40 Days of 3 Questions: Day 36

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 36 Questions:

  1. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story?
  2. What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn?
  3. What writing lesson still gives you trouble?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

owl in ice

Owl Who Slipped on Ice (I warned him it was slippery. Did he listen? No.)

12 thoughts on “40 Days of 3 Questions: Day 36

  1. Reinventing the wheel? Yes and no. Since I write a series, many of my characters are already established as is my setting, so I don’t have to start from scratch. But I do try to create a totally different story each time. No fill-in-the-blanks templates.
    A lesson that I’ve learned and don’t have to relearn? How to carve out writing time. It’s a mindset where the writing is not a luxury but a necessity. It’s taken a long time, but I think I’ve got this one figured out.
    A lesson that gives me trouble? It’s one that I teach a workshop on and I still have to keep reminding myself: I must know what’s going on in my villain’s mind even though he doesn’t get a POV on the page. If my story gets stuck in a quagmire, nine times out of ten it’s because I don’t know what’s happening off the page with my antagonist. Once I sort that out, the story tends to write itself.

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  2. Getting the first lines of a new book written always stumps me because I want them to be just right. As to what I’ve learned: on the broad scale, I’ve learned that I can pound out a rough first draft in five or six weeks if I work hard. It’s very simple. On the tiny scale, I think I’ve learned where to put commas between clauses. I always have trouble in the middle of a book, getting my arms around the first thirty k words and keeping the story moving forward toward the end.

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  3. I don’t often feel as though I’m reinventing the wheel, especially with short stories, but sometimes with novels I get tangled up in fear and then it does seem I’m starting from scratch. The lesson I have learned that I will never forget is a lot is two freaking words, not alot. No, just kidding,that’s a pet peeve of mine. I think the lesson that sticks with me is you can’t make a story any more or less than what it is. The writer is basically just a translator. The lesson that still gives me trouble is that you must treat writing as a job, not a hobby, if you want to get anywhere.

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  4. Oh, Ramona, questions that cut close to the bone today (how did you know?) as I am still struggling with why I cannot get the new WIP to straighten up and fly right. More to say later. After I get some actual words on pages!

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  5. 1. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story? Not sure what wheel you are talking about. The biggest challenge I had with my first book was identifying my writing voice. Now that I’ve nailed that, my writing flows more naturally so I don’t have to reinvent my writing voice.

    2. What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn? The Oxford comma.

    3. What writing lesson still gives you trouble? Everything else grammar except the Oxford comma! 🙂 Oh and adverbs. Still overuse adverbs.

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  6. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story? Not really. Once I accepted that process, while it may look like a hot mess to others, is what works, and to just go with it.

    What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn? Carve out the writing time and protect it at all costs.

    What writing lesson still gives you trouble? I still fight the urge to tell the reader what I just showed them.

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  7. I feel like each of my books has come together in a different way and the process has been a little different each time. I’ve learned to accept that and (mostly) don’t freak out when the writing feels so different time to time. I always DO freak out when my ms is too short, and I need to stop because it’s not productive.

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  8. 1. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story?
    I do every time I start a new series. If I’m continuing a series, it’s sometimes easier, sometimes not.
    2. What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn?
    Not to overuse adjectives. I was humiliated, wounded to the core, when I had my first agent contact at the Boise conference years ago. Janet Reid had been given the first few pages of my WIP which is now a drawer novel. She had marked it up and we had a ten-minute meeting. She handed it to me. It was bleeding red ink and the comments that stung the most was, “What? Were they having a sale on adjectives?” I was so proud of all my beautiful descriptions and learned that they were doodoo. I went to my hotel room and cried. A few months later, I screwed up my courage and looked at the pages again. At the end she had written, “I know you’ll be back. The good ones always are.” I met her a few years later at another conference and told her the story, telling her I had thanked her in one of my published books. She admitted that she was “like that” back then. And she bought me lunch.
    3. What writing lesson still gives you trouble?
    I don’t know that it’s a lesson, but I always get to the middle and sink into despair, knowing I’ll NEVER finish this book. But I do.

    These keep getting longer and longer! Like Barbara, I also freak out when every single dang book turns out too short and I have to figure out how to get enough words. I need to write novellas.

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  9. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story? In a sense, yes, because moving from editing and polishing back to conceiving a new idea and beginning to write is a big shift, using very different parts of the brain. As others have said, writing a series makes that a little easier.
    What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn? To trust myself.
    What writing lesson still gives you trouble? To trust myself. 🙂 Remembering that while the ms seems like a mess — and may be one — my subconscious knows more than my conscious mind, and it will all come together.

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  10. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story? Oh my, may heaven help me, I hope not! But that’s exactly what’s been happening because I’ve been floundering. I really, really, really hope with this book I come out the other end with a framework for those to follow. I’m trying to incorporate what I’ve learned as I create templates. I’m working on the character template right now.

    What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn? With the recent reading I’ve done, I’ve fallen for the belief (drank the kool-aid) that I must know the premise before starting anything. I know that I will never start any fiction again without figuring out the premise first. Never.
    What writing lesson still gives you trouble? It’s not so much that it still gives me trouble but that I will soon wrestle Acts 1, 2 and 3 so that I am more comfortable about what goes there. I’ll be re-reading notes from Ramona’s class that I took earlier this year. That’s the best description of what goes in those acts that I’ve found. Now I just have to incorporate that information into my worksheets. Make them my own.

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  11. 1. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story? Wish I could say I’m beginning a new story. Instead, I’m editing/re-writing. In the first two novels, I’ve been haunted by lousy first chapters. Hope now that Ramona pointed out that I was starting too late, I can figure out where to begin in starting a new story.
    2. What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn? The necessity of getting into the protagonist’s mind when writing in third person.
    3. What writing lesson still gives you trouble? Getting readers into my protagonist’s mind. I know what she’s thinking and feeling, but I need to make sure the reader picks up on her thoughts and emotions.

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  12. 1.) Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story? No. Since I write a cozy mystery series, the characters and the setting are already established. The challenge is to work within that formula and present a fresh experience.
    2.) What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn? Write every day. Every. Single. Day.
    3.) What writing lesson still gives you trouble? Grounding the characters with true motivations. Still working on that one.

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