I’m really bad at write-ins.
I like them, don’t get me wrong – I think they’re useful, and I always like meeting other writers – but they tend to be in the evening and my evenings are already pretty full. I find I write most consistently in the mornings, on the bus, and over lunch. I know that for some folks write-ins are a way of gaining focus and motivation to put words on the page, and that has not generally been my problem.
But because I am so bad at getting to write-ins I always try to get to the regional kick-off party to connect with other Portland-area WriMos. This year’s event was at the Central Library in downtown Portland, and it was very good. There were a number of things about it that were improvements:
- tables – the room was arranged with tables to sit at. This was such a big improvement over the rows of chairs, however they were arranged. You were face to face with a small group of writers and it was a much more comfortable structure than the serried ranks. The only down side was having to turn your chair for the intro segment when the MLs were speaking from the front of the room. My neck didn’t like that bit.
- time limit – there was an explicit one minute time limit per speaker in the going-round-the-room-introducing-yourself part, and that was so successful that no one exceeded it. Things haven’t been too rambly in previous years either, but having a firm time limit focussed everyone’s attention.
- plot ninjas – one of my favourite bits of the kick-offs has always been the opportunity to write down plot twists and hand them to other writers to use for inspiration. These plot ninjas are often silly but can help in shaking loose something from your skull that moves the story forward. However, they can also sometimes be irrelevant to your story: having a plot ninja that suggests a magic mirror be discovered in your high stakes legal drama doesn’t really help.
Hence this year’s exercise, which was to write a short summary of your story at the top of the page and then have others make plot suggestions that are tailored to that story. I’ve got a couple of plot ideas from that already, so I’m quite excited about it. This exercise was also a lot more fun to engage in than the usual form.
Bravo, Theo and Max. Thank you.
Ultimately though, like dying, you always write alone.
I’ve been chewing through the steps to prep for November, and it’s been hard: I realised that one of the reasons I didn’t do well with this story ten years ago is that I didn’t have a good ending.
Fortunately, it turns out that one of the characters I have added is actually going to be the main character – certainly, she’s more interesting than the perfect god-like character I had at the centre of things before. I should still be ready to go for next Tuesday.
Back to the outlines.