Exercise 4, Part 1: Again and Again and Again

Back to doing the exercises in Ursula Le Guin’s excellent Steering the Craft book! Chapter 4 is about repetition and its power in storytelling. Thinking back to my English classes of yore, I remember being taught the opposite – to avoid repetition at all costs. One of my high school English teachers had this list of catchy “writing rules” and one of them was “NO PIZZA PIZZA” (after the overly prevalent Caesar’s Pizza commercial on TV) to remind us not to repeat ourselves. So it was refreshing to see Le Guin demonstrate how beautiful and useful repetition can be.
Continue reading “Exercise 4, Part 1: Again and Again and Again”

July Write Day: The Return of the Summer Doldrums!

June was a slow month on the writing front, and kind of on every front. It’s yet another month that passed by so quickly, yet I can’t say with much confidence what I did.

We did a ton of work on our cellar, I suppose. It’s an old brick foundation with some cement, and we spent three or four weekends in a row filling in gaps and cracks with hydraulic cement, then painting over it all with water-sealing paint. We’re still not done.

As much as that stuff needs to get done, it definitely ate up my weekend downtime. But, no excuses!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Finish the second draft of “Uprooted”.
  2. Write 12,000 words.
  3. Continue reading.
  4. Continue doing yoga daily (or almost daily).

So how did I do?

Finish the second draft of “Uprooted”?

No! Ugh, I have no idea what I did in June… aside from watching Community and sealing and painting our cellar.

What’s crazy is that I did not have an objectively bad writing month, it just looks so compared with the stellar progress I made in April and May. I wrote 4,031 words in June, but quite a bit of it was rewriting a pivotal section that I simply did not like from my first draft.

I had transcribed it the previous month, but then found that I couldn’t continue. It just didn’t feel right. So after mulling it over for way too long, I decided to change the scene entirely. That process of rethinking this one section of the story really slowed me down in the first couple weeks of June.

The rest of the time, I was just lazy. We’re going on a trip this weekend to a (socially distanced, non-touristy) family vacation home, and I’ve been looking forward to it all month. My brain started to slip into vacation mode, which always seems to happen to me around this time of year. Anyone remember this post?

Anyway, I didn’t make nearly as much progress as I had wanted to on “Uprooted”, but I’m not going to expend energy beating myself up about it. Maybe this was the mental hiatus I needed. Plus, I’m looking forward to starting part 2 longhand this weekend, while sitting by a lake sipping tasty concoctions.

Write 12,000 words?

I just realized that I had separate goals for finishing a draft and total word count, but the previous section flows pretty well and I’m not changing it. See above.

Continue reading?

Yes, but not as much as I may have liked. I’m just about finished my second Audible Original for the month, which always run short, but I haven’t read much in the way of paper pages recently. I’m just not yet into the fantasy book I had picked up, but I’m going to keep plugging away at it.

Strangely, a random post from a friend on Facebook led me down a rabbit-hole of Warhammer 40,000 related content, so I’ve been reading a ton of articles on a fan site. I started with the Night Lords and keep finding more things to read. Man, I miss that game. So expensive, though.

Continue doing yoga?

Yes! My one big achievement in June! I haven’t done it every day, but it has definitely been most days. I’m still using Sarah Beth Yoga on YouTube, and I now have a few favorites I’ll go back to for specific types of exercise, focusing on specific areas, etc. But, I’ve branched out a lot to and have made an effort to try new videos each week.

What’s great about yoga is that my workout can change depending on my mood. Some days I need high-intensity strength training. Some days I’m sore and want to loosen up. Other days, I just want to feel relaxed. Yoga gives me all of that, which has been incredible for my mental health as much as physical.

Goals for July

  1. Actually finish “Uprooted — The Herb Witch Tales #1”. I don’t think I’ll have a problem finishing. I’m now over a bit of a plot hump that coincided with the summer doldrums, and I genuinely want to complete this draft.
  2. Write 10,000 words. I’m going back to basics. Word counts sometimes put the wrong kind of pressure on my writing. I don’t care what I write for part 1 as long as I finish. Drafting part 2 longhand will be a longer process, especially starting out, so I’m aiming lower than last month.
  3. Continue with yoga and hit the gym. My gym is open with social distancing policies in place, so I want to get back into weight training. The good news is that I feel physically ready to do so, without the pressure of jumping into it too fast. For the first time in 15 years, weight training is now the complement to my exercise staple: yoga.
  4. Find a way to read more. Listening to audiobooks are basically the only thing I miss about driving all the time, but I can definitely be doing more. I still need to pad my 2020 reading goal for GoodReads posterity.

Steve D

Exercise 3 Part 2: Short and Long

Keeping up my goal of a post every Monday by the skin of my teeth and thank you for those 3 extra hours I get by being on the west coast! This is the second part of Le Guin’s exercise for Chapter 3 – the chapter on sentence length and complex syntax.

And this one is the first one that has flummoxed me. The instructions are simple:

Part Two: Write a half page to a page of narrative, up to 350 words, that is all one sentence.” Steering the Craft, Page 32.

I tried a couple of times with two different topics – but I didn’t get close to half a page to a page or 350 words. More than that, I think my long sentences are pale imitations of real long sentences – just lots of sentences joined together by semi-colons or em dashes (tried both and wasn’t happy with either).  And despite trying to channel my best A Tale of Two Cities opening sentence “It was the best of times…” I would say this was the most difficult exercise so far for me. Maybe it’s the fear of run-on sentences that my English teachers so carefully cultivated…

Continue reading “Exercise 3 Part 2: Short and Long”

Making a Character Death Make Sense

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

I’ve spent way too much time this month rationalizing and over-thinking a character death in my story that I knew was definitely coming. Fortunately, after talking it through with my human sounding board (my wife), I think I’m ready to write The Death Scene.

And I’d like to share some insights I’ve picked up along the way. Continue reading “Making a Character Death Make Sense”

Exercise 3 Part 1: Short and Long

I’ve been keeping up with the writing exercises in Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin and so I am onto the next one. I’ve realized that I had mis-numbered them for the posts – exercise 2 should have been “1 Part 2” since Le Guin numbers them with the chapters, so I went back and fixed my past posts.

This exercise also has two parts and is from Chapter 3 “Sentence Length and Complex Syntax.”

Part One: Write a paragraph of narrative, 100-150 words, in sentences of seven or fewer words. No sentence fragments! Each must have a subject and a verb.” Page 32 of Steering the Craft

Here it goes:
Continue reading “Exercise 3 Part 1: Short and Long”

Exercise 2: Am I Saramago

Steve’s post last week on his progress towards his goals was very inspirational. So I confess: I’ve never been good about setting writing goals. Partly because I have abysmal time management skills, but also because in the past I would write in fits and starts. I would plunge into a story and write for hours, day after day, and then when something would come up or the plotting/story would get hard, it would be weeks or months (or never – okay, pretty much never) until I would come back to it. I no longer have the luxury to write for hours on any day, let alone any sort of marathon burst of creativity. Life has forced me to write a little each day (only other option: none at all) and actually, this has served to turn the unsustainable torrents into more of a reasonable trickle. Circumstance-enforced discipline, I suppose.  So maybe it is time to retry Writing Goals.

One goal I have had in the last month is to post here on Mondays – and so to keep achieving goal number one, here is the next exercise from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft book. This is from Chapter 2, the chapter on Punctuation and Grammar. She calls this exercise a “pure consciousness-raiser” about the value of punctuation.
Continue reading “Exercise 2: Am I Saramago”

June Write Day: #Gains

I can’t really tell if May flew by or dragged its feet. On one hand, I can’t believe it’s already June, with summer weather in full swing in MD. On the other, it feels like a lot has happened in the last month, both personally and otherwise.

My short take on current protests around the US:

Black Live Matter.

Now then, onto events primarily taking place at the simple new desk pictured above. Continue reading “June Write Day: #Gains”

Exercise 1 part 2: A strong emotion

The last week has been so weighted, so heavy with sorrow and yet growing with hope too. With current events still in the front of my mind, I’ve tried to resume some artistic activities. So, a day late, but here it is – the next writing exercise from Steering the Craft.

Background: I’ve been working through Ursula K. Le Guin’s excellent Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. Always glad for feedback or comments! (And if you feel inspired to join in – even better!!)

From Chapter 1: The Sound of Your Writing
Part 2: In a paragraph or so, describe an action or a person feeling a strong emotion – joy, fear, grief. Try to make the rhythm and movement of the sentences embody or represent the physical reality you’re writing about. ” -Steering the Craft, Page 9.

This one definitely didn’t come from personal experience – no lotto jackpots here!

Continue reading “Exercise 1 part 2: A strong emotion”

Finding a Way to Enjoy Your Story

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

I don’t always enjoy the story I’m writing. There, I said it. Sometimes, the story doesn’t feel right, or it doesn’t excite me, and it’s just not working the way I had intended it to. And I start to dislike it… maybe even resent it a little for taking up so much of my head space and typing capacity.

However, there is one simple reason that I think lies at the heart of not enjoying the story you’re writing: you haven’t figured out what to like about your story yet. Continue reading “Finding a Way to Enjoy Your Story”