Fast Draft Day 006

I hoped to break 15K today but it just didn’t happen.  I slept in this morning, which I needed desperately, but that put me behind.  Between fending off starving monsters, climbing Mt. Laundry and destroying the kitchen for dinner, I just didn’t get as much done as I hoped.

Today: 1,882

Total:  13,918

Snippet:

The damned quetzal started screeching again.  My ears rang with the sound, and his world suddenly wavered, thin and insubstantial.  I clutched him desperately, slipping further away, fighting to stay in the dream.  Sleek hair slid through my fingers, and I tore brilliant feathers loose in my effort to stay with him.

“Bring me back to life.”  He whispered inside my head, but I couldn’t feel him any longer.  I couldn’t smell his tropical scent, but I could still taste him.  I’d never be able to eat another guava or passion fruit without remembering, aching for him.  “Wake me.  Call me to your side.  Not even Alvarado himself could keep me from you once the gate is open.”

Fast Draft Day 005

I slept in this morning, so I didn’t have any words until late (after work).  Luckily, we took the kids to the community center to swim tonight after dinner.  I sat out by the cafe with my laptop and got 1.5K words, and finally hit the other 500 tonight.  (My goal was to break 12K.)

I’m still following my outline pretty well, but a few things popped up today that were surprising, including a tattoo and a zombie.  Woot!  I love zombies.  However, I’m not really sure this last scene is working very well.  It’s not happening quite like I expected, which would be okay…as long as it’s not boring.  I’m too tired to tell.

A decent day, though, and nothing I can’t fix in revision. 

Today: 2,608

Total:  12,036

Snippet:

“It doesn’t matter what you know or believe when you can see me with your eyes, touch me with your body, taste me with your mouth.  Am I not real, Cassandra Gonzales?  Do I not breathe?  Didn’t you feel how much I ache to take you again?”

Fast Draft Day 004

I barely made it D&E this morning after staying up too late last night watching DVR’d Survivor and America’s Next Top Model.  I actually got up okay (the lure of a programmed pot and fresh hot coffee waiting for me!) but my focus was fuzzy.  I struggled to get a couple of hundred words, and then my mind needed a break.  Still, I made decent progress – though not stunning.

Last night’s words: 770

This morning’s words: 1,144

Total:  8,479

My goal for today is to eventually break 10K.

This is the last longer snippet I’ll share, though I’ll try to do a line or two each day.  This is the first scene with hero and heroine on page together, setting the tone for the erotic components of the story.  What do you think – are they going to burn up the page?

His hands clamped on my upper arms, hauling me up out of the water to him.  The dream again.  I fought to wake up.  I didn’t want to be here.  I didn’t want him to—

I flailed and managed to land a glancing blow to his head, but he chuckled deep in his chest, more like an animal’s purring that any sound a human would make.

“I’m happy to see you too, Cassie.”

I jerked and twisted against his grip with all my strength, but he didn’t slacken his hold.  He didn’t even try to restrain or evade my blows.  Each time he pulled me through the dream, I fought.  I tried to fly free of him, but I couldn’t escape.  We both knew it, and the ease in which he held me to his chest only infuriated me more.  I dug my nails into his shoulders like claws, ripping my way down his meaty biceps. 

His breath hissed out, his eyes slitting dangerously, but he didn’t try to stop me.

“Don’t call me that.  I hate it.  It makes me sound like a little girl.”

The growing darkness in his eyes eased a bit.  “Your mother used to call you that.”

I shuddered, instinctively ducking my head and curling my body tighter into a ball.  “Get out of my mind!”

His lips brushed my temple.  “Forgive me, lady, but that is impossible.”

Tenderness from a massive warrior who could crush me with his smallest finger.  That easily, he made me melt against him.  He had to have felt the tension leaking out of my body, but he didn’t make any move to further his advantage.

Disgusted at myself for letting him win so quickly, I turned to questions.  Analytics and reason.  Not insanity.  Because I had to be insane to think any of this was real.

“Tell me your name.”

Amusement lightened his voice to the warning rumble of an approaching storm.  “You heard a rousing tale about me this afternoon when you toured your grandmother’s property.”

I shook my head, but that only made my lips brush his chest…and the rougher scar tissue over his heart.  Supposedly where Alvarado’s spear had pierced his chest and killed him.  “If you’re really Tecun Uman, the Guatemalan national hero, then how can we understand each other?  He died in 1524!”

“Magic.”

Of course.  I forced out a derisive snort.  “I don’t believe in magic.”

“Besides, I’m not really Tecun.  Or rather, he was not the man people thought him to be.  He was more.  He was legend.”

“So you’re legend?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re not real.”

He didn’t answer.  His heart beat strongly beneath my cheek.  He stroked my back, his palms so big and broad I could imagine him ripping his enemies’ heads off with his bare hands.  I didn’t want the magic of his hands.  I didn’t want to succumb yet again to his seductive dreams that left me sweaty and needy.

In desperation, I threw out more questions.  “Who are you?  Really?  If you’re not him…”

“I am him, but more.  You won’t believe the truth.”

I pulled back so I could see his solemn dark eyes.  He traced my face as though he was carving my image into his memory forever.  “Try me.”

He arched a brow, his lips quirking.  He lowered his head toward mine but I shoved him in the chest.  “No!”

He didn’t have to stop—a gnat would have as much impact upon his strength—but he paused immediately at my request.  I’d learned very quickly in these dreams that he would always take my refusal seriously, despite the darker edge to his sensuality.  He’d enjoyed my initial struggle too much to hide his erection digging into me.  I’d fought him, even bloodied his arms, but I hadn’t told him no.

“You know what I meant.  Tell me the truth.  I’ve learned things since the first…”  Swallowing hard, I averted my gaze.  The first dream.  The first time I died in his arms, and he brought me back to life.

“Some people know me as Kukulkan.”  When that name didn’t garner my response, he added, “Great Feathered Serpent.  Quetzalcoatl to the people of Teotihuacan.  Tlahuizcalpantechultli, Lord of the Star of the Dawn, but only when my wrath had poured out upon my enemies.”

I made myself look back into his face.  Chiseled, proud, strong, larger than life, yes, but very much human.  “So you want me to believe you’re a god?”

“Some have thought me to be a god because they didn’t understand how my kind could come and go through the gates between our worlds.  For a thousand years, I often walked your earth as a man, until I died as Tecun Uman K’iqab, Black Butterfly Grandson of K’iqab.  I haven’t been able to pass through the gate since.  They’re locked until the Return at the end of the age.”

Now I could roll my eyes and laugh, because I really didn’t buy any of his crap.  “December 21, 2012, yeah, I’ve heard all about it.  The Maya predicted the end of the world thousands of years ago.  Sure.”

“No,” he replied in that calm, solemn way of his that carried so much silent weight and strength that I could almost believe he was a god.  “Not the end of your world.  The time of our Return to your world.  A new age will begin.”

“With Mayan gods walking around again.”

He nodded, letting some of his humor return in the sensual curve of his mouth and the teasing tone to his voice.  “Some thought us to be gods.  Especially when they were taken to be our lovers.”

Taken.  My stomach muscles fluttered, both with fear and an arousal I couldn’t deny.  Another woman might have thought he’d used those words lightly.  I took my date to dinner.  I took—chose—a new lover.

In these nightly visitations, he’d already hinted that he’d take me every way possible, preferably with me kicking and screaming all the way.

Fast Draft Day 003

I didn’t get quite as much accomplished this morning — but I expected that after the huge day yesterday.  Details, details, they’re crucial for some of these sites we’re visiting.  And the spelling!  Ack!  Q’umarkaj.  Utatlan.  Even Antigua (I always want to spell it with a q for some reason.)  Luckily I’ve found several pictures that help me set the mood.  I’ve been listening mostly to Apocalyptica and Evanescence on the play list.  Especially “Bring Me to Life” and “I Don’t Care.”

Today so far: 1,390

Total: 6,565

Snippet:  first draft only, subject to heavy revision later, still from the opening scene.  Some real life experiences getting added here — That Man just started a timeshare sales position this year!

“How long have I been bugging you to take a vacation?”  Natalie turned to me, grinning, but the concern in her eyes cut me to the quick.  “You need this, Cass.”

I nodded and some of the shadows eased from her eyes.  “It just seems like a fairytale.”

“You deserve a fairytale.”  She tried to laugh, but we both knew how close I’d come to dying.  She’d been the one to give me mouth to mouth until the paramedics arrived.  We’d always been as close as sisters, but now I owed her my life, too.  “Besides, whoever heard of a timeshare salesperson who never actually goes on vacation herself?”

Grateful that she returned to our long-standing banter instead of driving me to tears, I gave her a friendly shove.  “The top salespeople never go on vacation, silly.  We’re too busy making money selling other people their dream vacations.”

“Well, you’ve never sold a view like this.”  She swept her hand toward the glistening lake and the hazy volcanoes in the distance.  “This is pretty dreamy, Cass.”

I could only nod in agreement.

“Hey, you never finished your story, Jose.  Why does the quetzal have a red breast?”

Thanks to Nana, I knew this part of the legend.

“Believing the horse Alvarado rode to be a part of a terrible man-beast, Tecun Uman beheaded the creature.  Unharmed, Alvarado took the opportunity to stab the great warrior in the heart with his spear.  As Tecum lay dying, his quetzal flew down to lie weeping on his breast until he drew his last breath.  Ever since, the quetzal’s breast has been stained with Tecun’s blood as a reminder.”

“A reminder of what?  The Spaniards’ cruelty?”

Jose turned to me with a peculiar look on his face, careful and reverent.  “That someday, he will return.”

Uneasy, I jerked my gaze back to the lake.  I didn’t know if I could ever see so much water and not remember.  The sound of crashing metal on metal.  Thick smoke on the air, the stench of gasoline.  The screams.  Our small pontoon had been broadsided by a party boat, more of a yacht than Lake Taneycomo could really support.

Bone-chilling cold water had closed over my head while fireworks exploded behind my eyes.  Blood on the water.  My blood.  I knew I was dying.  Darkness.

I thought near-death experiences were supposed to be tunnels of light and a blessed feeling of peace, but I’d seen an obsidian pyramid.  A man had pulled me out of the water and lifted me to the sun blazing at the top.  I remembered the feel of his big hands on my back, the heat of his body bringing my cold, dead limbs back to life, his mouth on mine as he gave me his breath. Long blue-green feathers had hung in my face along with his hair, as shiny and black as the pyramid.

Most of all, I remembered his voice whispering in my ear.  Deep and rumbly, his voice had vibrated my bones.  “You’re well-named, Cassandra, for you can bring light to my people.  Help me return.  Only you can bring me through the gate.”

Even now, that distinctive growling voice made my bones want to dissolve my body into a pile of goo. 

Help me return.

Fast Draft Day 001

Up at 5 AM this morning with coffee waiting on me.  I didn’t sleep well — but then I never do before a big push like this.  I made the mistake of thinking about how I was going to start this novella — priming the pump, so to speak — and then I couldn’t get it to shut off.  Plus it stormed last night, and Middle was up late fighting sudden 101 fever after a day of company (I hope she didn’t infect anyone!).  She’s very upset because she has perfect attendance.  :-( 

A slow start at first but then I managed to finish the first scene.  It’ll need a lot of work later, of course, but I’m happy with what I got so far.

1,393 words.

First line:

I heard a quetzal calling outside my window again last night.

Fast Draft Fail

So fast draft hasn’t been so fast.

Usually a personal and difficult challenge does the trick for me, but this time, I just can’t get my motivation in gear.  It’s like I’m stuck in neutral.  I have a lot on my plate at the Evil Day Job, and still can’t park in the garage because of the stuff I haven’t unpacked.  All my brain cells are depleted by the time I get my Word file open.  Dark & Early has been a bust — I’m just zonked in the morning.

On the bright side, I have my “twelve rules” figured out for the most part.  I need one more “big bang” rule that ties everything together, and a few more characterization details that I hope will come out in fleshing the draft.  Even if I can finish a first draft by July 31st, I’m not going to get it edited and polished.  I’ll just see what I can do.  Worst case, I may have a nice story to give away on the website this Christmas.  ;-)

Mini Fast Draft: Day One

Yesterday was a pretty good start to Fast Draft; today, not so much.

That Man had to be up at 4:15 yesterday to make a long drive to KS, so I got up too.  I made 2K in the morning before work on the new story, which was exactly my goal.  Considering I didn’t have any real plotting done yet and only a vague idea of what I wanted to happen, I was pleased.

Over lunch, I read project #1 (first draft finished Sunday) to make sure it didn’t suck, and to my relief, I think it’s a pretty good story.  Needs more work, though — I’ve got a few plot things I want to amp up, tie together, etc.

While cooking dinner, I began plotting more on project #2.  I wrote out note cards for the scenes I did this morning and roughed out the next few scenes as well.  Like Dear Sir, I’m Yours had letters that tied the plot and character together, this story has a little element that I want to start each chapter off with.  The heroine is an attorney and has a list of rules that she never breaks, else disaster results.  She broke one right before the story opens, and now she’s dealing with the fallout and forced to call on someone who really messes up her careful ordered existence.

The hero, of course.  :mrgreen:

Ideally, since this is a Christmas-themed novella, I’d be tickled to end up with 12 rules, and thus 12 chapters to handle those rules, but we’ll see.  I wrote up a little backstory for each character, but I’m still missing the characters’ static traits.  Since those have to be set early and shown repeatedly, I already know that’s going to be a revision item I need to allow time for.  I have the theme and the metaphor for that theme, so that’s good.  Just need those crucial static traits.

Of course, I went to bed very early last night to enable another Dark & Early session this morning, but the phone rang off the hook and then I couldn’t sleep.  So I’m starting off seriously behind today.  Somehow, somewhere, I need to find time to get 2K new words and brainstorm static traits!!

Any little Christmas, dating rules, or attorney jokes you want to share?  Pithy little sayings that will be fun for the hero to use against my heroine.  Stuff like “Love isn’t worth getting sued over,” or “People lie — the law never does.”

Preparing for Fast Draft

The weekend yielded good wordage, but I didn’t finish the story as I hoped.  I’m sitting just under 8.5K, so I made decent progress.  I also outlined the rest of the story.  All along, I knew how I wanted to end, and I knew roughly what happened in the middle, but I didn’t have all the details explicitly listed in my mind.  Seeing them on paper, I’m worried.  I think I’m only about half way through this story.  Ack! 

It’s going to be at least 15K.  I’m just now getting ready to send the protagonist on a rescue and the resulting “capture” of the heart (yes, I seem to be writing a romance yet again, but this one is “sweet” and not erotic).  Then there’s a bit of a lull that leads up to the humdinger of a climax.

So the good news:  I know exactly where I’m going and how to get there.  Bad news: I have way too many words left, and another (even longer) story to write post haste.

I did get some work done on my workshop planning for LB&LI but I won’t be ready to post until Wednesday.  I’ve been talking with my accountability partner and writing buddy, Jenna Reynolds, aka Anna Black, and I think we’re going to do a workshop “in concert,” both talking about how to write emotional, transformative sex scenes.  She has a very interesting take on the writer’s journey with respect to sex scenes, which I can’t wait to read more about.  Even though we’re loosely going to talk about the same things, we’ll be coming at them from different angles, with different perspectives, so I’m hoping you’ll find our discussion very interesting!

Meanwhile, I’ll be pushing hard to finish this story.  “Storms as She Walks” needs to be done by Friday, and I need to have all my character work and plotting done for “Gifted,” so I can slam through it the following week.  Gah, it’s going to be very tight indeed.  I really need the last week of July for edits.  I’m trying to write pretty clean, but a first draft is still just a first draft.  I’ve left several [notes to myself] and one needs some research on colleges that might have taught Northern black doctors in the 1850s leading up to the Civil War.  Anybody know?  I’ll be forever in your debt!

*cracks knuckles*  Hold on to your butts for a crazy ride the last two weeks of July!

Temporary AWOL

I need to get a LOT done this weekend.  If I have any hope at all of hitting both deadlines by July 31st, I need to finish the first story by Monday.  I’ve only got 3K of a 10-15K story, so yeah, I need to really crack that whip.  Then I’m going to have to pull some kind of Fast Draft out of my ass for the other story, which needs to be 20-30K.  *headdesk*  Anyone want to participate?  Shout out in comments.

Plus, next week is Left Behind and Loving It, so I need to get my posts written, which requires some research, and of course, re-reading of some of my favorite sex scenes.  For research, I swear!

So don’t expect another update on the blog until Monday.  I’ll report then whether I was successful or not.  I’ll tweet my progress on Twitter if you want any updates.  Gregar’s just about got me dragged into the Well, so I’ll leave you with a single line from my WIP.  After all my stewing about “branding,” I find it highly ironic that I’m writing in yet another genre.  *snort* 

“Well,” Abe drawled out, “I got to wonderin’ exactly why we never saw you take a piss.”

Need for Speed

I’m going to date myself by admitting that Top Gun was a huge hit when I was in high school.  I had a friend who always quoted the title of this entry as we did the high and low five.

I’m feeling the need for speed.  Aren’t you?

Since NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I’m slowly working my way back up to my 1K min in my Dark & Early session, I thought I’d do a quick checklist for myself as much as you on ways to get and keep the word production up.

1. Set clear, attainable, incremental goals.  Something like “I want to write 1K in 1 hour” is good, where “I want to write 5K today” may not be as manageable unless you define a careful strategy to reach that goal.  Can you actually write 5K in a single day?  Do you actually have all day?  Goal setting is a whole nother blog post, so I won’t go into endless detail, but I do feel strongly that setting goals is an important strategy for increasing speed.

Side note:  Don’t let your overachiever out when setting goals.  I’m the worst at setting pie-in-the-sky impossible goals.  (e.g. I want to finish Revision Xibalba in a single month!)  It’s much better to build your ego and confidence with small goals that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you can reach.  Plus, then you earn rewards!  Which leads to:

2. Plan simple rewards for hitting each mini and daily goal.  For example, I have a goal that says I don’t get to read my blog feeds in the morning until I write 1K.  I need my Paperback Writer fix!

3. Plan your schedule to meet your goals.  It doesn’t do any good to say “I want to write 1K today” if you don’t know when or how you’ll actually be able to write. 

  • Do what works for you and schedule the time for yourself. 
  • Do as much as you can to enable yourself. 

For me, that means laying out all my clothes the night before in the bathroom so I don’t wake up That Man.  I also prep my coffee pot and set out my favorite coffee cup.  I have an inspiring playlist (that varies by project) on Napster that I simply bring up and play.  Lastly but the most important for me personally, is a plan to “meet” my accountability partner online.  If I know she’s going to be up and wondering where the heck I am, then that helps me get up when the alarm goes off Dark & Early.

3. Take breaks.  This might seem counter-intuitive, and I sheepishly admit this is one I try to weasle out of if given half the chance.  When I’m in the flow, the last thing I want to do is take a break.  However, my wrists and shoulders certainly thank me, even if I just pause for 5 minutes to refill my cup and do a few stretches.

4. Eliminate distractions.  Don’t bring up your e-mail, because then if it dings or you notice you have an unread message, well, duh, you’ll want to read it.  Work with your family and friends so they know your scheduled writing time is important and sacred.  (That’s why I get up Dark & Early — no one else is up.)

5.  Use a notebook.  This is something I learned from Fast Draft (link below).  A notebook helps me avoid endless time sinks. 

Don’t fall into the trap of Googling something “quick” while writing, because it’s super easy to get sucked into way too much internet time.  Nothing ticks me off more in the morning than making that mistake and looking up to see that it’s time to go to work or get the family up — my writing time has simply disappeared.

  • Write down research notes, questions, things you want to address later. 
  • In your file, make a note to yourself if needed and then move on.  I make [notes to myself] like this all the time.  Or you could do *** note fix this! ***.  Whatever — just make it something you can easily search for later.
  • Prep for the next day’s session.  After your current writing session is over, jot a few notes about what you still need to do or where you should go from here.  This is helpful immediately after your session is over, but you could also jot notes at any time.  e.g. 10 minutes while waiting at school to pick up the monsters or 5 minutes while the coffee brews.

For me personally, the writing by hand is very important.  It frees me from the computer and helps tap into another area of my brain. 

6. Don’t stall yourself.  If a scene isn’t going well, make a note and skip it.  There’s no law of the universe that says you have to get every scene fully perfect first.  Little things can mess up a perfectionist, like struggling to find the right word, the best opening line, the perfect end-of-chapter hook.  Don’t!  Don’t stress out about being “perfect.”  That’s what [notes to yourself] and the notebook are for, like:

  • [word choice]
  • [something pithy here]
  • [stuck, skipping ahead to next scene, try to show…blah blah blah]
  • [what is the character’s motivation?]
  • [where the hell is the CONFLICT???]
  • [what happened to the backpack?]

These are all examples of notes I’ve written to myself and MOVED ON.

You can fix ANYTHING.  Later.  Nobody is going to see this draft unless you choose to send it to them.  If it’s a mess, who cares?  The most important thing is to finish.  Get the story down.  It’s a given assumption that you will have to revise.  However, it does not make sense to revise a story that is not finished.

7. Take care of yourself.  Don’t only drink your favorite caffeinated beverage — make sure you’re getting enough fluids.  Sometimes I want to graze while I write — hello, low fat microwave popcorn instead of chips.  The new thing I’m doing this year is to plan a walk, even if it’s only 20 minutes, every day.  When I’m working the Evil Day Job, I don’t always make it (meetings, urgent issues), but I have 9 vacation days planned in Nov. and there’s no excuse.  I *will* walk those days.

Helpful Links:

Do any of you have recommendations for meeting your need for speed and increasing your writing production?  Please share in comments!