3 Years…. Holy Hanna!!!

I’m certain that there are many writers who know this one.

Today I realized that I’ve been contending with a specific story, off and on, for three years this month. This is far too long to be stymied over a story that maxes out at 3,000 words.

Why is it limited to 3,000 words? This story was and still is slated for Assignment # 9 of a correspondence course. Breaking into Print from Institute for Writers is a challenging and rewarding program. I’ve accepted this challenge and I’m determined to complete it.

Why has it taken so long? There has been a lot of comments, critiques, and reviews of this piece.  A lot of people said things that, while I”m thankful for the responses, they added to the strife. So, I kept doing the one thing certain people kept telling me to do. Take a break, step away from the story and focus on something else.

Well, time passes when you keep setting the story aside.

The story is not much better off than it was last year, or the year before.

I have decided to revise the story, switch the focus of the POV character from talking about her friend’s situation. She’s now going to focus on herself. I’m also switching to 3rd person. Tried as I might, I’m just not comfortable with 1st person. To me it feels like it’s too easy to violate the show don’t tell rule. And as far as I know, this is one of the golden rules in writing.

So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be focused on ‘Schooled’. Yes, it finally has a title, so that’s some progress. I am hopeful that the revisions coming to mind, ( thanks Muse) will cure the stymie and get my writing flowing again.

From this lesson, I can share my sense of learning. If you feel stymied by a story that just doesn’t seem to be going right or ‘behaving’ as some like to say. Considering revising it,  try switching the POV character’s focus, switch the 1st / 3rd person ( try the one you’re not using).

In my contemplation of ‘Schooled’ over the last few days, I came to realize that the character that’s been the focus is in a prime mental state to be the antagonist.

I can work with this.

Now, can I get this revision done before my move? June 3rd is less than 5 months away.

Here’s a link to my portfolio on writing.com and the story as it is now.

Writing.com: MzSnowleopard “Schooled”

The title is tentative (working title), it may change. This has happened for me while working on stories. I start with one title and during the process a new, sometimes better one comes along.

Institute for Writers

Formerly known as Long Ridge Writers Group- Institute for Writers has existed since 1989. Their programs are designed to help writers hone their skills in fiction and nonfiction. They have courses on writing for both adults and children. I can’t say enough about how much this program “Breaking into Print” has helped me. The 12 lesson course focuses on creating short stories and articles (fiction or nonfiction) for publication in magazines and other periodicals. I, personally, chose to create an anthology of my works. It still counts!

The school, one-on-one student mentor contact, and the ladies in the office have all been instrumental in helping to build my confidence towards this goal. So much so, that I feel I need to share my story and introduce the school to other fellow writers. Try the aptitude test for yourself- it’s free. And the program does offer an option for college credit.

What I like best about the program- the way they’re set up with sending assignments and receiving critiqued responses. It’s exactly like the real world when dealing with the publishing industry. In the beginning, I’d have to send two copies of my scripts and I’d receive one back with my mentor’s remarks and suggestions- just like an agent or editor might do. Now, they’ve changed to online submissions. Genius! And it saves on postage!

Yes, it’s costly, but well worth it when you consider the invaluable information you receive with the course manual, the collection of books, and the one-on-one mentoring with someone actually in the industry. Don’t sweat the cost though because they offer a monthly payment plan.

I could keep going but you should check it out for yourself. It is challenging but in the end it is worth it! https://www.instituteforwriters.com/

LRWG # 9 Another Update

On 3-10 I finally breached 1,500 words on this project. This puts me passed the halfway point. There’s only 1,445 words to go.

The rough draft may not be my best work but at this point- more than a year passed the deadline- and with the story dredging along, I’m just going with it.

Changing from 3rd to 1st person has helped- borrowing characters from my YA has too- having characters based on real encounters was the boost tonight. That scenario was based on an actual moment in my own life. It just tweaked it to fit the story.

LRWG # 9 Progresses

The original due date was for somewhere in the middle of December 2014. Needless to say, I am more than a year behind schedule. So, what’s the hold up?

My fellow writers know that the problems have been external. It’s the neighbors coming and going- slamming the fire doors on their way, their children using the stairwell and fire hall as a playground, and now, the neighbor across the hall has a new puppy that loves to bark.

I have tried to drown out the noise- play the radio, they complain, ear plugs hurt after an hour or so. The last resort is to upset the furniture arrangement of my apartment to place a desk in my bedroom. At least I won’t be able to hear the noise in the hall and stairwell. Blackout curtains over the bedroom window should suffice in reducing the screams from outside. Summer is approaching and oh yes, those little girls love to scream as they play.

The other half of the problem is with the project itself. Unlike ‘Choices’, LRWG #4 & 7 (rewrite), which flowed out like a steady and quiet stream.

No, this particular story moves like a slug. It comes to me in bits and pieces, a moment here and a moment there. It’s been over a year now, since my last submission to my mentor. He’s either wondering where my work is or on the verge of telling the school to drop me from his list. This doesn’t mean that I’m out of the school- it simply means I’ll need a new instructor.

So, why haven’t I called to touch base with them? They would simply reset my deadline, giving me 30 days to complete the piece. With the way the story has been ‘behaving’, I don’t know if I could do it in that time frame. Not to mention the external distractions I mentioned that I have to deal with on a daily basis- with no end in sight.

With the story: the problem is that I was stuck on the first point of transition. Not having had a best friend to pal around with in my teens (my bestie was a pen pal in Jamaica), I am unknown to the ways of this type of friendship. Should the girl’s best friend jump in, get involved or not? I sought others for an answer on this. Not getting one, I eventually went for an easy approach- I had the Dad give the Bestie permission- that is; he tells her she might be the one to get through.

This pushed the story a bit further, passed the 1/4 mark with 860 of the 3,000 word limit. And I reached another transition point- from one scene to the next. Just like the first time- I was stumped.

There’s a part of me that says “go ahead and share it now. Maybe folks can help with the rest.” While that may be true, another part of me says “wait until you’ve finished the story before sharing.” Either way, there are 2,140 words to go and the story is still slugging along.

3 days later – I’m contemplating as I read over what I’ve done so far with Long Ridge Lesson # 9. As I’m adding some new content an idea dawns on me- try a shot at 1st person! So, that’s what I did. I shifted the piece to read as 1st person. I went from 890 words to 1,042 words in less than 30 minutes. While I have stopped worrying about the word count in general- I still have to keep it in mind for the Long Ridge projects. Lessons 9 has a word count max of 3,000. So, I’m officially 1/3 + of the way done. Yay!

I’ll worry about a title later.

Update: LRWG #9

I managed to get a few more words written on this assignment. It’s up to 695 which leaves only 2,305 to go. This might have something to do with the door slamming neighbors having moved out. Add in that the cold weather has kept the kids indoors. So, it’s been fairly peaceful around me.

What I don’t understand is why this story is taking so long to write. Even with the chaos that’s been around me, it’s been over a year since I finished lesson 8. The most frustrating part with the story is that it comes in bits and pieces- a few words here, a few there. Unlike other stories, the imagination ( the vision ) is there but lethargic. I’ve tried to find inspiration, borrowing characters from my YA series and such but it’s still a slug.

I haven’t contacted the school because I know what they’ll do- reset my deadline for 30 days from the day I call. This wouldn’t do any good considering the sluggish nature of the progress.

Maybe it’s me, maybe I need to get out more, there’s a lot of things on this list of maybes.

Anyway, I’ve reached another transition point in the story. I’ve stopped at the point where Jen offered a deal to her reluctant friend trying to entice her.

The next moment is on campus. I see them discovering their friends at the seminar- much to Debbie’s surprise. She asks her boyfriend. “I thought you were going to State, what happened?”

“I’m thinking about taking the core classes here then transferring.”

“You can do that?” Debbie asked.

“Oh yeah, and it’s half the cost.”

I’m playing Debbie off not as someone who’s not informed. It’ll be a learning process for her.

New Thoughts on Lesson 9

It’s become apparent to me that I’m at a point that may or may not be crucial but it has stumped me.
In short, I’m stuck.

As usual part of the blame goes to the external noises with my apartment. One of the neighbors across the hall consistently slams the fire hall doors. I have placed a note on my door explaining that I’m a writing who works from home- as writer’s do- and that I appreciate it if my neighbors would not slam the fire hall doors. While this has been dramatically reduced- only the 1 person across the hall and the children on the ground floor persist.

On to the issues of the lesson. I have achieved 337 words of the 3,000 word count limit. I paused at a point that would direct the story. Either a character will leave and the adult character would step up or this teenager would offer to speak with character # 3- her best friend. The focus is supposed to be on this character but I’m having doubts.

The reason is that I am ‘borrowing’ characters from my YA trilogy for this piece. It’s set a few years after the trilogy so there isn’t an affect on those stories. In the YA stories, I focus on the character who is # 2 in this short piece. This is causing a problem for me because I am accustomed to focusing on her story.

I’m finding that I am not as familiar with #1 and she’s not coming out as I envision her. A beta reader commented that #1 appears to be selfish in her want for a high-priced college vs. a community one. That’s when I paused writing the piece.

I’m questioning how to bring it out that she’s not selfish at all- she has simply bought in to (or drunk the juice) the belief that Community and Junior colleges are for losers.

Granted I’m jumping ahead of myself. I still have yet to address #1’s feelings on the use. We have only seen what she believes- not the why. And that’s where I’m at- who is going to speak with her about it? Should it be the father or the best friend? I’m leaning towards the best friend.

No, it’s not her place- I believe it’s the father’s, however, wouldn’t a best friend intercede anyway? I don’t know. In my teens I didn’t have a best friend to pal around / get in to trouble with etc. My best friend was a pen-pal who lived in Jamaica.

So, I’m putting this out there- to my lady followers who had a pal-around best friend as teenagers. Am I right in assuming that the best friend, character # 2, would jump in and knock some sense into character #1? I would love to hear thoughts on this one.

– Side note- if you choose to share a story, reminiscing about your best gal-pal I make no promises that it won’t inspire a moment in my writings. 🙂

LRWG # 9

I’ve just finished reading the manual pages of lesson # 9 with Long Ridge. The amazing part was not the absence of external distractions, or anything negative. It felt like the cosmos had left me alone in this regard. Still, the amazing part was how my mind conjured an idea for a new story. With 70+ stories roaming through my grey matter I didn’t think there was room for another. LOL

Suffice to say, this plot bunny has been born. ( wink to WJ ). This 3,000 word story will be contemporary fiction rooted in nonfiction. While the characters aren’t real, the situation they face has been and will be real for many people, including myself.

I am going to focus on the subject of the stigma against community colleges. Despite the rising costs of tuition, books, and supplies- many people look down on those who choose to take this route. They seem to think that it’s beneath them. Sadly, in the end ( with today’s economy ) they end up with a sour disposition and massive debt in student loans. This is not so for people who choose to attend their local community colleges. More times than not, these schools are greater than 50% cheaper than the traditional 4 year ones.

Sure, there’s a level of prestige from attending certain traditional schools. But they also come with a hefty bill.

So, my goal with lesson 9 is to depict a character, just graduated from high school who’s coping with the issue. As I haven’t written the story yet, I don’t want to give away too much right now. It is a story in development after all. I will share all about it on other side of the lesson. My deadline is December 15th.

Lesson Received by LRWG

This morning I found the notice in my e-mail account that Long Ridge has picked up my lesson. They will forward it to my instructor.

Start the clock as the waiting officially begins. It usually takes about 2 to 3 weeks to receive the response. In the mean time, there are 5 projects on my ‘to do’ list. 2 reviews, some clones, a few posts, and some ‘in the mean time’ activities from Long Ridge. Once these are done, there’s still plenty more to keep me busy.



LRWG Lesson # 08 is Finished!

I finished the project last night and sent the files this morning. It should take about 2 to 3 weeks to receive the response. What I learned with this lesson are things every writer needs to know.

• How to write a query letter, cover letter, and pitch.
• The importance of having a beginning, a middle, and an end.
• Being patient avoids mistakes.

As always I cannot say enough about this school and the program. Long Ridge Writers Group has been a tremendous asset. I am 2 /3rds of the way through and the affect on my work is not only noticeable but permanent.

What I learned in Part 1 of the program:

• The value of making every word count from having a maximum limit.
• The difference between show and tell is glaring. Showing draws in the reader, and telling can sometimes border on preaching.
• Visualization- being descriptive can be a good thing, it can also go overboard.
• Every writer needs resource tools- have copies on had of books like The Best of the Magazine Market for Writers
• Non-fiction and 1st person are not for me

What I learned in Part 2 of the program:

• How to plan a story
• How to approach the market in 2 way- write a story then select a market or select a market and write a story targeted for it.
• Understanding resource material and researching publications
• It’s worth having a book about the market. There are far more publications and there’s books that have categorize them. BMMW is part of the course materials. I found another one on Amazon.com See below
• Always have a back-up plan
• Revising a story is one of my favorite parts of writing
• When it doubt, ask for help. it never hurts to get a 2nd set of eyes on something.
• The 3 things that I listed about for Lesson 8

Writer’s market Resource Books on Amazon 2015 editions (Writer’s Market Online)

Writer’s Market

Guide to Literary Agents Market

Novel & Short Story Market

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market

Poet’s Market

And for my friends who are song writers:

Songwriter’s Market

all links open as new windows.