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Archive for June, 2009

Progress Report

June 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Wow, it’s been a whirlwind week! We are basically opening up our house like an orange and turning it inside out. Paint and furniture everywhere but where they belong. The good news is that we got a room painted and are looking forward to more improvements. I hope the baby is happy when he comes…

Oh, wait, I’m supposed to be posting a writing progress report? Oh, yeah. I haven’t posted one of those in a long time.

Well, I’m happy to say that I did get some writing done, about 1200 words. I did it in two sessions of 20 minutes apiece. Sometimes I tend to blow off writing because…well, I don’t know. I just know that this time I just sat my butt down in the chair (a common tip in the writing world), set an alarm for 20 minutes and just wrote the whole time without stopping. Setting the alarm really helped me to focus on writing. So I plan to do it this way from now on.

As for next week, I’m sure I can find another 2 days with an extra 20 minutes in them. And that’s the essence of writing, isn’t it?

Have a great week & keep cranking!

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Categories: Uncategorized

Not again!

June 23, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m late by about three days, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear I won a caption contest again at Inkygirl!

Harried Mom Writer

Categories: Uncategorized

Where’s Guy?

June 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I just wanted to make a quick note to let any readers know I’m still around. Last weekend was very productive, only not in my writing. Baby is demanding of my time even before he’s born!

I’m thinking of posting my usual Sunday progress report every other week, anyhow.  More later!

Categories: meta

What are your big rocks?

June 19, 2009 1 comment

My internal Whine-o-Meter goes into the red at least once a week. There’s not enough time! it says. Waaaaaaah! it says. While, during the week, I get pings from the internal Motivation-o-Meter, usually during my day job, saying If I had this time available for what I want to do, I’d do x.

So there’s this great struggle I get to contend with regularly. When I get home, I realize there’s much to do getting the house ready for the arrival of our new son, much of which has to wait until the weekend or until some other task is done.

Now, you may not have exactly the same concerns that I have, but isn’t it true that we all have major things in our life that rightfully demand our attention? How do we make sure it all gets done?

In a previous article, I used the sand and rocks illustration. Well, Ali Hale over at Dumb Little Man posted an article recently called 3 Critical Time Management Techniques You Shouldn’t Forget, and I liked the way she put it:

Schedule the Big Rocks, Let the Small Stuff Flow
I’ve only come across the “big rocks” catchphrase in the last couple of years, but it expresses a timeless trick for great planning: get all the big stuff into place, and let everything else fit around it. Schedule blocks of time for writing that report or having that essential meeting that keeps getting postponed. You’ll find plenty of time to take care of your emails in between.

This is an excellent article, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing. It’s aimed at balancing life & business, and really, can’t we consider our writing our business? Even if we are not yet doing it for pay, if we are serious about writing we have to look at the process in a businesslike way.

Ali quotes from an earlier Zen habits article, which recommends making a list each week of the big rocks. So, what big rocks are in my life this week? I’ve made a list here:

  • Bible study with my wife (r)
  • Prepare a talk for the congregation meeting this week
  • Put kitchen together after having vinyl installed
  • Meetings: Thursday night and Sunday morning (r)
  • Ministry work on Saturday (r)
  • Travel: visiting Mom to show off the baby bump!
  • “Scheduling meeting” with Princess on Friday

Where’s the writing? That’s what I’m working on improving my commitment to. As you can see, there are already a lot of big rocks in the jar. The ones marked with (r) are repeated each week. So, I have caused my writing to become like the sand that flow around the big rocks. I’m working on setting an attainable writing goal each week. And this little analysis shows me that the sand I let flow into the jar has to be carefully selected, that it reflects my ambitions and goals.

I think that if I can look at the week using this excellent metaphor, it can help me prioritize what’s important and deprioritize what is not.

Have a great weekend and keep cranking!

Categories: productivity

Marseguro and Terra Insegura

June 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday, I received two books in the mail: Marseguro and Terra Insegura, which author Edward Willett was kind enough to send me to review. Thanks, Edward!

I’m really looking forward to reading & reviewing these books. In addition to Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, they will be the books I will cut my book-reviewing teeth on. I’m especially excited because I have certain writerly plans for my book reviews. More to come later!

Categories: meta, reviews

My week for critique

June 17, 2009 Leave a comment

I just learned that my story “John Glorious” is in this week’s list of stories to critique on Critters. Now all I have to do is wait ONE WHOLE WEEK for critiques. Can I be so patient? Stay tuned!

Categories: meta

Character, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

June 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Do you want to write interesting stories, or boring ones? The answer is obvious: to avoid making a yawner story (for both your readers and yourself), you want a main character that is not boring to be around.

And all you have to do is HATE. YOUR. CHARACTERS.

A common quote that is passed around the writing-sphere is “Chase your character up a tree, then throw rocks at him.” In other words, don’t give your character an easy time of it. Easy is boring. If something can go wrong, make it go wrong 100% of the time. Be relentlessly mean to him. Don’t give him a break. Or, if you do give him a break, it’s only to make the final jab in the gut that much more painful. Anything else is pulling punches and playing fair.

Start with what your character cares about the most. If your character cares about something, then attacking that thing (or person) will cause him the most pain. From a writing standpoint, pain is good.

This means you have to know your character well enough. A sketchy character with a cardboard personality will not have likes and wants, just action scenes. Work on what motivates him. Then hit it hard.

I’m going to give you a real-life example. My wife and I are expecting our first child, a boy. The little guy has been moving around a lot recently, and feeling him bump around inside his mommy’s belly has pleased me to no end.

Princess just started her third trimester, and just at this time, we realized that two or three days flew by without any movement. We started to get worried. After all, the book we’re reading (which is an excellent book in every way) tells us to time our baby’s movements, and if they’re too slow or nonexistent, we should worry and see the doctor immediately. So, we spent an anxious night losing sleep, full of worry, wondering if our baby is okay and afraid that he’s not.

If this were a work of fiction, the point where we realize the baby is not moving is chasing the character up a tree. But it doesn’t stop there. A writer who wants a good, dramatic story will throw rocks by thinking of what more can go wrong.

With a little bit of imagination, we can think of all sorts of things that can go wrong when an expectant couple fears for the safety of their unborn child:

  • The couple can start to blame each other, perhaps suspecting that some habit of the father’s (such as smoking) or the mother’s (such as drinking) is to blame. A loud argument erupts before even there is a trip to the doctor.
  • The father throws the mother into the car and speeds them off to the emergency room. On the way they have an accident and the baby is hurt. Now they don’t know if the baby was really in trouble before, but now it’s too late.
  • The father cannot function. He goes off to the bar/gym/work and gets hammered/injured/fired.
  • The father suspects his wife of hurting the baby on purpose. He begins to confide in a female coworker.

I’ve purposely focused on the father’s reactions, mostly. If I tried to brainstorm for the mother, I would easily double this list. But, clearly by adding some carefully selected reactions and overreactions we can make a bad situation worse. Even if the baby is healthy, we have added a level of complication that we wouldn’t have if we went the easy (boring) route and just went to the doctor in the first place. Chase your character up the tree and throw rocks at him!

(BTW, Princess and I did take the boring route and went to the doctor. The baby is fine, but he’s not moving as much as before because he’s running out of room in there! It’s funny that in real life, boring is so much better.)

Categories: writing