#WritingExcusesChallenge Day 16

Hi.

I know. It’s been like a week. I’m sorry. I fell off the band wagon and have about 4 days worth of content to get caught up on. And… I’m sorry. And I love you guys. All five of my subs. I love you, I promise.

I’m not gonna lie, I had a weird depressive down swing. I don’t know if I actually have clinical depression, but I wouldn’t be surprised. That rant and story will have to come another day. I’m going to chalk it up to many things, more stuff I won’t get into now. But I did have one.

So I fell off the band wagon HARD, rolled into the ditch, and had to lie there crying about it for a while. But, I’m back now, and going to work crazy hard (emphasis on the crazy) to get back on track. But if we never catch up, we are not going to beat ourselves up about it, because if we do that, then we will feel more and more stressed and then quit. And we cannot have that. We have also been using the royal we all this time and we don’t care because REASONS.

Writing Excuses Podcast Episode 10.16

The funny thing is, I took copious notes on this several days ago, but my son decided that writing was never going to happen while he was awake. That’s the first push-off the bandwagon I had. But I can’t blame him entirely.

Beginnings are still really hard, and I like that they say don’t write the first pages first. I often write the end before I write the beginning. The end often gets changed by the time I get to the end, but that’s fine. It’s a good ride to get there.

Mary gives us a good example of how the opening pages feel, like we are in a dark room and we are only shining around a flashlight to figure out our tone and our promises to be made.

Howard also talks about taking the paragraph and flipping the paragraph upside down. The last line needs to be first, often times. It’s an interesting problem that I hadn’t ever though about, and I may do this more often.

I also really like the idea that you should stress the first page and not necessarily the first lines. Specifically what’s important to the character, what they want.

This keeps getting stressed and I feel like I should stress it, too. Everyone wants something, and that’s what we focus on.

I want to write, more so, I want to write for people. So everything I do aims toward that goal. But I’m more complex than that. I also want my son to be happy and my husband, so I do everything in my power to make that happen. Even forgoing what I want to do (sit at my computer and write all day) to do things for them. Play with my son, cuddle my husband, or cook dinner for them that they enjoy. All things that makes them feel loved and happy and full fills what I am striving to do.

Writing Prompt

Write your first thirteen lines, and see how much you can fit into that space—character attitude, point-of-view, mood, genre, conflict, setting, and more.

The reason they give this prompt is because standard manuscript format means that the first page will only be thirteen lines. My Scrivener application will compile manuscripts like this, so I can easily see how the first page of my manuscript will look.

So, what does the first thirteen lines look like in my book?

"Normally, I never question your orders. I kill when you
tell me and when you are paying me. But this time it's too
risky. Convince me."
     "Ha! You're speaking like one of my clerks. You're sitting
in my office, drinking my bourbon, asking me to justify my
actions for the betterment of this world to you?"
     "I'm drinking a fine drink offered to me, along with a
comfortable chair, asking you to justify my actions to me."
     "Are you getting soft?"
     Silence.
     "I'll take that as no. We're shaping the course of events,"

So, what does this tell us about the book we are about to read?

  1. This is very spy like.
  2. There is conflict going on before we even get off the ground.
  3. The author isn’t going to tell us everything up front.

I’d say that hits all the marks it’s supposed to.

BOOM! NEXT.

#WritingExcusesChallenge Day 6 & 7

Yeah, yeah. I’m still playing catch-up. Whatever…

Okay, not whatever. This is technically my own challenge, but I’m trying to stay on top of it! I swear!

I guess one thing that I didn’t take into account is the fact that Writing Excuses really did design each of these prompts to be done over a period of several days, even a fully week. Three POV nice length scenes in one day is CRAZY. But so is writing a whole novel in 30 days.

Writing Excuses Episode 10.6

This, when I listened to it after it came out, was one of my favourite episodes. It would be SO MUCH FUN to write a whole book in which the priveleged magical eliteists are taken down by the little man. That isn’t a copywritten idea, someone just do that!

When you set up your world, often you have a group of characters at the axis, these people having a certain desitiny and probably having a certain set of abilities or powers in order to put them at the center of the action. We unintentionally privledge those who have powers.

But what about the non-magical people? The everyman character that gets thrown into the scenario or the keeper of the inn? Do the Klingon hairdresser?

If you think about the way you view your own life, you are the hero of your own story. Is it so crazy to think that other people do the same thing? Everyone is the hero of their own story, until they meet the Jedi knight. Actually, they still think they are the hero of their own story, even after they meet the Jedi knight. Is the Jedi then a hero to them, or a villian?

One example of this that I love is the cabbage vendor from “The Last Airbender”. From his persepective, he’s probably the hero of a story where the pesky Avatar keeps coming in and destroying his cart. He has a try/fail cycle!

I like they point that they made about looking at the people who surround the magical 1% within your story. Not everyone can have magic or be special, otherwise it’s a very one tone world. So treat the world building like you treat your characters. Otherwise it will all be very one tone. That everyman character that you just decide to throw in could be the most beloved character in your story. The whole story could, in fact, be written from the persepective of someone who has no bearing whatsoever on the main action.

Writing Prompt

Think about the last time you lost at a game. What was the process of thought that led to your loss? Now, replicate that moment in the dramatic structure of the story, except the story isn’t about games.

They say in this episode (which is a wildcard, by the way!) that the prompt in question isn’t actually a prompt. It’s more of a story seed. So…

I’m skipping it.

I know! I know! This will make the whole thing 51 prompts instead of 52! But it’s my challenge and I’m making up the rules as I go along! So… I’ll save this one for later.

Writing Excuses Episode 10.7

This was one of my downfalls in my first book.

They say in past episodes of Writing Excuses that your first story is crap and you should probably abandon it.

They are not wrong. My first story was AWFUL.

I had 27 characters, all of whom I wanted to be main characters, and whom I said were all main characters. In reality, I had two main characters, a BUNCH of secondary and tirtiary characters, and WAY TOO MANY spear holders.

What is a spear holder?

Mary defines your side characters thusly:

Secondary Characters are someone who has a specific role and even some lines.

Spear Holders are the people who follow around in the background and don’t say anything. They are simply scenery.

I love this definition, it really really works. This means that you can define and even sculpt each character to do eactly what you want them to do. There isn’t this muddying of the water with all these other names on the paper, which is what several people told me my first book was. They were all just names on the page and it was almost impossible to know what any of them wanted, other than to be there as support for the main character. I tried to fit in as many of my friends and inside jokes into the plot as possible and it was a MESS.

This is why it’s so important to spend some time with the characters and figure out why each of them are there. One of my favourite resources is this GIANT (and I do mean GIANT) questionare for writers. I found this a few months back and it is HUGELY helpful, especially in second drafts when I’m trying to sculpt characters from my main draft. If you want to check it out, go read it and the blog post that goes along with it here! This is actually a pretty helpful website and I use a few of their tools to get me going and keep me writing when I wouldn’t know what else to do.

The biggest thing on that questionare and in this podcast episode is to think about what your character wants. Motivation is a big step in fleshing out a character. That’s why the cliché is always an actor asking “but what is my character’s motivation?” If you’re asking this, as the writer, you’re on the right track.

But the character’s motivation cannot take over the main plot, it becomes part of why they act upon the main plot, but it cannot be the main plot. At least, not for a side character. And they can’t just be there to fall in love with your main character, they have to have more motivation than that.

They go into more about multiple characters and the cultures, but that mostly just applies to epic fantasty. I’m not writing one of those… well… not this month, at least.

Writing Prompt

Pick one of the dead-drop characters from the exercise two weeks ago, and turn them into a secondary character. Now take one of the characters with whom they interacted, and write the same scene again, but from this new character’s POV.

We just did this prompt, so this will be very fun.


Sandra leant against the ledge of the food truck, pencil in her hand, writing down the barely audible order from the man in front of her.

“So that’s a beef and kimchi with a water?” She tried to smile, she always tried to smile, no matter how surly the other face was.

The card proffered was sticky with… something. She preferred not to think about it. How many people touched their wallets or their credit cards in the bathroom? Which was more filthy? Credit or cash?

Probably not many people thought about currency in regards to how many germs were present. She probably shoudln’t worry about it, she thought to herself, shouldn’t let it become a “thing” like Shakti told her she always did.

A boy in line, two or three customers back, caught her eye. Normally people stared at their phone, talked to a friend standing next to them while on their phone,  or squinted at the menu, sometimes while on their phone. He was doing none of these things. He doing none of these things; he was shifty, wearing a ball cap and scanning around him.

The blonde in front of her was trying to order.

“Sorry.” she shook her head and then plastered on a smile. “I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat it?” She kept smiling and took the blondes order. And the next customer, and the next. And here was the boy and he was smiling. She half expected him to pull a gun or a knife and demand all the money in the drawer. He didn’t. He was being polite, he said please and thank you, smiled, even left a generous tip. He smiled when he took his taiyaki and left without incident.

Sometimes you can be wrong about people, she thought to herself. And she went back to taking orders.

#writingexcuseschallenge Day 2

Day 2! And it’s 10pm. Better than last night, but not by much. At least, I’m sitting down and doing it.

As I was listening to the podcast for today’s prompts, I realized that it would have been better if I’d taken ideas from the book I want to work on for the next 52 days, not the ones that I did. Either way, it’s a valuable exercise.

So Episode 2 of Season 10 cracks off with the intent of showing us how to use the ideas that we come up with in writing. How to turn them into a story. I love that Mary talks about what kind of black market would spring up around an idea in the story. It seems like a perfect way to come up with conflict, also her trying to find a way that the idea would be misused in the context of the story. Also, Brandon talks about worldbuilding and how the simplest thing can “ruin someone’s day”. Who would it hurt or help? Who has a stake and who has agency?

One of our writing prompts is combining ideas, and Brandon talks about this one, that it’s important to do so. I like the idea of combining the two things, but not going for the low hanging fruit.

Speaking of low hanging fruit, I also love the idea from Mary about not going for the most complicated thing, as it may be the least plausible. It makes lots of sense. Make them into a milliner.

With all these things in mind, here is what I came up with for today’s homework.

Take two of them and combine them into one story.
What if you took the messenger one and the saltine premise, and that’s how they meet. The girl is sitting there eating crackers.

Take one and change the genre underneath it.
The scene about the ships exploding with the woman singing a song. Take it, and instead of it being essentially fantasy turn it into a sci-fi. The only problem is jumping overboard? Nah, you can throw them into an escape pod. And they can still get picked up by Brian, whole and happy.

Take one and change the ages and genders of everybody you had in mind for it.
This one is more difficult. Do I take the one about the baby from Season 2 of Avatar? Can’t do that, that’s fixed, it’s someone else’s world. The other one is different. I didn’t actually have any characters in mind for that one. It’s harder. So, my first inclination is to have it be girls, but in that process, I would have realized that boys doing this job would be the best. However, then I would want to have a girl to take down the nest and be one of the only girls in the squad. So back to a young girl. But why not an older one? Just an older lady, maybe she’s bored. Needs something to do with the kids gone. So she jumps into this head one. Get some good cash. So she joins up and is the best person they’ve had in ages. And she doesn’t bloody quit.

Take the last one and have the character make the opposite choice.
Oh dear. What choice does Baby Hope have to make? The choice to become an earth bender? Nah, that’s an obvious choice. She goes to earth bending school and then she… what… has the choice of joining the army or… I don’t think I know enough about the world to make a choice. Maybe she falls in love and has to stay with him or go to the war? What if she stays with him and the war finds her anyway and she has to go? What if she goes and he dies in the war? What if the whole thing is to choose the ending? Read both ways the story could end.
As I wrap up the second day, I’m starting to be glad I did this. This, for me, is exactly what I need right now. My baby is a wonderful thing to be occupying me all day, but I need to write. It really is how I breathe. I’m more snappish and cranky with my husband if I don’t write. Maybe not a breathing metaphor, then. Maybe, writing is more like food.

Let’s see how tomorrow goes.