Fun with Writing – Character Swap

When I start to lose motivation to write, or when writing has lost the spark that makes it enjoyable, I often look for a new writing exercise to get me going again. Lately, I haven’t been writing as much as I should. Life has been busy, I mean really busy, but I also just haven’t been interested in writing. Nothing has grabbed me to the point of needing to write. So, to get myself going again, I set up a new writing exercise with a friend.

With NaNoWriMo ’17 prep in full swing, it is the perfect time to shake things up a bit. I’ve had a concept and a main character for a few months. My friend, after some group brain storming, has a world and a basic concept. The main area we are both lacking … characters. Hence our Character Swap idea.

We each wrote out a very short paragraph about our story, and filled out a questionnaire about our main character. The usual stuff: name, age, what they look like, skills, job, family, weaknesses, annoying habits, etc. Then came the fun part. We each got to make a character for the other’s story.

I often find myself falling into the trap of fitting a character to a story, instead of letting the character be an individual who happens to be a part of this story. The joy of this swap was that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have enough information on what she is writing about to tailor the character to the story. I did consider why this person and the main character would be friends, but also tried to think about my own friendships – why we fit, and how much do we really have in common? It was fun to make a character without worrying about the story they would be put into, or what they could give the main character. Maybe I need to focus on my characters earlier in my planning/plotting phases.

What are some writing exercises you have enjoyed? Have you started planning for NaNoWriMo?

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Getting new Experiences as a Writer

When a good friend approached me with the idea of taking adult artistic gymnastics classes I was sure I wasn’t interested. I did rhythmic in my early teens, but I’ve never done artistic. I was never able to do a handstand or a round off. I’ve always been hesitant with dynamic movement and scared of heights (I’m a big chicken). Adult gymnastics would put me well outside my comfort zone.

Somehow, I found myself thinking about it in the weeks after my friend brought it up. I’ve always wanted to be able to do a handstand, even though my heart beats a bit faster just thinking about kicking up into one (I mentioned the hesitancy about dynamic movement right?). Re-learning to do a forward roll and a cartwheel might be fun. I like organized fitness classes, it was possible I would enjoy it.

For a few weeks I thought about it. I talked it over with my husband. The timing was fine, the money wasn’t an issue, and if I hated it I would stop at a single term. He also pointed out that gymnastics would help with my fear of hesitancy in dynamic movement. Things like that wall I couldn’t get on top of at mud hero would become easier. I really want to scale that wall at mud hero next year.

There are two things that finally swayed me to give adult gymnastics a try:

  1. A writer needs new experiences. If I hate it, I can stop at one term. By at least trying it I have a new experience to draw on as a writer.
  2. I really like exercise clothes and my husband suggested I would need new capris and a tank for gymnastics.

When I found myself looking for just the right pair of capris (not too long, but tight to the bottom), I knew I was going to take the class. I still made my friend hold my hand (figuratively) while I hit the submit on my class payment though.

We had our first class on Wednesday and it was fun. Really FUN. I kind of remember how to do a cartwheel. My hands and feet are moving in the right order, but I have a ways to go to get vertical again. As expected, I’m too scared to really kick up into a handstand, but I’m not bothered by taking it slow. After one class I’m already thinking I’ll probably sign up for the winter term too.

What new things have you tried recently? Do you ever do new things just to be able to write about them?

Spring is Here (finally)

We had a long winter in my neck of the woods. Long enough that my son had a snow day in early April! Now spring is finally here with its rainy days (we are supposed to have rain everyday this week), and on the days of no rain, bike rides, sidewalk chalk, and other outdoor activities abound.

Spring is known for being a time of renewal, decluttering, and cleaning. I have been trying to take some time to think about these things. This winter, I spent a few months in hibernation. Until we had a few sunny days, I didn’t realize how much I had withdrawn from my own life. Apparently it was a rougher winter than I thought. Now that I am feeling present again it is time to get things done.

Years ago I had to simplify my hobbies. I had too many things I wanted to do, and the end result was that I didn’t get much time to do any of them. These days I focus my limited free time on time with my family, sewing, and writing. If I only have time for only a few hobbies, I need to pick the ones that matter most to me. When I sat down and looked at the long list of crafts, hobbies, and other time sinks I enjoyed, theses were the ones that came out on top. I expect they will change over time, but right now my focus is on finding time for each of these things.

For the last month I’ve made a real effort to exercise. As much as I would love to find time for writing and sewing, I know from experience I need to feel good about myself to be motivated to do much of anything. For me, exercise is the key for feeling good about myself (for me! your mileage may vary). Exercise helps me sleep well at night, keeps me strong enough to play with my kid, and allows me to feel productive. Plus it encourages my love of numbers. Now that I have exercise (both cardio and some basic strength) back into my weekly routine it is time to start adding in other things.

This month I want to focus on writing, with a bit of sewing thrown in. I hope to write twice a week for the rest of the month, and get at least two evenings of sewing. I already know what my projects are going to be! I will finish the Jungle Path quilt top, and write a new short story.

What helps you feel motivated? What hobbies are most important to you?

Stretching my Skills

I recently stumbled across an old post by Piecemeal Quilts discussing the ‘dumbing down of quilting’. For me the important part of the post wasn’t the discussion on what counts as intermediate, but the idea that we should challenge ourselves instead of relying on the same basic skill set.

I’m pretty good at applying this strategy to my writing. I try and write deeper characters, more relaistic dialogue, or to not give the ending away in the first scene. It doesn’t come easily or naturally and it’s often unsuccessful, but I keep trying.

After reading Piecemeal’s post, I realized I couldn’t say the same for my quilting. I haven’t moved beyond squares, half square triangles, and a few rectangles. Those are all important skills. Those skills are all you need to make beautiful quilts, but there are other things I could be working on. I don’t need to expand my skills. I could continue to make beautiful quilts with those shapes. The more I think about it though, the more I want to expand my skills. I want to stretch my quilting self.

This year I’ve set a goal of finishing three quilt tops, and three quilts. I want at least one of those quilts to include a new to me skill. I’m planning on a quilt for my mother that includes (kind of) flying geese. I have also bookmarked a quilt that includes diamonds and y-seams. My plan is to tackle the flying geese, which should be fairly straight forward, then move on to the diamonds and y-seams.

At this point I don’t plan to ever move onto curved seams, but I won’t rule it out completely. I want to quilt for many years to come, and over those years I’d like to think my skills will improve and maybe I’ll be ready to jump into something that seems crazy to me today. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I said I wanted to make quilt tops, but not quilt them.

Do you have any skills you’re planning to stretch this year? What writing or quilting projects are you working on?

Motivated to Write Again

Earlier this month I decided that I needed to pick a writing project and stick with it for the next two months until NaNoWriMo starts. I began rereading bits and pieces of my longest projects. I read a bit of my Murder Mystery and my MG Sci Fi, but they didn’t quite hit the spot. I still love them, they just aren’t what I want to be working on right now. I think the MG Sci Fi needs a bit more research, and the Murder Mystery needs a bit more experience.

Then, a few days ago, I started rereading bits of a YA Urban Fantasy I’d written for NaNo one year. It’s a fairly original concept, and I’ve always known how it would end. The story is interesting, I enjoy the characters, I already have names for everyone, and could easily spend some time expanding the characters (a weakness I’ve mentioned before).

Most importantly though, I’m excited to start working on it again. I can’t wait to dive into edits and start polishing things up. I can’t wait to write the last bit of the middle to match it up to the end. I’m going to let myself skip the beginning for now and work through the middle of the project first. I know how the story starts, I think, but I need time before I try and rewrite it.

The best part about settling on a project is that I should be able to submit to my critique group for the next two months. I’d been submitting only every second month for various reasons, but with my focus on a single project I can submit for the next two months in a row.

What project are you working on right now? Are you writing, editing, or both?