You smile. Maybe cry a little, either from relief or joy, or maybe both. You don’t scream even though you want to, because it’s 1:00 in the morning and you don’t want your neighbors to think you’re getting murdered.
You tell the only other person who’s crazy enough to be awake at this hour on a Sunday night (Monday morning?).
You export your document and save it to the cloud because your laptop had a near-death experience twenty minutes ago as you were writing the last three lines and you nearly broke down in tears. (Thank goodness for autosave). You don’t want to repeat that.
There’s a lot of things I have a hard time with in writing (see: everything having to do with writing), but starting often poses a big challenge. I always put a lot of pressure on myself to create a memorable first impression, whether it’s the beginning of a scene, the first lines of a book, or introducing a brand-new character to the story.
The moment you introduce your main character(s) to your reader can make or break your story. No pressure, right?
I don’t have any advice to share today, but I was thinking about some of the character introductions I’ve written, why I chose to introduce them that way, and I thought it would be fun to share some from one of my works in progress, Project Quest. Bear in mind that these are still drafts, so it’s probably not my best work… but hey, we all have to start somewhere.
2020 has been one of my most sporadic years for blogging and writing, despite the fact that I had some pretty big dreams when the year began. With my college graduation on the horizon, I was looking forward to having more time to dive into many of the projects I’d started over the years.
As you may have noticed, things didn’t quite go as planned.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can usually tell when I’m getting burned out – I get bored. Projects and hobbies that, at first, felt exciting and new to me lose their shininess. As I’ve said before, sometimes you have to push through – in other words, dig deep and rediscover what made you fall in love with that project or hobby in the first place. Sometimes you need to step away entirely until you can look at it with fresh eyes.
Other times, though, you need to find a middle ground.
Camp NaNoWriMo follows the same format, but it’s more flexible. It takes place twice each year, in April and July. Participants are able to choose their own goals, and they’re encouraged to try some “non-traditional” NaNo projects. For example, some writers use this time to edit an existing project, write poetry, or even work on things like a graduate thesis or non-fiction.
So as I was saying, I participated in the July 2020 Camp NaNoWriMo. If you remember my Writer’s Life post from a few months ago, I spent May and June of this year re-working my outline for Project Quest in hopes that I could start working on my third (!) draft in July.
I was able to reach my goal of completing the outline – with the understanding that it could change, of course. For July, I set a goal of writing 25,000 words with the hope that doing so would get me through the first act of the novel.
A mental image for your consideration: It is 11:36 at night. The room is dim, with the only light coming from out-of-season Christmas lights strung around the perimeter of the ceiling. On the desk is a half-empty bowl of Goldfish crackers and a bottle of strawberry-kiwi flavored water. Someone is sitting at the desk, shoulders hunched over the keyboard in front of her. She types for a few minutes, then snatches a handful of Goldfish crackers absently and stuffs them into her mouth. The typing resumes.
If you could picture that, you probably have a pretty good idea of how I’ve spent several of my nights over the past few weeks. But before I go into the details of what I’ve been working on lately, let’s do a quick recap of everything that’s led up to this point.
Alright, I know last week I skimmed over my goals for 2020, and that included a handful of writing goals, but I promise this is different! I want to take a closer look at my “Quest” fantasy project and where I want to take it this year. I’ve spent a lot of time planning and plotting over the past month, and I feel like I’m ready to approach this project once again.
With the amount of writing that I’ve been doing over the past year, I probably would’ve murdered a whole forest with the amount of paper I would have used, and that would be a shame. Fortunately, we live in a digital age, and so my projects live on in Scrivener files and Evernote notes, and I can continue looking out my bedroom window at trees.
I don’t say that to sound all proud or anything. Yeah, I did write a lot this year, but if we’re being honest, a lot of that writing was experimental, nothing that actually went anywhere. A lot of it was also writing for this blog, so I’ll leave you to judge the quality of that (don’t tell me, I’d like to live in my ignorance on this one). Oh, and there was a lot of academic writing too, which… well, again, I guess it’s more for my professor to decide whether it was good or not.
All this to say, looking back over the past year, I think my writing and I have had a pretty great 2019! I can see the ways that I’ve grown as a writer, honing my voice and experimenting with new genres. I’ve expanded my influences too by discovering new favorite books, shows, and other stories in a lot of different mediums. In light of it being the end of the year, I wanted to look back through what I’ve done as a writer this year, and look ahead to what 2020 might have in store for me!
If you see a scattered pile of computer paper and hear muffled noises coming from underneath it, I promise it’s not haunted. It’s just one of us senior writing students, buried underneath our overwhelming major projects.
Truth be told, my senior seminar project is actually going pretty well. I’m on track in terms of my word count, and it seems like the story is moving along at a nice pace. I covered what my major project is about in my last Writer’s Life post, but here’s a quick recap: I’m writing an “alternate history” novel set in 1968. It features two young women (a college student and a journalist) as they investigate several U.S. soldiers who have mysteriously disappeared in their home country.
As of this writing, I’m at 26,783 words just over halfway to my word count goal 50,000. I’m also a little more than halfway to my deadline of November 30 (remember, I started mid-October). In other words, things are right on track and as long as nothing wild happens (knock on wood), I should reach my goal no problem.
Big-picture-wise, it looks like things have been smooth sailing, but this project has been more complicated than that. I’ve fallen behind a few times, though I always manage to recover within a few days. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of great help – I have a writing program that keeps me organize, fellow writer who encourage me, and music that keeps me motivated.
Today, I’m participating in the Language of Worlds linkup, hosted by Liv K. Fisher. If you’re unfamiliar with the linkup, every two months Liv posts 10 questions for bloggers to answer about their writing projects, characters, or the writing life in general. It’s great for getting to know your story better and connecting with other bloggers, so go check it out! It’s open to anyone.
Not long ago, I shared that I’m working on a new writing project for my senior capstone class, an “alternate history” story set in 1968. You can read more about it here, but today, I’m going to be talking about one of my main characters, Valerie “Val” Harris.
It was a dark and stormy night. A young woman sat at her desk, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The light from her laptop reflected off of her glasses as she frantically typed away at her keyboard, desperate to meet her word goal. Her workshop is counting on her, she reminded herself. And so is her grade point average.
If that’s not a glimpse of my past, then it’s definitely a prophecy about my future.
This semester, I’m taking a “senior writing seminar” course and our big assignment is to plan and complete some type of writing project. For me, I’m plotting out and writing 50,000 words of a novel. In addition to fiction, I know there are also students writing literary non-fiction and graphic novels.
So yeah. Lots of pretty neat stuff is happening in Writing Seminar.
I’m sure you’re thinking by now, “Maggie, what is YOUR project about? We’re all dying to know!” Or maybe you’re not thinking that, which I understand. But if you actually are dying to know about my project, keep reading!