The writing work ethic and KAPOW

Today is past the usual day for Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW), but I’m combining posts for a while.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.  I was going to say a little overwhelmed, but that would be an oxymoron.

My troubles generally stem from my ability to say no to others, yes, but mostly to myself.  I have trouble differentiating between what I can do and what I should do.  I’m not going to get into specifics; this is a writing blog, not a personal flog – I mean blog.  Heh.

Part of the problem has been because I’m not thinking of writing as work.  I have tried to talk myself into it aloud for some time.  My husband has demonstrated a better grasp than I have.  He just now came up to me with a question about a 5-gallon bucket of green beans he had just picked from the garden.  When he saw my computer display with the blog post on one side overlapping my WIP he said, “Oh, you’re working.  Never mind.  I’ll take care of it.”  What a guy.

I had the good fortune to be able to work from home for a number of years for an answering service.  When I answered phones in the office, I worked five eight-hour days.  From home, I was able to work four ten-hour days.  That meant I had three days per week off.  The remaining four days I sat my rear in my office chair in front of the computer, donned my headset and logged in.  During that ten hours I had three fifteen-minute breaks.  It was not a hardship, other than having to eat fast, a habit I’m still trying to break.

It was easier because I wore a headset and responded to calls as they came in.  I had no control over the frequency or the type of call – some were retail sales, some were customer service, some were after-hour calls for professionals and more.  The work desktop and the calls coming in were the driving force.

Now that I’m retired from the workplace, when I sit here to write, it’s on me.  I’m the driving force.  I am also easily distracted.  When I was taking calls for work, everybody knew I was working.  I didn’t answer the home phone, I didn’t take visitors, I was working.  Enforcing that work ethic while I’m writing is more problematic.  Some of my family and friends still think of my writing as a hobby.  I’m afraid I don’t enforce the do-not-disturb aspect as I should.  It’s a balancing act.  I’m still working on it.

In that vein, this week’s KAPOW challenge is to write, in 300 words or fewer, a description of something in your workspace.  It can be where you work now, have worked or want to work.  Narrow the focus to one inanimate object, no matter how large or small – no dialog and no character interaction.

Hmmmm.  Looking around my workspace . . .

Ah.

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THE FAILED VIOLET PLANTER

by C J Gorden

Its destiny, its purpose, had been to compliment the leaves and blooms and encompass the soil and roots of a prized dollar-ninety-five Wal-Mart violet purchased at the same time.  The two-piece container was designed to be a self-waterer, to draw water from the lower bowl through the unglazed portion of the upper receptacle nested within it in a way that made violet care . . . carefree.  It was not to be.  The water did not seep upward slowly over time, it flooded the coveted violet’s roots within the month and killed it dead.  No one noticed the sodden soil until it was too late to save the violet and the disenfranchised planter was relegated to a small, dilapidated box in a dark closet of shame.  After some time had passed the horror had abated and the planter was noticed again.

Fate has provided a new purpose for the former violet planter with the blue crackle glaze.  The high-shouldered, gracefully tapered base was judged stable enough to keep rulers, scissors and letter openers upright and the smaller container nested inside it keeps the contents from sprawling.  It holds not only an assortment of pens, pencils and highlighters, but a revolving medley of items from the entire household.  Among other miscellany there is a crochet hook, a Barbie’s golf club appropriated after a 2-year-old’s attempt to use it to clean a kitten’s ear, an impromptu caliper made from parts of two sewing rulers and across its lip rests a straightened paper clip once used to manually eject a CD from a misbehaving drive.  You never know when you might need one of those. No longer a failure, the planter has become a  reflection of its environment and is now known as The Pencil Cup.

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Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

I’m late again.  Had another bout with some kind of bug.  Feeling a lot better today and determined to catch up.  In lieu of my own writing prompt, I’m going to pass along a prompt from another blogger.  She shares her words at Fay Moore: I Want To Be a Writer.

Fay offers up music prompts, something totally out of the realm of my experience.  I have been a little chicken to try one but have decided since she responded to my last KAPOW prompt, it is time to put on my big girl panties and do it.

The prompt song is “Lightening Crashes” by Live.  It is not the kind of music I usually listen to so it was a stretch in every way.  It is an intense, ethereal song with a universal premise.  I considered writing poetry, but since the lyrics are poetic, it felt like I’d be butting heads with the lyricists over their own song.  So I went with poetic prose.  It was an eye opening experience and unlike anything I’ve written to date.  Thank you, Fay!

If you decide to write a piece for the prompt and post it to your blog, please let me know about it in a comment, or post the piece itself in a comment.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  Comments are appreciated.  Kind critique is also appreciated.

 

REBIRTH

by C J Gorden

Tympanic rolls of thunder rumble low over the dying day as dark, roiling clouds connect with bursts of blinding light to the waiting Earth.  A lone angel weeps.  Her tears renew the life below and her wails grieve the losses of the day and the dying of the light.

With a pervasive howl a cleansing wind sweeps over and around, above and below, drying the angel’s tears while down below, cradled in the Earth’s embrace, an old woman breathes her last as a new baby takes a wailing first breath, echoing the dying of the day and the rebirth of a new dawn.

The plot thickens

It’s day two of Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m behind in my word count – way behind.  The upside is I’m still working on my novel, just indirectly.  Even though my word count is not progressing much at the moment, I’m working to get to where the words will flow.  I decided (belatedly I know) to deconstruct the first half of the novel.  I’ve started editing the first part of it but realized I haven’t read the last two-thirds or so since I wrote it last November.  Not only that, but I’ve learned some things recently about scenes and blocking out plots.

I’m not so worried about my low word count this early in the month.  The average daily word count to shoot for to finish on time is 1,613.  It’s not an assignment; it’s a number to keep in mind.  Another number the folks at The Office of Letters and Light (the NaNo organizers and managers) supply on their novel stats page is the average words you would have to write from where you are now to still finish on time.  For me in the middle of day two with 246 words under my belt it’s 1,651.  See?  It’s still early.

Getting back to scenes and plot progression.  When I read a book I have to be able to visualize the action and the scene or enough of the scene my imagination can fill in the blanks.  What that translates into is scenes.  If I don’t have enough information to visualize a scene it pulls me out of the story.  If I find myself wondering what the author meant by something, wondering if I missed something, it pulls me out of the story.  I’ve been hearing a lot lately about thinking of a novel as a series of scenes.  I’d never thought about it that way, but it eventually became a light bulb moment.

It had to percolate in my subconscious for a while, but I think the brew is ready.  I opened the first half of the novel and I’m taking it chapter by chapter making review margin comments that look like this:

Chapter 1 – Scene:  Protag introduces herself. / Scene:  Protag explains how the story starts and how she had a fight with her BFF.

Chapter 2 – Scene:  Protag is freaked out because __________. / Scene:  Protag calls BFF and tries to explain, asking her to come over.

Chapter 3 – Scene:  BFF is convinced the fight was a mistake and sees proof.  Protag’s mother invites BFF to stay for dinner. / Scene:  Protag convinces parents she is sick and should stay home from school.  Protag makes a plan with BFF who is going to play hooky.

Keep in mind there’s a lot going on in each chapter to capture and hold the attention of the reader but the list of scenes is a good way to distill the story down to its bones.  My hope is that eventually I will be able to make a scene-by-scene outline that will allow the actual story writing to progress faster.

I read author’s sites when I enjoy their writing.  At one such site (I can’t remember which one) the author recommended you take a novel you like, that has a plot you appreciate, and deconstruct it.  I wasn’t sure how to go about that, but the scene list looks like a good way to go.  I think I’m going to start with the first of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark.  I love that book, and I want to figure out how the heck she did that, never mind best seller’s lists and HBO deals.  I’ll let you know how it pans out.

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