Bashing Through the Prose, In 100 Days…

I recently tried an accelerated writing program offered by thewritepractice.com. The program is designed to help the aspiring writer complete the first draft of a novel in 100 days. It is aptly named “The 100 Day Book” program, the brainchild of Joe Bunting (not to be confused with the “100 Novels in a Day” program from Bo Junting).

Full disclosure – I didn’t finish a first draft, but I’m still pleased with the overall experience. To finish a draft would’ve been great, but I did come away with several valuable lessons.

First and foremost, I learned that I am what Kurt Vonnegut refers to as a “basher”, as opposed to a “swooper”. Hard as I try, I can’t churn out 800 to 1,000 words a day. The basher

“goes one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before going on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

The swooper

“write[s] a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work.”

Teh Basher
“Hey Joe, where you going with that hammer in your hand?”

I did have a few breakout sessions where I produced 1,000 words, so I can swoop, but for the most part, I bash. All the same, no matter what your approach, this program provides sage advice, deadlines and a support forum for other aspiring writers to hold you accountable and provide feedback on your writing.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the program is the daily email tips to spark the flame of goodly writing inside the budding writer. Notable examples –

“Today, have a character do something. It can be as small as eating a cookie or as dramatic as drawing a gun on someone. Whatever they do, use it to show us who that character is and make them stick in our minds.”

And

“Open up your book to something you wrote a few days or weeks ago. Glance over it and take a few minutes to laugh. Then, once you’re feeling good about writing again, jump back to today’s scenes and keep writing!”

Uno mas,

“Challenge yourself to write something deliberately bad today. What’s the worst sentence you can imagine? Write it down, and then keep writing.”

 

This last tip is especially meaningful for me. As were all the messages concerning what a pissant perfectionism can be. That was what held me back – the unquenchable desire to be perfect.

Many of the daily emails harped on the myth of perfection. Applying the practice tips from these messages were tools that allowed me to write 1,000 words in one day a few times.

I saved all the emails and plan to revisit them as I do my own thing.

BONUS! A cute lady with a squirrelly last name sends you weekly emails with your progress and other words of encouragement. Perhaps most impressive of all is that both cute, squirrelly last name girl and the Joe himself always responded to my questions and concerns with a genuine, not canned response, and in a timely manner.

And Joe is a good sport, I’d message him on Facebook, starting with “Hey Joe, I heard you shot your lady down” or “Hey Joe, where you gonna run to now?” and he played right along.

I was way short on the word count, but that’s because I need to get over this idea that my writing must be perfect as soon it’s written. I’m happy with every single word that I wrote – wish there were more…

I suppose that’d be a complaint – the program didn’t write a book for me. Writing a book is frickin hard, but this program breaks it into manageable tasks, making the process a more… manageable task.

Another perk was weekly author interviews. I attended a few, and it always got me thinking about my own writing process, but while sitting there listening I was jonesin to write, so I skipped some. Looking back on it, I wish I would’ve sat attentively through all of them, that’s part of the experience that I paid for.

In closing, I’d say this program would benefit any budding writer. You may not finish a book, but you’ll be writing and you’ll gain an understanding of the logistics involved in writing a book. In the end, if my ho-hum attitude toward interviews is any indicator, you get out what you put in.

Bzzzzzzy

BeeJert Typewriter Classroom Full

Listen, I’m usually juggling two jobs, two or more reading projects, this blog, writing a book, cleaning, dadding, and I be strippin in the evenins. In a word, I’m uber busy (that was two words, but you get the idea.)

I sat in contemplation about my dizzying to do list. Right then and there, despite the objections of all 157 kajillion molecules in my body hell bent on figuring out some way to return the mayo to the fridge and throw away a cheese wrapper simultaneously, thereby saving 4.3 seconds – time which can be applied to some more purposeful activity later, inspiration bade that I conjure a verse to chronicle my raging reality.

 

What follows is the offspring of that bit of whimsy and my brain’s inclination to swaddle such whimsy in cozy, tender words –

 

On Monday, where are you going to be?

I’m subbing for Mrs. Brown,

I never turn an English job down.

Never slow down. Gotta stay busy.

 

Hey, it’s Friday. Let’s go to a movie.

Can’t. I’m working all nite,

Teaching online until the morning lite.

Sleeping is overrated. Gotta stay busy.

 

All work and no play for Jarrett Lee?

Being productive is my joy,

That make me a dull boy?

Well “HERE’S JOHNNY!” Gotta stay busy.

 

Daughter: “Dad, spend some time with me.”

Gladly, my dear, let me finish this text

Then we’ll play on the X…

…box. Make time for Quinn, but gotta stay busy.

 

What? I’ve a moment free,

That can’t be true!

Oh look, there’s some mail that I need to view.

I only thought I wouldn’t stay busy

 

I haven’t blogged lately,

Yes that is true,

I use any spare time to…

… write a book, cuz I gotta stay busy

 

OOH! A book! May I see?

There’s not much to show,

I regret that the word count is so low,

Because I gotta stay busy…

 

… and boost productivity,

By engaging in tasks that might improve my station,

Leading to a situation

Where I gotta stay busy…

 

…but do so gainfully.

Oh, I wish I may, I wish I might,

Someday get paid to write,

And break this mold of busy tizzy

 

FIN

@JarrettLWilson

The Lost City of the Story I didn’t Finish

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I’m rolling with the IWSG now. The Incredibly Witty Super-handsome Guy club? No, silly! The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The “eewuhsig”, as it is affectionately known by me ever since I made that up just now, comes up with a blog topic (I will call it a “blopic”) on the first Wednesday of every month. For the month of March, that is today. How auspicious that it be today, the very day that Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne and Tituba were arrested for the supposed practice of witchcraft in Salem, Mass in that foul year of our Lord, 1692. This is auspicious because the topic of this month’s Incredibly Witt….errr, INSECURE WRITER’S SUPPORT GROUP is –

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

You’re probably asking what witch trials have to do with the Incredibly Witt….errr, Insecure Writer’s Support Group topic. Uh, I don’t know yet. I just wanted to talk about witches and make a smooth transition to my story. That said, I’m just gonna throw my response to the IWSG question out there and find a transition later. So, here is the transition-less transition to my response to the above topic.

As a greenhorn 8th grade history teacher, I had the audacity to create an assignment to, given the principles of government, society and economics as learned in history class, create a fully functional nation from scratch.

To demonstrate this assignment, I created Aequitas, a nation composed of three islands in constant war with each other.

I gave each island state a rudimentary topography that governed physical features of its inhabitants and commodities and trade and the like. The fun part was borne out of a lesson from an undergrad course, Modern Peoples of Latin America.

You see, central Mexico has many indigenous villages stuck in a three-way twilight (I will call it a “trilight”). On the one hand, they are Earthlings, meaning they are subject to the ever-changing tides of globalization. On the other hand, they are citizens of Mexico, and must adjust their sails of survival to the hectic winds of the Mexican government. On the other other hand, they are some flavor of Mexican Indian (Zapotec, Nahuatl, Mixtec, Initech,etc.). In keeping with the sea analogy, Indian identity will be the annoying dolphin that keeps pushing them off course.

From the outside, these villages are pretty homogenous – same economy, same family structure/social hierarchy. However, if you were to ask one of them about the similarities between his/her village and the next village over, this individual would invariably explain how backwards the neighboring community is when describing a nearly identical facet of village life. For instance, if you were to ask a resident of village A about the corn harvesting practices of village B, s/he’d tell you roughly the same thing s/he’d said about his/her own harvesting practices. Mention this similarity and this individual would quickly point out that those sickos in village B put their ears of corn in a cloth sac, rather than a basket like a civilized person would do.

I was fascinated by this, so that was the impetus for Aequitas – three island states fiercely asserts its community’s sui generis despite obvious similarities.

This assignment was twelve years ago. Since that time, this fantasy world has mutated and evolved into a saga of sociopolitical intrigue and sociocultural transgressions. The island nation is now called “Lemuria”. Lemuria is to the Pacific and Indian oceans what Atlantis is to the Atlantic Ocean. The island states, now known as Ostis (east), Nordis (north) and Sudis (south), are coming off another devastating war and have decided to form an alliance. To ensure it sticks this time (alliances have been many and without efficacy in the past), high ranking officials create a persona called “Ramtha” (this is an actual name of a supposed Lemurian channeled by some space cadet named JZ Knight, read more about her HERE). In my story, Ramtha hijacks the alliance and starts ravaging all three islands. To fight off this mysterious figure, the three island states must band together. The result would be an alliance built on mutual propagation. It doesn’t end that way though. Ramtha wins out and takes over and a “Ramtha” (similar to Caesar/a Caesar) rules with an iron fist for the next x years until an unlikely hero emerges out of Ostis after a scuffle at a local market.

I had trouble getting the timeline to line up and seemed to run into big plot gaps often – I’m going to revisit this story when I’m a wealthy, famous author.

Holy gosh, this post is longer than I’d like, but I like it all the same. And I still need to justify the transition. How about this – the Salem people lived in villages, just like the Mexican Indians do. I’ll bet that if you asked a villager in a town adjacent to Salem about their witches versus the Salem witches, they’d give you all the same information, but those wacko Salem witches are heavier than wood and don’t float in water.

A special thanks to fellow IWSG blogger Jennifer Lee Rossman for posting about the IWSG “blopic” at THE ETERNALLY UNTITLED…I LOVE that blog title.

 

FIN

 

@JarrettLWilson

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