Debora Dale

Day 5 – Book in a Week

My wrists staged a mutiny yesterday. I could barely move the fingers on my right hand. They just locked up. This has happened to me before. I have to watch how I sit when I type. I tend to let my wrists droop, sitting more for comfort than for function. And I MUST get wrist guards.

Well, because of the stiffness and pain in my hands, yesterday was a bit of a wash. I managed only a few hundred words – about four hundred, in fact. But… resting my wrists yesterday helped me today. It’s not even 10am and I’m nearly done with this chapter. Already 1425 words this morning and the day is still young. Another 1200 words or so, and this chapter is done, done, DONE!

Snoopy-dancing!

 

 

 

I’m going to keep this momentum going. I’m not as afraid to make mistakes because I know I can fix them. In fact, I know when I’m done with this rough draft, I can let Nil play/revise/nitpick until she’s giggling with glee. I will confess, however, it’s been a struggle to avoid going back to fix every little thing… like having my heroine lift her car keys and give them a shake to make a point – TWICE IN ONE SCENE. Blah. But, I also know, I can eventually go back in to fix that. This is not meant to be perfect, it’s meant to be fun. Writing fast is supposed to help get the story down without distraction or second guessing. I second, third and fourth guess myself all the time when I write. Writing fast leaves little time for that bit of sabotage so writing fast is a precious and vital thing to master… and so is understanding that this is a first draft. Perfection has no place here.

Wow. I should repeat that until it doesn’t cause me to reach for my inhaler. Yikes. It doesn’t have to be perfect???

Okay. I’ll repeat that – Perfection has no place here in my first draft. 

My first draft is for fun and creativity. My first draft is my time to play. When I’m done in this sandbox, my inner critic can have her chance and clean things up all she wants. After all, without me to make the ‘mess’, what would there be for her to do? She’ll just have to wait her turn. Meanwhile, I will play until my hero and heroine reach their happily ever after and I reach… The End.

Day 3 – Book in a Week

TWO DAY TOTAL – 3031 WORDS!

My way of writing seems to involve a LOT of thinking – like sometimes days or weeks – and then I have this manic spurt of writing. And then more thinking. It’s a frustrating process, and I’ve hoped for a more efficient way to unjumble the words in my head and get them onto the page.

I might have found it.

Day one of this challenge gave me three solid, single-spaced pages. I was thrilled but realized three pages a day does not a book-in-a-week make. So… instead of ramping up the typing, I revised what I’d written. How’s that for sabotaging my own work? It seems that perfectionist, nit-picky, inner critic of mine has an intense aversion to speed writing.

This inner-critic, whom I shall henceforth call ‘Nil’ as nil is all it allows me to write – nags me constantly about every little word, every punctuation mark, every thought I dare consider worthy. Nil has forced me to stop the writing flow and do things like research awkward wording, rethink the plot, change the heroine’s name and whatnot.

Nil slices creativity, hacks away at confidence, rewords everything I’ve written while grumbling how awful it all is and then laughs as I slink away from the computer certain I’ll never write another word. That’s what Nil does best.

It’s time I put her in her place. Yes? And I think I know how.

You see… I have learned something fantastic during this process. The best way to keep Nil from messing with the work is not to show Nil the work in the first place. 🙂

When you write without looking back at what you’ve written, you fall deeper into the story and wind up with a more flowing and consistent rhythm, tone, mood and voice. It’s when you stop writing to review or revise, that Nil puts on her work clothes and happily tweaks and alters your beautiful prose until it’s barely recognizable. 

Ever hear the term “less is more”? So it is with revising as you go. Less is more. Nil has yet to learn that term.

Day two was yesterday, Sunday, and so there were family things to tend to. However, I managed another three pages… and this happened in just two hours. For me, that is some kind of record. I’m thrilled to have written 3,031 words in two days and cannot wait to get back into it today, Day 3.

Will I finish my book this week? I highly doubt it (my wrists are already planning a mutiny), but I will have a new tool in my tool box because of it. This tool is the privacy screen between the words I type and Nil. If I do not show it to her by rereading what I write as I write it, SHE cannot possibly feel the need to ‘fix’ it.

Not until the end is written will Nil be allowed to have a go at it.

At least, that’s the plan. I have the new tool, now I just need to make sure I use it.

Day three? Here I come… armed and ready.

Book in a week

I’ve accepted the challenge that starts today in a workshop I’m taking. It’s the Book-in-a-week workshop with April Kihlstrom as instructor.

The challenge? Type a complete first draft of my work in progress in one week and one week only. That means… no revising as I go. That means, whatever scene pops into my head is the one I should write. That means keeping my inner critic bound and gagged until the week is over – longer if possible.

That means pushing WAY past my comfort zone. Writing a book in a week without revising as I go is the same to me as jumping from a plane without a parachute. Okay, for me, the non-adventurous type, it’s more like going over a speed bump without putting on the brakes. 😕

I am a rule follower. I don’t like to make waves and I don’t like to upset those around me… including myself. And so, this book in a week challenge, challenges me on many levels. I have to break the rules I set for myself which say every word I write has to have a purpose. Every scene must draw a reader into the heart and mind of my characters. Every page must contain several sense-stirring phrases that will place the reader right there in the scene. To accomplish a book in a week, I must simply write what’s in my head despite how sparse it might be. Can I do it? Well… I can certainly try. And posting here commits me to the process… hopefully that’s all I’ll wind up committed to. 😯

I’ll check in as often as I can to keep you posted and to keep myself answerable to someone. I have a new ticker right there to the right of this post…….. see it? It’s next to the picture of beautiful Tiffy. I’ll move that slider each time I complete a chapter. I should tell you, because I’m an honest soul, that I already have three solid chapters completed and seventeen left to go. Three solid chapters is a lot to me. “Three” means I’m committed to the work… ah, ‘committed’ there’s that word again. I hope that’s not some kind of forshadowing…

The W-Plot is easy, I PROMISE!

When I posted the picture of my finished W-Plot worksheet in my last entry, I was afraid it might be a bit frightening. I posted it anyway, hoping that I’d explained it well enough to calm suddenly tense nerves. I don’t think I did, so I’d like to do that now… but I’ll do it without going into detail about the process since no one can (or should try to) explain it the way Karen Docter does.

The completed W-Plot worksheet looks involved because it’s an accumulation of a lot of tiny bits of information. Truth.

In order to get to the final worksheet – which I posted – all that’s necessary is to jot down an OVERVIEW of your character’s throughlines. Face it, stories start with an idea. As you spend time on that idea, it becomes more developed, even if only slightly so.

Now, if you’re like me, thinking too hard about a story before you’re ready to write it is the same as giving anesthesia to your muse. That’s why I love the W-Plot. The beauty of it is indeed it’s simplicity.

Let’s work with the hero – Where is he at the beginning of your story? At what point does he realize what he needs to do for the next 20 chapters? Is it when he learns the jewels have been stolen? Let’s go with that… that’s the high point for your hero because even though stolen jewels suck, pardon my French, he has a solid starting point. He’s got to find who stole them and why, AND get them back without getting himself killed in the process.

Now… getting from that high point (Plot Point 1) to the final high point, (Plot Point 9), is going to be a roller-coaster ride for Hero, with severe drops and slow rises. Your nine points are just highlights of his story with as much or as little detail as YOU want to include.

The reason my finished W looks so intimidating is because I’ve included everyone’s plot points there in the order they’ll occur. It’s like looking at a skeleton of my story. Everything is somehow connected but not yet filled in. THAT’s the fun part. THAT’s the part a pantser muse eagerly awaits. THAT’s when a storyboard truly becomes a treasure if you want to flesh out your W even further… with specific scenes.

Honestly, IMHO, these two tools used properly and in tandem, will make writing/telling/enjoying your story that much easier. Oh, and in case you’re not convinced… a completed W, when organized the way Karen explains, makes writing the dreaded synopsis easy as pie.

Truth.

Plotting

So… as many of you know… I’m a writer. Within the writing world, I’m what’s known as a “pantser”, meaning, I’m not big on plotting out an entire story before I write it. I’ve tried it that way and have lost all the excitment of putting fresh words and ideas onto the page.

There was one method I truly enjoyed, though, and that was the storyboard. I’d taken an online workshop with Shelley Bradley and it was amazing. You can be an avid plotter or a simple pantser and still use her method. What it does is organize your thoughts. As they come to you, you jot them down in as much or as little detail as you want (on a post-it) then slap them onto the storyboard in the spot you think they will fit. Of course, there is more to it than that, but after a while, it seems that easy. It’s also fun to see the post-it’s pile up. They’re color-coded, too, so that makes it a super visual tool.

Here’s one of my completed storyboards – ain’t it purdy? 🙂

Storyboard

Another exciting method I learned, use and highly recommend, is the W-Plot. What an amazing tool. Karen Docter gives that workshop, and I can’t say enough about it. Basically what it does is help outline (don’t shudder at that word, it’s not really an “outline” but more like a “highlight” of…) your plot using only nine major plot points for each main character. It’s much easier than I’m probably making it sound, and it is so very worth it.

A finished W might look intimidating at first (even second and third) glance… BUT… I can’t stress enough how simple it truly is. Of course, it forces you to think, but the panster in me stuck around for the entire process without one fainting spell. Truth!

Now, prepare yourself…

Here’s what a finished W looks like with all the plot points (36 total – 9 for the Hero, 9 for the Heroine, 9 for the Villain and 9 for the romance) highlighted in a different color.

Completed W-Plot

See how each plot point in it’s proper place makes the story flow?

If you have the opportunity to take either or both of these classes, I HIGHLY recommend them. Of course, I’m a workshop junkie, so there are many more workshops I can tell you about. Until then… check these out and tell me what you think.

What about workshops you’ve taken? Which ones do you have safely tucked into your writer’s toolbox?

Raccoons in the Roof – update

Well this sucks. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned we have a family of raccoons living in our attic crawl space. We’re in a row of attached homes, and this family has taken over each house’s crawl space. We called someone who said he would trap them, relocate them, then seal up the vents so nothing/no one could get back inside.

That’s not exactly what he intended to do.

We live in an area where rabies is high. It is illegal to relocate these animals. Instead, the trapper would use traps that kill.

I am an animal lover to my core and cannot reconcile with this. I’ve called… I don’t know how many different people… hoping SOMEONE would offer another option. My thought was, they could simply ‘evict’ this family somehow, then seal up every possible entry. Unfortunately, the experts tell me the raccoons will tear apart the roof if they really want to get back in.

Part of me wants to give them until the spring – after their babies are born and are old enough to get out on their own – and seal the holes then. But, how do we know they’ll leave at that time? We don’t. Simple.

Only one person said he can trap them without killing them. He said, his traps would hold them until all of them are out and the vents are sealed, and then he’d release them near the tracks (where we know they came from). Problem is, he said it’s a bloody mess because they will fight until they either free themselves or die.

I’m sorry this is such a downer, but I’m really in a bad spot now and have no idea what to do. Some of the neighbors involved are fine with the traps that kill, others are as distraught as I am. How can you kill an entire family of raccoons on the off-chance they have rabies? Someone said to drop mothballs into the vents. Apparently raccoons don’t like the smell of them (who does?) and might leave on their own. Thing is… how will we know they’re all out? Yuck. Messy and difficult situation.

I’ll keep you posted.

Orchids

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We went to the NY Botanical Gardens yesterday. That and the Bronx Zoo are familiar and favored haunts of ours. Though they’re across the street from one another, we never go to both in one day. No, the beauty of going to one of those places is getting away from everything else for an entire day. Either is a magical escape and yesterday was no different.

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Yes. Those are orchids. Our getaway yesterday involved the NY Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show. It’s hard to imagine how varried one type of flower can be. The colors are glorious, the frangrace is… odd. They have an almost… musky smell. A sexy heady scent that’s warm and thick. One whiff is enticing. Rooms full… well… that takes getting used to.

Still, I would go back again and again because they are simply that stunning. Here… let me show you some more…

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Some of them looked fake. Like paper…

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Or plastic…

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All of them were magnificent.

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Of course, beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. While I cringed at some of these because, to me, they looked more like insects than flowers, other people were in awe of their beauty and grace. You decide…

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Shhh… listen… what’s that noise?

It’s about 9pm and I’m watching American Idol with my 12 year old. The commercials are so loud, we mute the volume when they come on. And that’s when we heard it. The pitter-patter of tiny feet.  There haven’t been tiny feet in my house since I adopted my cats almost a year ago.

I held my breath. Listened…

Sure ‘nuf, there they were. Scratchy little spine-tingling sounds. Over head. In the attic crawl-space. Mice? But with mice, you can’t hear the crunch of each step, like someone walking on the roof. Hmm. What could be so large it would make the sound of adult footsteps and yet be so small that it could fit through a tiny vent in the roof that leads into the crawl-space?

I live in a row of attached houses (in the city, mind you) and I called a neighbor. Yes, indeedy, she’s heard the same crunchy-scratchy sounds and has no doubt that it’s a raccoon. A raccoon? How could a raccoon get into the attic? Unless there’s a hole in each of our roofs, how could they get in? But, what else could it be?

I told DH that I believed it could indeed be a raccoon. He gave me THAT look. You know the look. It’s the same look Archie used to give Edith. It’s the look that says, “HUH?!”

He ‘patiently’ explains there’s no room for a raccoon in the crawl space. There isn’t an opening large enough for one to get in, but only a 4×6 inch grated vent. Besides, IF they were up in the crawl-space, they’d have to balance on beams or risk falling through the ceiling.

I didn’t care about the specifics, I just wanted them gone. “I don’t know how they’re up there, but they are.”

He nodded in that way.

“Seriously,” I said. “You have to do something about it.”

He all but patted me on the head. “Yes, dear.”

Two nights ago, around midnight, we hear screeching, chirping and thumping outside my daughter’s window. There’s a steel porch off her bedroom and the sound of a physical fight of some sort was boinging through the chilly night silence. I rush to her room and pull up the shade. Right there, not 18 inches away, are two raccoons tumbling and clawing at each other, making these horrible squeals as they flip each other head over heels onto the metal porch. I opened the window and shouted through the screen, “Get! Off! My! Porch!”

They stopped fighting with each other and, in a show of unity, froze in place, their fists tight in each other’s fur, and stared me down. I closed the window slowly. Locked it, drew the shade and backed away. After calming Daughter and telling her, no, there was no reason for her to come sleep in my room, I heard another odd sound from outside. I peek and lo and behold… those little masked bandits were climbing up my drain pipe and onto the roof! Seconds later, there it was, that scratching and heavy footstep above my head – they’d gotten into my attic again! There had to be a hole in the roof, there had to be!

In the morning, hubby went onto the roof to find the hole and found that the grates over the tiny vents on all of our attached roofs were bent upward. He pushed them all down and back into place. Well… yesterday evening, he went back up and guess what? All the grates were bent up yet again. These furry buggers have been squeezing themselves through those small openings and setting up house among the insulation and crossbeams!

“So…” I said, “We have raccoons in the crawl space… don’t we.”

He wouldn’t look me in the eye. “Yes, dear.”

Not only did he have to acknowlege it to me, but he had to convince all the neighbors that this is indeed what’s been happening. It seems everyone in our row – about 10 families – have heard the noises at some point over the past few weeks. I guess no one could believe animals that large could get through openings that small. They’re all believers now.

Someone is coming this week to trap them before they have their kits. Yes… they’re pregnant. It’s mating season and their kits will be born in less than two months. These are the mama’s and they’re looking for safe, warm dens where they can have and keep their young. They’ll be trapped and relocated to a large, local park and then the vents on our roofs will be bolted into place.

Future squatters will have to find another place to live.

Great Shelter News!

What an excellent week last week was for our shelter cats! We had three new adoptions! 😀 The best part is that of the three adoptions, two were of adult cats. ::sigh:: That makes me teary. Is so rare for the older cats to find homes. Like babies in an orphanage, kittens are more likely to be adopted and older cats are likely to spend their lives without a loving home.

This week, however, one very vocal adult male was adopted. He’d been adopted two years ago, but the adoptive parents felt he was too noisy and they brought him back. He was with us again for about four months, and I was worried he’d never have another chance. Well! A couple came in during the week, fell in love with him and his voice and took him home. I’m tearing up now… but from happiness for him.

The kitten was a tiny one. Only about two months old. He’ll be happy in his new home and has not yet developed the bad habits that sometimes get these little ones returned to us… like talking too much.

And finally, the greatest news is that Charlie has been adopted, too. Well… fostered. It’s a trial arrangement. If he and the foster parents are compatible, they’ll make it permanent. Charlie is a lover. Handsome, charming, and just a tad distant. On his terms, you can pet and cuddle him. On his terms, you’ll be sorry for doing so. Think, Mr. Darcy.

In case you’re wondering… Yes. The Charlie I’m speaking of is the same Charlie in the photo from my Whiskers on Kittens post. Isn’t he handsome?

Whiskers on kittens…


A few of our charming shelter cats
Clockwise from top left – Minnie and Ginger, Ava, Charlie, Max

For a few hours a week, my daughter and I volunteer at an animal shelter. It’s not funded by large donors and no one works there for pay. Although, as an animal lover, I’d have to say the pay is in the kisses and full body rubs these kitties often give. Of course, a couple of our shelter cats would sooner dice you like a cross shredder than rub against or kiss you, but they’ve had difficult lives, so we… give them their space.

There are so many different personalities among cats. Getting to know them all is like getting to know a whole group of people. They have different desires and different needs. In the end, however, they all just want the basics – security and love. Teddy is one of the tougher cats. Don’t pet Teddy. Don’t talk to Teddy. Come to think of it… don’t even LOOK at Teddy. 🙂 Actually, he’s just a big boy who wants to be left alone. Then there’s his polar opposite – Twister. He’s a big boy, too. Solid and heavy. But he’s got the squeakiest meow you’ll ever hear. His big size makes him appear intimidating, but manly Twister wants only to be held like a baby, with his paws resting on your shoulders, his head nestled into your neck, and your arms supporting his furry little butt.

I could go on and on about our beautiful shelter cats, and I probably will one day. But for today, I’ll let them speak for themselves… (check your volume, some videos have music)

Nutmeg

Clyde

If you’re interested, and how could you not be… 😉 …here’s a link to more short videos of these precious babies (including Twister!)…

More Videos!

When I first started volunteering there, I thought it would be sad. All those big, bright eyes looking into mine, hoping for a home. But you know what? They’re content. They play, eat, sleep and are safely indoors. The only thing they’re missing is a warm human to snuggle up to in the wee hours of the night and to nudge awake just before dawn. They each need a home of their own, but we give them all we can while they’re in the place they, temporarily, call home.

Check out more of these beauties…

Bios and pictures!

Don’t forget to click the ‘back’ button so you can return to me and tell me what you think… and which cat or kitten you’d like to adopt! 🙂

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