Writer In Motion Week 1: First Draft and Thoughts

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime
Writer in Motion Prompt August 2020, available here: https://unsplash.com/photos/CDrP01O2n-w

After completing my first thoughts and outline, it was finally time to begin my first draft based on the above prompt picture. One of my initial fears was going over the 1,000 word limit a huge amount. Actually ended up with 1,078 words which I can work with.

The hardest part was resisting the urge to correct typos to show the first draft in all its raw glory. Like most of my first drafts there are numerous errors and places that need tightening and others that need more description. First drafts will also sometimes serve as a way for me to get the know characters better even if I have to cut large parts later on. The draft isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever written, but there’s a reason I typically don’t let others read anything until after I’ve self-edited several times.

I’m also not completely happy with the final line. Spent quite a bit going back and forth over what to actually write before ending up with the result to get something down, figuring I could always edit it next week.

Things on my to-do list for the self-edit:

  • Fix typos
  • Shorten and rephrase dialogue
  • Include more details and descriptions so it’s not all diaogue
  • Rework ending
  • Make sure wordcount is under 1,000 words

And finally, the first draft of The Magic Jar:


“We’re lost, aren’t we? I can try Googling it on my phone.”

“Calm down Ray, we’re not lost. I’ve rode with my parents like a million times, I know where we’re going.”

“But Luce—”

“But Ray! Trust me, I’ve got this.”

“Alright,” she mumbled sinking down into her seat. “But if we go another thirty minutes and we’re still not there, I’m using Google.”

“You do that Ray. So you never did say, but how was your internship.”

“Boring. Did nothing but crunch data all day. Not as exciting as spending two months in Spain.”

“Yeah, except by the end of it I was dreaming in Spainish and English seemed like the foreign language.”

“Numbers aren’t much better. One day I was so frazzled by a project I spent ten minutes trying to text on my graphing calculator.”

“Nice. God, can you believe we’ll be seniors in college this year? One more year and we’ll have to be actual adults with jobs and stuff.”

“Don’t forget paying off those student loans.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Oh look the turn is ahead.”

“Where?”

“Behind the tree.”

“Luce, there’s a bunch of— oh, I see it now.”

With a jerk, the car turned left off the smooth asphalt and onto a narrow gravel road. It crunched beneaht the tires and sent clouds of white somke blowing up in front of the windshielf. The car continued to tear tdown the road, flying over the small hills like they weren’t even there.

“Geez Luce, there’s no need to go so fast.” Slightly afraid, Ray clutched her bag a little tighter to her chest. “Are you trying to kill us?”

“No, just trying to get there faster. You’re the one who was complaining about not getting an early enough start.”

The jolting of the car was a bit much for Ray, who closed her eyes. She couldn’t afford to get car sick when she was finally so closed to her goal. As Luce had said, they’d been running late all day. Summer was coming to an end as well, so Ray had to make this weekend count. Even if meant putting up with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s wild ride driving-style and swallowing every few seconds to keep the greasy hamburger from lunch down.

“We’re here!”

Relieved at the stillness, Ray opened her eyes and glanced out the window. Sleek, glass modern windows. Sturdy, thick log beams, appearing like they were cut yesterday. Two stories, with a balcony and wrap-around porch. A handcarved wooden ‘Welcome’ sign hanging over the entry.

“Where the hell are we?”

“What are you talkking about Ray? We’re at the cabin.”

“This is not a cabin… this is… this is the cover of one of those flashy magazines you see in the checkout lane of the grocery store filled with unrealistic homes you can never afford to live at.”

“That’s awfully specific… and do you mean the cabin from when we were kids? Luce, that place was barely standing then, and that was before the rossion got bad. Grandpoa tore it down and built the new one. I told you baout it, remember?”

“You just said he was building a new cabin, not that he was tearing down the old noe.”

“I thought it was implied. And what’s the deal? You said you wanted to spend a weekend together at the summer cabin. Who cares if it’s not the old one? The new one has a movie theater with a popcorn macahine and hot tub at back.”

“But it has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, and left the beaded bracelet on the porch post, seeing if it fit year after year. And there was the firepit overlooking the back where we’d make hot dogs and s’mores, and…” Loosening her hold on the package close to her chest, Ray opened the flap and peered inside. In a quiet voice she said, “and catch magic bugs.”

Reaching over the gray center console, Luce plucked out the small item Ray had been clutching protectively. “You still have this old thing?”

“Be careful with that!” snapped Ray, taking the item back. “It’s magical.”

“Magical? Ray, it’s an old mason jar we drowned in glue, tissue paper, glitter and ribbons in to catch fireflies in. Pretty sure we were more covered in glitter than the jar. Our moms told us to wash off in the lake before we’d be allow back inside, and that night we caught more skeeters than magic bugs. Remember that?”

“Of course I remember. That’s why I wanted to come back.” Nestled safely back in her lap, a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors looked like a minature stained glass window. The ribbons were fraying, close to losing the stolen Christmas bells tied to their ends. Glitter came away with each finger touch. Yet to Ray, their old Magic Jar was the more beatiful than a Faberige egg in all its glory.

“Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”

“It’s just… we’ve barely spent any time together this summer, the last few summers actually. The last time we were here was like when, we were thirteen? Like you said, next year we’ll fully be actual adults… what if this is our last change to be together? To catch magic bugs?”

“Oh Ray…” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “Do you remember what we’d do at the end of the night?”

“We’d release them.”

“Exactly! We’d release them because otherwise they’d die. But they always came back. The next night, the next year… they’d always come back. Just like we will. Trust me. How about we make a promise? Each summer we set aside one weekend for each other, no matter where we are. It doesn’t have to be at the cabin, it could be a city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we could catch. Promise?”

Ray stuck out her pinky finger in the crook of her friend’s. “Pinky promise.”

“Good. Now let’s get on inside, my butt is starting to stick to the seat and you have to try my new sangria recipe. We might be a little tipsy tonight when we catch us some magic bugs, but it’ll be fun. Just like the old days… but with alcohol. Adulthood does have some perks, some magic. You just got to find it.

“Yeah, I guess it does.”


And that’s it for this week. Next week: The Self-Edit.

All Writer in Motion posts:

Writer in Motion Post #1: Initial Thoughts on Prompt Reveal

Writer in Motion Post #2: Insight to Writing Process and Outline

Writer in Motion Post #3: First Draft

Writer in Motion Post #4: Self-Edit

Writer in Motion Post #5: CP Edit

Writer in Motion Post #6: Editor Feedback and Final Version

Writer in Motion Post #7: Final Thoughts

Writer in Motion Week 0: My Writing Process and Outline

I jumped around several plots and genres when trying to come up with a first draft. A post-apocalyptic world in which survivors are trying to make their way to a distant safe house. A sci-fi fantasy in which special secret agents are sent to apprehend a dangerous individual hiding out. A contemporary story in which the MC reflects on their childhood and coming home after a long estrangement. The MC following instructions to some remote cabin to fulfill the dying wish of somebody close to them. A roadtrip. A bedtime story. Digging up a time capsule.

The thing is, I’m great at coming up with ideas. I have half a dozen floating through my mind at any moment. Some I know I’ll never get to I’ve added to the Plot Exchange (please feel free to use or leave your own plots) for other writers. However I have three basic requirements before I actually begin writing:

  1. It has to Have an Ending

One thing I’ve learned about my writing process over the years is that it’s very similar to taking a road trip. Before I get into my car I have to know where I’m going, and use a GPS to get me there. My bags are packed with whatever I might need, and while pit stops are allowed, I will try my best to stick with the best route available. For writing, I need an end goal to work towards, a rough outline, and resources such as research and background on the world and characters to help me meet the goal. I’m free to come up with random bits of character insight or side plots along the way, as long as it helps me reach the ending.

All those ideas listed at the beginning? Not an ending among them. The one I ended up choosing? Had the ending and the rest of the story fell into place.

2. It has to Have a Message/Theme Setting it Apart

Sometimes my story ideas can be very similar to one another. So I ask myself, what makes this one unique? What point am I hoping to accomplish or convey to readers? What lesson could be learned by it? Is there some overarching theme tying everything together?

Usually in the process of answering those questions, I’ll get my lightbulb moment, the instant where everything clicks, the story falls into place, and I have my motivation for writing it down. My moment for this one which cemented it as THE IDEA was one word: fireflies.

3. It has to Have Heart

Whether they’re heroes or villains I have to connect and be able to care about the characters and the story. If I don’t care, how can I expect readers to care about what happens to them, and share in their joys and sorrows? Giving characters heart changes them from shapeless bland blobs to actual people I can be emotionally invested in. It helps me with understanding how they think, their motivations, and desires. Giving the story heart transforms mere words on a page (or screen) to something relatable, that sticks with myself and readers.

I give the characters and story heart by incorporating some bit of myself or somebody I closely know. It can be a personality type, strange quirk, personal experience that shaped me, a hope or dream, and even a fear or obstacle that had to be overcome. It can be one tiny detail, several, or a huge part of my life.

In this case, the heart comes from the times when I was right on the cusp of full adulthood. Afraid of what was to come, of losing touch with my childhood friends, and trying my best to cling tightly onto my childhood one last time.

And that wraps up the brief insight into the beginning of my writing process. Below is the result, my rough outline which includes placeholders and and notes. Expect the first draft in the next few days.

Outline:

Two MCs are traveling in car, arguing over directions. “You don’t know where you’re going. Want me to use Google?” “Relax, it’s fine.” “But–” “Like I said fine. There’s the turn.” “What turn? All I see is a tree.” “It’s behind the tree.” “Behind the tree, how can it be behind– oh, it’s behind the tree.”

Car turns off onto gravel dusty road, loud, will need a wash later on. Wild turkey crosses path. Flying up and down the hills, one mentions speed, but other is unconcerned. MC1 is super obsessive (passenger) and has packed several bags of stuff, MC2 carries. Along the way they discuss plans for fall, reminiscence about old days, childhood and memories at cabin. Reveals it’s been years since last visit.

Finally reach top of hill and discovers nothing. MC1 freaks out, it has to be here. MC2 finds signs but reveals it’s long gone, was more like a crumbling shack back in the day, not surprised it’s not around. Cabin belongs to MC2’s family and they built a new one, and MC1 didn’t realize that meant tearing down the old one. MC1 splutters, this isn’t right, we were supposed to do XYZ. MC2 insists everything is fine (sidenote: I use that word a lot) and it doesn’t have to be the same. MC1 is still bothered, and MC2 asks what’s wrong. MC1 reveals worry over losing touch once the summer ends, going separate ways with college, barely spending any time together like they used to, afraid they’re going to drift away forever and just wanted one last night like when they were kids.

MC2 admits same fears, but reassures MC1. Things will change, everything changes, but change can be good. Like now, without parents or siblings can do stuff on their own. Make promise no matter how crazy things may get, will set aside one weekend each summer to catch up at cabin or somewhere else. They never really liked the outdoors anyway, could go to a beach or the city. MC1 is relieved, and ends on hopeful note.

Notes:

FIREFLIES! Work in catching fireflies in jar as children to capturing memories and moments, but MC2 points out they always released them otherwise they’d die, but they’d always be back the next year. Could work as title. The Firefly’s Journey. Like Fireflies. Summer Fireflies. Pinpricks of Light. Pinpricks of Magic. Summer Magic. Capturing Magic. Releasing Magic. The Magic Jar. Flickering Summer Magic. Fleeting Summer Magic. Those Summer Nights. Summertime Magic. Magical Days of Summer.

Names for characters: Rachel (call Ray and Luce for short, ray of light names)

Final thoughts: MCs still need physical descriptions. Can I get this under 1,000 words? First draft I’ll try not to worry about wordcount and address in self-edit.

Next: First Draft

All Writer in Motion posts:

All Writer in Motion posts:

Writer in Motion Post #1: Initial Thoughts on Prompt Reveal

Writer in Motion Post #2: Insight to Writing Process and Outline

Writer in Motion Post #3: First Draft

Writer in Motion Post #4: Self-Edit

Writer in Motion Post #5: CP Edit

Writer in Motion Post #6: Editor Feedback and Final Version

Writer in Motion Post #7: Final Thoughts

Writer In Motion Prompt Reveal

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime
Writer in Motion Prompt August 2020, available here: https://unsplash.com/photos/CDrP01O2n-w

The Writer in Motion prompt was just revealed ten minutes ago (as I’m writing this) and I wanted to jot down my initial thoughts and ideas before I start working on the first draft which is due August 8th.

Initial thoughts:

An unexpected find in the middle of nowhere. It’s uphill, almost like somebody has been walking for a while to finally see their destination or a complete surprise. They’re not alone out here.

Who does it belong to? Is it abandoned? Occupied? A house or some kind of other structure? Is it truly that tiny or are there hidden depths and floors? Where does the electricity come from? What’s behind it? More wilderness or a city nestled in a valley in between?

So far my ideas are revolving on a more literal interpretation of the prompt. Maybe the character has been on a long journey to the location, or encounters an unknown obstacle. Or maybe relieved to come home after a long day of work. Or perhaps returning to a place they’ve tried to forget, and are hesitant on entering.

Several ideas that I get to work through the next few days and see where they take me. What characters and story they inspire, and if I can develop a good story under 1,000 words.

Those are my initial thoughts for now. For more information on Writer in Motion please check out their site: https://writerinmotion.com/2020/08/01/writer-in-motion-kickoff-the-prompt/

All Writer in Motion posts:

Writer in Motion Post #1: Initial Thoughts on Prompt Reveal

Writer in Motion Post #2: Insight to Writing Process and Outline

Writer in Motion Post #3: First Draft

Writer in Motion Post #4: Self-Edit

Writer in Motion Post #5: CP Edit

Writer in Motion Post #6: Editor Feedback and Final Version

Writer in Motion Post #7: Final Thoughts

Take Two

So… it’s been a while. Not that anybody probably noticed other than spammers. And not just a little while, but a full year in which I haven’t posted anything. Part of which was due to studying for several professional exams, followed by the holidays, and then a family vacation and wedding. Just when I was finally getting ready to back to this blog, COVID-19 struck.

Up until March, COVID seemed like a far away thing. Sure I was aware of it when I flew in February, but it was confined to incoming travelers from Europe and other places so I wasn’t too concerned. Then March came in and things got crazy.

As stay at home and quarantine orders started to roll out, I remember going to the store and waiting 20 minutes in line to check out as people were stocking up on food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes, and more. The atmosphere reminded me of a bad winter storm approaching and everybody panicking and trying to stock up on supplies. It was eerie, and will stick with me. On St. Patrick’s Day, I was sent to work from home and have been doing so ever since.

The weeks that followed I didn’t have much interest or passion for writing. I was still on edge and nervous. Every time I coughed I wondered if it was a symptom of something else. Every time I heard new numbers on the news, I thought of my dad who has to take medication to live, but lowers his immune system, putting him at risk. I even started trying to cut back my snacking just in case there was a food shortage.

Then George Floyd was killed and Black Lives Matter exploded and all I could do was watch as history continued to unfold. My WIP seemed so insignificant to the world around me. Make no mistake, 2020 will go down in history as a year of change and be studied and analyzed for decades to come.

In the meantime I worked on creating a craft/sewing space in a spare bedroom, got addicted to Animal Crossing New Horizons, and started on my Master’s. Gradually I adjusted to the new normal and got my writing groove back. I joined Camp RevPit (go hedgehogs!) and got an editor spot for Writer In Motion. I also started the Plot Exchange which is a Google spreadsheet full of plot ideas for writers and has a form allowing writers to submit any plots they don’t have the background, time, etc. to write.

For the remainder of this year, I want this blog to focus on three areas important to me: writing, engineering, and sewing/quilting. Each one has a different goal:

Writing: Gear up and complete Writer In Motion.

Engineering: Post PE studying guide.

Sewing/Quilting: Blog as I make my mom’s quilt Christmas present.

And finish editing my WIP so I can move onto betas and writing contests in the spring. That’s it for now. May the remaining months of 2020 be better than the rest, and stay safe.

Kay S. Beckett

One Year Anniversary

I’ve had this blog for officially a year now, and while I haven’t always been the best at updating it like I wanted, I have learned quite a bit about writing and myself since I first started it. Some are lessons I want to share with others so they can learn my own mistakes and experiences.

  1. Don’t Force Topics

My original plan was to have a topic a month on the blog and write a few articles. It worked for a while too, until this year. Between life throwing me curveballs, and not having as much free time as I once did, I stopped posting for a while. Which is fine, because I was starting to force myself to write certain topics rather than let them come naturally.

There are plenty of other booktubers and bloggers out there who post content a few times a week which is great for them. I’ve come to realize I do not have the time to support such a schedule. If I did, I’d be posting material that’s already been done better elsewhere, or that I have no experience on as I’m barely into my writing journey.

If you’re going to start posting your own content, or already do, keep this in mind. Don’t post content about navigating the publishing industry when you haven’t even written your first query. Same goes for posting content that’s been done before a hundred times—unless you have a new and interesting take on it. Otherwise you run the risk of burning yourself out, or alienating the audience you’re trying to reach.

2. It’s Okay to Shelve a Project

I’ve done this before, but they were usually projects that were only partially completed that I lost the plot on, or desire to finish. This year was the first time I shelved a project that was completed, had been edited several times, and I was planning on querying. After a few beta reads I realized that there problems that needed to be fixed, and thought I had the perfect solution—one that required a lot of rewriting.

It worked for a bit, but then I hit a wall. I kept re-editing the same chapters over and over, and wasn’t making much progress. A lot of days I’d stare blankly at the document if I even bothered to open it.

By that point, it was June and Camp NaNoWriMo in July was around the corner. I realized I needed a new project and a fresh start. It took me a while (see below), but I finally have one that I’m excited about. Looking back, after all the edits on my last WIP, my excitement had sizzled out, contributing to my lack of interest in finishing it. If I don’t have that spark, it’s usually hard for me to continue with a WIP. Sometimes shelving a project, is really what is best for you and your writing.

3. The Second Chapter is the Hardest

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of ideas. I have an entire CD somewhere full of them from my high school days. Most never made it past the first chapter. Those that did, never made past it the second. All for the same reason—I just didn’t have the spark or excitement to continue with them.

When I started trying to find my next WIP I had the same issue. My last WIP was YA Fantasy. For something different, I tried YA Contemporary, then a fairy-tale retelling, an Adult Contemporary, back to YA Fantasy… and then settled on a different YA Fantasy. But one that was set in the same world (most of the background/world building was done) in a different time period than before, and switched from third person narration to first person.

I still have the files and outline for the other projects saved in case I ever wish to return to them, but I never made it to the second chapter for any of them. Like high school, they were great idea, but I just didn’t have that spark or connection. There were plenty of times I thought I did, usually when the idea first popped into my head and as I figured out the plot. But after a while it’d leave me, and I was back where I started.

That’s not saying you can’t fizzle out after the second chapter, but usually if I can make it to the second chapter, then I’m good for a while. It’s not that the second chapter is hard to write, but simply reaching the second chapter and going beyond is the hard part. I’ve known plenty of people with great ideas, but they never make it past the first page or on to chapter two. My personal experience has taught me that if I can get that far, then I truly have a new WIP.

4. Embrace Other Parts of Your Life When You Fail

I saw this or a quote similar to it a couple months ago, and it’s true. When I was having issues with my editing and feedback from beta reads, my writing came to a sudden halt. I flirted with a few different story ideas, but as previously stated, never got very far with them which only added to my funk.

So, I decided to focus on something else for a bit while searching my next story: engineering. I’m currently in the process of studying for my Professional Engineering Exam in October which I need in order to be licensed. If things go well, I might share some tips, but for now I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch.

Switching my attention to engineer helped distract me from my writing slump, and gave me some renewed energy. When I hit a wall with studying (statics) I’d take a break and write.

Going back forth between the two—along with a few other of my hobbies— was just what I needed, and eventually I did find a new WIP (though I am still studying). Sometimes taking a step back from something that’s frustrating and trying something else, is what you need. It can get your creative juices flowing, renew your energy, and boost your confidence.

5. You Don’t Have to be Alone

When people think of writers, the picture that usually comes to mind is of a loner, huddled in the dark over a brightly lit computer screen, typing furiously away. And for the longest time I was one of them. I might share my work with a friend or two, but I never reached out to other writers or tried learning how to improve my writing.

But I wish I did. Over the past year, I’ve become more active on Twitter, tried applying for mentorship programs, met other writers, and joined a few different writing groups. Not only have I learned more about the writing/publishing process, but I realized I’m not the only aspiring writer out there trying to balance a life, full time job, and get published.

Now, such a realization can be daunting. After all, if you’re not the only unicorn in existence, how special are you? But it can all be a relief. I can connect with other writers sharing the ups and downs, see successes, and get feedback on my writing which will ultimately helps me in the long run. If I hadn’t encountered the wonderful writing community that exists, I know I wouldn’t have been able to move forward with a new WIP. I’d either be running in circles with my last one, or have given up on writing completely.

So, if you’re looking to publish a book, or just interested in joining the community, don’t be timid and shy. Reach out. Connect with people. Yes, it’s not perfect and there are people you should avoid, but overall the community is great, open and welcoming, especially to those who are new. Don’t be like me thinking you have to be alone on your writing journey.

That’s it for now, hopefully next year I’ll have even more to share.