4 Tips On How Not to Plan a Writing Retreat

#amwriting donnastone.meI have had fair success at getting words on the current WIP flowing. Not all of those words are kept, mind you. But then that is the nature of a first draft.

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”Joyce Carol Oates

Committed to writing a certain amount on my novel in progress every day, I have decided to pretend this forced vacating of my home is a writer’s retreat. This fantasy would probably be easier to maintain if I had not brought my family, including our new puppy, along with me.

Tip #1 Don’t bring your kids or a puppy.

kayleeintroublesmall.

There are also the constant interruptions of new information about the home repairs which tend to get me sidetracked. The ongoing saga is a twisted version of a never ending story, reminding me of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

Along the way to the discovery of where the moisture is coming from we found no leaks, but we did find out the home has what was referred to as “the pipe of the future” otherwise known as polybutylene pipe. This particular kind of pipe is no longer used because it is destined to fail. Check your pipes, peeps.

During the new water line installation, I was informed the hot water heater has been leaking. No word on the water damage from that yet.

After numerous consultations, it has been determined that the constant water collecting under the sinks is probably from condensation. This may be due to the vapor barrier being compromised when a neighbor’s dog got under the home. Or it could be because of improper site prep. They are working on it.

Tip #2 Leave your home problems at home and don’t answer calls.

Other issues will be dealt with as the summer progresses. The good news is, no mold in the walls as far as we can tell with mold kits and this handy snaking camera.

WIN_20150614_181226

 

Tip # 3 Don’t give up writing no matter what.

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”               Red Smith

Meanwhile, I will keep busy scribbling away on the book when I’m not enjoying myself poolside here at my writing retreat.

Tip #4 Don’t forget to find JOY in the journey.

#amwriting

How are you reaching your goals? What inspires you? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

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Am Writing| A Persistent Passion

#amwriting  donnastone.meFor the last few weeks I have been displaced, my thoughts scattered by events and summer schedules. On top of all the chaos that is typical of the Stone Clan, I have not been feeling all that great.

Some days it is a challenge to write. Most days lately. But it’s not like I can NOT write. It is what I do.

But boy, doesn’t life intervene? I need to refocus on my goal and make the necessary adaptations.

I may have mentioned accountability before, but in the past I joined a group whose members are dedicated to write at least 500 words every day. Every. Single. Day.

For me, that means a minimum of 500 words on my novel draft in progress, no matter what.

I’m struggling with this. I know many people find it easy to write the first draft, but not me. I am primarily using voice to text on an old HP tablet. I have been informed on numerous occasions it is so old it’s obsolete, but I feel a certain kinship with it. It took forever for it to learn to translate my accent into recognizable English and it still makes mistakes.

I also tend to forget what it was I was saying if my device doesn’t translate well the first time. When I go back to read a section of indecipherable text regularly leaves me puzzled as to what I originally meant to write. For a  time, I wondered if I needed to plot more to solve that issue, but I don’t want to over plot.

It is harder for me to write fiction using speech to text than to write blog posts, emails, or letters with it. Have you found this to be true for you?

And then there is the obstacle of my own self. In my first middle grade novel, I could write the main character, Nina straight out of the chute. She is plain looking, snarky, emotional, and has a quirky family. My new MC, Trish, is different. She is a blonde ballerina who always tries to be the good girl. Hmmmm. We do share some issues. I will get past her looks and personality to dig them out. I may not be a ballerina, but I am exceedingly persistent and will find the real Trish under all those blonde locks.

coffeegrinder

I may have to let some things slide a bit, what with the current craziness, work on the book, house stuff, and taking care of the family. But my 500 daily words on the novel in progress is one of my anchors. I know this is what I am called to do.

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What’s your calling? How are you managing to answer that call while juggling life?

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How I Ruined Snowflake Plotting

ballerinainthemirrortitleThe Snowflake Method

I am a girl in need of a plan. My middle grade book requires a second in the series. I have most of my characters, my theme, setting, and I know the message I want to convey. It’s time to plot the story.

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method of Plotting always looked interesting. I thought I’d give it a try. My previous approach had been to use massive amounts of note cards and tape them to the walls, shuffling and adding to them periodically. This worked fine, but it seemed a bit random and tedious to me.

Many writers have been helped by plotting with The Snowflake Method. The method has been so popular and worked for so many that now you can buy Snowflake Pro software or his book How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method but he still provides the original article free of charge. (Thank you, Randy Ingermanson!)

From the get go he says to take what you can use and don’t worry about the rest, but something in me wants to follow lists. I want to know the plan.

penandquote

I have looked at his directions before. I usually got bogged down about halfway through reading and would give up before I started. Since then I have learned that for me, with some projects, I need to just go ahead and jump in. It’s hard because I tend to want all the details ironed out before I commit. If I can’t see the end I don’t like starting down that path.

I got through steps one to four with no trouble. It was fun and easy. Then, when I started on the next step, parts of story began to pop into my head so I started making a list of scenes before they got away. Randy Ingermanson suggests using a spreadsheet for your list of scenes, but I started the list in the same document I was putting everything else in. I didn’t want to forget what I needed to write while trying to figure out a spreadsheet. I was already out of order with the Snowflake Method instructions anyway.

So far I have a decent direction for the story, more than I had when I started writing the first book in my series. This method helped me figure out holes before I started writing the novel, even if I made adjustments to the system early on.

I’m not sure if I will be able to go back and pick up with the rest of The Snowflake Method from where I’m at right now with this book. I will try The Snowflake Method again, though, of that I am sure.

weightwithquote

Will my plot work out even though I’m deviating from my originally intended mode? Probably. Would it work better or easier if I follow directions? I don’t know. Did I ruin it? I don’t think so.

Just Write, Create, Jump In

The point is, I am writing my own story. I got a jump start from suggestions and tools, but it’s okay if I take another route. I know I will make it to the end.

Life is like that. Don’t be scared to be a little creative with the format and structure of approaches as long as you stay true to the course. You are not going to ruin it.

It’s your story. You know how to tell it.

Jump in.

P. S. The Paper Snowflake Ballerina

The directions for the snowflake ballerina in the picture can be found at krokotak, but there is no printable template for the skirt. There are pictures. I eyeballed the designs and took a stab at it and it worked fine. You can’t let a little thing like a missing template stop you.

 

Did this encourage you? Please share it! Have you made adjustments to a plan recently? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below.

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Growing Weary?

Do not grow weary.

I get weary. Who doesn’t? But lately I have been pondering growing weary. Not being weary, but growing it.

To grow something you have to feed it. Good or bad, growing things must have a source of light, water, and food. Conditions have to be right. Shelter from predators and inclement conditions must be provided.

I never considered the concept of growing weary like I grow other things like faith and patience. I can see how a person could feed weariness. Negative thoughts, listening to wrong people, forgetting Who is really in charge here, neglecting to recharge and encourage ourselves; all of these things help weariness thrive.

Our souls will always filled by something. Even when we say we are empty we are speaking of a feeling of darkness, despondency, or negativity. Our world is designed with no gaps, the spaces filling up as soon as there is an inch of available space. Something pushes in. Something grows.

To raise something we want, we cultivate, preparing the soil and digging as deep as future roots require. No shallow scraping out of a handful of dirt, the shovel digs deep. If the earth resists, we dampen with water, forcing softness out of stubbornness. We do this without taking affront. It is the nature of things.

It is also the nature within us that prompts us to prepare for a large thing, a deep thing. This is faith.

We loosen the earth, raking, grabbing handfuls of dirt and squeezing, breaking, understanding that the goodness will not give itself up to those who refuse to work. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. You have to be willing to have faith.

Your faith must be large enough that you feed and water the plants and protect them constantly. Unguarded and neglected, they rarely produce. Even the strong, well established plants are no match for a sudden frost, or hungry caterpillars.

Except of course, for the never ending weeds. This is the battle. Plants that give us life, and plants that choke out those that give us sustenance.

We choose what we will grow.

Death and life. Build or destroy.

It is very easy to grow weariness if we succumb. It is a natural thing, like weeds. Something is going to flourish in every gap we leave open. There is no empty space.

No one intends to propagate weeds. They creep in when attention is elsewhere, taking advantage of every opportunity. Before you know it, they are tall and strong, arrogantly taking over the place if we let them.

A garden needs regular tending. A calling needs feeding.

Do not grow weary.

 

Watering Can A garden ... Do not grow weary quote donnastone,me

 

Today I will feed my soul with Truth and not grow weary. If I keep my focus on the tending of my destiny, refusing negative thoughts, weariness will have a much harder time taking hold.

Time to get my hands grit-under-the-nails dirty.

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Here and Now| When Five Minute Friday

Five minutes, no edits, one word.

 

When.

When is such a strange word. A nothing word. A word that looks both backwards and forwards but not at the here and now.

When I was younger, she says, I was so happy. I didn’t feel like I had to be someone I’m not. She mourns. Her eyes take in the old self of what she once was and no matter what I say, she cannot see the beauty of who she is. I say, you are still you, and she nods. There is no sparkle.

When I get in to my house, he says, and begins to tell of all the adventures and plans that will happen then. In his imagination of when he has already paid of a mortgage and saddled himself with more debt, buying things. In his future when there is not rust or rot. Then he will be happy, he thinks, when a shiny red pickup and a garden and fences and a hundred other things litter his paid for kingdom.

When school is done, the other one says, then I will get a job I like. His days will be spent on worthwhile pursuits and he will drink life and be satisfied, when that happens.

I used to dwell on the mountain top between the whens and never know it. Too busy looking backward and forwards I missed the view, the joy of being between the whens.

Today I do not think of the whens of the past or the future. Today I want to live in the now.

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Grownups Need Coasters

My son has been nudging me, poking at me with his behavior and mess.

Every day he leaves a greasy frying pan full of egg bits, knowing he’s breaking the rules. Dirty dishes and clutter on the counter. When he walks through my house he doesn’t walk, he tromps. Almost yelling, he talks too loud. Way too loud. He is getting on my last nerve.

I know what he’s doing. You can count on one hand the weeks he has left in his mother’s house.

It was exciting, buying his own home. Three bedrooms, two baths, and property lines marked by barbed wire. There are woods. He has already found the perfect spot for a someday fort. Not the usual first home.

He has stayed here, at my place, to help with things out of necessity. Meantime, he has saved his money, for the most part. As a momma I confess, anytime saving is brought up I tell him he could save more. He can.

It bewilders him that he can easily afford this home he has signed on.

He decided early what he wanted in a house and this one is it. It’s funny. The location is highly desired, the property in demand, and yet there it sat for six months. Waiting on him. I used to go to Bible study at that house. I told him, “That’s a good house. Plenty of praying’s been going on there for years.”

Everything worked out perfectly. Inspections, papers, appraisal, homeowner checklists, maintenance charts, budget. All that is left is the waiting.

Now he follows me into my room and sits in the chair across from mine, his form settling down into it with an odd deflation.

“It’s a big house,” he says.

“Yes, it is.”

He sighs.

He looks at me with those eyes. They are a bit too shiny. I do not tear up. Mother’s hearts are elastic and hold in things that are of no use at the time. I can mull this over later, take this emotion out of its gilded locked-tight box and hold it close.

quote I do not tear up. Mother's hearts are elastic and hold in things that are of no use at the time.  from Grownups Need Coasters Donna Stone

I lift my head and firm my chin. In my packet of mother wisdom, I rummage around, searching for the words he needs to hear on this last leg of our present journey.

The heater kicks on, the warm air whooshing quiet dryness into the space between us.

“You know, your siblings will probably stay with you quite a bit.”

He nods.

I know this is not the same.

He sighs again. It will have to do. His spine bones straighten a bit, taller in the chair.

“I was online reading a list of what I need to buy,” he says, ”and it says I need coasters.” He frowns, “I’m not sure I need coasters.”

By seven months of age he had commandeered my coasters. They ended up in his mouth, gummed, sloppy with baby drool. In his hands, my coasters did more harm to tabletops than good. A favorite thing he liked to do was use them to scrape back and forth on the varnished wood. He would bang, bang, bang them against the furniture. The lovely sound made him pause, cocking his head to one side and crowing before he began again, a wonderful endless game.

A blink later, coasters were mini Frisbees, flying through the living room. You could put an eye out with one of those missiles. Too busy trying to keep him off the counter tops, I had little time to worry about the damage small rings of water could do. The coasters went into a drawer somewhere a long time ago.

We generally use bits of junk mail or magazines that are lying about, maybe a potholder. More than a few times, a clean sock from the laundry pile conveniently located on the couch. Strange how family habits take over and proper niceties are forgotten.

“Yes.” I affirm. “Grownups need coasters.”

“I’ll use a towels,” he says.

I grunt. “You don’t have any towels, either.”

“Yes I do,” he protests, pouting. “I have two.”

I laugh, missing him already, and take today.

We’ll think about coasters tomorrow.

In my packet of mother wisdom, I rummage around, searching for the words he needs to hear on this last leg of our present journey.

 

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