Category Archives: Showing Up to Write

Just keep writing

WIP:  Goth Girl and the Queen Cobra
Words:  ~1000

Many, many long (and frequently unpleasant) moons ago, I made a promise that I would blog each day that I write up until my trip to Mexico.  Well, then I entered the period of my incarceration (the not moving due to herniated disc in back).  And while I did not blog each day that I wrote, I also didn’t write much.  (Sitting and computers for any length of time were not an option).

And my trip to Mexico got delayed for a year since I couldn’t sit on an airplane and the thought of lying around all day was horrific (that was all I was capable of doing for the first three months of this year, and I crawled my way out of that situation very gradually, yuck).

But now I’m working on getting back in the habit.  Getting the writing juices flowing.  Insert any type of familiar metaphor you like into this spot.

It’s not my first day back writing.  But it’s my first really owning up to it.  It’s like getting back on that bicycle.  You may never fully forget how to do it, but boy is it uncomfortable if it’s been a long time.

I feel uncertain and clumsy.  But better that than staring blankly at a screen.

It probably doesn’t help that this new project is in a new style for me.  It’s a fun, dark romp though. And with that, it’s time to close up shop for the night

Happy writing, joyful reading!

~Samantha

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Time Accountability

Thanks to my recentish iPhone purchase, I’ve discovered that these days it is much easier to be accountable to myself than ever in the past.

Because there are apps.  There are apps that make it ridiculously easy to track your food intake (more on that in a later post), to track your money, and to track your time.

Now I recently took a RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) course through their Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal online group on Writing as a Business.  And much of that course boiled down to:  act professional, look professional and keep track of your stuff as a professional.

One of the specifics then from this was the recommendation to keep track of your time.  Should the nightmare happen and you get audited, you have a stronger case if you can show how much time you actually spend on this second job (with it’s typically horrible hourly wage of next to niente).

Well, keeping a log is effort.  And not fun.  And those two things combined typically kill something for me.

But with my recent iPhone acquisition and success in taking control of other aspects of my life by using the tools it offers, I had to know, was there another tool out there waiting for me?

Why yes, yes there was.  Hours Tracker is its name.  Tracking jobs is its game.  So I entered in all of the different stories I’m working on and the typical other work associated with writing, such as blogging and email management (gods, how I loathe email, but that’s neither here not there for this post).

And when I start working on something I tell the pretty little app that I’ve started and on what.  When I’m done, I turn it off.  And it keeps track for me.  Tallied by project and possibly by month (but I haven’t been using it long enough to tell).  And it’s exportable.  So at the end of the month I just export the data, print out the report and file it as my physical backup.

So easy.  So lazy.  So fun.

So suddenly noticeable as to how much time I’m actually spending writing.  Okay, sure, I can still use the ‘recovering from back injury’ excuse.  And it is true, but the reason is disappearing in direct proportion to my physical improvement.  And I’m left staring at the number, or lack thereof, of hours spent actually working on specific stories.

That leaves me only one question.  Am I going to change my behaviour and get writing more?  Or not?

Sh*t or get off the pot, as they say.

So when I…you know, this analogy is starting to disturb me.  So let’s go with, when I start logging hours on writing that isn’t blogging, I get this happy, positive reinforcement from seeing the hours start to add up on the app.

Accountability and reinforcement.  For me they are wonderful tools for getting me off–no, wait, that would be on my ass and writing.

It’s amazing what a little awareness will do for our behaviour, don’t you think?  And being accountable, even if only to yourself, of how your time is spent.  Well, it got me in my chair tonight typing rather than on the couch watching Hot Fuzz.

Anything that helps me with writing is a win in my book.  Okay, I couldn’t resist the pun which is a clear sign it is time to get some sleep!  So I will stop now but would welcome hearing what self management techniques have working for you!

Writers, may your words flow onto the page; readers, may the stories delight you.

May we all dream in technicolor,

~Samantha

Get your bodies speaking for you

Showing not telling is all about describing something as your senses would perceive it directly, without a judgment attached:

  • Her fingers moved constantly in random, jerky patterns vs. she fidgeted nervously
  • His eyebrows rose up towards his hair vs. he looked surprised

We like to read stories where we are engaged in the creation process, where we envision what is happening rather than having it handed to us on a silver platter with all interpretation laid out for us.

In order to do this effectively, we need to be able to describe the important parts of movement, the key indicators of mood and thought.  We also need to use different descriptions or we and the reader will get bored with the one and only way we know how to show surprise.  (Those pesky raised eyebrows…but don’t forget that there are other things those lifted eyebrows can indicate, such as a question in the offing.)

A friend gave me a fabulous book, What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell.  It is a series of essays that explores the intersection of science and society, that answers such great questions as “what is the difference between choking and panicking?  Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard but only one variety of kechup?”

I read it in a weekend, gobbling up each essay and then starting on the next one before I could even catch my breath.  I highly recommend it.  It will get you thinking, in the best, most entertaining way possible.

In the title essay, I was reminded of this question of showing not telling, of how we get the setting and the characters to show their feelings for us rather than using those cheap, easy descriptive words.  And maybe some tools to make it a little easier.

The essay focused on how dogs interpret human body language and react accordingly.  A University dance instructor analyzed the movement of a ‘dog whisperer’ which led to the mention of the Laban Movement Analysis.  The abbreviated list of things they look at struck me as a start for writers to use to get at those motions that will lead the reader to the experience we want them to have.

“Movement experts…use…Laban Movement Analysis to make sense of movement, describing, for instance, how people shift their weight, or how fluid and symmetrical they are when they move, or what kind of effort it involves.  Is it direct or indirect – that is, what kind of attention does the movement convey?  Is it quick or slow?  Is it strong or light – that is, what is its intention?  Is it bound or free – that is, how much precision is involved?  If you want to emphasize a point, you might bring your hand down across your body in a single, smooth motion.  But how you make that motion greatly affects how your point will be interpreted by your audience.  Ideally, your hand would come down in an explosive, bound movement – that is, with accelerating force, ending abruptly and precisely – and your head and shoulders would descend simultaneously, so posture and gesture would be in harmony.  Suppose, though, that your head and shoulders moved upward as your hand came down, or your hand came down in a free, implosive manner – that is, with a kind of vague, decelerating force.  Nows your movement suggests that you re making a point on which we all agree, which is the opposite of your intention.”  (p. 136-7)

This is one example of how our body moves expresses our mood, our intention and underscores or undermines our words.

“[The dog whisperer] then leans forward for emphasis.  But as he does, he lowers his hands to waist level, and draws them towards his body, to counterbalance the intrusion of his posture.  And, when he leans backward again, the hands rise up, to fill the empty space.  It’s not the kind of thing you’d ever notice.  But, when it’s pointed out, its emotional meaning is unmistakable.  It is respectful and reassuring.  It communicates without being intrusive.” (p. 137)

As writers, we need to capture the essence of the movement, the specific items that will lead the reader to where we want them to go.

“His phrases are of mixed length…Some of them are long.  Some of them are very short.  Some of them are explosive phrases, loaded up in the beginning and then trailing off.  Some of them are impactive – building up, and then coming to a sense of impact at the end.  What they are is appropriate to the task.  That’s what I mean by versatile.”

Switch up your character’s movements.  Play with them as you would play with pacing.  Use their bodies to add to the scene, to give it greater depth, greater meaning that is there waiting for the reader to discover it and make their own judgment.

I love it when there are multiple layers to things.  Today’s layer cake includes a book recommendation, the reminder to always be open to finding inspiration in anything read or experienced, and some suggestions on how to look at and describe movement to show, not tell, what’s going on with your characters.

I hope you enjoy.

Murder Most Marvelous

The lights were strong, illuminating my work area.

The day was at its brightest point despite the overcast sky.

My intentions were of pure darkness.

My hand was steady, strong and certain, reaching out to pick up the chemicals.  The drugs that would bring death.

1/8th of a teaspoon to kill them all.

The thrill!  The joy!  I’d waited so long for this day.  Hard to believe I was finally living it.  I savoured each moment, ignored the effort that was required because all that mattered was the outcome.  Death.  Final and complete.

My mead was dead.  Murdered.  By my own hand.  The entire colony of yeast slaughtered by the proper application of potassium metabisulphate and potassium sorbate.

That picture is the view through the batch of rose mead.  And yes, that is my kitchen sink you can see behind it.  You hope for the day your mead clarifies, long for it, and I was blessed for that day had arrived.

Now that it’s dead, in about a week I’ll be bottling it all.

We are told murder is wrong.  It’s one of our most basic laws.

As a writer, it is my duty to violate this law, frequently and with flair.  My protagonists need mysteries to solve, opponents to combat, obstacles to overcome.

Murder is one of the tools life gives us.

There is the murder that starts the mystery.

The murder that twists the plot into a whole new arena.

And what of the threat of murder?  Lurking, dark and foreboding over the protagonist.  Or better yet, a loved one, someone the protagonist needs to protect but may not be able to.

Murder of the body, of their career, of their soul.  So many types of murder.  So many reasons to do it.

Do you like murder in your stories?  When and where and what type do you prefer?  What’s the best story murder you’ve read or written?  Would love to hear your comments.

P-pl-pl-plot-plotting?

WIP:  Agent of Fate

Today’s writing accomplishment lies in overcoming my fear of plotting.  I sat down with my whiteboard and the memories of my NaNoWriMo project and I plotted.

I had already laid out the basics (I usually sum up a scene with 1-4 descriptive words) so today was actually working with that information.  Where did it need work, where could I twist things more, what didn’t make sense and so on and so forth.  Had to use all four colours of my whiteboard markers, too.

Part of me still feels like I should do more.  The rest of me feels like I’ve got a good stepping stone to sorting out this WIP so I can get back to writing.

Guess I’ll find out when I start back into the writing.  But if nothing else, I’m a big step closer to figuring out how I plot.  And that, my dear friends, is the important part.

Okay, that and getting back on the writing train.  😉

Whiteboards rock!

In my work place (I work at a University), whiteboards are so ubiquitous that my office came standard with one, but I had to specially request a corkboard.

Now I’m addicted to them.

I’ve acquired 3 for home.  A small one for planning my week and keeping track of immediate tasks and planning.  Two for story planning.

It would have been one, but then I would have had to erase it to work on my plotting issues on the other WIP (work in progress).  To which I said hell no!  Besides they stack very neatly against each other, so there’s no problem with multiples.

So yes, I use them for plotting, story planning, world building.  Really, any kind of idea generation works so well on that smooth expanse of white.  Even post-its don’t work as well for me as scribbling notes that I know I can just erase, re-scribble and keep going with.  Maybe paper’s just too much commitment for me and my commitment phobia is resurfacing in a strange and peculiar way.  Or I just love being able to scribble where I want.  Either way, I find whiteboards the perfect way to work through all these story areas, particularly plotting problems (my personal bane).

It’s easy to switch colours for different concerns, straight lines for those scenes I’m certain of, dashes for those that may need to get reviewed, changed or moved.  Red notes on the places that I have questions.  Odd random notes in the corners for things I need to remember.  Different colour for the sections I haven’t written yet but have the basic, broadest strokes defined in my head.

Or in other words, whiteboards rock.  So much flexibility. And with digital cameras, it’s no cost and no effort to record whatever you’ve written down before wiping it away and starting all over.

So if you, too, are staring at blank post-its and wondering what to do, consider the power of whiteboards.  Just saying.  😉

Story submitted!

Okay, I may have been quiet on here, but I’ve been active elsewhere!

April was the month of classes and I enjoyed them all.  The Business on a Shoestring was particularly fascinating since it was almost all new to me.  Thanks to Dr. Pepper I’m known logging my hours for all things related to my writing career.  Career, what a lovely word.

But today’s success is about getting in my short story submission to Misanthrope Press for their Etched Offerings pagan anthology.  While my story certainly is pagan-centric, I’m hoping not too dark for ’em.

So yay for my achievement of the day!  On to the next task:  buying Wicked tickets.  It’s finally come to Vancouver and a group of us are going together.  Saw it in New York and loved it and now I don’t have to travel across the continent to see it again.  Yippee!

Happy Friday to all 🙂