Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Update on 90 day novel challenge

Okay I'm officially, really, seriously doing this challenge. Although I've had to alter it a bit for it to truly fit into my life right now. 

I had good intentions, true ones. I was going to write straight through for 90 days, including weekends. Unfortunately my two young boys had other plans. 

So I've changed this challenge to 90 work days, meaning Monday - Friday I will tally the days, leaving the weekends for family and friend time.

As I'm posting this I am actually on day 6 and writing my fingertips off in word, but I want to keep you all on board as well. My posts will be delayed as I go, but you will and I will, hopefully, see a novel forming here.

This second day challenge is one I absolutely LOVE! Getting rid of 'to be' verbs. When I edit work written by others, many times I circle is, are, was, were... If you can get rid of these, and use more descriptive verbs, your writing will pop. 

Day 2: Assignment: Take two memories and use your senses to write a scene, no 'to be' verbs allowed.

   1.     The plants scratched my ankles as I raced through the open field, past the 500 blueberry bushes, past the tall oaks with their many shiny black crows cawing a warning about me. I flew. The cool wind whipped past my chilled face, my cheeks warming from the smack of it. I held my arms out like wings of an airplane. I was alone. I was free. No angry dad barking orders from his imagined throne. No silent scared mom ignoring the ever building tension in the dark wooden house. No chores. No bed to make. No dishes to do. No boys to act for and no girls to tell secrets to. The damp earth, smelling of grass, tainted with the sourness of mold and mushrooms surrounded me. My eyes caressed each natural thing, finding first the scurrying grey squirrel, panicked with my presence. It scrambled, clawing its way to the top of a bowed tree. I laughed. I'd never hurt a living thing, but it didn't know that about me, and the small power of making it flee lifted my spirits. To have but a glimpse of what I must look like when angry words flew from toughened lips, what the cursor felt when he made one cower, that feeling of pure power was enough to make me understand just a bit. I sucked in the warming air still moist with morning dew. The sun brightly lit everything it found to a whitened color of its true self. It touched my blond hair on my legs, head and arms, making each strand glimmer back as if to say thank you for your warmth. I ran again letting my legs push, hop, and smack the earth beneath my feet. Droplets ran down my body, drenching my white socks, now covered with small round spiked seedlings from various shrubs. They itched as I pulled them off, flinging them into the air and watching them fall. Something moved in the bush ahead. It could only be three things making such a big racket; a deer, a bear, or my little sister. I froze, waiting for it to pop out onto the pipeline where I stood on the shorter cut grasses. The barrel of the gun showed first followed by the hunter. I backed up not knowing this man, well, boy to be exact. He looked to be about seventeen, skinny, dirty, and lacking a smile. I took another step away which made him turn toward me. I waved. He nodded. I wanted to ask him why he had a gun because hunting season hadn't started yet, but dad's voice spoke in my head about never talking to strangers, especially ones carrying a loaded double barrel. I said nothing and the stranger stalked off toward the next gully. My heart sped up as he left and I wondered how weird because the danger was gone. Maybe my body just caught up to my eyes and so it reacted late. I turned back toward the blueberry bushes. Time to go home. Time for being me and me alone ended. Homework, chores, and dinnertime pulled me toward that big oak front door.

2.     My Great Grandmother smelled of mothballs, a saturating scent that filled my small nose and made me scrunch it up. As soon as she'd open that screened in porch door to greet us that smell smacked me in the face. I tried holding my breath, but no matter how long I got I had to breath sometime. I tried to get used to it right away, but my involuntary reactions took over and my nose twitched. Great Grandmother never acted like she knew or maybe she couldn't see well enough to notice. She'd grab me hard, her fingers digging into my small shoulders, and pull me in close for a smothering hug between her two giant boobs that also smelled like mothballs. One time she squeezed me so long I started to pass out because I got no air and the only air in between her human pillows stung my nose. After the death grip hug I escaped to her basement, the only place that didn't smell like mothballs, it smelled like soap. The laundry piled down there along with the scariest stiff body you'd ever see in your life. I had to pass by it, pass by that sewing room, with that body in it every time to get to the toys stored in the laundry. That thing stood at least 6' tall, had a wooden body with boobs, a metal neck with no head, and a wire stand that looked like one long stump-footed leg. I'd stand on one side of that sewing room door, take a few deep breaths, then leap to the other side, holding my eyes closed with my hands, while peeking through my fingers. I swore one day that thing would wake up, reach out and trip me as I passed, grab my toes and pull me into that room where they'd never find my body, but if you'd look closely that stumped thing would have a new pair of legs, mine. Once I made it across that door frame I dove for the wooden box of toys in the corner. Sometimes I'd have to fight a daddy long leg for a car, doll, or ball. I didn't mind letting them crawl on me, their legs tickled and I liked how they looked like a small brown ball suspended in the air by tiny wires. I'd play for a while, hoping no one upstairs would remember that I was downstairs, but always the dreaded dinner call came. I'd put the toys away, leap back across the doorway, and run up those loose wooden steps, cobwebs swaying as I dashed by. At the top, the smell of mothballs and meat mixed together creating some odd stench that only I seemed aware of. I sat down in my usual spot where a plate heaping with liquefied food was placed before me. Great Grandmother turned everything she cooked into a wet mushy mess. Meat covered in a thick glistening sauce, floating mashed potatoes, and wilted salad sunken in a vinegar water dressing sat waiting for me to take a bite. My stomach lurched and gurgled. Dad told me to eat. I looked hard at mom. Who could eat this slop? My dog wouldn't even try a bite. Dad started to dunk bread into the sludge, sucking it down bit by bit. I pushed mine around the plate creating a garbage pile looking meal. Mom tapped my knee under the table and handed me a new plate. I waited for dad to go for seconds, then I dumped my soggy plate into the trash and sat down in front of my new plate. Mom had brought her own salad not wilted, mashed potatoes not buoyant, and meat not sodden with syrupy sauces and hidden it for us to devour. My love for her grew right then. Dad never noticed or at least he pretended not to see. 

  Thoughts: This challenge got me thinking about verbs. I have a few lists that we made up in college that I tend to use because they do make my writing more interesting. If you can think up verbs that a dentist, carpenter, and chef would use, your writing will also grow. If you'd like those lists, they are on this of the earlier posts. 

  Challenge for you: Write a paragraph never using any form of the 'to be' verb. Use your search button to see if you really did it. If you used a 'to be' replace it with a verb from the lists.  Good luck!

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