Week Two: Summer 2016 Online Writing Group

It’s week two of the second annual Lake Projects Summer Online Writing Group, and everyone is trucking along!

Last week everyone shared their big picture and first week goals, and Bev wrote a great guest post that included a link to a 99u speech by Dr. Brené Brown. Bev’s post and Brown’s address gave me clarity, and I hope you take the time to check them out.

This week, in addition to setting Week Two goals, we get some writerly advice, and we welcome Mike to the group. Mike participated in the last summer’s session, and we’re thrilled to have him back this year. His goals are as follows:

My Big Picture goal is to revise or write the first half of a novel in progress, resulting in coherent drafts of chapters that work from start to finish (basically one chapter a week, revising or writing new about 4000 words).

My Week One goal was to revise the first chapter.

Welcome back, Mike!

Week Two Goals:

  • Alena: First of all, shout out to Aliena (because her name is so similar to mine)! Second, and most surprisingly to me, I actually did meet my week one goals. Not only that, but I met them early. I guess deadlines really do help! My week two goals are to finish revising the novel excerpt that I will be reading at the Art on the Fox festival and to rehearse reading it aloud. I also would like to continue the progress I made during week one on a short story, called ‘Two Bakas,’ which is based on a nightmare. My last goal for week two is to proofread my friend’s script.
    (Everyone in the McHenry County area should come to see Alena and a group of other MCC students read their original work at Art on the Fox this Saturday! I’ll be there [in an MCC t-shirt (seriously)] which means that you should come, too!)
  • Aliena: WEEK 2 GOALS: Begin gathering inspiration materials for long-term projects, clean off a workspace in my apartment… still.
  • Anne D.: I’m not sure of my goal for this week. It’s been a heck of a week and life hit me hard this week. I’m going to say the same as last week. (The first couple of weeks are for getting into the swing of things, Anne!)
  • Anne H.: I had an exciting week last week, with some storm damage at my house and then a week of talking to the power company, contractors, insurance people, and the bank. Big fun! I have out-of-town guests this week (I’m still cleaning now), and then a week-long conference next week. So I’m setting my expectations for writing productivity LOW.
    I did not write every day last week, but I did work on the Prince poem yesterday, drafting about half of it, and I’ll keep going this week with that. I also didn’t get my writing area totally set up, but I did make a few chips away at the project, including some set-up this morning. So I’ll keep going there, too.
  • BevThis week: Personal blog post done (visit Bev’s blog, Fiacre’s Spade), guest blog post done, Ch. 7, February done, plus a revisit of Ch. 6, January.
    Next week: Ch. 8, March revisions. Blog post about a trip to the International Crane Foundation (if all goes well and we don’t melt while we are there on Saturday!)
  • Emily: Well, I didn’t make much progress last week, as I forgot I also had to write a grant proposal (maybe this is why I feel like I don’t get anything done). But I got that done pretty much, so this week I am going to have the same goals as last week — write FIVE questions for the book and review a draft of the breast cancer paper and make a plan for revision.
  • Katherine: Week One’s goal of tackling my to do list was successful. I did also add one new complex item to my list for next week.
    Week Two’s goal is to tackle that multifaceted new item on my list. My other hope is to start breaking the work into “chapters.” I know I need length, but my hope is that by breaking the work into chapters or sections, I will see ways to further develop what I have rather than trying to create entirely new concepts that may feel forced and unnecessary.
  • Laura: Although I missed a couple of days of writing last week, I got work done on a BF article and my bigger project. My Week Two objectives are to write our second online writing group blog post, to keep working on the BF article, and to write every day, no matter what.
  • LisaI will be attempting to finish chapter #1 this week. I actually got some good work done last week. Not as much as I would have liked, but it’s a start! Woo Hoo!
    (Ditto your woo hoo, Lisa!)
  • MattWeek One was pretty productive. I worked my way up to the scene I needed to replace, removing all traces of its various antecedents.  
    Plotting out a completely different sequence, one that would satisfy all the same basic needs, was a challenge but I think it has improved the story.
    After finishing that scene and grafting it into the story, I kept moving forward, doing some further revision over about half the length of The Liminal Man. I think the most fun I had was completely cutting a later scene, about four pages that I’ve always loved but always known were probably not right. I replaced it with a single smartass paragraph and I feel a lot better about it.
    However, in spite of this progress, I have yet to meaningfully address the tone problem, which is my whole reason for this set of revisions. It’s a bit dreary and up its own ass, which is sometimes necessary for character reasons. Both the story and the protagonist struggle through and break out of it as we go along, but I am looking for opportunities to give the reader more to respond to than the main character gets. The changes I’ve made this week are generally in that direction, but I have mostly been concerned with just the one scene.
    So, for Week Two, it’s back to the beginning. No specific scene work in mind, no page count, just go back to the beginning and start making it better. (Thank you, Matt, for describing your draft as “a bit dreary and up its own ass”)
  • Mike: My Week Two goal is going to be to already take a break from that big picture goal in order to complete revisions on a short story I want to submit for publication by the end of June.
  • Ray: Week one goals were met, just barely, but I have an outline for one major character from start to finish, and have begun to actually write the storyline. My week two goals are to have three chapters finished, rough draft style by the weekend.
  • Robert: Week Two: 1,000 words a day for a total of 7,000.
  • Rosalie: I did my goal for last week; I finished my European Tour. There were several times during the week where I thought I didn’t have enough time, but I did squeeze the work in. Next week is harder for me because I have a full calendar but I intend to start my Spanish Art tour and write an introduction and three lesson plans.
  • Sarah: I finished my gallery writing project. This week I am writing four pages on Realism and Abstraction in Cubist art. Good times. (It is, Sarah!)

Cheers to everyone, for getting it done!

Now for a bit of writerly advice and a writing assignment. A few weeks ago, I read a terrific article on the Ploughshares blog, and I think that you all might find it interesting (especially Sarah and Rosalie, who are working on writing about visual media).

The article, by Annie Weatherwax, is called “Conflict & Tension: What Writers Can Learn From How Visual Artists Use Contrast.” In the short piece, Weatherwax, who is a visual artist and writer, talks about using contrast in writing. The contrasts between speech and action, between action and tone, and between expectation and reality make for interesting and unique writing. These contrasts can also aid character development, move a plot and story forward, and build an authentic world.

So your assignment this week, writers, is to develop at least one contrast in whatever you’re writing. For our fiction writers, this is easy: where will your character say one thing but mean another? Where will they reveal their authentic self only to belie it on the next page? And why does it matter to the character and to the story? Answer those questions and then write the dialogue or scene. For our non-fiction writers, I’d like you to contrast artists, works, movements, or artistic principles (Sarah & Rosalie), or research practices, expectations, tests, or avenues of information (Emily). What does the contrast say about the the artist, the work, the practice, the science, or the context?

And, yes, I did write that “this is easy,” and of course I will believe it is until I have to do the assignment myself. Once I’ve realized that it is not easy, I will kneel down before you, and you can throw water balloons at me as punishment.

Image Credit: Time

But until then, good writing, everyone!

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