#ROW80 Week 7: Better…

This is my week 7 check-in for ROW80 (linky).

While I’m still busy at work, I did get back up to my previous level with ROW80. For writing, I did 1,500 words on Conkers, and worked on my entries to the poetry competition. With any luck, I’ll have those in by next week.

And my reading advanced another 50 pages, this time in Beyond Good and Evil. Nietzsche certainly makes a lot of interesting points, although I haven’t yet been able to find a coherent thread through it all.

That just leaves reflection. I’ve been complaining about my characters’ voices for the past few weeks, but I tried a few words and phrase structures I wouldn’t normally use this week, and it seems to have helped.

I didn’t do so well with character motivations, though.

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The scene I wrote for Conkers this week was supposed to be a political debate about the sudden appearance of “adventurers” in a previously more sedate society. I enjoyed using different styles of language to differentiate the speakers, but I’m not happy with the way their scene fits into the plot.

On the one hand, it seems like too many words and no action; on the other, I feel as though it doesn’t build up nearly enough to end as dramatically as I want.

There are things that might fix this: I could break up the dialogue with actions of the speakers and the crowd, and I could focus more on the events leading up to it. But all that assumes the characters have a reason to care about it, which they don’t.

So I suppose the real problem is a lack of context. If events built up to this scene over time, and the characters started running into the problems and the arguments about fixing them, the debate could count for something.

Reflection (Week 10)

This week, I’m reflecting on the scene I wrote for Conkers on Tuesday.

Having read the Not to Be post on The Daily Prompt this week, I started out by looking for passive voice and other weak verbs I could remove. I didn’t find much I could change (although I did ignore dialogue), but I still felt the scene was lacking some punch.

I suspect a characterisation issue. Most of the scene is a character not quite explaining what she wants, but when she finally does, there’s no significance to it. She leaves the scene having achieved nothing, but somehow still completely calm and confident. The other character doesn’t attempt to encourage her to talk, either.

I’m also a bit concerned about Mary-Sueism. I imagine the narrator of the scene is involved in plenty of shady dealings, but that completely failed to come up. I probably should have given him something to hide, so he couldn’t just sit back and ignore the situation.

The general problem is that I’m not remembering the different characters’ personalities. I’m not sure what specific techniques I can use to remedy that. My best idea is to give them leitmotifs — pick a particular tune for each of them, to listen to when I’m writing that character; I’m sure there must be other techniques, though.

Reflection (ROW80 Week 6)

Most of my writing for this week was recording a dream. I’m not completely certain what I expect to use it for, if anything, so I’m not sure how I can reflect on it. Instead, I’m reflecting on my latest attempt at those research notes.

That involved writing two fairly tight sections, then a long discussion about (ironically) being sidetracked from my main point. Since I want this document to be fairly concise, that’s a problem. Naturally, I can edit it out; but if I never needed it in the first place, why did I take the time to write it?

The whole thing seemed pointless, since the tangent discussion entirely dismissed the original point. But now I wonder if I would have realised that without writing about it. So this is still reflection on the research, and maybe I shouldn’t have been reflecting on it.

This is therefore a fairly meta post. Especially since thinking about writing clearly makes me worry about the clarity of this reflection.

And seeing myself held back by that worry reminds me, again, that I need to separate writing from editing. Which explains why I can’t get my research report right; there’s no point trying to make my writing clear until I have bad writing to clarify. And I am working on that.

ROW80 Weeks 4 & 5: I missed a week :-(

Since I didn’t manage to post an update last week, I’m writing this to cover for both Week 4 and Week 5. I’ll be away on Sunday, so it’s unlikely I’ll get much more done for this week. Consequently, I’m using the Wednesday linky.

Except for missing reflection and the update proper, I’m actually pretty happy with my progress for Week 4. I wrote another 1,500 words on Conkers, plus five or so sonnets (hard to count, because I write them on whatever I have to hand).

I still ended up rushing through my reading on Sunday night, but not for lack of trying; I had three books on the go during the week, didn’t quite make any progress on any of them, and then got drawn in by The Long Earth that evening. Since I was reading throughout the week, I’ll count that as good enough.

As to this week (Week 5): I was away due to work, which meant I didn’t have personal Internet access. The lack of distractions certainly helped my reading goals — I finished China Miéville’s Railsea during the week — but didn’t do as much for writing. I managed two sonnets over , and about 700 words on Conkers today, for a total of only 900 words.


While the things I wrote these last two weeks seem fine in isolation, I’m not really happy with how the Conkers scenes fit together with the larger story. My current arc involves the characters having an argument and splitting up, and then encountering the same lion (which they were supposed to be hunting) in different contexts.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think all that much about how the various scenes are occurring in relation to each other (since they can’t just be in chronological order any more), and I think it’s made the arc rather disjointed. I may be able to improve this in editing, but I think I’ll need a better idea of who’s where and doing what to make it more coherent.

I can think of two consequences from this. On the one hand, I’m worried that planning these sorts of thing will distract me from the actual story; several of my previous ideas got lost in daydream ‘planning’. On the other hand, I’m now in a position to try some of the cutting-between-scenes things I noticed in The Traitor Queen last week.

Good luck and happy writing!

Reflection (ROW80 Week 3)

Most of the writing I did this week was notes on research for a non-fiction project. I tried reflecting on it, but it seemed like a lot of it was already reflection on the research, so I’m not sure how useful that would be.

Instead, I’m reflecting on a sonnet.

I was trying to write a poem that sounds like it’s talking about an evil overlord, but turns out to be a metaphor for something else. That meant I was a lot more analytical about writing it than I usually am, since I wanted all the lines to make sense both ways around. My usual experience is that being analytical doesn’t help my writing, so I’m worried I’ve not written it all that well.

Reading through it, I can spot several points where the phrasing doesn’t really work. In trying to come up with something that fits the literal meaning, the metaphor, the rhyme scheme, and iambic pentameter, I’ve stuck words together in ways that aren’t really very grammatical. That actually looks like the sort of thing I could fix in editing. However, “apply your left brain” doesn’t seem likely to fix errors caused by being too left-brained.

On the other hand, I tried editing it a bit while writing this, and I think I did fix most of the more glaring flaws.

While I’ll reserve judgement on the poem itself — I usually leave them a few weeks before deciding wether they’re worth posting — there is one definite good point to all of this. So long as I’m attempting things I can’t do easily, I’m hopefully learning how to write better poetry.