30-Day Writer's Boot Camp, Writing

Off Track Already?!

Day 3: How am I off track already?

Day 3 of my writer’s boot camp experience has already gone off course. I can only blame myself, baseball, and grading. I try to do baseball and grading at the same time. For example, Camdon had a double-header last night so I spent three hours sitting in my chair at the game grading papers and trying to enter and update grades on my iPad mini. Admittedly, it sounds laughable, but I constantly suffer from feeling guilty.

My students will ask me when something is going to be in the gradebook, and I tell them that I will try really hard to get it in that night. Then another class asks the same thing. I’m constantly thinking to myself, how in the heck am I going to get this stuff into the gradebook? Even after working for three hours last night, the inch-high pile of papers that I graded didn’t look impressive by any means. And I have a pile of papers 6 times that sitting in my backpack. One could say that I carry my guilt on my shoulders… literally.

I really want to make writing a habit, and I felt guilty the entire time I graded for a myriad of reasons.

  1. I wasn’t paying full attention to Camdon while he was playing.
  2. I am the slowest grader in man’s history and I felt bad that some of my assignments should have been done much earlier.
  3. I was already off two days on my writer’s boot camp day.

Even while playing softball, I’m sometimes in the dugout grading while our team bats. Last weekend, I had a couple of hours in between my double-headers so I sat in some shady grass and graded. This is where Rachel would tell me that she’s going to “break out the world’s tiniest violin and play a little song on it.” It’s time to get my stuff together and just do what needs to be done. No more punishing myself. It’s time to come out of the corner and do the work.


So here I am sitting on my bed and typing this post at 10 p.m. after Cam’s baseball game. It’s not an early morning, Rachel, but I’m making the time you and your book told me to make even though I’m tired. Day 3’s work is to come up with a schedule for writing which I did do. I originally scheduled my time right after school while I would still be at work but not under contracted hours. At that time, I would have a quiet place to work with no distractions. Baseball has affected that, so I will have to determine a new plan. However, even though I have not written in two days, I have had time to solidify a few thoughts about my goals.

Goal Setting Thoughts

In my earlier post, the goal was set to write for 20 minutes each day. Secretly, I was hoping for more, but I’m a realist and the idea was to just create some habits that would get the rock rolling. I discussed how I really need a plan for writing if I ever hope to get anything accomplished and any writing finished. I’m not sure, though, that I just want to work on one WIP (Rachel’s acronym for Work in Progress). Three WIP’s come to mind now that there has been some time to think.

  1. I really like this blog. I didn’t do it justice before, but it has potential to be something really fun and cool that could grow and develop. A couple of days ago, I showed my 9th grade classes this blog and told them about the idea for my WIP about the vampires. Today, I showed one of my classes the incomplete piece of writing I posted yesterday and realized that this is such a great teaching tool. At the end of class, one of the students told me that she was thinking about my WIP idea and was so intrigued that she drew the two main characters. How cool is that?! Also, another class was so intrigued about my fear of having others read my fiction, that they came up with a challenge for me which you can see above. Now I have three years to get this done. Sneaky little 9th graders.
  2. At some point soon, I would like to begin blogging about education, specifically teaching English to high school students. The years have changed drastically and so have the students needs, desires, and behaviors. Being a teacher now is signficantly different from just five years ago. The concern here is that I don’t know if I can come up anything truly unique for a blog such as that, so I would have to do some serious research on it.
  3. The WIP mentioned on Day 2 (Not the Vampire Diaries) as the main focus of this camp has been this kernel of an idea in my brain for a good five or six years. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy/science fiction lately, making it easier to see how I might incorporate my ideas into an alternate Earth in order to free me from the concerns I have had regarding religion.

Despite careening off track for a couple of days, the time may have done some good. I feel that there is some direction now, and I’m really excited about that. This post also took me well over an hour to write, so I’ve more than met my 20 minute goal requirement for the day. Does that make up for missing two days? Rachel will probably say no way!

Thanks for reading.


30-Day Writer's Boot Camp, Fiction

I Didn’t Cry When She Died

Day 2 of the 30-Day Writer’s Boot Camp: Setting Real-Life Goals

Today I’m supposed to determine my writing goals, but I’m supposed to immerse myself in writing for one hour first. I’ve decided to use a story starter to get the ideas flowing, and I’ve italicized the story starter in case you want to use it from the book, too. After the hour is up, I’ll put my writing goals at the bottom whether I finish this piece of writing or not.

I didn’t cry when she died, or at the funeral, or at the reception. It wasn’t until the next morning when I went into the pantry and saw row upon row of canned vegetables, fruits and jams she had prepared for the long winter ahead. The shelves were filled with…so many of the jars and cans I remembered seeing as a little kid while growing up in this god-forsaken place. It had been twenty years since I’d stepped foot in this house. And I refused to call it home. But I don’t want to get too far off track. After all, we’re here to discuss the tears that fell swiftly down my cheeks while I stood in the panty, of all places.

I should probably explain a little about my mother. She was a hard woman. A sad woman. Sometimes, a very mean woman. And never loving. She wasn’t always this way. I vaguely recall laughter and smiles attached to gentle kisses. My sister remembered more of the good times about growing up than I did, and she would sometimes tell me stories about this fairytale mother that I struggled to see in the woman I called my mother out of some familial obligation. To this day, I don’t know if all or any of Clare’s stories were real or a part of her vivid imagination. For so many years I’d hoped they were real and that the shell of a woman who fed and clothed us was just under some dark caster’s spell. I don’t wish for such silly things anymore. I stopped wishing when the realization hit me that Clare wasn’t coming back.

My mother worked for the government for many years. While there is much about my childhood that I don’t recall, I do remember one Friday evening when my mother came home crying and scared. She didn’t speak much during dinner other than the typical dinner commands of “Eat your veggies” and “Clean your plate and put it in the dishwasher.” When the phone rang later that night after bed time, Clare and I snuck into the hallway to hear what she was discussing.

“It’s immoral. I won’t be a part of it,” she demanded. There was a pause before she said, “You wouldn’t dare! I’ll quit.” There was another log pause before she muttered, “Yes, sir. I’ll be in on Monday.” Clare and I never found out what that conversation was about, but when we woke up the next morning, we found the kitchen a mess with jars crammed with food. One entire wall of our very large pantry was filled with canned goods and additional jars overflowed the kitchen counters. She’d been up all night and sat bleary-eyed staring into space at the kitchen table. This was the mother I grew to know.

When she wasn’t demanding we learn something new and barking orders, she sat at the kitchen table staring at some past distant memory. We ate a lot of pizza, spaghetti, and frozen meals after that night. But rarely any of the canned food, which always seemed so strange to me. Why have it in the house if we weren’t going to eat it? We never had time to sit down to a home-cooked meal. Although we were never allowed to play sports, our mother demanded we learn new skills. We were constantly learning strange things. While my friends at school were learning to play the clarinet, I was learning to shoot a gun. While they were playing baseball and basketball, I was becoming a black belt in karate. Even though our mother also demanded perfection at these skills, my sister and I never complained because anything was better than sitting at home watching her can food, work on our house, or sit in silence.

She was always busy doing something with the house and teaching us how to do it, too. At first, Clare and I had giggled that Mother had become one of those Doomsday Preppers that people watched on television and made fun of at the school lunch table. But we stopped giggling when the first year blazed by without stopping. She never stopped. Consequently, we never stopped. Karate, shooting and hunting, advanced academic classes, construction, long-term food preparation, survival skills.

During these grueling years, Clare and I supported each other. She would tell me stories of the fairytale mother that I barely remembered. I would invent fantastic stories about a father who would come save us from the grind of our daily lives. During those nights, we would giggle, then fall silent as the concrete reality of our lives took a hold again with its vice-like grip. There was no fairytale mother or father. There was no rescue from this life.


Day 2: Setting Real-Life Goals

Okay. So this is all I have done so far for the first hour of writing. Rachel Federman asks several question in her book that need to be addressed in some way:

  • Did this help you solidify your writing goals?
  • Do you already know what they are?
  • Do you want to make a career out of writing?
  • What about your short-term goals?
  • What do you hope to finish in the next few months?
  • Are you writing just for fun?

Then she goes on and asks if I can identify a current writing goal. It can be:

  • To write for 20 minutes a day
  • To revise a short story
  • To create a poem that you can read at a workshop
  • To finish a chapter of your novel or memoir
  • To write the draft of a nonfiction essay for a literary magazine

My Goal: I’m not going to lie. I have no idea what my writing goals are. Truthfully, I’ve been stuck for so long trying to find the courage to write and put it in a place where people can see it that I don’t actually have a goal other than to write. I can say that I would like to be published some day. I would like to write young adult literature. But I haven’t really given any thought as to  writing for a career. I’m an English teacher. I firmly believe that teachers who write make better teachers of writing, but that’s all the further I’ve gotten.

I can tell you what I’ve learned so far:

1. I don’t do well without a plan. So far, I really like the story I’ve written, but it’s all on the fly, so I’m struggling to determine where to take it. I have too many options. Zombie and apocalypse type stuff really fascinates me, so that’s always an option. I could go with the crazy mother scenario where we never actually find out why she became this way. I also have the side story of Clare’s disappearance. I’ve toyed with the idea having her kidnapped never to be seen again. I’ve thought about having her pretend that things are still okay but cutting and running as soon as she graduates high school, leaving her little sister (the narrator) to deal with Mother alone. I’ve also thought about having her recruited by the same organization that her mother works for or even a competing organization.

2. My concepts are too vague in my head and I don’t commit. It could be the assignment (writing for an hour on the fly), but I think that it’s really me. Is that lack of experience or an avoidance mechanism? After all, if I don’t have strong concepts, I’ll never finish a piece of writing so no one will see it to criticize. I have to giggle a little to myself because that’s something I would have said to one of my students.

3. My writing could be worse. That’s a pretty big statement for me. Writing earlier that I like what I’ve written so far isn’t something that I’d typcially say. Again. How will I handle the criticism? I guess I’ll find out when I hit publish on this post.

Okay. I have to pick a goal of some kind. Let’s start with something doable but difficult for me. I’ll use Rachel’s Federman’s first bullet point.

My Goal: To write for 20 minutes every day for the next 28 days.

I’m also supposed to come up with a title for a project. This can be changed later, but it will be my “work in progress” for the next 28 days.

Title: Not the Vampire Diaries

At this point, I guess I need to create a plan and schedule. And probably some writing ideas for this piece that I’ll need to work on for the next month.

Thanks for reading. It’s time to publish this beast so I can keep with the schedule of one post per day for the boot camp.

30-Day Writer's Boot Camp, Uncategorized

Writer’s Boot Camp: Day 1

For those of you who haven’t read the previous post, I’m beginning a 30-day writer’s boot camp. Each day for the next 30 days will have some form of writing from me regarding this boot camp. I’m a little nervous, but I’m putting myself out there anyway.

Girl writes in a notebook on a wooden desk with a cup of coffee and laptop

Day 1: My Dream Writing Life

The directions for this day say that a supposed to describe my dream writing life.

My dream writing life is being able to work anywhere, but I picture myself at a Starbucks with a notebook and computer in front of me. I’m sipping on an iced chai tea latte and pondering how best to write the next sentence. The writing flows smoothly, there’s no hesitation, and I have many breakthroughs.

I have two successful blogs, one for health and the other for education, both of which I’m able to make money from. I have two young adult novels another my belt. The third is a trilogy based on vampires. No Twilight, I promise.


It’s Been Too Long

It’s been a long time since I’ve published anything to this blog. I recently purchased a couple of books to get me back into writing: Writer’s Boot Camp by Rachel Federman (which I can’t seem to find online anymore) and Complete the Story which you can find at Barnes and Noble. The goal is to immerse myself in writing for the next 30 days and post it here.

I’m a little worried about this because we have 17 more days left a school which means that I’m going to be really busy trying to get papers graded and fit in any curriculum that needs to be completed. Waiting for summer is a viable option, but I was hoping to be writing in full force before summer came so I could use summer vacation effectively. It would also be a shame to wait for summer, work a writing regimen into my schedule, then have to create a new regimen all over again when school starts back up in September. It may be tough now, but it will be worth it if I can pull it off.

I will be posting for the next 30 days as part of this boot camp. If I miss a single day, I’m not reaching my goal. Wish me luck.


The secret to writing 50,000 words in 30 days

Matthew Wright

Want to know how to write 50,000 words fast? Throw some of them away.

Wright_Whitcoulls3I’m not joking. The essence of writing 50,000 words in a month for National Novel Writing Month – or of writing 2000 words to a features editor deadline, or indeed of writing anything to time, is not getting stuck. And the biggest trap for writers – the biggest sink-hole for productivity – is when you end up wrestling with a recalcitrant passage. It just doesn’t flow right and nothing you do seems to unsnag it. But it’s a thousand words and that’s part of your word count.

My advice – throw the duff text away and start again. You won’t regret it. One of the biggest traps when re-casting is revising older text. It always frames and shapes what you are trying to do. Better to re-start with a blank page. An hour spent writing fresh…

View original post 228 more words

Fiction, Writing, Writing Ideas


Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 5.21.19 PMIt’s here! National Novel Writing Month. This year I’ve signed up as a participant, and I’m very excited. Originally I was going to meet with my writing club every Saturday during the month of November, but I got scheduled to work so I’m on my own. This really stinks because it’s the 3rd, and I haven’t written any words yet. The goal is 2000 a day. I’ve never attempted anything like this, but I think that it will force me to put fingers to keyboard and get this book written that I’ve thought about doing for almost three years. And thinking is about all I’ve done for it. I’m excited and nervous at the same time because it is so easy to just think about doing it. So much easier than actually sitting down and making myself do it. However, that time has come and gone. It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, shed my fears, and just do it. Wish me luck!

If you’re interested in signing up, here is the link: National Novel Writing Month

Good luck to you too if you take the challenge!