Tag Archives: Jeffrey Eugenides

Week Two: Online Writing Group

It’s the second week of the Summer 2015 Online Writing Group!

It sounds like most everyone is on track and that makes me so happy! But I’m going to be the outlier and admit that I didn’t meet my goals for week one. I could tell you that I’ve been busy rehearsing for a play (I have!) or that I’m useless if I don’t go into the office where my little pomodoro picture is hanging on the wall (I am!), but you all know that all excuses are bullshit. This week I was just a slack-dog.

Yes, the person running this group is a slack-dog. What’s a slack-dog, you ask? Here you go:

Slack-dog \ˈslak ˈdȯg, ˈdäg\ : one who does not do her weekly writing

Pictured Right–Slack-dog \ˈslak ˈdȯg, ˈdäg\ : one who does not do her weekly writing   Pictured Left–Regular-dog \ˈre-gyə-lər, ˈre-g(ə-)lər also ˈrā- ˈdȯg, ˈdäg\ : one who does do her weekly writing (if writing =  eating, sleeping, running, and pooping)

So now you know what you’ll turn into if you miss your weekly goals! It’s not really that bad; but I do hope to look like a normal human again next week once I’ve done some writing.

Here are Everyone’s Week Two Updates & New Goals:

  • Anne: This week I plan on continuing my writing at a slow pace and to FIND time for myself to write this week come hell or high water. I will begin some research for another novel in stories that has been rattling around in my brain for the past month or so. I don’t want to give too much away (in case it doesn’t work the way I planned) but it will be about a local historic hotel in my area that has been closed for some years now. This hotel is important to many people in the area and I want to show the history of this place and why it was so important. I want to at least have a rough draft of this going by the end of the eight weeks, but maybe get around five pages written, or at least get an outline written for this week. It’s mainly going to be a research week but I will try to get something written. I have decided that the novel in story format will work perfectly for this project as well. This novel in stories is going to focus more on the place and the lasting impact this hotel has had on the area residents. As for Circus Man, it’s still going along, slowly and I will be doing more research for this as well this week. *
  • Anuar: So far my writing has been going pretty good and I was able to finish all my goals. My goals for this upcoming week are the following: add at least two chapters to the book I’m writing; and write a guest post. (Anuar’s guest post will be featured next week!)
  • Bev: Continue work on spring break letter (minimum 3 pomodoros), which is taking longer than I thought it would; continue researching agents (minimum 2 pomodoros); and re-read intro to 7 Bridges and cut even more spurious content (minimum 2 pomodoros). (I’m so glad the pomodoros are working for you, Bev!)
  • Bonnie: (Bonnie is out of the country, so we’ll assume she’s met her goals and is processing her Ireland experiences for the project she’ll start when she returns.)
  • Curt: Baby steps : Write every day. Aim for 1500 words at the end of the week.**
  • Laura: Since I came woefully short of my first week goal, my second week goal is to open the story, and just start working. I’m going to analyze the first page to see if I’ve clearly answered Lisa Cron’s three questions (see below), and if not, I’ll start my work there.
  • Lisa: I will be trying to get through another five pages this week. So far, so good. 🙂
  • Mary: Week two goal is to edit my blog post. (After I finish writing it because we all know I didn’t finish. [thank you, Mary, for being an amazing slack-dog, too! I feel better])
  • Matthew: (Matthew contributed this week’s guest post [it’s going up tomorrow, so check back!], and he has met his goal for this week.)
  • Mike: Week two goal is to complete an outline of the new story, consolidating the existing drafts of the two previous stories, and the notes from the earlier workshop on one of the two stories.
  • Robert: I’m at 40,700 words, so I wrote maybe 700 – 1000 words. We are busy prepping for our vacation, so I didn’t expect to get much done. Once the vacation starts, well, I don’t think much writing will occur. That’s how it goes. When I return, then I’ll get back to the project. But I’ll be reading this blog! Keep on writing, fellow writers! (Thanks, and safe travels, Robert!)
  • Samantha: My week two goals are to begin to rewrite the first chunk of the story, as I have reread it and hate it to bits. (I told Samantha she has to hate it so that she can rewrite it and make it amazing.)
  • Steve: Draft of Mendelssohn paper by June 10.

*Anne, this sounds amazing! I have two books to recommend for you: 1. Hotel World by Ali Smith–it’s not a collection of short stories, but a collection of narratives/voices centered around a hotel. Smith is a terrific writer and it’s an interesting book. And 2. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. Although I am confident that this is not the genre or style you’re working towards, I’m going to recommend you read Haunted for an example of a novel through short stories as well as first person [sort of] narration. Be warned, though, that Palahniuk is at his graphic best (worst?) in this book, especially with the story “Guts.” (writers, what other stories-as-novel do you recommend?)

**Curt is new to the group. His eight-week objectives are to complete at least three chapters of Book 2 (of his Legacy of the Guardians series); maybe finish one of several short stories that have been stuck in limbo for so long; send another round of query letters to agents for Book 1. Welcome to the group, Curt!

All right, so everyone (besides me) seems to be on track and getting it done–good work, writers!

This week, as part of my slack-doggedness, I started reading Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. This book, by Lisa Cron, is a marriage of the two things I love: books on writing and books on brains.

Cron’s first chapter begins the explanation of why humans crave story and what we writers can do to create a compelling first page and first line. In large part, writers must make sure to answer the following three questions (and quick!) in order to keep the reader engaged:

  1. Whose story is it?
  2. What’s happening here?
  3. What is at stake? (Cron 19)

As readers, Cron says, “we are looking for a reason to care.” So when we write, we must make sure to begin our story with a “ball already in play” (13).

I give you, then, a job this week, writers: re-read your first line and your first page. Will your reader be able to answer Cron’s three questions? If not, revise.

And to inspire you, here are some great first lines (because after reading Cron’s first chapter, I immediately started pulling books off my library shelves to read the first lines. [this, then, led to me rereading, in its entirety, my favorite book Franny and Zooey, thus further procrastinating my writing]):

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen)

“I still get nightmares.” (House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski)

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” (Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides)

“Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up.” (Under the Skin, Michel Faber)

“Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K, for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” (The Trial, Franz Kafka)

“Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.” (The Shining, Stephen King)

“The circus arrives without warning.” (The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern)

“Gerard Maines lived across the hall from a woman named Benna, who four minutes into any conversation always managed to say the word penis.” (Anagrams, Lorrie Moore)

“This was supposed to be a writers’ retreat.” (Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk)

“Never never tell, Maddy-Monkey, they warned me, it’s Death if you tell any of Them but now after so many years I am going to tell, for who’s to stop me?” (Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Joyce Carol Oates)

“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of Communism.” (The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx)

“When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.” (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami)

“Though brilliantly sunny, Saturday morning was overcoat weather again, not just topcoat weather, as it had been all week and as everyone had hoped it would stay for the big weekend–the weekend of the Yale game.” (Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger)

“Who’s there?” (Hamlet, William Shakespeare)

“Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway.” (White Teeth, Zadie Smith)

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson)

“When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.” (Chapter 1, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy)

“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.” (A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole)

“The person to whom this book is dedicated, Phoebe Hurty, is no longer among the living, as they say.” (Breakfast of Champions [Or, Goodbye Blue Monday!], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

“I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies.” (Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace)

“I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital/Columbus, Ohio,/USA — /a country caught/between Black and White.” (Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson)

Now, writers, go on and write, reflect, revise, and let us know how it goes. Check back tomorrow for Matthew’s amazing guest post. Good luck, and good writing!

Cron, Lisa. Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2012. Print.

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