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Monday Movie Madness and #writemotivation

Since the months continue to whip by at a most alarming rate, it means it’s already time for another #writemotivation goal check month. I’m starting to feel a little bit like this:

… except it's more like: Gee, Jocelyn, what are your goals for this goal check month? The same thing I do every month, Muse, try to finish rewriting my WIP! At this point I’m starting to fear I’m much closer to Pinkie’s insanity that Brain’s genius, but like Brain, I won’t let that stop me from trying again and again and again.
 
This time I’ve added a few other goals to the list, so I’ll have the satisfaction of crossing something off the to-do list:
1. Revise at least three pages a day in my WIP.
2. Post two blog posts a week.
3. Spruce up at least one of my short stories and submit it for publication.
4. Finish reviewing critique partner’s novel.
 
I already know I’m going to fall way behind this week revising three pages a day because I’m leaving on Wednesday to go to Washington, D.C. And why am I taking this trip to the nation’s capitol? Because my second short film High Heels & Hoodoo is having its World Premiere this weekend at the DC Shorts Film Festival – whoo hoo! It’s a really great fest, and my brother and I are super excited to be part of it. My sister is even joining us to make it sibling road trip. Parties and workshops and movies, oh my! If any of you live in the DC area, come out and see the film – I’d love to meet you in person! Click here for details about the screening.
 
In other movie news, it’s now been two weeks since we made our first short film Saying Goodbye available for public viewing. The response has been so amazing! We’ve received emails from people, many of them strangers, sharing stories about how the film reminded them of their last moments with loved ones – I even had to break out the Kleenex while reading some of them. Here is a sample of some of the kind words:
 
“A story simply and beautifully told about a subject that's hard to face, but is so important to face.”
 
“I watched as the tears ran down my cheek in memory of those I have loved and who have earned their wings.”
 
“This film made me cry, sad and happy all at the same time.”
 
“…it’s a reminder of why we love film so much. Sometimes movies tap into our emotions in an important way.”
 
I share these not (just) to toot my own horn (although it’s fun to have a reason to!), but because this whole movie-making adventure has been a path on my writing journey that I never expected. I write horror and thriller stories for young adults. That’s what I love to do, and I never planned to write anything else. But this story came to me out of the blue, and even more unexpectedly came the opportunity to turn it into a movie (if you want the longer story about those events, click here). To now hear about the ways the story is touching people is truly rewarding. The entire experience has taught me to stretch my writing in ways I never dreamed, and I hope it encourages you to try new forms, styles, and genres of writing, too.
 
If you’re interested in watching Saying Goodbye, it’s only sixteen minutes long and available for free at: http://www.sayinggoodbyemovie.com/content/watch-saying-goodbye  If you enjoy it, please share the link with family and friends – thank you!!
 
Are you participating in #writemotivation this time? Are you expecting obstacles in meeting your goals? Have you experimented with writing beyond your usual style and genre? Have you watched Saying Goodbye yet, and if not, why the heck not?!?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 28 + #writemotivation

15 Minute Tweet TalesNow that I’ve fully recovered from The Crud, I was finally able to make some real progress this week.  I even had an INSANE night Saturday because I got on a roll and decided not to sleep and just rewrote for fifteen straight hours.  I took snack and stretch breaks, but it was pretty crazy intense.  I didn’t make up for the time I lost being sick, but I’m really happy with the quality of what I’ve done, even if the quantity is not where I’d planned.  Here’s hoping all the #writemotivation folks are super productive this last week of July!

As for the 15 Minute Tweet Tales, I thought I’d try something new this week.  In the comments for previous #15tt posts, a few people have mentioned looking up the words, and since I don’t want it to be a hassle for people to understand the tweet tales, I’m going to link the words to their definitions.  Let me know if you prefer having the definitions just a click away.  
 
7/18 - Her adamant belief in signs saved her from making decisions: that fatidic fascination even made her think her dog's farts had meaning.
 
7/19 - A traffic jam, a flat tire, pulled over for speeding: yet the bride maintained the Panglossian belief she'd make it to her wedding.
 
7/20 - Lea used bacon as a cumshaw to get the dog on the couch with his head on her knee. Those brief moments made her feel someone loved her.
 
7/21 - He cheats on her. She cheats on him. They break up and then reconcile. A cycle of lust and distrust that oddly makes them both happy.
 
7/22 – They believed the brave new world of genetic manipulation would cure society’s ills, but it put them on the fast-track to extinction.
 
7/23 - Behind in the polls, he impugns the trait giving his opponent the edge: he claims she stuffs her bra. He will be 6th grade president!
 
7/24 - The detective was revered for his legerity, but this suspect was so hot, the blood rushed from his brain and he missed a crucial clue.
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?
 

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 26 + #writemotivation

15 Minute Tweet TalesJust a quick #writemotivation update for the week before my roundup of tweet tales.  I got off to a slow start because of Fourth of July celebrations drawn out over several days due to its awkward placement in the middle of the week. And then over the weekend I seemed to have acquired The Crud.  At least I feel like crud.  Lots of coughing and staring glassily into space breathing through my mouth.  And whining.  Lots and lots of whining.  I did manage to rewrite eleven pages, which is well short of my three pages per day goal, but I’m thinking I’ll attack this NaNo style and make up for the shortfalls at the end of the month.  Hope everyone else is making excellent progress on their goals!

And now for the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the week:
 
7/4 - He felt streaking through town was a symbolic way to celebrate independence, but apparently public nudity was not an inalienable right.
 
7/5 - All the girls crushed on Ty's puckish personality; then the vampire craze swept school, and he was ignored in favor of brooding boys.
 
7/6 - A lifelong cineast, she finally filmed her own, but hid it due to fear. When she died, her son released it & was proclaimed a genius.
 
7/7 - To secure his grandma's hereditament, he visited every Sunday, yet his cousin snatched it by visiting 1x a month & bringing chocolate.
 
7/8 – The proper position of the toilet seat had become such a nasty Dunkirk that he started using the guest bathroom to save the marriage.
 
7/9 – Incisive men turned her on; meanwhile, her husband was trying to decide if the hotel receipt he’d found meant she was cheating on him.
 
7/10 – Filial loyalty kept her from reporting her father’s midnight digging, but when her best friend disappeared, she had to take action.
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?

July's #writemotivation

#writemotivationUh, could someone please tell me where the heck June went?  I couldn’t believe it when I saw it was time for another one of K.T. Hanna’s #writemotivation goal check-in months – since they only happen every other month that means it’s now JULY.  Seriously?!?  I never even got around to posting my wrap up for May’s goals!  Although I guess that’s probably because I was a little embarrassed. 

My goal in May was to make serious progress on rewriting my WIP.  And I really did… as long as it counts as serious progress even if I didn’t rewrite a single word.  I spent May doing in-depth thinking about my five main characters, figuring out a new approach for the tone, and working out plot issues that were tripping me up.  I feel like I finally have a deep understanding of my characters and story, but by the time that last minute of May rolled around, I still had not cracked open my manuscript.

Fortunately, all that prep work went to good use in June, and I actually, finally, I know it's hard to believe, started rewriting.  Progress has been slow as I’ve settled into a new voice for my protagonist, and after I finished chapter one I had a crisis of confidence and had to be talked off a ledge by some truly awesome critique partners, but I’m now getting into a rhythm.  I was the speedy hare when I wrote the rough draft several years ago during NaNo, but for the rewrites I’ve turned into the slow tortoise, possibly the slowest tortoise on the planet.  However, progress of any kind puts me in a much better place than I’ve been in years.  

I have scenes that need to be added, other places that need to be completely rewritten, and some places that just need a bit of tweaking, so my pace will vary throughout the month, but I don’t want to settle for the vague goal of “progress” this time.  Therefore, I’m keeping my goal for July tangible yet realistic: edit, rewrite, or add three pages a day on my WIP.  I’ll push to do more, but I won’t feel bad if I don’t.

Best of luck to all of us this month as we work towards our goals!

Are you participating in #writemotivation this month?  Are your goals aggressive or comfortable?  Are they concrete or more general?
 
Photo credit to Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 19 + #writemotivation

#writemotivationI didn’t post anything about my #writemotivation progress yesterday because there’s not much to report.  A big part of the reason is my iPad arrived in the mail last week.  I’ve never had a tablet before, so when I took that sucker out of the box, it practically made that celestial/angelic choir noise.  How the heck was I supposed work on my rewrite when I had such a shiny, new toy to play with?  But I think the novelty had just about worn off now, so I’m hoping to make some serious progress these last two weeks of May.

And now here are the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the past week: 

5/16 – Tina decided to indagate which jerk was letting their dog poop on her lawn. It was a crappy way to get to know her new neighbors.
 
5/17 – The hidebound principal refused to listen to the students, so they dressed in drag to protest the firing of their transgender teacher.
 
5/18 – She mollycoddled her dog so much his feel hardly ever touched the floor; thus he got so fat his feet actually can’t touch the floor.
 
5/19 – Desiring his wealthy lifestyle, Tom attached himself like a remora to Dickie, forgetting the fish never drain their host to death.
 
5/20 – When his wife invited the new neighbor in for coffee, he realized he was whipsawed: he’d never told his boyfriend he was married.
 
5/21 – He insulted her. She flounced across the room to slap him. He caught her arm and kissed her. Kim turned off the rom-com in disgust.

15 Minute Tweet Tales

5/22 – After 10 yrs of marriage, he worried about his pick-up skills falling into desuetude. In truth, he’d never had any, just a fat wallet.
 
Two words I really loved this week:
1. Mollycoddled because it is so fun to say, and also because my sister’s dog is named Molly, and she is definitely the most coddled of all the Rish family dogs. 2. Flounce because it is such a Southern Belle word, and as a Southern gal, of course I was taught the proper way to flounce out of a room at a young age. 
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?  How did you progress with your #writemotivation goals?

It's All About Character

#writemotivationIt’s Monday, so it’s time for another #writemotivation goal update.  Last week, with hat in hand, I had to admit I had done nothing to make progress on my WIP.  Sigh… not a great start to the month.  So what’s the progress report for this past week?  It’s a weird one actually.

On the one hand, I didn’t even crack open my WIP document, so a purist could say I made no actual progress.  But with the character work I did this past week, I think I’ve made more progress on my WIP than I have since that frenzied NaNoWriMo month when I wrote the first draft years ago.  With the insight I gained into my characters, this past week will go a long way toward improving my novel.

I’ve always been a plot-driven writer, but with recent feedback, I realized the characters in my WIP were more cardboard-y than I thought.  So at the advice of a fabulous critique partner, I sat down to do some serious character homework before jumping into the rewrite.  I found one of those character worksheets online with tons of questions about appearance, mannerisms, likes, dislikes, etc., as well as the extra important goals, needs, wants, motivations questions.  In the past, I’ve dismissed these type of things as kind of silly – I mean I’m making up these people in my head, of course I know who they are, I don’t need exercises like interviews or POV diary entries to get to know them better.

However, as I started going through these questions for my five main characters, I realized I didn’t know them as well as I thought.  I knew them in the way I needed for the plot to work, but I didn’t know them well enough to make readers see them as three dimensional people because I didn’t even see them that way myself.

I sat there rolling my eyes at how ridiculous it was trying to come up with a favorite book for one of my characters when she was never going to be reading or even talking about books in the novel.  Just to fill in the blank, I typed out The Hunger Games because it’s a book most teen girls read.  But before I moved on, I wondered if she would actually even like the book.  All of the sudden it hit me – she would LOVE it.  She’s the type who considers herself cutthroat enough that she thinks she would easily win the Hunger Games and look fabulous while doing it.  So then I realized: it’s not about knowing your character’s favorite book, it’s about understanding WHY it would be your character’s favorite book.  Yeah, it took me a while, but I finally got there.  

After that, it was fun filling out the rest of the character worksheets.  It didn’t feel like homework anymore because it was no longer a chore to do just to say I did it, instead these characters were becoming real people in my head.  It wasn’t always easy, but as I went through figuring out the answers, I got to know things about my characters I never expected.  And I also discovered things that are going to make plot issues come together and make more sense than they do now, which is a very good thing.  So even if there was not any actual physical progress on the WIP this past week, I feel like I accomplished a lot.  So now this week I’ll be jumping in and figuring out how to get all this new insight onto the page.  

Do you use character questionnaires/worksheets before you start writing?  How do you get to know your characters in a way that makes them feel real?  How did your writing goals go this week? 

Alphabet Insanity

Survivor A to ZLast month I participated in my first Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and now it's time for the Reflections post - I have to say the experience was both awesome and awful.  Much like NaNoWriMo (or giving birth so I’ve been told), I hated it while it was happening and swore I’d never do it again, but now I’m looking back on it with fondness and already looking forward to the next one.  

Even though all the hosts and previous participants kept advising us to write our posts in advance, my bestest buddy Procrastination convinced me that was crazy talk because nightly adrenaline-fueled blogging sessions are the BEST!  Turns out they just made me feel drained and resentful.  By the end of week two, I really wanted to throw in the towel (and forever abandon my blog), but I’m a real stickler for finishing what I’ve started, so I kept slogging through. And now I feel such a fabulous sense of accomplishment, and I’m (mostly) proud of the posts I wrote.  And since I’m still relatively new to this whole blogging thing, I learned a lot about what I liked to blog about and what other people like to read (unfortunately, not always the same thing).

Instead of one overall theme, I broke it down by days of the week: obscure Netflix movies on Monday, writing tips on Tuesday, a free-for-all on Wednesday that turned out to be mostly about my dogs, television on Thursday, short films on Friday, and I wrote very short stories on Saturday.  My favorite days were the ones where I talked about movies and television, but the days I had the most blog traffic and comments were the writing tip days followed by dog post days.  

Writing tips being the most popular posts really surprised me.  I’d actually been avoiding those types of posts in the past because so many other writer-bloggers cover tips and advice on writing who are funnier/more insightful/have more clout than I do.  The fact that people responded so positively to my writing tips posts has me considering writing more in the future.  

I do have to mention I was a little disappointed about the “return on my investment.”  I spent A LOT of time commenting on other participants’ blogs, and I’d say only about ten percent of those people ever visited mine in return.  Since I’m such a goody-goody rule follower, I get frustrated when others don’t (even if it’s just common courtesy blogging guidelines).  Plus, since I don’t use Blogger, I can’t have the Google Friend Connect widget on my site; and people don’t seem to follow blogs via email or RSS feeds (both these numbers only increased by a few over the month of April), so I didn’t gain a horde of new followers like I was hoping at the start of the month.  Although both these things could be a commentary on my blog posts, so I’ll definitely be re-examining my posts to make sure I’m providing interesting and/or worthwhile content.    

But even though I felt a bit bummed about the number of new visitors, I have to say quality without a doubt trumps quantity.  I met some fantastic new folks over the month of April:  wonderful blogs I discovered and now look forward to reading and people who found my blog and became regular and insightful commenters.  So even though some nights had me moaning about writing a new post or sad that my numbers weren’t spiking, I am so happy I participated because otherwise I never would have crossed paths with these amazing people.  They were so worth those bleary-eyes nights of trying to think of something to say!

I want to thank all the wonderful hosts of the challenge (especially Arlee Bird for thinking up such a tortuous and rewarding challenge) for all their hard work.  And thank you to everyone who stopped by during April to read my babblings – it means a lot to me!

ABC AwardIn other alphabet-related news, Jeri at JeriWB Writes gave me the ABC award.  Since the ABC stands for “Awesome Blog Content,” I was extremely honored - thanks Jeri!  Jeri blogs about writing, teaching, and even restaurants, so swing by and check out her blog.  I’m supposed to use all 26 letters of the alphabet to say something about myself and then pass it on, but 1) these blog awards are one of the few times I actually do break the rules 2) the past month of abecedarian antics has me alphabet adverse, so I’m just going to suggest people read my A-Z posts since they reveal a lot about me.  

Write MotivationOne last piece of business before I sign off… Monday means it’s time for an update on my #writemotivation goals.  I must shamefacedly admit I have made no actual progress on my WIP.  However, I did have a lot of other stuff that needed to get done, which I have now completed, so hopefully with no other tasks to provide avenues of productive procrastination I will now be able to make some real progress.

How was your experience with the A to Z challenge?  Are you already planning for next year?  Did you make positive progress with your #writemotivation goals? 

It’s #writemotivation Time Again!

#writemotivationBetween the Blogging from A to Z challenge and temporarily moving my 15 Minute Tweet Tales roundup posts to Sunday, I just finished writing a blog post every day in April.  For a procrastinating, occasional blogger like me, that’s HUGE.  But now I kind of desperately want a blogging vacation.  In fact, I was planning to stay away for at least a week.  But today is the first day of the latest #writemotivation goal-check month, so I really needed to post my goals.  It’s actually pretty simple this time because there is only one that matters:

FINISH THE REWRITE OF MY WIP!!!!

And when I say finish, I actually mean finally start the rewrite.

January was the first #writemotivation month, and it was so helpful for me to finally be accountable for my writing goals.  In fact, because of all the encouragement I got from the group, I have kept up with some of my smaller goals like writing a tweet tale every day and posting on my blog once a week.  However, I let some of the biggies get away from me.

I didn’t sign up for March #writemotivation month because I knew I had too much going on with movie stuff to be able to write, but I’m so glad May is a goal-check month because it’s time to get serious about this rewrite.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I said that last time too, but this time I really mean it (you can tell because I bolded, italicized, and underlined it).  If you happened to visit my blog last Wednesday, you know a fire has been newly lit under my butt, and it’s time to stop dawdling.

I know I really should break this one goal into smaller weekly goals so it’s easier to gauge my progress and keep myself accountable.  But since I need to add scenes and do some character brainstorming in addition to line-by-line polishing, I’m having trouble figuring out the best plan of attack.  But I’m working on it.

I also realize if I want to do this rewrite right, it's lilkely I won't actually finish in a month.  However, I won’t feel bad about that as long as I am making serious progress.  But if I spend the first three weeks talking about rewriting and then start rewriting in a mad rush the last week, I will be very disappointed in myself.  

So I’m looking forward to some #writemotivation cookies when I need some encouragement and some whip cracking when I’m being stupid.  And I’m excited to cheer on everyone else.  Here’s to a great month of meeting our writing goals!

Are you participating in #writemotivation?  Any specific goals (writing or otherwise) for the month?  How do you keep yourself writing when there are so many fun distractions?

Photo credit to Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A Highlighted Goal

#writemotivationOn this last Monday of #writemotivation month, I only have a quick update since I’m frantically trying to meet one of my goals.  Update for last week: I wrote a 15 Minute Tweet Tale every day (hooray!), and I had two blog posts (double hooray!).  Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to rewrite one of my NYCM flash pieces for the Glimmer Train contest (sad face), but I think I’m going to be able to submit a new story for the Highlights Fiction contest (tentative hooray).    
 
Last week I reported that after several false starts, I was abandoning my squirrel idea in favor of an elephant idea.  Well, I spent the rest of the week writing and discarding openings for the elephant idea.  The main problem was too much back story to fit into the 750 word limit.  So I chucked the elephant idea.
 
I had actually decided to put another #writemotivation goal into the fail column by skipping this year’s Highlights contest when I woke up yesterday with new inspiration for the squirrel idea.  After some initial bickering with my muse, I pounded out a rough draft and felt pretty victorious.  Then I read it.  Ugh!  I was immediately back to skipping this year.  But just to be sure, I sent it to my family members (always my first readers) to get their opinions.  And while I know they are all incredibly biased, they all swore up and down there was a kernel of a cute story buried in there.  
 
So I have spent all night filing away at those rough edges, and I think I finally have something that doesn’t suck too much.  Now I just need to polish it until it shines.  Unfortunately, I only have about 24 hours of polishing time left, so off I go!
 
How are your resolutions going?  Any victories?  Any goals you regret dropping?

ABNA Loves Me, ABNA Loves Me Not

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardSince today is January 23rd, according to my original resolutions I should be done rewriting my WIP in order to submit it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition.  But since I wised up (or depending on how you look at it, sunk to new depths of procrastination) last week, I decided not to rush the rewrite.  However, that doesn’t mean I decided not to enter.  So I gathered together my pitch, excerpt, and manuscript, and I’m now officially submitted to the 2012 ABNA.  

This is the fourth time I’ve entered this novel, and it’s a true testament to my powers of procrastination that the last three times have been with the exact same manuscript.  The first year, I didn’t make it past the pitch round, which was like a punch to the gut of my writerly ego; but I didn’t know much about writing query letters back then, which is what the first round (i.e. the pitch round) is all about.  And it was probably a blessing I didn’t advance any further, since my manuscript was very rough, and I’d have ended up embarrassed that anyone (not related to me) read it.
 
By the time the second year rolled around, I’d rewritten my manuscript and learned more about the fine art of pitching.  I waited on pins and needle until the first round results were released, and I was so excited when I made it past the pitch round – whoo hoo!  So then there was more waiting while the excerpts (first 3000-5000 words of the novel) of the advancing pitches were evaluated.  When the list was released, I whooped and screamed and even cried a little to see that my novel was advancing to the quarterfinals.  That meant it was time for the scary part – someone from Publishers Weekly was going to read and review my entire manuscript.  Gulp!  So I fretted through more agonizing waiting until the day the list of semi-finalists came out.  Sadly, I couldn’t find my name on that list, no matter how many times I looked or used Ctrl+F on various spelling of my name ‘just in case.’  I was bummed, although not really surprised because deep down, I knew it wasn’t truly ready.  
 
As the ‘prize’ for being quarterfinalists, we got our manuscript reviews from Publishers Weekly whether we were moving on or not.  Since I didn’t advance, I was sure my review was scathing, so I didn’t want to read it when it came, but I put on my big girl panties and read it anyway.  Then came more whooping and dancing around the room because it was a great review - one I’d be darn proud to have if it were the real thing.  The only negative thing the reviewer said was that my supporting characters were too stereotypical, which is true, since I wrote them that way on purpose.  And that has been what’s been giving me so much trouble with the rewrite.  The supporting characters are stereotypical because the story is written from the first person POV of a shallow teen who sees people that way.  So my challenge is to give them depth that’s obvious to the reader even if it’s not to the narrator.  I’m still struggling with the best way to do that.
 
Anyway, fast forward a year to my third attempt at ABNA.  I’d been so busy with Saying Goodbye, I hadn’t rewritten anything, but I decided to enter again anyway thinking different judges would mean a different outcome, and boy was I right!  Since my pitch worked so well the previous year, I didn’t change a word; and to my utter shock and dismay, I didn’t make it past the pitch round this time.  I was definitely taken aback by that, but it really does show how subjective this business is.  
 
So that brings me to this year.  While I’m entering the same manuscript as the previous two years, I’m going with a different pitch.  During WriteOnCon this year, I participated in their critique forums, and I got a lot of very helpful feedback on my query.  I’m using the final version of that query as the basis for my pitch.  I really hope to make it past the pitch stage this year to give me confidence in my query, but I’m taking a much more relaxed approach to it this time.  I didn’t get all spun up about formatting or enter the second the clock ticked over to midnight like I have in previous years.  And while I’m hoping for the best, in the meantime, I’ll be working on the rewrite so I can get started querying agents.
 

As for the rest of my #writemotivation goals, I’ve been keeping up with my 15 Minute Tweet Tales and blog posts, so a tiny victory first pump on that front.  And after four different horrible false starts trying to make a story about a squirrel work for my Highlights fiction contest entry, I’ve now moved on to a story about an elephant, so at least there’s forward momentum there.
 
How are you doing with your writing goals?  Have you entered or thought about entering ABNA?