Research

A while ago, I committed to my writing groups that I would write 4,000 words per week. Sometimes I make it and sometimes I don’t. Regardless, it is a worthy goal.

Recently, though, I have been struggling. It’s not writer’s block. It’s research.
The part of the book I’m working on now includes topics I know little about. I don’t mean to be vague, but I don’t want to give away too much of the story. possible cover pixThe point is that I have to do research as I write. I know how the story goes, but I need to include background information about what’s happening. 

For example, if I were writing a book that took place in a candy factory, I would need to know something about what happens in a candy factory. I’d need to know how the people there dress, what the temperature there would be, if it is noisy, and more.

Google and Wikipedia are great resources for me right now. I use Wikipedia so much that when they run their fundraising drive, I feel obligated to contribute. I have a vested interest in Wikipedia’s existence.

I also turn to people I know. When I needed to learn about different communities, I was lucky to have colleagues in those cities. Having ‘feet on the ground’ enabled me to add interest to my locales and avoid mistakes that could be obvious and distracting to readers.

I have family members who know about boats and sailing. I turn to them for advice and suggestions. “How long would it take to sail from PLACE to PLACE?” “What would you have to do if THIS happened?”

All this takes time. It slows down my writing. When I did my first draft, I wasn’t particularly concerned about accuracy. I was too busy creating the story. Now I’m filling in the blanks, correcting inaccuracies, and adding details.

4,000 words a week is still my goal, but there are days when I only end up with a few hundred words by the time I do the research and make the necessary changes. Fortunately, my software tracks my daily word count which I record in my planner. Sometimes it gives me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment and other times it frustrates me. But I keep going . . .

 

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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After I successfully completed NaNoWriMo (see more about NaNoWriMo here) by writing 50,000 words in one month, I signed the NaNoWriMo Revision Contract.

I did it!  I, Rhonda Kalkwarf, pledge to edit and revise my manuscript.

I swear to undertake the unluxurious process of editing the first draft of my novel. I understand that this process can be messy and disheartening, but ultimately just as rewarding as writing it all the first time.

I have replaced all creative implements (pens, pencils, keyboards, touchscreens, quills, and hunks of charcoal) at my workspace with destructive ones (erasers, backspace keys, white-out, and comically large mallets). I will refine and chop sentences, paragraphs, and chapters with impartial ferocity.

Above all, I promise to regard my novel with a critical but not cruel eye, for it is a work of my one-and-only imagination and deserves to be made even better.

Because I’ve been very public about this journey, people often ask about my progress. Well, here’s what’s been happening.

After I finished writing in November, I set the manuscript aside for a month. My goal was to be able to look at it with a fresh perspective.

Once I picked it up again, I cut ruthlessly. I took out each scene and character who didn’t advance the plot in some way. It was hard to part with some of those, but I knew it was necessary. My 50,000 words shrank to 42,000. Progress?15279774_s

Since then, I’ve been going through the book and adding depth. After NaNoWriMo, I had a book skeleton. Now I’m in the process of adding the organs, muscles and skin.

I’ve cleaned up scenes I wrote before and I’ve added new scenes when I realized there was more to the story. I’m filling in descriptions of characters and settings. In a previous blog, I described when I played with Point of View. I keep working on the flow of the story to be sure it flows well and will be interesting for a reader to enjoy.

I just passed the halfway point of doing this. When I finish, I’ll go through it again. I’ll probably do it again after that. Before I send it to be professionally edited, I’ll send it out to Beta readers for feedback. It’ll need to be proofread, too.

My goal right now is to have this first pass completed before November 1. I’ve been thinking about doing NaNoWriMo again this year. There are a couple characters who’ve started dancing in my head. We’ll see.
Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.
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In a Different Direction

I’ve been away for a while, missing in action. First, there was the week I had family in town and six house guests. Before they arrived, I cleaned the house, refreshed linens, planned menus and shopped.

Our guests left on Monday and we departed for vacation a couple hours later. My characters danced in my head while we were gone, but I never sat down to write. We golfed, we hiked, we played and I worked on my coloring book, a blessedly mindless activity.

When we returned, it was a typical first week back from vacation. Plus I did laundry and all the tasks you do after guests leave. And besides that, my calendar was full of commitments. (This post is not just excuses, really.)

When I sat down in the coffee shop yesterday to write, I was stuck. I didn’t know where to begin. I stared at the blank screen, considering what needed to be done. I decided to read back a few scenes, just to get my feet wet.

Doing so, I got reconnected  with my characters and caught up on what they were up to. It’s like when you get together with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time. In the beginning, it’s a little awkward until you get back into sync. And then before long, you’re finishing each other’s sentences.

Fork in the roadOnce I started, the scene flowed smoothly. It did go a different way than I expected. Sometimes characters do that, they take the story or scene in a new direction.

That’s what happened yesterday. Maybe they took over because they knew I was having trouble getting started. Then again, maybe they would have done it anyway.

I’m happy with where they went. At least it’s consistent with my bigger plan so I don’t need to re-work other parts of the story. Considerate of them!
Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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The Scourge of Typos

Last week, I started a new practice. I’m trying to further separate writing and editing into two unique processes. Writing is a right brain activity. Editing is a left brain activity. A quiz on Facebook told me I’m evenly right and left-brained. It must be true then, right? That means I can do both writing and editing. Just not both at once.

keyboardI read this advice when I was preparing for NaNoWriMo. They told me I should just write and not try to assess as I went. I did that. But now I’m challenging myself to go further.

You know those squiggly red lines under words that are misspelled? Well, those drive me crazy. And when I’m typing fast, I make a lot of typos. The first time I typed ‘I’m’ in the sentence above, I typed the I and then a space before the ‘m. I could have let it go and then fixed it when I proofread, but that’s just not comfortable. In fact, it makes me crazy.

When I told my sister (a former English teacher) about my plan, she agreed. She said she used to make her high schoolers type with the monitor covered. Yeah, not gonna happen here!

But the good news to me is I’m getting better at letting the typos slip away as I write. Most times, I wait to correct them until my first read through. Unless, of course, I’m afraid I won’t be able to make out what word I actually meant.

It’s really my typing teacher’s fault. She insisted we look strictly at our copy and not at the keyboard, never at the keyboard. Yep, it’s her fault. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to follow this link to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

Writing at the Coffee Shop

Ugh! I’ve recently joined the legions of people who work in coffee shops. Most afternoon now, you’ll find me at my favorite shop typing away on my laptop, enjoying a cup of herbal tea. The barista knows me by name, what kind of tea I drink and that I like a couple ice cubes to cool it off a little. After every nine cups of tea, I get a free one.

This isn’t the closest coffee shop to my house. When I decided to try moving my writing, I searched on Yelp for nearby shops. There are three Starbucks in my town, one I can walk to. Instead, I drive fifteen minutes to get to the one I write.

coffee shop 2I chose The Mug Coffee because it is bright and cheery inside. Most of the time, it’s pretty quiet. Electrical outlets are abundant and the people are nice.

Being at home is not a problem for me when I’m working, but when I’m writing, it’s different.I’ll go downstairs to make some tea and often I get distracted as I wait for the water to heat and the tea to brew. The counter needs to be wiped down, I’ll wash the pan from breakfast and, oh look, the dishwasher is ready to be emptied. Did I mention my husband has been working from home recently?

Twenty minutes later when I get back to my desk, I’ve lost my train of thought. It’s easy to pick up where I left off if I’m working. But not when I’m writing. Then it takes another ten or fifteen minutes to regain my momentum. No employer would stand for a 30-35 minute tea break and neither can I. Granted I lose the time when I’m driving, but I’m so much more productive when I’m there that it’s worth it.

So, if you’re ever at The Mug and see me writing, stop by and say hello. But don’t stay long!

 

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

Point of View

Do you remember this from English class? Stories are almost always told from a first person or third person perspective. In a first person story, it would be about what I did, my experience. “I went to the store.” A third person story would say, “She went to the store.” Second person would be you, “You went to the store.” Second person is hardly ever used in novels.

When I first wrote my novel, I wrote in third person, mostly from Jake’s point of view (POV), but sometimes from the POV of other characters. As I’ve been working on enhancing, clarifying and editing the story, I began to wonder whether this was the most effective way to tell the story.

Maybe I needed to change so everything was from Jake’s POV? If I did use the POV of other characters, did I need it to be balanced among the characters or would it be OK if it was mostly from Jake’s POV?

I brought this question to my writing group. After reviewing several scenes, they came up with a different suggestion. Perhaps Jake’s scenes should be first person and the others should be third person. Wow! I’d never considered first person. Could Jake tell the story himself?

POVThe next day, I decided to try it out. I re-wrote the first scene in the book. I liked it. First person gave me a better way to share information. It started out as an exercise of changing pronouns, but before long, the characters had more to say.

Six days later (SIX!), I realized I had a problem. The story cannot be told by Jake unless he survives at the end. I’m not saying whether he does or not, but haven’t you ever read a book where at first you don’t know at first if the storyteller will survive until you realize he had to in order to write the story? I have; it kind of takes all the fun out of it.
Another six days later and the story is back to third person. I’m still deciding how many characters’ Points of view I will use, but that will not be hard to change if I decide to do so. In the meantime, those scenes are better for what I learned from the characters when they were talking. I’ll carry that forward as I move through the rest of the book.

 

Thanks for following the journey!  I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.
If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.
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What Ending?

Coin TossSince I started my book, I wondered what the ending should be. It was approaching hurricane season. There were pirates in the area. The boat was a large one to sail alone. He could have faked his disappearance.

During my NaNoWriMo, I decided on an ending. Recently, I changed it. I decided my first ending was too predictable. I did some research to check credibility and then I changed the ending. (Oh, that we could do that in real life!)

Have you read Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes? I just finished it and loved it. CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT HERE. It doesn’t end the way you’d want it to. I thought she’d figure out a way to make the happy ending believable, but she doesn’t. The story is better for it. I’m sure it would make for a lively book club meeting.

I continue to change the novel and add depth. I don’t imagine I’ll make another change this significant. Or maybe I will. If I think the story will be better for it.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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