Day 64 – Writing action scenes

Day sixty-four of my 365 Day Writing Project

Words: 1,100

I wrote a car chase today. I’m not going to lie, it was a little awkward. I wrote it and afterward felt like I was perhaps not descriptive enough. I could picture the chase unfolding in my mind as I wrote it, but I didn’t feel confident that the reader will get as much out of it. And then I felt like perhaps I didn’t keep the writing concise enough to facilitate the pace I wanted. I was about to go back and edit and re-work the whole thing, but decided to leave it. Write now. Edit later. I’m really trying to live by that rule.

This experience of writing a car chase did make me wonder about how descriptive one needs to be when writing action scenes. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it, but it seems that there should be a delicate balance between informative description and quick-paced, simple wording. I want the reader to fly along the page, never getting stuck on verbiage so she can feel the accelerated action in the story. Simple language and simple sentence structure, which hopefully lends itself to quick-paced reading. But I also want the reader to understand and fully picture what is happening. I prefer to include some colorful, tickling-the-senses description, but only what is necessary. How to strike that balance is the trick.

Which leads me to the obvious question: In action scenes, which is more important: pace or description?

The answer is both. I found this bit of simple writing advice from Holly Lisle, writer and author, who had this to say about writing action scenes:

Limit extraneous information.

This is not the time to describe the countryside, the weather, or what people are wearing. Concentrate on the main characters, their movements, their five senses, and their emotions as they work through whatever problem they’re facing.

Pull your camera in close.

Let us taste the blood at the corner of the lip, feel the pain of the broken bone, hear the whistling of the blade, smell sweat, see eyes wide with shock, the beads of sweat on upper lips. Sense details create a sense of immediacy and urgency, and make a scene feel faster.

Keep sentences short and clean.

There are times and places for the hundred word sentence, but the fast-paced action scene is not one of them.

Be sharp, short, hard-edged.

Use fragments (sparingly). Kill adjectives and adverbs — be ruthless. You don’t need many, and may not need any. Find good verbs and nouns, and let the scene run with them.

This is good advice to follow, which I will be sure to do for my next action scene. For now, I’m going to resist the temptation to go back and re-write the scene I wrote tonight. Nope, not gonna do it. Write now. Edit later. Good night.

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Day 63 – Why relax when you can write

Day sixty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 750

Sunday seems like it ought to be the perfect writing day. Everything slows down, there are less obligations and the feeling of “I should be doing something else” is somewhat lightened. It is often the one day of the week when a person can really relax. Unfortunately, I’m a person who is on tilt most of the time. So when Sunday rolls around, I’m almost too ready to stop for a bit. That didn’t really happen for me today. It was a busy day bringing the kids to birthday parties, running errands, cleaning house, gardening and cooking. By the time I sat down to write tonight, I pretty much felt like lying down to watch paint dry.

I made myself write anyway. I just wanted to chill out and relax. It turned out, writing for a while was actually very relaxing for me. Now that I’m done for the night, I’m glad I made myself write. I do, however, think I need another Sunday.

Day 61 – When the flow of writing surprises you

Day sixty-one of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,200

When I sat down to write tonight, I wasn’t feeling up for a long session of writing. I told myself to just write a few sentences and see what happens. If I wrote anything at all, that was still something. The first 300 words were slow and forced. I decided I could stop there, but instead I just took a break and sat down again. Another 100 words. It was flowing a little easier. And then something clicked. Before I knew it, I was past 1,000 words and felt like I could continue writing for quite some time. If it wasn’t for the late hour, I would have.

This is the kind of writing I love, when the flow kicks in and I get lost in the story. My fingers type away almost involuntarily as my imagination takes off. I live for this. It’s what brings me back to the page tomorrow. I must remember the next time I’m not really feeling it that I just need to start writing and maybe something will click. Hope for the flow, and the rest will come.

Day 60 – Writing every day for two months really adds up

Day sixty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,050

TWO MONTH TALLY: 63,335 words (approx.)

Hooray for another milestone! When I think about all of the writing I have done the last 60 days, I’m very pleased with my progress. I did some quick math. I have written approximately 63,335 words over the last 60 days. That means I have averaged about 1,055 words per day.* That’s progress I have only dreamed of making in the past. Now, I’m making it. Real, verified progress. And man, does it feel good.

I’m a little stunned at seeing these numbers in black and white, actually. I have never written this much or this often in my life, and to experience how it affects me is eye-opening. I’m happier. I have a more positive outlook. I’m tired from the late nights yet energized to keep at it. I’m less stressed, less obsessive-compulsive, less serious. I’m more inspired, more creative, more caring of myself. I’m daydreaming on a daily basis, which is surprisingly good for my soul. I’m a better version of myself, and while I know I have a long way to go to reach my goals, I have never been more certain about what I am meant to do with my life. After 60 days of progress, I know that I am going to do it.

I am looking forward to writing for the next 305 days and the progress that’s in store for me.

*Note: These numbers only represent the writing I do for my book. They do not include the writing I have done on this blog. I would guess that each of my blog posts is around 250-500 words, so really I’m probably averaging around 1,350 per day.

Day 59 – Keeping the faith when the odds are against you

Day fifty-nine of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 500

I have been doing quite a bit of reading around the WordPress community lately, checking out some pretty fabulous and interesting blogs by fellow writers. While I embrace the fact that I’m a newbie in this role of writer/blogger, I am amazed at how talented many of these writers are. They make me strive to do better.

The best thing about being part of an interesting community like this is that there is so much encouragement and inspiration to be shared. Seriously, you can’t beat it. Every single day I get a shot of adrenaline here. The worst part is that I am gravely aware of how much I lack compared to so many others. I’m not published (at least not on the scale I want to be). My blog is basic and needs a major makeover. I’m not networked enough. I’m lousy at marketing myself. And the most difficult: I don’t have enough time to put a decent amount of effort into any of those things.

I tell myself that it doesn’t matter; I should compare myself to no one. I should only be concerned with my own strides and accomplishments, that when mashed all together illustrate my journey to reach my dream of becoming a professional writer. I’m in the depths of this journey with millions of miles to go, but because of this blog and my 365 Day Writing Project, I’m realizing gains ten-fold compared to what I was doing a year ago. I am writing every day. And I have no intention of stopping until I realize my dream.

The odds are against me. Just like they are against so many of my fellow writers out there. But we must keep at it anyway. We must look beyond the odds to focus on our personal goals and what the future has in store for us. While I continue to work on doing that, I just want to say: Thanks for the encouragement. Thanks for the inspiration. And thanks for making me strive to do better.

Day 58 – When to start a new chapter

Day fifty-eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,100

No, this is not some metaphorical discussion about starting a new chapter in life. This is a discussion about writing a chapter of a book, coming to a stopping point and then starting a new chapter. So when is a good time to do that? I’m sure some of my fellow writers out there can chime in (and please do), but I believe the end of a chapter should happen at a place in the story with a logical pause or ending and some foreshadowing as to what may be next. I picture myself reading a good book, coming to the end of a chapter. I breathe, soak up the journey of the last however-many pages, and unable to resist the urge to turn the page to see what happens next, I turn it. Anticipation wins. A new start. A continuation. Or maybe even a new journey.

Yesterday, I would have said that I was about halfway through the chapter I was writing. Today, I ended that chapter far sooner than I had planned. It is much shorter than most of the chapters I have written in this book. But the story came to a perfect place to pause, breathe and soak it up. Like turning the page of a good book, I selected “New Document” from the menu and a perfect white screen appeared before me. Anticipation won again. I hit the keys full stride, writing the next part of the journey. New chapters energize me. But there is just something magical about turning that page…

Oh hell, maybe this IS a metaphorical discussion about life.

Day 57 – Change is good

Day fifty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 500

When I sat down to write tonight I was experiencing an inner battle of sorts. I needed to decide whether to keep writing the current story line or develop more of the back story. I chose to develop more of the back story because I was feeling the need for some change. I absolutely despise when it happens, but I must admit that there are times when even I don’t enjoy the story. Those are the moments when change is good. Change is necessary.

Change, I did. I allowed my writing to go on a little detour and it was great. I didn’t have to struggle with the part I had been writing up to today. I focused on the back story and enjoyed the departure from the main story. I will have more to write in the “detour” tomorrow and I am already looking forward to it. My hope is that when it is time to return to the main story line, I will be recharged and able to enjoy it again.

Day 56 – Incorporating a character’s flashbacks into the story

Day fifty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,200

(Total words for the weekend: 1,700)

Today I worked on a chapter in which the main character remembers something from her childhood. I had originally intended for her flashback to be quick and to the point, but it got much more involved and lengthy. The story developed nicely and her memory of what happened more than fifteen years ago (from her present day) gives some good insight into her make-up as an adult.

Although it is an excellent window into the main character’s history as well as a good tie-in to what is happening to her currently and why she is handling it the way she is, this flashback does bring up a dilemma for me surrounding the timing. It wouldn’t be a creative process without a dilemma of some sort, right?

Writing a flashback into a story is, in my opinion, an effective tool to help the reader get to know a character. I have done it previously in this book, but this particular flashback makes me wonder if it should be occurring earlier in the story. The dilemma is this: Is it possible to screw up the timing of a flashback? Is it ever too late to give the reader more history about a character? My instinct with regard to the latter tells me ‘no,’ but it would be helpful to hear from other writers about their use of flashbacks because I do generally believe that timing can be crucial.

The information revealed in this particular flashback is information the reader doesn’t need to have earlier in the story, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t come earlier. Perhaps the reader will feel cheated not learning of it sooner. It’s tough to tell at this point but I am going to make note of it for later.

Day 53 – Sexual tension between characters

Day fifty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,200

The writing really flowed for me today. If not for the fact that I have a very long day ahead of me tomorrow, which will start at an ungodly hour of the morning, I would have kept going. Easily. But I had to stop. At least I can look forward to picking up where I left off.

As for today’s ease of writing, I must give all the credit to the sexual tension between my two main characters. What fun it is to write! The relationship between these two characters is something I plan to keep platonic. They are not and never will be lovers. But, they have great chemistry and the more time they spend together, the thicker the sexual tension gets. And the more fun I have writing their adventures together.

Certain dynamics between characters can make their scenes more or less enjoyable to write. I’d like to think that if I’m enjoying writing a scene so much, the reader will enjoy reading it just as much. Whether or not that is the case, I can’t help but wonder what the reader’s experience will be during the parts I didn’t enjoy writing as much. Is it actually possible to gauge what a reader might feel/think/experience based on the enjoyment the writer gets while writing? Who knows. I’m just glad I get to enjoy the writing process when I do and if I can have fun while doing it, I hardly care what the reader will think.

Day 52 – Cut yourself some slack

Day fifty-two of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 300

Yes, that is correct. I only wrote 300 words today. For several reasons, I have decided I really need to get to bed at a decent hour tonight and I am therefore cutting it off early. I can pick it up again tomorrow with hopefully more spring in my step and more creativity at my fingertips.

It is hard to let things go sometimes. I have ideals about how much I would like to write each day, but sometimes, they aren’t realistic. Rather than feel like a failure for not reaching my short-term goals, I choose to cut myself some slack. We all need to do that. It is so much easier to punish ourselves instead, but where does that get us? Nowhere. And quite frankly, that just doesn’t work for me. I’m on a mission to make progress every day. This train isn’t stopping. Anything that tries to get in the way of my progress has no place here.

Self-loathing, discouragement, cynicism and all the other progress-halting factors, self-imposed or otherwise, can go find some other place to loiter. I have found that these things dissipate the moment I cut myself some much needed slack, and the train chugs on. Because any amount of writing, even just 300 words, is progress.