Building toward the midpoint on #NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 13

buckets

Image prompt: I love this idea that rusted and broken useless buckets gather together and still collect things. Where do buckets gather in my story? What do they collect?

On Day 13 in 2017 I was ambitious and already at the midpoint, looking at the Inmost Cave. This year, I feel like I’m still very much at the beginning. So today, I decided to make a day to hit the scenes I need, to build toward that midpoint.

Brainstorming Exercise: There are a few ways for me to do this. I’m going to create four checklists that all overlap.

  1. Save the Cat beat sheet
  2. The hero’s journey
  3. Three act structure
  4. Story Grid essential scenes

I’m going to check off each of the scenes I’ve written so far for each of these plot/scene checklists and brainstorm what scenes need to happen to build to my mid-point.

This exercise was great!! Seeing my scenes in the different plot structures helped me see where things have already changed from my original beat sheet and where I would like to made changes. It opened my eyes to areas that will need higher stakes and more conflict, and I was able to see where my essential scenes are. I was excited to see I’ve already planned all of them. I’m feeling good that I’m on track to hit the important scenes and building tension and intrigue as I approach my midpoint.

#vss365: Wind

I love the quote used in this prompt:

If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees. -Khalil Gibran

She liked to #wind her up. She flushed and her eyes lit up when she defended her opinions. Sadly, she caught on and stopped taking the bait.

Today’s Simple Task

Reversal of yesterday. Show that whatever your MC discovered yesterday, the opposite is actually true.

→ I love this prompt, especially for this WIP (work in progress). This could happen almost every day for my protagonist and antagonist. Where to begin?

Warm-up Exercise

Try this prompt from Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months by John Dufresne.

Answering Machine: Your character is troubled as usual. What is today’s specific problem? Write about it. Now, he has a voice mail message and is surprised to learn that the message solves his problem, alleviates his trouble. Play (write) the message.

→This is kind of funny: When I first looked at the exercise and saw Answering Machine, I imagined that the message would cause a conflict. I imagined that if my MC received a message from home, it would be something he couldn’t solve because he was so far away and would make things very difficult for him. Then I read the prompt and the message is supposed to alleviate his trouble. Do I want to write both ideas?

Word Of The Day

sonorous: adj. loud, deep or resonant as a sound.

His anger exploded as a sonorous boom.

8 Action Verbs:

She analyzed her notes. What hadn’t he said? What was he avoiding?

He chose to change direction while they walked. She hadn’t noticed at the time because he said he thought he had seen something, but now she wondered if he had done it on purpose.

She corrected her timeline. They may not have abandoned the property when she thought. If true, that would be even more disturbing.

His established routine needed to stay intact.

He implemented his plan. It had to work.

He modeled his plan after one of Oren’s stories.

He received a package at the front desk.

The man spoke strangely, as if within one sentence some words were meant for you and some were not.

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses

Using serial descriptive clauses, try to write the longest sentence you can.

Each of her questions felt like a trick, leading yet digging, boiled down to yes or no but expecting so much more, asking for subliminal clues, triggering micro-expressions, an eye movement, a nostril flare.

Happy Reading and Writing!

I hope you find some of these exercises inspiring. I’ll see you tomorrow.

The Antagonist’s Tests, Allies & Enemies on #NaNoWriMo Day 12

abandoned ball

Day 12 (2017) The Antagonist’s Tests, Allies & Enemies

The antagonist is on his or her own hero’s journey. Thus, he or she would also have people who help and hinder along the way. Today, I’ll be taking a closer look at how my antagonist(s) are seeing and responding to the story events.

#vss365: crank

(odd coincidence: I took a picture of a crank and put that crank in my novel yesterday)

He understood it now, the crank, the chain. That sound, that horrible sound, clanking and grinding in his head. It had been there all this time and it had a terrible purpose.

Today’s Simple Task

MC compares self to other characters in story – false sense of achieving goal

→  I like this prompt for my scene today. As Kirk walks the property with Shawna and she tries to get him to give her clues, he constantly talks about how he was different from the rest of the family, trying to portray himself in a good light, but over-doing it. Turning himself into a saint in contrast to the devils. Then he catches himself and tries to make them not look guilty either.

Warm-up Exercise

Set your timer for 15 minutes. What problems are coming for your protagonist that s/he is not aware of yet?

→ Since this is very similar to how I looked at the simple task yesterday, I’m going to change it to “What problems are coming for your antagonist?”

Word Of The Day

recidivist: n. repeat offender

He was becoming a recidivist. He had heard it was a slippery slope. One lie leads to another lie to another lie until you can’t keep track anymore. He was sliding quickly now.

8 Action Verbs:

She had done her research. They allocated one percent of the budget to missing persons and only one percent of that budget went to persons that were missing more than a year. No wonder he wanted this case closed now.

When last he checked, no one had noticed he was gone.

She coordinated a surprise birthday party for the sheriff. It would give her one more afternoon, maybe even the weekend before he noticed she hadn’t stopped her investigation.

She enlarged the image. She had been right.

She had long immunized against chauvinism. She almost didn’t hear it anymore.

She would have mediated the argument between the two brothers if she could understand them at all. She knew Kirk was speaking English, but it still didn’t make any sense.

She snagged the book and raised it above her head. That got their attention.

She hadn’t specified the details for which she searched.

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Look at the last paragraph you wrote yesterday, or a paragraph you wrote this morning. For each sentence in the paragraph, write ten different sentences to say the same thing. You can use different words, but don’t change the meaning. Choose your favorites of the new sentences and combine them to reform the paragraph. Compare and contrast.

Before paragraph: He didn’t need any of this. He wanted to take white out to everything he had thought and seen today. He had often wished life could be edited. He looked around for the dog, thought he would give it a good thank you head scratch or belly-rub, but it was gone.

Example of ten ways to write first sentence:

  1. This visit was unnecessary.
  2. He found these emotions extraneous.
  3. Facing his past was non-essential.
  4. Kirk’s psyche was too fragile to dive into his past.
  5. This house had no claim on him.
  6. He was committed to moving on.
  7. Visiting his past was a frivolous activity.
  8. The memories this visit dug up were not what he needed.
  9. He felt overwhelmed by the burden of this place.
  10. He wished he had found a way out of coming here.

After paragraph: The memories this visit dug up were not what he needed. He craved the ignorance of yesterday. He had often seen life as a bad movie that needed a good edit. He thought he would give the dog a good scratch as a thank you. The dog was gone.

Compare and contrast: Without the context of what came before, the second paragraph is clearer. The first sentence was too vague before. I like the visual of erasing or blotting out what he had seen and felt in the first paragraph, so I might go back to something like that. I really like the third sentence in the after paragraph, but then had a bunch of trouble with the dog sentence out of context. I would need to add something to make it smoother, I think.

Overall this is a great exercise and something I plan to bring to my editing.

Mapping the Hero’s Journey:

Today is about the tests, allies and enemies of the antagonist.

Test card: Judgement
MC learns from test: The Empress

Allies: Eight of coins
Most important ally: Queen of cups

Enemies: Seven of cups
What motivates the enemies: Two of cups

My interpretation: It’s very interesting that I pulled the same enemies cards as yesterday.  So let’s see. My antagonist’s test is about trusting her judgement and whether she can reconcile with her past (interesting parallel to the protagonist). Through this test she will learn resourcefulness, generosity, and creativity. She finds allies in her apprentices, people who are learning her trade. Her most important ally is an intuitive woman. Her enemy could be her own indecision, or the protagonist.

 

Happy Writing!

I hope you find some inspiration in these exercises.

Tests, Allies and Enemies on #NaNoWriMo Day 11

red crank

Image inspiration: This morning I continued my search for things that could be found on an abandoned property that make me say: What is that doing there? And what is it for?

How’s everyone’s writing going? I hope you’re enjoying your story and getting to know your characters no matter what your word count.

I made a lot of progress yesterday and had a lot of fun. I accidentally wandered into a bonus writing exercise: Have your MC wander through each room of a house s/he used to live in. Each room triggers a memory. What triggers it, a site, sound, or smell? Is the memory pleasant or unpleasant?

Day 11 (2017) Tests, Allies and Enemies

This is the perfect theme for my writing today. My MC has had a difficult first interview with the detective and now has agreed to walk the abandoned property with her. Neither character is sure if the other is an ally or enemy, but at the moment, they know they can’t trust each other and the stakes are high. So let’s see how the prompts work with this idea.

#vss365: march

The last few days had felt like one endless march uphill in wet socks with blisters. He was exhausted. Everything ached. He was covered in cuts and scrapes and itched from nettles. He wanted to go home, but the worst was still ahead.

Today’s Simple Task

Something happens that is out of your MC’s control.

→ This is a given since everything is out of his control right now. He’s used to being in control. I’ll need to narrow this down to something very unexpected. And/or think of things he does to feel like he is in control.

Warm-up Exercise

Your MC is having a conversation, in person, with two people. One s/he considers an “ally” and one an “enemy”. Write the dialogue.

→ This is a tricky one. My MC doesn’t feel he has any allies where he is. He did mention that she seemed like two different people during his interrogation. Or the detective could bring someone with her and they’re doing a good cop/bad cop thing. Or there’s the stray dog on the property that he could see as an ally.

Word Of The Day

guisard: n. a person who wears a mask.

At first he believed a silent guisard stared at him from the corner, but it was a half-burnt mannequin. He recognized it now. Oren had brought it home from a going out of business sale and started dressing it up as the characters in his stories.

8 Action Verbs:

He said it aided him when imagining body language.

He chartered  a sea plane, a lake plane really, to fly him over the lake. He had always wanted to see it from above.

She almost had him convinced he was guilty.

Someone had engineered an elaborate warning system, but what did it trigger and who did it alert?

The way the pages suddenly came to life made him think of the old movie The Illustrated Man.

She was always so measured. Did she have any life outside of her job?

He questioned her motivations. She did not appear to be listening anymore. Was she trying to find any other suspects, the real murderer?

He specialized in watching other people physically gather the clues and puzzle them together, so he could make the arrest and take the credit.

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Grab a book by an author you would be proud to be compared to; a book that you think has a similar tone to the writing you are working on. Open to a random page and start reading out loud. Write down your favorite words on the page. Does this author use a lot of sentence variety?

Emulate the sentence structures of one paragraph, using your own words.

For this exercise, instead of looking to the authors I already know well, I decided to check out three books off of my Thrillers to read list. I don’t know what happened to me, but I have not been reading novels like I usually do. I’ve been in pick-em-up and put-em-down mode for too long, but I’ll keep trying. I checked out:

  1. The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky
  2. Gone for Good by Harlan Coben (I didn’t get far last month)
  3. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

 

Mapping the Hero’s Journey:

Today’s reading, following Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot: 33 Days To Finish Your Book by Arwen Lynch, is a little different. First, you pull three cards: one is the Test card, one is for allies, and one is for enemies. Then you place a card under each of those cards. The one under Test card is the most important thing your MC learns from the test throughout the story. The one under the Allies represents the most important ally in your MC’s world and the card under the enemies shows what motivates his enemies against him.

Test card: Ten of swords
MC learns from test: Three of coins

Allies: The Magician
Most important ally: The World

Enemies: Seven of cups
What motivates the enemies: Two of cups

My interpretation: My MC is facing ruin. That is not to say death and destruction exactly, but something that seems like a sudden event which has a history. It is the natural culmination of a series of events that will bring change. This ending clears the way for new possibilities. What he learns from this trial is how to let his talents show to the public.

His ally turns out to be The Magician. I had already associated the Magician with his brother, so this is an interesting turn. I’m thinking that his most important ally lies within his brother’s world and remembering the world they had together. His enemies are his choices and confusion. At the moment it’s not clear what is feasible and what is fantasy and everything is up in the air.

His enemies are his circumstances and insecurities. However, this enemies card can also show the beginning stages of a new project. I could also interpret this as the detective is his enemy because she doesn’t know what is feasible and what is fantasy.

The enemies’ motivation is harmony, peace, partnership and love, so that could be why the detective wants to solve the case, something to do with harmony and peace in her life or it could be my protagonist’s motivation to get over his internal enemies to find harmony and peace, perhaps to finally be able to create fulfilling relationships.

Word Crawls

Since today’s Save The Cat beat is Fun & Games, I think I’ll do a Word Crawl. I found a really cute Bob Ross themed one on the NaNo site The Joy of Painting Crawl, so I’m going to get my words in while painting some imaginary puffy little clouds and happy little trees.

Happy Writing!

I hope you find some inspiration in these exercises.

Crossing The Threshold on #NaNoWriMo Day 8

Happy Writing!

I hope you find some inspiration in these exercises. Have a great weekend writing!!

These posts are a lot and I still have the planner pages and Gator McBumpypants to get to, so I may not post again until Monday. See you then.

The Mentor of #NaNoWriMo Day 7

perfect flame

I woke up this morning and went straight to my manuscript. I had a bad dream, but it made me think of a scene for my story and I didn’t want to miss it. It has been foggy and cold the last few days, so I decided to have a fire in the fireplace. The neighbor’s cat came over to see what I was up to and cuddled with me as I typed for a bit. Gotta say, it has been a great morning.

I’ve already done my morning pages and have half my words for today!! And it’s a good thing too because I have found a major distraction in my fireplace inspired by the high shutter speed photos I took. I could honestly just feed that fire and take pictures all day. But then I selected a couple to illustrate this post and they reminded me of my bokeh filters. I can’t believe I never tried bokeh with fire.

It’s challenging. I’m going to have to play around with my camera setting a lot more. I may need to add some Christmas lights to the front of the fireplace to get some unblurred shapes or shine a light into the fireplace so I can use lower ISO settings, but a new palette has emerged and I’m excited.

a new idea

A new idea by Maria L. Berg bokeh in fire.

Back to NaNoWriMo Day 7 The Mentor

As you may have guessed fire is my mentor today. That would mean I see my mentor as a muse, a giver of creative ideas, a non-corporeal entity. However, the mentor can be many things. I found a good post at Thought Co. The Hero’s Journey: Meeting with the Mentor 

The article mentions Jung, so I thought great, I’ll just grab my copy of The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious and Man and His Symbols, look up mentor in the Index and soon have a complete understanding. No such luck. The word “mentor” wasn’t indexed in either one. Since I have already been distracted by photography today and did not feel like reading hundred of pages to figure out why “mentor” wasn’t index and yet “menstrual blood” was in both. I let that idea go.

The mentor is usually an older, wiser person who helps your hero get past the refusal and get on with the adventure. Thinking about that this morning, I easily came up with a mentor for my detective: her father (memories of) and an instructor from the police academy. I also easily came up with a mentor for my antagonist: an imaginary guide he calls “the oracle” who is actually his memories of his older brother who always looked out for him when he was a kid. But I’m not sure who my protagonist’s mentor is.

He doesn’t for long lasting relationships and is always hiding his true self. Who would he turn to for advice. He wants to direct movies, so maybe he would turn to the films of his favorite director for advice. Or watch interviews with his favorite director. Maybe he would just go see a movie or read a book his favorite director wrote. I like this idea because it parallels or mirrors the imaginary world of the antagonist’s mental state. They both think they are perfectly sane, but neither really relates to the real world.

Happy Writing!

I hope you find some inspiration in these exercises. See you tomorrow.

#NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 5 – The Refusal

lamp ring

Continuing yesterday’s exploration of things that make me say, “What is that and what is it for?” I’m going to go with part of a lampshade? There’s gotta be a story as to why it’s in the lake, right? I hadn’t thought much about stagnant water on my abandoned property, but in this area, I can picture this image somewhere on the property in a low-lying area.

Day 5 (2017) is The Refusal

My protagonist definitely wants to refuse his call to adventure. How will he try to wriggle his way out of a request from the police?

#vss365: haze

He squinted, trying to cut through the haze. Movement caught his attention. A dark figure, growing larger, coming right at him, burst through the fog.

Today’s Simple Task

Think of your favorite scene from any movie or TV show. What makes it so great? Try to incorporate its strengths into a scene you write today.

This is a tough one for me. I’m not one of those people that has a favorite scene and memorizes it or anything. Hopefully something will come to me as I do my morning pages.

I took a look at Hot Fuzz and realized that the scenes I like the most are because of interesting edits and sound choices. I’ll be thinking about how I can use quick cuts, or stylized breaks to make my scenes more exciting.

Warm-up Exercise

Have your MC write his or her will or manifesto.

I think my antagonist would have some sort of manifesto, but my MC? Maybe when his mom died, he decided to write a will. I’ll play around with that.

Word Of The Day

eldritch: adj. eerie, other worldly, weird, spooky

Kirk hadn’t remembered a well on the property.  He pulled back the heavy, fir wood lid. Warm air rushed his face with an eldritch wail.

8 Action Verbs:

How they acquired the deed was never explained.

He could see now why they never built here. They only put things on top of this uninviting land.

She continued to stare directly into his eyes without blinking until he felt like he owed her something.

They earned it. They all did for taking away her boys.

He grouped the wrappers by color and only burned like colors at the same time. He imagined it made for less pollution from the smoke.  When he saw a rainbow, he thought that was because of his attention to detail.

It was never litigated in the courts because no one ever responded to the notices. No one bothered to even find out if the owners were still alive.

The art he had produced would have disgusted his parents, though as they aged they had probably discovered legal pharmaceuticals to add to their concoctions.

He had noticed the dung heaps upon his first visit, but had dismissed them as part of an abandoned property overtaken by nature. This, however, smelled fresh and was shaped like a cross. Kirk meant church, and because his Mom was always yelling random scripture about damnation, when he was younger mean kids called him church boy. Could this be a coincidence, his imagination?

Awesome Sentence Challenge

noun (or noun phrase) + verb (or verb phrase)

Write a page full of two word sentences. Try to convey as much information as possible with only two words by using specific nouns and strong, active verbs.

I really like this challenge. One of my goals for this draft is to use very specific nouns and verbs. I wrote a short story last year that was about an ornithologist and used specific names of birds, including the Latin names, to describe his world.

Since this novel takes place in Pierce County, WA, I want to use specific plant, flower and tree nouns that are in the area.  I also want to use specific anatomy nouns, specific tool and machinery nouns. A cat can be a Siamese or a Persian, a hat can be a beret to a fedora. So let’s see how I can use this to create interesting two word sentences that I can put in today’s scenes.

Shawna balked.
Oren spun.
Kirk paced.
Shawna bit.
Oren scratched.
Kirk lied.
Shawna stewed.
Oren left.
Kirk acquiesced.

Nature overcomes.
Ivy survives.
Nettles encroach.
Dandelions multiply.

Plums squished.
Pits stuck.
Robins feasted.
Crickets chirped.
Grasshoppers flit.

This is a great exercise. I could do this for hours. Short, precise sentences can help with pacing and emotion. The ones with my character’s names are the easiest to come up with, but I’m also enjoying the others. I think I’ll have some fun with my dictionary and other reference books.

Mapping the Hero’s Journey:

The refusal card: Wheel of Fortune
MC’s biggest fear about the Call to Adventure: Seven of coins
The responsibilities that can’t be abandoned. It is why he can’t refuse: Temperance

My interpretation: My MC’s refusal is rooted in his idea that his past was bad and by escaping it, he could change his fortunes. He fears that going back to where he grew up will turn all the good things he’s been able to build back to bad, that people may discover he’s a fraud and though he may be able to claw himself out again, just facing his past would be a big set-back. The reason he can’t refuse in the long run is because he knows he can’t avoid the truth anymore if he wants to find balance in his life he needs to recognize that what he sees as the opposing forces do not need to be at war with him. He will need to tread carefully.

Word Crawl

I found the Welcome to Nightvale crawl on the wrimo wiki. I remember enjoying it in the past. I thin I’ll do it today.

Preparing for editing along the way:

Inspired by Pat Verducci’s post Break Your Story- Index Card Style, I decided on how to color-code my scene cards. They are now color-coded by Story arc.

Blue: Main story line of my main character and his family present and past.

Red: My detective as she is working on the case.

Purple: Oren’s story

Yellow: My detective’s distractions in her personal life

Green: Other (& red herrings)- so far I used this for the opening scene because it establishes the setting, and the inciting incident, but the MC isn’t in the story yet.

Now that I’ve got my color-coding, I started my Story Grid using the same colors for the rows. I was very excited when I started doing this today. It feels good to be organized this year.

Master Class NaNoWriMo Group

Yesterday, after I finished my words, I thought I would head over to Master Class and watch some thriller writer videos while I worked on December’s planner pages. When I got there I was happily surprised to see that Danny Elfman has a Master Class. I was so excited that I started wandering around looking for the promo link to share it with everyone. While I was unsuccessfully doing that, I found that Master Class has created a NaNoWriMo Group. If you’re already enjoying classes on Master Class, you can cheer on other NaNo writers while you’re there. If you haven’t joined Master Class yet, I highly recommend it. It’s worth it for the Neil Gaiman class alone, but there are so many great classes to enjoy.

Happy Writing!

I hope you find some inspiration in these exercises. See you tomorrow.

Planning for #NaNoWriMo? Here’s a FREE Daily Planner for November!

NaNoWriMo 2019

November is almost here and for a lot of the writing community that means it’s time for National Novel Writing Month. Since I’ve been trying to focus on revisions and actually finishing a novel, I told myself I wasn’t going to do it this year unless an exciting story that I couldn’t refuse fell in my lap. Well, the universe threw me a story idea and I’ve already come up with my characters, my setting and a story beat outline, so I guess I’m doing NaNoWriMo 2019. I’ll be working on another thriller, yet again inspired by real events.

The Planner Pages

I started the Planner Experiment at the beginning of this year to create the daily planner that will inspire writers to write, submit and get published. For me, this experiment has been about getting to know all the opportunities available to get my stories out into the world. After ten months of designing and making changes, the planner is really coming together and I think the pages I created for November can be of use for NaNo writers as well as people submitting short fiction.

The month-long daily planner includes:

  • A page for your weekly goals and an action plan
  • Daily writing prompts
  • Daily image prompts
  • An hourly plan for finding every minute of writing time
  • A literary journal of the day – many literary journals accept stand-alone novel excerpts. You can start a list of journals to look at when your novel is done.

Success with NaNoWriMo is all about finding time and staying inspired. The Writer’s Daily Planner isn’t just a calendar; it can help you with every aspect of daily time management and is full of original writing prompts in case you get stuck.

You can use it to:

  • create checklists for daily writing goals
  • keep track of your word count
  • remind yourself to do some journaling
  • keep track of your best story ideas for later
  • make sure to read each day
  • plan healthy, easy meals
  • make sure you exercise
  • evaluate what’s working and what isn’t
  • and more

So without further ado . . . Here it is!

Fourth Quarter 2019 Planner Pages November

I designed these pages in open office, a free use word processor, so everyone can use them for free. They are designed to be printed as a booklet, or typed in using open office, so you can manipulate the file to fit your personal needs.

All I ask is that you Follow Experience Writing (this site) and either let me know what you think in the comments, or send your thoughts and ideas about the planner to mariaberg@experiencewriting.com.

Thank you so much and enjoy.

Have a great NaNoWriMo! Let your story into the world.