Sitting at the Edge of Land, Looking at the Horizon — What the Hell am I doing in June?

It’s that time of the year again. Summer. End of classes. Holidays. The sinking feeling that you should be doing something more productive, like an internship or a job or really anything to not make your resume look as pathetic as it looks now. I have two more tests this week, German oral evaluation on the 22nd, hopefully no exams (this threat, I believe, has been neutralized but it’s never bad to remain cautious), and no classes until September returns and I have to redo the painfully stressful process of signing up for the new year (and no one will take that Creative Writing class from me, I swear to Cthulhu). It will be my third year, my last year, in college. Yeah. It’s funny how life creeps on you.

I think this whole anxiety about the future, which I suppose is a way for the brain to tell me to prepare for the changes ahead, has the ironic side effect of making me do nothing about the future. The more you worry, the less you do (the more you procrastinate). Instead of fight or flight, you get freeze.

Anyway, I’m digressing. June. New month. What am I doing?

I want to pick up steam this month. Things have been very mellow and slow, because I do not have the capacity to deal simultaneously with the stresses of college and the creation of a writing habit, it seems, but now that part of the equation is temporarily out of the way, I can concentrate on the other.

I’m taking part in Rachel Giesel’s Short Story Challenge (I know, I’m late, May was… a month I’d much rather not think about, thank you very much). Basically, read a short story every day, write a short story a week. It’s good, it’s structured, it’ll give me a concrete goal and no excuses for me to go all over the place just because I can. I will eventually publish these stories here on the blog, though maybe not as I write them. I’ll check back at the end of the month/first day of July.

Speaking of July, that’s the next Camp NaNoWrimo! I have to think about what to do. I remember in the beginning of the year saying that I was dedicating one of the two Camps to edit the stories I was writing at the time, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be doing just that. But that’s not all I’m doing. To keep things interesting, I’ll also be working on my worldbuilding project which I, sadly, have been neglecting. Like how I neglect all other aspects of my life. I’m pretty sure I need help.

Anyway, I’m expecting the stories to already be related to that, somehow, either in setting or characters or both, just to give me a better idea of the place. Right now, what I have is just country and town names, basic history and geography, but nothing really concrete about the town itself, for that I’ll have to look at some pictures of riverside towns.

I’m also bringing back weekly updates, which makes sense since I’m actually doing something productive with my life and writing, for once. These, I suppose, will be similar to my earlier updates, and I think it’ll do me good to return to a familiar format. At least until my brain becomes bored again. I’m pretty sure I need help.

Without further ado, I shall end my update here. It’s late, and I have a test tomorrow.

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WORK, WORK!

So, I just finished what I can call a two-day marathon to complete an assignment for university. In my defense, not a lot of time was given, but hey, it’s going pretty well. The classmate I’m working with even praised my work, and now I feel all giddy and happy because I was feeling nervous and that the work I was doing wasn’t good enough.

I think that’s important, to have people reminding you that you’re doing a good job. And I think it’s particularly important if, like me, you struggle with having confidence in your work or yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the hurricane of negativity in your mind, especially when your mind can conjure all the times that went wrong while ignoring the ones when it went well.

And that’s really one of the reasons why I started this blog, too. Right now, I don’t really have anyone I show my writing to, due to lack of confidence and because, honestly, there aren’t a lot of people I fully trust, let alone to show my writing to. Nor do I have anyone who I can speak to more or less openly, due to the above reason. One day, when I do have something to show for and post here, I want to do so with the confidence that it will be read, enjoyed, and that people will tell me what I did well and what I can improve.

Anyway, last week I may or may not have forgotten to write a post here. And by forgetting, I mean I procrastinated a lot. I need to set up alarms. I think the problem is that, most of the time, nothing really happens and I don’t have much to say. Writing-related topics have been relegated to when I finish classes, since those posts always take a lot of time for me. Maybe I could use prompts, or something? Or maybe someone could ask me something or suggest a topic, that would be interesting, too.

Oh, and as for my “I shall write every week not matter what” challenge, I have, in fact, been writing. I have been doing it twice a week (though there was a week when I only managed once), and with tests coming up I’m unsure if I can manage more than that. Sure, it’s 750 words minimum and I can do that in 25 minutes (today I managed 22, whoa), but a girl still needs to spend four hours on Youtube laughing at memes watching videos on several interesting but unrelated topics *rolls eyes at self*.

For now, that is all. See you next week, if I come up with something.

So… Now What?– The Map

Lo and behold, the end of April! A very stressful month in more ways than one, and unfortunately not as productive as I had wanted it to be. To top it all off, I kind of fell off the project I was supposed to be working on, probably due to exhaustion caused by everything else, so the plans I devised at the beginning at the month don’t seem all that appealing right now, at least not in their current form.

So… Now what?

The Map– May 2017

I want to get back to writing regularly. Like, I don’t even care what it is– a short story, a character profile, a rambling mess– I need to write, and make a habit out of it again. Problem is, I’m kind of shit at creating habits for myself and making them stick. I’ve tried all sorts of methods and apps, all failed so far. I’ve already scrapped that schedule I created a while back, because I simply cannot stick to schedules and, anyway, life tends to throw stuff at you that end up invalidating them, so what’s the point? I don’t like micromanaging myself, though some sort of structure in my life would be nice every once in a while.

So, how am I planning on doing this?

There is a site I’ve been a part of for a few years now and that, like everything else, I have neglected. Like, a lot. That site is 750words, and I’ve had an account there since… March 2012. Wow. It still amazes me how I’ve been on my ‘becoming a writer’ journey for about six years now, it seems much longer…

My goal for the month will be to write there. I’ll be starting slow, maybe twice a week or something. And increase until I’m writing every day. This might happen this month or during the months to follow, but I think it has to be a steady progression. No rush, just increase and decrease the number of days as I see fit. One day I might even be able to write every day and take part in the site’s Monthly Challenge!

Now, I would also like to focus on a project, because it’s also an area I kind of suck at, too. It’s a big project, too, because I either don’t do anything or try to do everything at once.

Basically, when I decided to venture once more into the realm of blogs, I had this ultimate goal in mind. It was born from my desire to share my writing and improve, but it’s something slightly different, and it’s actually something that I’ve been thinking about at least since the blog I had before this one. I want to have a blog dedicated to a single world.

Not a bunch of short stories or series with no relation to each other, but an overarching thing. Maybe the stories don’t have a connection to each other, at least at first, but they all happen in the same world. I don’t know when this idea started, all I know is that I have a world in my head where I want all my stories to be in. Most of them do, others I need a way to fit them in it.

What I want to work on this month, and for the forseeable future, is just a small part of it, and not even the main part that currently resides in my brain and in numerous notes scattered along my notebooks and whatnots. It’ll be a testing ground to things to come, things that have been locked up inside me and that I want to pour out into pages and shape them into something great.

I’ll still be posting weekly updates here, not sure how much more I’ll be posting besides that, but hopefully something.

Happy holiday, and hopes for a better month!

Marching on When Things Don’t Go to Plan + Plans for April

So… yeah.

It’s April 2, and tomorrow I have a test I really need to study for. I have an 8-page essay I need to deliver on the 10th, and a test on the same day. On the 19th I have two tests, and on the 23rd I have something I need to deliver and that I’ve been postponing since at least January, or something. Not to mention my responsibilities to my course’s Commission, which I joined because I can be an impulsive idiot when I want to. Basically, what you need to know is that this semester was specifically designed to spite me, and that if a teacher warns you that he will be giving out a lot of classwork, DO NOT TAKE IT AS A CHALLENGE. Seriously, it seems like my stubbornness only comes in situations when it will only harm me. Why can’t it come when I’m trying to improve my writing life, or when I’m trying to stand up for myself?

Also I turned 21 two weeks ago. Yay, me?

I don’t mean this to be an excuse, or anything. It’s just that I feel swamped right now, and kind of disappointed because I’ve decided to not join Camp NaNo this month after all. And I’m glad I’ve decided not to, because it means that I’m actually sane and that I remember what happened last November– complete disaster, as I was super busy back then as well. I don’t remember if I even got halfway through or not. Probably not.

Like, part of me insists that I could achieve something, at least during Easter break, which to me will happen from the 12th to the 18th. And, sure, I have two tests on the 19th, but only one of them requires real study (the other requires me to stay awake, since it’s at 6pm and my classes start at 10am and I have no breaks, so that’ll be fun). Oh yeah, and there’s that little detail that I probably wouldn’t be able to write every day, anyway.

The problem is that I haven’t even finished the outline, yet. I reached the Character Summary part, but even that is unfinished. I could try doing it without the outline, but the story is a bit too jumbled right now, even for me, and I really want some extra time to work on it.

Despite all of this, I would still like to do something this month. I thought about taking a break until my life isn’t a complete disaster, but I still want to keep working on my writing. Hell, I even bought two more books on Creative Writing and I’m dying to get to them. I won’t be able to do so for now, though, since I already have enough to worry about, but there’s that to look forward to!

So, I came up with a plan.

Plans for April

This is a bit different from a Map, because a Map generally has a clear path that I want to take. This is just me stranded in the middle of the sea and trying to find a way back on track. So, what am I doing in April?

I would like to keep working on the story outline. I don’t know if I’ll reach the end this month, and I won’t force myself to do so in detriment of everything else I have going on and the story’s quality, just for the sake of completing the outline. I would like to get it done before Camp NaNo in July, when I can finally work on it without worrying (unless I have to go somewhere, but I won’t know until then because no one ever tells me anything). If I do manage to complete the outline this month, which I think is unlikely, I’ll do an improvised Camp NaNo in May and use the July Camp for editing.

I won’t be updating the project page, in fact I’m going to hide it after publishing this post. This is for personal reasons, really, though I will keep updating on my progress. I’m also planning on making at least one post a week, like I used to, for the simple reason that I feel that I’ve been neglecting the blog. The whole point of this was to make me feel comfortable posting to a personal blog, so I’m kind of failing in that regard, though I do feel more confident as time passes.

These posts won’t have a specific publishing day, because my real life schedule is wild right now. They can be about anything, from my life or a subject that I care about, or even a short story if I feel up to it. That’s something I should start considering doing again, I do miss writing short stories.

That’s it from me. Now, I’m going to get ready for the day, study a little and see if my grandma can offer me lunch.

The Map

the-map-march

This month is going to be different from the ones before, which is especially good because I was already feeling the need to do something besides what I’ve been doing so far. As I’ve probably mentioned over five times now, Camp NaNoWrimo is in April and, like every year for the last four years, I plan on taking part in it. If I had any ounce of self-regard I’d probably skip at least the April edition, considering what this semester promises to provide me with. However, since I’m stubborn and think I can deal with superhuman amounts of work, and since I survived last year’s NaNoWrimo despite the disaster that was November, I think things aren’t going to be that bad and that I’m going to reach the goal I set during Camp– 25,000 words.

(Looking at my last Camp, it seems I didn’t even reach 11,000 words. Uhm…)

Anyway, the past is in the past. Right now, my goal is to plan to write 25,000 words during the month of April, no matter what. But how?

I never made extensive plans for my stories. At most, I have a beginning, an end, and a general idea of what I want to do in order to connect the two. And that’s how my mind works, really– I have a general idea of what I want, maybe some established checkpoints and events, and adapt my plan as I go. That’s why planning was never appealing to me, since I didn’t want to limit myself in case I encountered a better idea for what I wanted to do, or my established plan stopped being appealing, and because my stories tend to stray from the plan regardless.

Still, during these last two/three years, I tried planning. This mostly involved establishing the beginning and the end, and figuring out all the bits inbetween. I’ve seen planning stategies out there that outline every single scene (sometimes down to the number of words/pages), but honestly that is just not how I work. If I’m going to put every single scene in a spreadsheet, why not just write the story right away? (And don’t get me wrong, I actually like spreadsheets,  and have found that using Airtable to plan my last project was both fun and efficient.)

I think that, in a way, I’ve already found my method, though it needs improvement. I just don’t know how to do it. Establish the beginning and end, and the major events that lead one to the other. Do the same with characters, figure out how they evolve throughout the story, how their arcs relate to the plot, if their internal and external goals are achieved and how. Have at least some idea of the space where the characters move, and weave it with the rest. Plot, character, setting. That’s really it, isn’t it? Who, what, where, when, why. A story’s DNA.

I’ve decided that, this month, I’m going to try a method I’ve known about for a few years and that I’ve been meaning to try– the Snowflake Method. From what I’ve read, I think it might be the closest there is to my “ideal method”: start from the general and go into the specific. I fear it might go into the too specific, but I can always adapt it to how I work and, this way, find out how I can improve.

So that’s what I’m going to do this month: I’m going to plan my project, once I figure out what it is, of course, using the Snowflake Method and write about my experience. I’m probably also going to write some short stories with my characters, regardless of whether they’re set in the story’s plot or not, in order to provide me with some development and perspective (and, hopefully, something I can use later on).

That leaves me with one pertinent question: what am I going to write?

I don’t really feel like picking up an old project, nor do I have any ideas for a new one. Camp NaNo is that time of the year when I just write short stories during the month, instead of focusing my energies on a single project, but then again it’s still early. Right?

Maybe I’ll take one of the stories I wrote these past two months, most likely one from January, and flesh it out into something bigger. And I have been interested in writing some Noir…

I also ask myself whether this project would be something that I would like to publish here on the blog, or maybe another blog dedicated solely to my writing projects, or if I want to get it published properly. Definitely not in a “traditional publisher”, at least for now, but maybe as a self-published ebook? I don’t know, these questions will have an answer when I’m on my way to actually finishing it and I know what this project is, and if it’s even good enough in the first place.

In any case, I’m giving myself this week to think of something, and I’m announcing it in my weekly update. See you then!

The Map

The time has come to adjust routes, look at the horizon, and determine where to go next! This is the Map of February.

The Map-- February.png

This month is going to be a bit different from January. First off, I’ve determined the need to define a schedule, mostly because I’m starting classes on the 13th, but also because it will be a way for me to organize my work instead of putting things off until the last minute.

Mondays and Wednesdays are days when the most work I can do is, if I’m lucky, some notes on my journal. I’m having classes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., not counting two hours in public transportation (one to classes, another back home). I will try to get things done on those days, but I’m sure the only thing I want to do when I get home will be to rest or take care of urgent uni stuff that may emerge.

This said, all the other days are pretty much free. I have one class on Thursdays and Fridays, besides two hours of volunteering on both days, but other than that, I’m free.

So, here’s what’s going to happen:

I’m not writing up updates on my reading, because I felt, last month, that I was always struggling to find things to say. If I come up with something I feel is worth sharing, I’ll write a post on it.

I’ll be filling prompts from PROMPTUARIUM, and this time I’ll be aiming for 750 words per story, or 1500 words per week. I’m aiming to write the stories on Tuesday and Saturday/Thursday.

The craft book I’m working with this month is Introdução à Escrita Criativa [Introduction to Creative Writing], by João de Mancelos. My goal will be about 2 chapters per week, on Tuesday and Sunday.

This month I will only be researching two Craft Elements, as to give me time to properly research and plan the posts. I’m making separate posts for each, so I don’t have to spend as much time writing one very long post. They will be posted on Weeks 2 and 4, probably during the weekend. The Craft Elements I’m researching are Planning and Character Description.

This month and until early March, I’ll be taking part in an online writing course dedicated to Setting and Description. I’ll be posting my progress whenever I complete the week’s assignments!

Like last month, I intend on making an update post each week, and a reflection post at the end of the month. I would also like to write, every once in a while, posts just talking about my thoughts and life. While I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that (I sometimes get anxious just writing posts like this), I think it would help me unwind instead of having everything in my head. I’m a very private person, but I recognize that these thoughts need to go somewhere or else I’m doing myself more harm than good.

And that’s it for today! Thank you for the likes and the follows, and I hope everything just turns out alright for everyone.

 

Week 4 Update + Reflections of the Month

Today is the end of the first month of “A Youth and the Sea”! I think it was rather educational, not just in terms of writing, but also in terms of what I want to do from now on and how I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about that in more detail in my Map for February.

Week 4 Update

Novel: I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t get any reading done! I got distracted with other things I had to do, including family events and the Writing Craft Elements post, and reading the novel kind of got pushed back much more than I wanted.

Short Stories: Read three short stories, “À Grande e à Francesa” [Expression that means living ostentaciously and in luxury], “Hades” [Misspelling of “Hás de”, it means “You will”] and “Elegantil”.

Prompts: This week’s prompts were:

  • The police suspect your character of having committed a crime.  Your character is innocent, but so much evidence points to him/her that your character is certain that s/he has been set up.  But who has done this, and why?  And how can your character prove his/her innocence?
  • A sports car, a dare, and an obnoxious ex-girlfriend

This week’s total of words was 2728, the first story having 1669 and the second 1059! The first story was different from the rest, because it was the plot from one of my writing projects summed up and told from the perspective of one of the characters. It’s something that I won’t publish here, because I’d rather hold onto projects in progress and only reveal them when they’re ready, but it did help me visualize the plot, its problems and ways to fix them. The second prompt was just three elements I had to include in the story, which is something I always found fun to do.

Craft Book: Finished A Field Guide to Your Imagination. These last exercises focused on using imagination to solve problems, either disengaging the mind from the problem through a near sleep state or by lucid dreaming (which is another thing I would love to try). There’s also an exercise that reminds us to train our imagination to think outside the box, by imagining impossible things and going through them.

Finally, the last exercise focused on the physicality of imagination. Instead of sitting down and imagining things, move. It can be something as simple as going for a walk, or you can imagine yourself in your character’s shoes and do things as they would. Just now I remembered that the reason why we doodle is that it helps the brain stay focused and solve problems.

I found this exercise enteresting because, sometimes, I just can’t sit still when I’m imagining something. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I just have this overwhelming urge to jump out of my chair and move around. And not just when I’m writing. I can be listening to music, or reading, or watching TV, or even day dreaming. I don’t know, I think I’ve always been like this, and often I have to surpress these urges because there are other people around. I don’t know, am I weird?

Craft Element: Wrote the Writing Craft Elements post, which was way harder than I had anticipated. Granted, I should have taken notes and actually planned the thing, but I think it’s actually ok? I’m not really comfortable talking about and explaining things that not even I know if I’m understanding correctly, so please, if you find something that is wrong or you don’t understand, tell me. Still, it was nice to just research and then compare that with everything that I already know, and then writing it down. And I know that this kind of post will be helpful in the future when I’m in doubt over something, and for other people who want to learn these things but don’t know where to start.

Reflections of the Month

I think this month went great, in general. I mean, I reached the end, that alone deserves celebration considering the slump I reached about halfway through. In total I wrote 8 short stories, 11857 words, not to mention the posts here, which is not bad, and I’ve figured out where I want to go with the blog next.

If I could do something better, and it’s something I’m going to do in February, is organize my time. It’s very easy for me to procrastinate and make excuses later, which then invalidates the times when I actually had something to do. But that’s a topic for the Map, which I’ll publish either later today or tomorrow, depending of when I finish it.

Thanks for reading!

Week 3 Update + Plans for Week 4

This week saw my motivation drop a bit, as real life made itself un-ignorable and I lacked the mood to properly deal with it, and I had some responsibilities that made me reorganize my time and put off some things for longer than intended. Still, I managed to achieve almost all the goals for the week, and I’m determined to continue my goal of writing on this blog during this year, no matter what!

Week 3 Update

Novel: Read 5 chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Now the story is shifting from Tom’s day to day to the novel’s main conflict.

Short Stories: Read two short stories, “Brandina ou o Silêncio dos Produtos” [Brandina or the Silence of the Products] and “Últimas Notícias” [Latest News]. Something I neglected saying about this book is that it’s divided into 4 parts, and it’s clear why: the stories this week were significantly shorter than those in the first part (no longer than three pages) and there’s distinct shift of tone, at least in these two stories, though right now I’m not finding the words to describe it. Still about the book’s structure, the last part is composed by travelling stories and is entitled “Viagens que não fiz” [Travels I didn’t make].

Prompts: My promts for this week were:

  • Your character goes on a camping trip with her friend and the friend’s boyfriend.  In the middle of the night, she wakes up in the dark tent and feels a hand on her arm.  She touches the hand — it’s her friend’s.  Then the friend’s finger starts moving over her arm, and your character realizes that she’s drawing the shape of letters, that she’s trying to tell her something…
  • Write a story about a meeting between two characters.  Halfway through the story, switch from one character’s point of view to the other’s.  Have the meaning of the meeting change depending on whose point of view it’s told from.

This week, I wrote a total of 2297 words! The first ended up being 954 words, while the second had 1343. Although my self-imposed minimum for each story is 500 words, I was a bit disappointed at how short the first story was. I have to admit that I was a bit distracted and couldn’t really concentrate on writing it, my inspiration had escaped me. Still, I presevered and wrote, and that’s what really matters. Besides, short stories come in all lengths, and this one can always pass the 1000-word mark during editing.

Craft Book: I also didn’t talk about the structure of A Field Guide to you Imagination, which is important in order to understand the book’s goal. It’s divided into two parts, “Your Imagination & You” and “Your Imagination & Your Writing”, the first one dedicated to imagination in our day to day lives and the second focusing on the role of imagination in writing. This week I started part two.

The first exercises are dedicated to imagination itself, how it looks like and how to travel in it. My imagination shifts in space, depending on whatever it’s obsessed about at the moment. It can be a place in some book I’ve read/movie or show I’ve seen/podcast I’ve heard, or a place I imagined from scratch. Hell, sometimes it’s even a place my imagination created in said book/show/movie/podcast. All that matters is it’s where my characters (and characters of those books/shows/etc) hang out, and from there they go to other places to have their adventures when I’m day dreaming. I don’t directly interact with them, though you could say I can control them (though they do seem to have a mind of their own most of the time). I may have a character that represents me, but it’s an entity separated from who I am.

An interesting thing mentioned in this exercise is the “mind palace”, which I have been really curious on trying. It would at the very least help me with studying, haha.

Craft Element: Remember how I said I had “managed to achieve almost all the goals for the week”? Yeah, here’s where the “almost” comes in. Due to ~reasons, I didn’t research my weekly Craft Element, which was Description. This is something that I really should research and study, because I’m often at a loss on how much I should describe and how to do it. Characters I’m usually ok with, I’ve even had people giving me good feedback on how I manage to blend the narration with the character’s description (like physically describing a character while it performs a task). Describing space is something I have more of an issue with, because it often involves interrupting the narration and I’m not always sure about how much description is truly necessary. Basically, my fear is over-describing something, and this ends up with me sometimes not describing at all.

This reminds me of something I learned in an English class this semester, which was to plan the description before writing it. My teacher showed us a water bottle and asked us to write ten sentences about it, five on its physical appearance and five thoughts/abstract sentences. Then we had to bring them all together into something cohesive, a descriptive text that not only described the water bottle but also the thoughts it provoked in us, which would then add flavor to the text. I swear that there are few things in my life that clicked in my brain the way this did. It had never occured to me to plan description. Suddenly, I had something that would help me add description to my narration without overwhelming me with doubt. I’ve yet to apply this to my writing, I admit, but now that I’ve remembered it I will do my best to do so.

Plans for Week 4

This will be the last week of January. I know that, in the Map, there are five weeks, but I’ve decided that, for me to better organize myself, it’s better if each month only has four weeks. I will start February on the 29th of January, since the 1st of February is on a Wednesday.

As I mentioned, I will be preparing a masterpost on this month’s Craft Elements. I’ll also be researching this week’s Element, Setting, and adding it there. In total, there are going to be three posts this week: the Elements Masterpost, the Update for Week 4 and Reflections of the Month, and Map for February. I’m expecting February to be different from this month, which I will explain better next week.

Have a wonderful week, and may the winds take you to exciting shores!

Week 1 Update + Plans for Week 2

So, I’ve reached the end of the first week! It didn’t go as I’d expected, though it wasn’t really a failure, in my mind. Sure, I didn’t do as much as I’d thought I’d do, but that’s a problem I have: I always think I’ll do a lot or in a certain way, but then things end up not going as I had invisioned. Struggles of the idealistic procrastinator, I guess?

I’m saying this because, before I started, I had invisioned making a post dedicated to my reading of the novel, another for the reading of the short stories, and a larger post dedicated to the Writing Craft Element of the week, besides posting the two short stories I wrote using the prompts. I don’t think this is that much of an unnatainable goal, even if it’s a lot of work. The problem is that, as time went by, I came to the conclusion that I had no idea of the actual, concrete things I really wanted to talk about. It’s one thing to say ‘Oh, I’ll read the chapters/stories, then I’ll talk about the themes and narrative structures, and maybe it would be interesting to talk about the work as a whole and the author too, in an introduction. And my own thoughts, like whether I would have done something differently…’ and then just… not knowing how to organize my ideas, or even how to start, and what to do if there’s not much to say, or if I don’t know what to say… I’m a mess, I know.

And the fact that I get distracted doesn’t help. This week I had to decide whether or not I was going to a test (I just decided to take the exam after the end of the second semester, because I had no hopes of passing the test and would end up taking the exam anyway), and on Monday I’m having my German speaking evaluation, and that promises to be an experience, as always. But those are just excuses, really. My real problem is that… I’m not exactly lazy, I’m just one of those people who doesn’t start or do things because they’re afraid of failing. And, deep down, that is my true issue and a problem I will have to struggle with through my entire life.

Anyway, let’s stop focusing on my inner turmoil and start focusing on the things I did achieve.

Week 1 Update

Despite all of the above, I did achieve all the goals I had set!

Novel: Read the first two chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and, so far, I’m enjoying! I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn years ago, so I did some mental comparisons of the two books in terms of their themes. Maybe I’ll write some notes down and research a bit and turn this into a post eventually, because I think it would be an interesting thing to do.

I think one of the reasons why making a post on the book this week was a bust is the fact that I do not really take notes while reading. I know, the horror! What kind of reader, of writer, am I if I don’t take notes?! It’s just that, to me, reading has always been about the story. It’s not that I won’t notice the language, the structure, the style, all the other elements that comprise a piece of literature, how else would I have learned how to write, I just like to read a story and see where it takes me. Having to take notes, I feel, would distract me from that. I think I just have a certain… fear?… that it would make reading a chore rather than an enjoyment. And I do love reading. Family legend has it I thought myself how to read!

Maybe I’ll find a way to make things work. After all, this was just the first week, I’m still getting my bearings!

Short Stories: Read two short stories, “Uma Empresa Espiritual” [A Spiritual Business] and “A Janela da Despensa como Argumento Moral” [The Pantry Window as a Moral Argument], from Contos Outra Vez. This is actually a rereading, because I got this book in 2014 but never really got to read all of the stories, and was hoping to do so this time.

I got this book from my High School History teacher, during, I guess I can call it, the Diploma Ceremony (not really Graduation, because we had already graduated months earlier, this was literally just to give us our diplomas). She gave everyone a gift, and to me she gave this book and wrote a really nice message on the first page. I think she was maybe the only teacher to really express any kind of regard for my writing. She appreciated how concise and organized I was in my answers and how I only wrote down the information that was truly essential, instead of writing disorganized doctorate theses. I think she also took a liking on me because I was a loner and an introvert, she sometimes tried to reach out to me but, at the time, I was in a kind of complicated phase (when am I not, really). I still appreciated it, though. And I still do.

Anyway, for these stories I reflected on the way I wrote short stories. I will talk about that next.

Prompts: The prompts I used were:

  • On her deathbed, your character’s grandmother whispers that your character must go to 24 Mockingbird Drive.   “That’s where it’s buried,” your grandmother says.  “You can’t tell anyone.  Just go.”  Then your character’s father walks into the room, and the old woman falls silent, shooting a warning look at your character.  That’s the last time your character alone with his/her grandmother before she dies.  Following your grandmother’s instructions, your character mentions the conversation to no one, but looks up Mockingbird Drive on a map...
  • Someone must have helped her escape.

First off, I managed to write, in total, 3123 words! 1846 in the first one, 1277 in the second. The reason I won’t post the stories right now is because they still need a heavy dose of editing.

I wrote them after reading the short stories, so a thing I noticed is that both my short stories have sort of open endings. I could continue the first one for the length of another story, while the other has the potential to become something longer, like a novella or a series. The ones in the collection, however, are very self contained, they have a very defined ending. This is something I had noticed in the past, and I’m not really sure how it started, or even if I have been always just writing like this. Of course, it could just be, at least in the case of the first story, that I just didn’t end them (I did have trouble coming up with what my character would find in Mockingbird Drive, so the end can be seen as a sort of cop out). This is something that I will keep an eye on as the month progresses.

Craft Book: A Field Guide to Your Imagination is not exactly a craft book, but I’m still using it because I feel like it speaks about an important topic (plus it’s free). It isn’t divided into chapters, but I did do the first two exercises. I’ve always considered my imagination one of the most important parts of me, because it’s what lets me escape and, as I grew, it helped me visualize situations and put myself into other people’s shoes. I do think that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my imagination and the way I’ve learned to use it.

What really got to me was the second exercise, because it envolved changing a part of my past and imagining how my life would have been. I think about my past a lot. Not because something especially traumatizing happened or anything like that, it’s just… I think it’s not about what happened, but about what didn’t. I feel like, I don’t know, I guess I just always felt that I never had as many experiences as other kids had? That I missed out on something? Not material things, because it rarely was about the material things. Just experiences. Like how everyone who’s a somebody has read Harry Potter and I’m in the sidelines. And I know I can read it now, but it won’t be the same thing. And then I think about how this says something or two about my family, because, come on, this is the girl who thought herself to read, didn’t it ever occur to anyone that I might like reading about magic and wizards and all that? And what if all of this is just me overanalizing things, because if there’s something I’m good at it’s overanalizing, a downside to my imagination.

Craft Element: Since I don’t have access to fancy, expensive writing books (I’ll search in the library, but I’m waiting until February because that when I start classes), I had to scour the internet on anything I could find on Story Form and Structure. Maybe I’ll still make a general post about it in the future, at least as a summary on the topic.

In truth, I’ve already searched and read about this topic throughout the years. I know about the Three Act Structure, the Hero’s Journey, the whole lot, but the main point that has always stuck with me is that, in the end, what really matters is what works for a given story. One shouldn’t try to bend a story to fit a structure, although it’s alright to plan according to one. What’s important is to find what will work for you, maybe even bend the structure to fit what you want to do. Maybe you want to start the story in the middle, maybe not every step of the Hero’s Journey (or another structure) is necessary. What you need is a Beginning for exposition, a Middle for all you action and build up, and an End for the resolution. The best part is that I already do this instinctively, whether I’m writing an answer on a test or a story.

Plans for Week 2

I won’t be changing any of my goals for this week, though I will reflect on how I will update my blog– pursue the idea of multiple posts on each subject, or just one post at the end of the week. If I decide on the first option, I’ll need to think about what kind of content I will include on each post and how to organize things. If I decide on the second, then I suppose it will be like this one (though, hopefully, at least slightly less melodramatic). In that case, I’m actually considering making more frequent updates, so as to not overload one post with all of my thoughts. I’m also going to consider making myself a schedule to follow, instead of just slacking off and then scraping for excuses for why I didn’t do what I had set out to do.

I’ve also decided that I’ll save posting the short stories for another time, once I’ve had the oportunity to edit them (maybe I’ll even take care of that during Camp NaNo in April). This might also have the positive side effect of me having content to schedule to publish when I’m not around, thus guaranteeing that the blog isn’t abandoned for long stretches of time (which I’m supposing will happen around the end of August/beginning of September).

As a reminder, this week I will be searching about Show and Tell. This is one of those elemental aspects that I sometimes need to remind myself of. I think my major problem when it comes to writing comes from Description, which I will be focusing on next week, but I feel that Show and Tell is already related to this. I think my fear of being over descriptive and the fact that I always want to move the plot forward makes me lose sight of this maxim, though I do always strive to Show, and Tell when appropriate. I hope this week will finally crystallize this topic in my mind.

And so begins the week! I’m going to try and write the End of Week post sooner, because I’m posting it a bit too late for my taste. But hey, I’m still figuring things out and struggling with the beast of Procrastination. Maybe I’ll be able to situate myself with the stars and start navigating more smoothly this week.

The Map

The Map-- January 2017

I like to start new projects at a specific date, namely the beginning of a quantifiable period of time. The first day of a week, of a month, of a year. I don’t know, I just think it’s more satisfying than starting halfway through (and to me it just doesn’t make sense to start at the end of a week or month, I just prefer to wait until the start of a new one), and that maybe it will somehow help me reach the end. The period of time mostly depends on the scale of the project (and my mood, if we’re being honest).

A blog is kind of a big deal. I wasn’t even planning on creating a blog this year. The blog was supposed to be the (possible) culmination of what I had planned for 2017: I’d spend 2017 writing, researching, and just preparing enough material (and myself) to create a blog at the beginning of 2018 and start publishing. And I say “possible” culmination because I was starting to get cold feet about the whole idea, although I was a full year away from it happening. I think my current situation says a thing or two about me.

The idea of creating a blog now and publishing my findings and writings during 2017 appeared when I was preparing my original plan. And, in a way, it makes sense: it’s now that I’m making my journey to becoming a better and published writer, and my journey is something that, I think, will interest other people. Maybe I’ll gather a following, some support, or I’ll be lost in immensity of WordPress blogs. Only time will tell.

And now, let’s go to the true focus of this post: how the blog will work and the plans for January.

The Blog

At the beginning of each month, I’ll announce what I’m going to do. The format will be pretty much the one used in the January Map, based on Rachel Giesel’s Writing Workout (seriously, visit her site. She has really cool stuff and is one of my go-to writing sites). The exceptions will be during NaNo seasons (I do both CampNaNo and NaNoWrimo, my username is Sally Mary for both, if you’re interested in adding me), during which I will do planning during the month before, daily or weekly updates during the event, and, hopefully, editing during the month(s) after, and during periods when following it would be very difficult or just impossible (like busy class periods, or when I have to be away from home for extended periods of time, like during vacations). I dunno, that stuff is still pretty vague.

At the end of the month, I want to do a small reflection on the month before planning the following one. This way, I can know what I can do better, what I need to do next, and which direction I want to take next.

The Map–January 2017

Following the Writing Workout, I have picked 1 short story collection, 1 novel, 1 craft book, and a prompt collection:

Short Stories: Contos Outra Vez, Luísa Costa Gomes (I’ll write in English regardless of the language of the book I read. However, I’d eventually like to publish in Portuguese, either here or in a new blog)

Novel: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (Portuguese translation)

Craft Book: A Field Guide To Your Imagination, Eva Deverell (from another of my go-to writing sites, and you’ll see me using her stuff a lot (always with links, of course). Eva is pretty awesome, you should visit her site.)

Prompt Collection: Creative Writing Now‘s Mailing List (been subscribed for ages. Embarassingly, I haven’t used it much, letting the prompts accumulate in a folder of my email)

The Writing Workout page also has an amount of chapters to read and stories to write, but I’m using those amounts as a bare minimum of what I should do each week. Since I have free time (only starting classes on the 13th of February), I’m going to try and do as much as I can so I can so I don’t remain on the same books for too long (and the short stories vary in length, so I’d end up doing more work in some weeks than in others, anyway). I’m also aiming for each short story I write to be at least 500 words long. I will be changing my prompt source every month, to keep things interesting.

I’ve also chosen a Craft Element to explore every week. My idea is researching a Craft Element various times, at first in general terms, later focusing on specific aspects. I’m always going to try and choose Craft Elements that are relevant to me at the moment:

Week 1: Story Form and Structure

Week 2: Show and Tell

Week 3: Description

Week 4: Setting

Week 5: Planning

I will write posts about the chapters of each book I read and publish the short stories. The research on the Craft Elements will probably be published in one big post at the end of each week.

And… that’s it, really! Here’s my plan for the blog and for January. Considering that I’m a student, I give myself the right to adapt this plan according to my responsibilities and needs, provided I meet the goals I’ve set for myself. Hopefully, I will succeed and manage to reach a new phase in my writing life!