Friday, January 27, 2012

Writing Drafts: The Illustrated Version

Ever wonder how a manuscript progresses from first draft to last? Because I often think of the individual scenes, and even pieces of scenes, as building blocks, I decided to do a visual representation of my process. Using blocks.

This is my synopsis, which is basically my outline. It's the basics of the story - the who, when, major plot points, the beginning, the end. It's short. A reader would understand what and who the story's about and generally what's going to happen, but there's no dialogue and it's lacking details.

Then it's on to the first draft, which turns out something like this:

Obviously there's a lot more going on. Now we have dialogue, setting details, more characters and more character development. It resembles the synopsis, and's different. Looks a little weird, too, doesn't it? That's because I throw in all kinds of material in the first draft, some that stays, some that's clearly not going to work.

So I start renovating, and wind up with something like this:

Some material is still there, especially the basics, or foundation. But lots has been taken away, too.

That means rewriting, or adding new material, until I have this:

Almost, but not quite. Now, sometimes I'm lucky and I only have to do one more draft. Other times, I will tear down and rebuild two or three more times, until I get to the finished edifice:

Now, being me, I could tinker with this for, well, probably years. But there comes a time when I'm tired of playing with those particular blocks and I want to try something else, with different colors or shapes. That's when I know the story is as good as I can make, and if I keep working on this project, all I'm going to do is start making a mess.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Swans Swimming

There is both a pond and a large bay near our cottage. The swans are on the pond all summer. In winter, they go to the bay where there's a patch of unfrozen water.

I was taken aback to see the swans in the pond this week. Well, not in the pond. On the pond. See what I mean?

I've never been so close to them and let me tell ya, those birds are huge

Today on my walk, I saw them swimming in the bay, where there is very little ice yet. This is good for the swans and ducks. Not so good for the folks who want to set up ice fishing huts.

Wonder what else I'll see this week?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

What a sunset!

I rushed outside while making dinner to take a picture of the gorgeous sunset. The picture doesn't really do it justice. The colors were really breath-taking.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

And the last goal for 2012 is....

I want to party more.

Well, party might not be quite the right word. I'm not a fan of large, noisy gatherings with people I may or may not know. I mean I want to socialize more with the people I do know. Talk and visit with friends, not just exchange emails or tweets.

After years of deadlines, some thrown at me at the very last minute, I got to the point where I was reluctant to commit myself to much of anything. I was afraid I'd have to cancel abruptly, or feel guilty that I wasn't working when I did socialize. Over time, this meant I was spending much less time with friends.

This is not good.

Yes, I got my work done. Yes, I saw my family and I was online, so I wasn't completely isolated. Yet I was also beginning to feel like a troll living in a cave. When I did venture out to meet with friends, I was feeling more and more as if I was saying the wrong things, or being too crabby. Non-writers will never understand what writers do, how they do it, or why it can be so mentally and emotionally taxing. I knew that, yet I was turning into a grumpy, bitter writer nevertheless. And worrying that I might say the wrong thing was turning into a reason not to socialize. Like I said, not good.

So this year, I'm taking steps to get out of my cave more, such as arranging to lunch with friends or having company at the cottage.

So, there you have it. My goals for 2012: write and submit a manuscript, lose 15 pounds, try to avoid using "but" and socialize more. Nothing earth-shattering, yet I hope striving toward these goals will help me lead a more fulfilling, healthy and balanced life in 2012.

What about you? Any similar goals in 2012?

The Insidious Negativity of One Little Word

I have one rather unusual goal for 2012. I want to decrease my use of the word "but."

Recently I was having lunch with a friend who has taken a volunteer job as an usher at a community theater. She was telling me about some of her training, including not using negative words such as "but."

I confess that struck me as odd, because I'd never really considered "but" a negative word. Then I recalled something else I'd heard. If you're asking for something, and you get a response along the lines of "I'd love to, but...", ignore everything that comes before the "but." What comes after the "but" is the answer.

Often, it's the request denied. The submission rejected. The job lost.

"But" is the sound of the door being closed.

I saw the insidious negativity of "but" in action while I was working on my recent blog posts. No, it does not herald a positive remark, so I'm going to try not to use it, unless, of course, I really want to be negative. The difference will be that I will be thinking about it, not just letting it creep in, bringing its negative inference with it.

This kind of goal is a subtle one. It isn't going to be very noticeable to anybody else. Yet I can see this small change having a real, positive impact on my daily life, so for me, it's as worthy a goal as losing weight.

Monday, January 02, 2012

My Second Big Goal for 2012

This goal is, alas, a repeat of a former one. I stopped exercising diligently, ate too many sweet and/or less healthy foods, and now have the extra weight to show for it. Therefore, my second main goal this year is to lose 15 pounds (although 20 would be better) and 4 inches around the waist (although 5 would be better and 6 would be wonderful). Why not inches elsewhere? I have the sort of body where all the extra weight goes to the waist. Yep, the dreaded, unhealthy "belly fat."

How do I intend to meet this goal?

I hope to exercise every day. As I discovered the last time I set a weight-loss target, consistency is key. My main way to exercise is by walking at least 10,000 steps a day or using a treadmill we got for $40 at a rummage sale, powered by the walker. I have a Pilates ball and found that two different lifts using it are great for tightening and strengthening the abdominal muscles.

I won't have the treadmill at the cottage, though, (and have no plans to lug it down there), so I want to investigate a gym in the nearest town, and perhaps the local indoor pool. I also have a hankering to try horseback riding lessons. I fear, though, that the price may be too much for the budget, at least for this year. Still, worth a call or two, because it's something I've always wanted to do.

I let myself indulge in chocolate and cola over the holidays, and am now in a period of abstinence, save for the occasional treat and writing reward (sometimes you need a little something special after wrestling with a particularly difficult scene). Cola's a lot easier to give up in the winter, so now's a good time to start that. White foods (like potatoes, white rice and bread) also go on the special occasion list.

So far, I've lost a pound from my highest holiday weight, so I'm already on the right track. (Yeah!)

Getting a manuscript finished and submitted and losing weight are my two major goals for 2012. I have some minor ones, too. More on those tomorrow.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

My Goals for 2012

Happy New Year, everybody!

I've decided not to make resolutions this year. Instead, I'm having goals, things to aim for that I believe are in the doable realm. I've also thought about how I'm going to accomplish those goals.

Today, the work goal: I want to revise and submit a complete novel by the end of March.

First step is to reread the first draft that I finished in mid-November. In the past, I've always printed a hard copy and read it through, editing and making revision notes as I go.

This year, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try reading through the manuscript on my computer, not editing and only making revision notes at the end of a scene. This is not going to be easy for me. After all, I've been working one way for over twenty years. So why do it this way? I want to get an overview of the novel, to see what major changes have to be made, before I tackle minor details. And after my long break, maybe it's time for a fresh approach. This may not work for me, but I figure it's worth a try.

I'm also hoping to schedule time at the cottage in January. It's very quiet in the village in winter, and we only have over-the-air TV, which means I get the news and some of the major TV shows, but not cable shows, like HGTV, A & E and TLC. It'll be my own writing retreat.

One thing I'd like to note - when I posted in my latest newsletter about this goal, I received several responses from readers saying how happy they were that I was writing again. Talk about inspirational! It was wonderful to hear that people were anxious to read more of my stories.

So that's my first main goal for 2012. I'll blog about the second one tomorrow.