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Aug
10
2010

Hitting The Quarter Mile

I’ve recently started jogging again and since I’m not a distance runner (yet!), it’s always hard for me to get started. I know that if I can just convince myself to put on my workout clothes and tie my sneakers, then I won’t have a reason to be lazy and sit in my big comfy chair with my laptop. I jog about 1.5 miles right now and I swear the hardest part for me is the first and last quarter mile. If I can just get going and struggle through the first few minutes, I fall into a groove after that first quarter mile and the middle is usually my legs moving on autopilot while my brain reads or daydreams. Then by the time I hit the last quarter mile, I’m usually drenched in sweat and convincing myself to just finish. Writing feels surprisingly similar!

If I can manage come up with an idea, characters, and setting, then I have no excuse not to sit down and tell the story. If I can muddle my way through the beginning few pages (which I’ll later go back and edit), then I’ll eventually hit my groove and sail right through the middle. And by the end, I’m ready to get the story wrapped up with a happily ever after bow!

I’ve been working on my spring short story — tentatively called Books in Bloom — for a little over a week and I’m proud to say I’m officially a quarter of the way through my word count. My goal is a 20,000 word novella by the end of August and as of tonight I’m sitting 5400. Not too bad!

I had a little trouble trying to figure out exactly who my characters are and what motivates them with this story. With my book, it was easier because I’d spent some time before I started writing plotting out the characters and what they were like, so by the time I sat down to write, I had a pretty good overall sense of who there were and they felt like real people. Of course they developed and changed over the course of the book, but their roots were clear to me from the start. With this short story, I came up with the idea and started plotting right away. I had a clear idea of what I wanted the story to be about, but the characters were too fuzzy and simple; not nearly complex enough to be real people. I found myself pausing a few times while writing to put myself in my characters shoes so I could figure out what they’d do or say in their current situation. Slowly I started to see them take shape.

I think at about 4000 words, I finally realized a pivotal character trait about my Heroine. So I spent some time going back through what I’d already written to make sure that she was coming across the same way throughout. I was surprised to see that even in the first few pages, she was already trying to show me who she was, I just wasn’t listening well enough.

My Hero followed in her footsteps and finally became clear to me at about 4500 words. I thought of him as someone very specific, but he always felt a little forced. I needed him to fill a roll so that I could round out my story with a beginning and end that felt complete and satisfying. But the relationship between Hero and Heroine always felt contrived, like they were both good characters, but they were stuck in the ‘just friends’ zone — not at all what you want in a romance! Once my Hero decided to tell me who he really is, I could see him clearly. And thank goodness, they’ve moved out of the comfortable friend zone and into the hot and desirable ‘wanting to date you’ zone instead!

Now I can see how my original thought for the end will actually be more fitting as a short scene in the middle. It will function to give us a little insight into both characters, make us (and the Heroine) fall in love with the Hero’s sensitive side, and it will provide an answer to a question from the first few pages of the book. My new ending will actually be the old middle. Does that make sense?!

I’m excited to work on my story more today! I’m anxious to see how my characters will interact now that I know who they really are as people. I know I have a lot of work left ahead of me, but it’s work I enjoy. And now that I’ve found my groove, I’m ready to sit back and watch as the story comes to life through the middle. Maybe I’ll check back in with an update when I hit the halfway mark, but more than likely, I’ll be back when I hit that last tough quarter mile marker. Until then, my sneakers are laced and I’m ready to fun. Happy writing and good luck to you on reaching your own mile markers!

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Heather

8 comments

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  1. jennifer121 says:

    Hi Heather,
    Your blog made perfect sense, and I love how you relate it to jogging. I hate running but my brother and husband run, and they say the same exact thing – the middle is the best. I love how our characters hit the stride halfway, we just have to watch out for that sagging middle! I am working on my novella now and have been struggling, but I think I am getting to know my characters better. Let’s check in later and see how we are doing!

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hi Jen!
      Thanks for stopping by my blog! I had to laugh at your ‘sagging middle’ comment. I’m pretty sure that applies to jogging too — my sagging middle is the main reason I started jogging again! LOL!

  2. Taryn Kincaid says:

    When I used to walk, I used to get some good ideas. Mostly dialogue. I could have whole conversations in my head. They didn’t play out exactly the same way when I got home, because in your head they can shoot off in different directions, but on the computer you’re committed! I started carrying a small pad with me. Helped a bit. I no longer have that kind of leisure, sad to say.

    About novellas: You sound like you’re on a great path. I’ve found it’s helpful — since you don’t have a lot of room to clear your throat and play around — some type of past with each other, whether or not they’ve actually met in the flesh when your story starts! With a story that’s about the meet, and love blooming in spring, that may not be do-able. But I would suggest getting a good idea of who they are down — you don’t have the luxury of the space to develop thing over time! Sounds like you know who they are and where they’re going. That’s half the battle right there!

  3. Wendy Marcus says:

    Hi Heather!
    Great post!
    When I’m stuck on a scene, I either sleep on it and the fix comes to me in my morning shower, or I walk my dog. Walking gets my creative juices going. With regard to you learning your characters, Brenda Novak said her first draft is where she learns her characters and figures out the story. The second draft, sometimes the third, is her completed work.
    Good luck with your jogging and your writing.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Thanks Taryn and Wendy!

      I find jogging is a great way to clear my mind and get away from my writing for a little while. Sometimes ideas come to me, but usually it’s a bit of an escape for me. And I’m usually reading on my kindle while I jog so I’m absorbed in someone else’s characters instead of my own. As for my characters, I feel like I’m getting a better and better feel for them with every scene I write, but after chatting at Panera Bread with Shana tonight, I’m doubting my story. I think I need to adjust it a little (or a lot depending on your opinion) but the bones are there. So much for coasting through the middle. Looks like I’m jogging up hill on this one.

  4. Shoshanna Evers says:

    For me, the beginning and ends are the easy parts and I start to lose steam during the “saggy middle”. But I know what you mean about forcing yourself to just get going – sometimes I’ll tell myself that I’ll sit down and write for fifteen minutes just to get my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard, and then when I look up two hours have gone by 🙂

  5. Janet Walters says:

    I may be weird but the hardest parts for me are the beginning and the end. The end is for a particular reason. I just hate to say good by to these new friends. Beginnings are hard and I usually start too late and then have to ge back so the story makes sense. I love the middles because that’s where the complications come in and the characters have while not new problems to solve, ones that grow from the initial ones and build to the point of the black moment when they have to make a decision. As for jogging. I hated jogging when I was doing it. My only thoughts were how much further do I have to go. I think if I could I’d have one of those indoor walking machines so I could read or do something while putting the miles away.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hi Shana and Janet!

      I’m with Janet on this one. Beginnings are hard to get started and ends have to wrap it all up in a satisfying way. I love the middle because that’s where all the action happens! Oh and Janet, I hate jogging too. It’s so hard! But I feel really good after I jog, so I keep doing it. I probably wouldn’t jog if I had to do it outside, but I run on the treadmill and I can read my kindle while I do it. It’s very motivating to know that I can read for a half hour if I get on the stupid thing!

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