Friday, June 14, 2013

Scribbled: revelations from #romanceclass (Part 01 of 02)

Early this year, I took an online #romanceclass under Mina V Esguerra. Her challenge for the class was pretty straightforward: write a contemporary romance novella in less than a year. But I wasn't sure how far I was going to go with it. At that time, I was already writing two separate stories. One was a cozy mystery; the other, a contemporary romance. Although the latter seemed to be a good fit for the requirements of the class, I wanted to experiment with a plot that had intrigued me before but never got around to writing.

Fast-forward to five months later.  I religiously attended the first couple of face-to-face meetings but when it became apparent that I wasn't going to finish my Act 1 on schedule, I skipped the rest. Good thing Mina reminded us that it was okay to continue the class; I started really buckling down to work with about a month left. Thanks to Mina's class, I realized so many things:

Revelation #1: I liked having so much time devoted to plotting. I've always done outlines.  But while my previous outlines were written in very general strokes, writing things down as class assignments made them seem set in stone. I tried to work out my plot and my character's motivations early on. That way, I had enough time to puzzle out (and solve) the loopholes and pacing dilemmas that would always plague me while writing.

My #romanceclass notes. I broke things down into chapters and decided
what each chapter's purpose was to the story. Look, muffins!

Revelation #2: Forced (daily) writing time worked for me. When the deadline was looming, I cut myself from the internet every 11PM so that I could have 1 hour and a half of uninterrupted writing. Then during my last week of writing, work eased a bit, and I could now keep my file open from mid-morning until late at night. I forced myself to finish before work deadlines came in. The result? I finished the novella in 27 days.

My friends and I used a chart to track our progress and it was very helpful for me to note how many words I had been writing each day and how close I was to finishing the novella. I would usually set different deadlines for myself. Once I noticed that my daily word count had an interesting pattern (today, 1k words; tomorrow, 1.5k words; the next day, back to 1k). It became almost like a game to make sure I met the night's output. (Sorry, I'm OC-OC that way.) Or I'd tell myself I'd finish certain scenes first (today, first fight; tomorrow, kilig). Whenever I felt my eyes drooping, I'd just push myself to just meet whatever personal goal I had set myself for the day.

Revelation #3:
I like writing with friends. I felt that I wasn't in this alone. We cheered each other on. We brainstormed for solutions. When there were days that I felt depressed about my writing, all I needed to do to feel better was to see how far my friends' works have progressed.

Revelation #4:
I didn't write straight. Sometimes I skipped around. It was my way of moving on when I was stuck. And because there was a plot outline to follow, I knew where to take my characters without losing the flow. Of course when I was tying things together, I had to re-read and double-check. But that was an easier task to me than forcing myself to finish a scene that I wasn't feeling.

It's hard to capture every little bit that I learned from class. Trust me, this isn't even half of it! I'll gather the rest of my thoughts and just post my other realizations soon.

[EDITED: Part two here.]

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