When I first started writing These 3 Things I was using The Snowflake Method as described by Randy Ingermanson. Most of this 10-step method is a prewriting technique designed to help you create your characters before you start writing so that the actions of the characters are organic for their personalities and circumstances. Admittedly, I stopped short of the full 10 steps, throwing up my hands in frustration and lack of patience. The frustration was on my end, though, because what the method revealed was that I did NOT know a lot about my characters.
Since I have started writing, though, I have been using another technique that Ingermanson recommends – Motivation Reaction Units (MRUs).
MRUs are devilishly hard to create. I’m sure they become easier with practice, but at this moment, they are the bane of my existence. He describes this technique in the article Writing the Perfect Scene. Essentially, what you have to do is describe a motivating incident and have your character react to it. Then repeat. It sounds simple, but so did the Snowflake Method, and I already told you how that went. However, yesterday, I did successfully improve a scene using MRUs.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that I was having a hard time writing a certain scene. I couldn’t get my characters to fall in love, and the circumstances I created around them seemed completely prohibitive. Well, yesterday, I worked my way out of the scene and the characters are on their way to an epic love story!
I’m very optimistic about my writing process for the summer and I look forward to getting to know each of my characters better.
The school year is finally coming to a close, which means I will have about 3 months off of work, give or take a few days. This time is key for my writing. The last time I had a chunk of time off like this, I came up with a schedule that was very productive.
7:00 am – Wake up and work out
8:30 am – Shower & Eat Breakfast
9:00 am – Start Writing
1:00 pm – Finish Writing
One of the most helpful tools I ever learned about writing was at a presentation by Don Roos (Single White Female, Boys on the Side) at a Project: Involve event. He used a method that he called “Egg Timer Writing.” It’s simple: every day you pick a certain amount of time that you are going to write, set the timer, and write. You can’t do anything else. You can’t watch tv, do the dishes, organize your magazines. You can only work on your project or write in a journal, which oftentimes leads you right back to the project. I adopted this method then, and it has worked for me. It is much easier than trying to convince myself that I am going to wake up at 4 am and write before I go to work – which NEVER happens! I have completed several screenplays using the Egg Timer method, and am now applying it to this novel.
I’m excited! I can’t wait for Monday when this starts!
This is an excerpt from These 3 Things. One of the main characters, Femke, an escaped Dutch slave, realizes that she is falling in love with Forte, her rescuer:
“Love is a luxury that many cannot afford. It requires an unquiet desperation to protect and hold onto a person, through any circumstance. And it requires you to fall apart if that person is ripped from your grasp, or else burn with diminution, a fire so thorough in its inflammation that the devil himself could have lit it. So you love your parents, your children, your blood, because this love is with you at birth and runs through your bones like marrow; but it takes courage to love a man. It takes a brave man to love a woman. Though Femke did not anticipate being this audacious, love entered her like a lightning strike – sudden, unwelcomed, and powerful. A slave all her life, she now felt as though she would be bonded to this man. She prayed he was kind, or, that he would release her.
But he lay there asleep, unaware that she was now shackled to him with a tie stronger than chains. As he slept, she watched over him. She prayed for him. And, she secretly hoped that he was brave enough to love her too.”
I know it is a tiny piece, but I’d really appreciate your comments…
Today I watched Anne Rice’s awe-inspiring film Interview with a Vampire, admittedly, for the first time. The film was beautiful, but what struck me was the story, and the depth of the characters. I was intrigued by their struggles. As my partner and I were discussing the film, she recommended other works by Rice. Her favorite: The Feast of all Saints. There are no vampires in this book, but according to her, the book is genius. “It took her 15 years to write it,” she said. “I heard her say it in an interview.”
Immediately, I was discouraged. 15 years?!?!?! That is a lifetime. It took her so long because she was doing research, as am I. Her novels are historical, as is mine. But she is a talented, experienced writer…as am I aspiring to be.
I don’t want to take 15 years to finish my novel. I don’t want to take 5 years. In fact, according to my counter, I have 6 months and a week to write this research heavy, unwieldy story tentatively titled These Three Things. And what’s most unfortunate, the story is being stubborn now. Its like an unborn child in its 10th month – it has no desire to be born.
However, I am digging deep down within me to find my determination. I must continue to write.
The blog has shamed me into coming to WordPress and at least posting even though I was exhausted and I didn’t do anything today. I will admit, that after I posted last night, I did stay up and write. One small victory, amongst a couple of defeats. I am turning in early today so that I can be rested and try again tomorrow.
Grrrrrrrr! I’m frustrated. I am having the hardest time making my two characters fall in love!!!! Part of the reason is that I made the male character married. I have already planned that his wife will be removed from the picture (I can’t tell you how though, so you will have to read the book) but I need him to fall in love with the soul mate character before that happens. The problem is, I can’t stand adultery. Ideally, their passion and their destiny should draw them together… but I just can’t write that. So now I’m stuck. Its a romance, for crying out loud!!!!! If I can’t make them love each other, I don’t have a story.
So, right now, I don’t have a story. Needless to say, I didn’t get 2 pages in… I spent my writing time alternating stares between the wall and two paragraphs. I’ll try to write a little more before I turn in.
Instead of Virginia Woolf, maybe I need to channel Chuck Woolery…
Yesterday, I sat down to write. Starting was the hardest part. Previously, I had been working on a chapter that takes place in Brazil. However, I just returned from New York, where I was doing research for the next chapter. I was anxious to skip ahead to this chapter and break down all the New York information I had obtained, but I was reluctant to leave the Brazil chapter behind.
What to do… What to do…
So, I tackled another problem all together. I worked out the name of one of my characters that had been bothering me. I had been calling her Lovedy, which one of my friends pointed out was absolutely awful. I realized, though, more importantly, that the name was probably popular in the 60’s, a time in which my story takes place – but my character was born in the late 30’s. I went to the Social Security website and looked up the most popular names in 1938 and came up with Virginia. Its fitting, I guess. Of course, her friends will call her Gin, like the drink… Who knows, maybe it will help me to channel another Virginia…
Other than naming the character and typing a few things I had written on the plane by hand, I wasn’t very productive. So, I decided I need to set a more firm goal for each day, other than just writing. So, here is this “wonderful” timer to remind me of how many days I have left.
There are exactly 200 days left in this year. (Wow, I have perfect timing) I should plan to write at least 2 pages per day to meet my goal.