Tag Archives: writing prompt

First Draft is Done!

I never thought I would be writing this post, but I think I’m finally done with the first draft of my book!

And even better, I think a book two might be possible to continue my character’s story!

I just wrote myself to a point that I feel is a good stopping point.  I’ve been wondering lately, as I’m over 43,000 words, when I should stop.  How do you know when the story is told?  When the book is complete? I didn’t want this to become a Stephen King, 1,000 page book that takes the reader months to finish. But I also don’t want to cut my character’s story short. I don’t want to leave readers (or myself, for that matter) hanging and wondering what comes next. I wondered if I would just know when I get to the end in a similar way to how I knew where the story was going next.  Every time I wasn’t sure where to go from where I was, I would sit down to write and my character would tell me and I would take down her dictation in my head.

Just now I wrote:

They said nothing and I turned to leave.  I turned around once as I opened the door, “This is why we lose to the white devil. One thing they do better than us is stand together to fight a common enemy. They have taught us to run and hide, they divide and conquer. And it will always be this way if we cannot find a way to come together as a people. Win together or lose together, but at least we would have tried. Good luck to you, my friends.”

I shut the door behind myself and walked out of their lives.

This seems like the perfect place to stop.  It can absolutely be an ending in and of itself, but it can also be a pause on a story that can be continued in another book.

It feels surreal to have finished. I’m sitting in a hotel room (at a work event) writing during my downtime and to come to the end of the story without any fanfare feels…strange. I’m not at home to run upstairs and jump around in front of my husband, yelling, “I’m done! I’m done!”

My brain whispered, “This is the end.” There are no fireworks celebrating my achievement. No balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling as if I had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right. No knock on the door with a huge check from Publisher’s Clearing House, no cheering from the home team as I score the winning goal.

Finishing a work you have labored over for several years is absolutely an internal celebration.  I knew this would be true…after all…my book is the center of my universe, and no one else’s. But it still takes a little of the wind out of your sails that you’ve completed this huge feat and no one really notices.  For everyone else, life just goes on.

I know the work has only just begun as I start the editing and publishing process, but it still feels a little bit like I’ve lost my best friend.

This might be why we keep writing.

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Compliments Will Get You Everywhere

I had two compliments last week in my day job that have spurred me on to really focus on my writing.

I do a bit of writing for my employer…newsletters and blog posts.  The thing is ~ it’s a boating organization, of which I know little.  So, I’ve been plugging along, learning as I go and enjoying the ability to live vicariously through these boaters.

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Well, two different people were so impressed with things I had written that one complimented me directly and the other one complimented me to my boss (which is probably even BETTER).  Haha!

One of the ladies was surprised to learn that I’m not really a boater because the information I wrote for a route segment on the website sounded so authentic she  thought it was written by someone who had been out on the water. That made my day.  That means two things:  First, that I’m starting to understand things like shoaling and tides and what type of boat a Catamaran is. Second, not only am I beginning to put it all together, but I’m doing it in such a way, that I sound experienced and knowledgeable!

The second woman, has been boating for a long time. We wanted to highlight her in a blog post and she sent me pages of typed notes that she had been assembling of her travels with the hope of turning it into a book. Right now, it’s more like journal entries, but she’s got some great information there with some beautiful experiences that she does a great job of expressing.  She warned me that what she sent me was pretty long and she wasn’t sure if there was anything there I could use or not, but I was free to do as I may.

So I did.

And after the post was written, she told my boss that I did a great job of taking her pages of notes and turning them into a story.

Now, when she’s ready to turn her experiences into a book, I hope she keeps me in mind.

In any event, I’m feeling pretty good about my writing chops these days, so I really needed to put my butt back in my writing chair.

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I’ve tried this before and been unsuccessful, but I created a little schedule for myself. I have so many things I want to work on, that I can never seem to decide what to work on first.  So, I’m going to work on different projects on different days of the week, with the weekends being free days.

I have a craft day, writing day, genealogy day…you get the idea.  That way, I’m getting my hands on everything that makes me happy at some time during the course of a week. We’ll see if I can make it stick this time.

If you haven’t already figured it out, today is writing day.  So, from here, I’m going right to my novel and I’m going to write until I start to fall asleep at the keyboard.

So, till about 8:30.  haha!

 

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Local Writer in the Newspaper

So, in the paper today, I stumble upon a small article in the Life section about a local author.

The author is a 5th grade student, who not only wrote a book, but she self-published it as well. It’s available on Amazon.

Part of me wants to burn what I’ve written so far and curl up in a corner and cry.  The other part of me is like, dammit, if a 10-year-old can do it, I can damn well do it.

As the two sides battle for dominance, I’ll be clipping coupons and going grocery shopping. For ice cream, cookies, and donuts.

You know…for the time in the corner feeling sorry for myself OR as fuel for the mad crazy writing session that may happen later today.

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If Genealogy was an Olympic event, I might be on the podium.

I’ve got to say, I was disappointed by the Olympics coverage by my local TV channel. I only watch figure skating during the winter Olympics.  I don’t have any interest in skiing, snow boarding, the luge or even speed skating.  Figure skating is all I want to see. Prime time coverage in my neck of the woods was largely everything BUT figure skating. I had to go to another channel, covering the Olympics 24/7 to catch it.

But that was enough to fill my entire evening for…what, two weeks?…a week and a half?  In fact, I still have the final skating exhibition to watch – I think I’ll hit my DVR next.

So, of course, no writing happened during this time. The U.S. didn’t fare well, and I got into the competition between the two Russian skaters, Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova. I was as outraged as everyone else when Zagitova all but stole (in my opinion) the gold from Medvedeva.

And, I say I have no interest in skiing, but I did watch Lindsey Vonn. I caught a little bit of snow boarding and saw Shaun White win gold again.

As you know, I came back from my Mom’s house with all those boxes of family history.  I still haven’t gone through the photos, but the documents I found, were amazing.  And most of them provided fewer answers than they caused more questions. I was as dedicated to going through these documents as if I was training for an Olympic competition.  That’s all I did for several weeks.  I would call my Mom every time I found something interesting and it got to the point where she stopped saying “Hello?”  And started answering the phone with, “What did you find now?”

Like, why would your great grandparents, who spent their whole lives in Wisconsin (as far as we knew) get married by a Justice of the Peace in Illinois? And why would your great grandma have joined a church in Chicago 4 years before the wedding?

This same great grandma kept a receipt from a drugstore for Diphtheria anti-toxin in 1931. Had she been sick? Had my grandfather been sick? I found it in her Bible and it seemed like a strange thing to keep all those years. And why was the mother on my great grandfather’s birth certificate crossed out and replaced with a different woman’s name? Was it just a clerical error or something else?

And this is just TWO people from a family tree that includes one known Civil War soldier and one Revolutionary War soldier (not the same side of the family, but you know what I mean). What other things will I find? It’s so exciting to think about!

My 2 times great grandma kept the baptism record for her baby boy who died at 6 months old in 1898. I know because I have the document hanging on the wall in my office. She was born in Germany and most of the documents I have for her are in German (the one for her son included). She came to this country with her parents when she was 8 years old. I’m so interested to learn more about her.

I love reading my grandma’s diary from 1947.  Each day, I’m reading that same day and thinking about what was going on in her life all those years ago. On the 4th of March, 1947, she and Grandpa had gone to see Easy Come, Easy Go and then went for a drive. I wish we had found more diaries.  I don’t know if this is the only one there was or if perhaps others of them just hadn’t survived.

So, I have started trying to do some research.  I started with my great-grandparents, figuring those records would be more current and perhaps easier to find.  So far, nothing about this whole Illinois phase. I wish I had unlimited resources and could do a So Who Do You Think You Are approach to learning my family history.  Traveling around…making appointments with historians and genealogists who do all the searching for you and hand you the documents when you arrive. How awesome would that be? Ah, if only money grew on trees!

Basically, I was so deep in the Olympics and the family records that I blinked and February was over.

 

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Letting Your Story Marinate

I can’t believe two months have flown by since my last post. In my defense, I had two work events – the one where I wrote my last post and another one in November. And by then we were sailing straight into Thanksgiving. And now, we’re tumbling right into Christmas and the New Year.

On the plus side, I DID write as planned at my work event in October.  Sadly, I haven’t written a word since I’ve gotten back.

But I’ve read that just as much of the writing happens in your head when you are not writing as happens when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes the story needs to sit in your head and marinate for a bit.

When I was figuring out how to bring my main male character back home after he walked away, it took a bit to come up with a satisfying story line to explain his absence. And then I had to find a way to bring him back because he needed to get sick and die. It’s what causes my main female character to take some chances. To get up out of the rut she has allowed society to box her into and make some changes in her life. It’s her chance to grow. His death – caused in part by the society they lived in – will give her the strength and determination to rise above. After all, she has children to raise. And she wants to be an example for them to follow. Her babies are the first generation born free and she will not allow them to accept being treated as slaves.

In any event, I had written myself into a place where I needed some time to mull it over and find a way to bring him to the illness to which he succumbs. A diphtheria epidemic rolls through Charleston and their youngest child becomes ill.  In working with the general idea that illness generally is hardest on the young, the elderly and the weak, it’s going to take him and the young child. This is going to be the most painful thing my main character has ever gone through (even having been born into slavery) and it’s going to be the fuel she needs to make changes.

Don’t ask what those changes are, because right now, I haven’t a clue. I have to wait for the story to get that far so I can see what direction she wants to take. Will she leave Charleston? Will she stay and fight for her rights? I expect she will stay, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process is that you can never assume you know what your character wants to do until she’s right there, having to take action.

Word count 38,068

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April 2015 Writing Prompt

This month’s prompt was: What would you find in an accountant’s trash? 

It’s midnight. The night is inky black and I can’t see my hands in front of my face. Along the coast, all the rich folks keep their outside lights off so hatching baby sea turtles don’t mistake the artificial lights for moonlight and head away from the ocean by mistake. This works to my advantage because I’m about to dumpster dive in one of the rich bastard’s trash cans.

My name is Rita and I work for the local newspaper. We’re working on a story about a local big name accountant who wants to run for public office. You know how it is. A run for public office usually means skeletons you thought were long since buried can resurface overnight. They almost always do. I’m one of the reasons why.

That’s not to say I don’t get some information honestly. I talk to people. I stare at my computer well into the night entering words and phrases into search engines that have always led reporters to pay dirt on even the seemingly innocent among us. Everyone has a history. Everyone has something they would be embarrassed for the world to know. You just have to dig deep enough to find the kryptonite that will bring down the monster.

A story like this could make my career.

Opening my backpack, I pull out a pair of latex gloves and a flashlight. Peeking around the side of the garage, I make sure all the lights are out inside the house. Shining the flashlight into the garage window, I see his Lexus so he’s not going to show up and catch me midway through the remains of his Chinese takeout and a week’s worth of the Wall Street Journal.

Word on the street is his accounting firm is going under. The office phone number recording confirms the “phone number is temporarily unavailable,” email messages sent to the company return undeliverable and during a weeklong stake out of his offices he didn’t show up at the office once. Not once. And it’s tax season.

This is a small town and his family goes way back. He’s old money and everyone in town knows it. His parents wanted him to have a real job. They believed he should work for his money and learn to appreciate it before they hand over the keys to the castle. Most of us joke that the job is just a front for his illicit activities – something to get mommy and daddy off his back so he can do what he wants.

Digging around in the recycling, I find boxes of business cards and letterhead for his company. Either they are relocating, or dissolved. Further down I find late notices and disconnect bills of all kinds. Proof he’s been kicked out of the office space and his phone disconnected. Only for the business. Any bills that might relate to his beach front brothel are missing or shredded. Or those bills go to Mommy. Probably it’s Daddy’s name on the mortgage.

Underneath all the rest of his business paperwork is a framed certification from the University of South Carolina. Also a membership for the South Carolina Board of Accountancy, the local licensing board.

I move on to the trash cans. Removing the lid, I feel as if I’ve walked into the corner bar well after close but before the cleaning crew has arrived. I shine the flashlight on a few of the bottles.

“At least he spends Daddy’s money on the good stuff,” I whisper to myself.

Underneath the bottles I open the first trash bag to find a handful of wadded up napkins. Shining the flashlight on the pile, I can see writing on one of them so I pluck it out and smooth it out.

Susanne 843-438-5678

I smile. I’m familiar with this trick – in fact, I’ve given out that phone number myself. Instead of looking like a bitch, it’s easier to give a guy you aren’t interested in a fake number. 438-5678 spells GET LOST on the phone keypad. The number is actually the number for a local pawn shop. They’ve gotten to the point where their voicemail says, “this is not the girl you met last night, this is…”

A lot of women give out this fake number around here. Beach towns have a lot of tourists. Many of those tourists are men. Many of those men spend their vacation drunk. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of admiration from a drunk man, you know that if you turn them down, they try even harder. You’ll have a lot more fun with your friends if you just give the idiot a fake number. He thinks he’s won and he leaves you alone.

Some women give out the number for the sanitation department. Some give the number for a phone sex line. Some even give the number of a friend they aren’t speaking with. By the looks of things, this idiot has gotten more than his share of blow off phone numbers on high-end establishment napkins. He might have better luck at the corner bar. Unfortunately, the rumors of his reputation precedes him in society circles. Middle class women with a dream of marrying into money would be easier game. Nice Southern society girls wouldn’t be caught dead with him and his baggage.

Moving to the last garbage can, I lift the lid to find a photo. Sitting right on top of the pile, it’s almost like he left it there on purpose. Looking more closely, I can see him standing on what I assume is his boat in the harbor next to the day’s catch. Some type of shark (probably a bull shark) hangs from a line next to him and he’s surrounded by four other guys. All of them are smiling, two of them are flexing their muscles for the camera, like they are some kind of bad ass. Poking out of the trash next to the picture is a fishing pole. I pull out half a fishing pole broken right above where the reel would have been.

I open the first bag in this can and find empty fertilizer bags. Lots of them. Stuck between two of them, is a receipt for acetone.

“Bingo.” I don’t know for sure that our accountant is making meth, but he’s got two of the ingredients right here. If I take the bag with me, I can get a better look during the day and I might be able to get the items in the bag tested. I’ve got a friend at the lab who owes me a favor.

My gut instinct: I’ve found the kryptonite.

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March 2015 Writing Prompt

This is the piece I wrote for the writing prompt: “Wanted: Dad”  A little dark, but I wanted to go away from the obvious and try something different.

Melody was itching. The high from the last ad was wearing off. She sat in her apartment, staring at the TV but she had no idea what was on. She sat perfectly straight, feet on the floor, toe tapping the carpet, fingers drumming on her thighs, and her heart beating as if she’d run a marathon. Most evenings, the TV was the only light in her apartment. No one could see in if the lights weren’t on.

She jumped up and started pacing, tripping over Chloe’s chew toy.

“Damn dog.”

Melody kicked the bone across the room, watching it bounce off the wall.  Her hands flew over her mouth, her eyes popped out of her head, expecting the neighbor to beat on the wall in retaliation.

“Under the radar, stupid!” She whispered to herself. The last thing she needed was people noticing her in the hallways. If people started to notice her, they would see her at the market or the post office and want to say hello. Pretty soon, she was no longer moving along the edges of society – she would be smack in the middle.

You can’t kill people if everyone knows your name.

To that end, Melody went out of her way to blend into the scenery. She ran her own website design company from home. Most of her work was handled by phone and email, so most of her clients had never seen her face. She ordered groceries online.

The dog was long gone. Her mother thought a puppy would make her feel better, but the damn thing barked and whined and, worst of all, needed to go outside. In public. Sometimes during the day.

“Mother should have gotten a cat.” Melody tended to keep third shift hours. She could leave the apartment more often under cover of darkness. A cat would happily sleep all day and poop in a box. Easy.

Sitting down at the computer desk set up in what should have been a dining room, she went to the local newspaper’s website and placed a new ad: Wanted: Dad 312-555-1234.

She paid for it with her mother’s credit card. Melody hated taking advantage of her mother but she certainly couldn’t use her own card. Her mother was now in a nursing home after taking one final blow from her husband. It was the only way Melody escaped.  He was thrown in jail and the abuse finally stopped. The authorities would never believe this woman who no longer remembered her name or her child could have harmed anyone. They would assume the card was stolen. Certainly her mother was safe.  Certainly, so was the daughter no one knew.

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