise – This is my absolute least favorite stage, but it has to be done. The question, though, is how to do it and how much to revise. My own mindset on revising has changed a lot in the last year, and I think I’m hating it less than I used to.

These different stages are often mixed up. Currently, on any given day, I may be working on revising one of two books, plotting another one, writing for a shorter bit that has no real plans, or who knows what else. And I’m always dreaming.

I’ve come to realize recently that, though I am not a published author, I have a lot of experience as a writer. I’ve been writing with some seriousness for 10 years and have grown a lot in both knowledge and skill. I’ve finished the first draft of two novels, which I’m told is an accomplishment in itself. And just in the last two years, I have learned a lot about all of these stages of writing. This blog has always been focused on my writing progress, but I have decided it’s time to branch out. I want to start sharing some of what I’ve learned, even extending to areas outside of those I mentioned above (like finding the right writing atmosphere).¬†Hopefully someone will find some usefulness in my words.

I won’t try to say when or how often these posts might come out, because my family life is too unpredictable. The first post, about the “Dream” stage, will be shortly following this introductory post though.