The Writers Unite Project Update (Sharing is Stressf . . . Er, Caring)

Today is the day I’m supposed to share what I have been working on for the Writers Unite project set up by Jim Woods at the beginning of this month. But I have a problem. I don’t actually have anything to share. Well, nothing in terms of an actual story anyway – a fact that has increasingly been stressing me out over the last few days.

My plan had been to polish up my entry for last year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, but when I sat down with the story October 1st, I realized that was not going to work, as the manuscript in question was a hot mess. Seriously. Plot lines went hither and yon, story ideas were discarded on an almost daily basis, and I soon discovered the biggest problem was I did not really know my characters. They were simply rough ideas on a page trying desperately to find their respective voices and tell some kind of a story.

So I have spent most of this month working on character sketches, of getting a feel for who Sam and Judy Hendricks are, how their relationship works, why they would buy a coffee shop with Sam’s best friend Nathan Taylor, and how the fact Sam’s little sister Jess is best friends with Judy can sometimes be irksome for Sam. And what of Art Munroe, the janitor/maintenance man for The Blue Bean Coffee Shop and the quartet of apartments on the building’s second floor? What is he up to? There are whispers of some sort of a spy network, but as of yet they remain just that – whispers.

Mission Control — An Overview
© 2012 Michelle Woodman

All of this has and continues to stretch me (uncomfortably so in many instances). For most of my fiction writing/story ideas of late have revolved around fan fiction of some sorts, where the hard work of creating characters and back stories and the like has already been done. I had grown lazy in terms of establishing characters and plots and whatnot – a fact that was driven home when I took Andi Cumbo’s short story writing class this past summer.

So while it has been tempting several times over to discard The Secret Lives of Baristas, I am going to press on. I’m going to peck away at things while I work on next month’s NaNoWriMo entry. I’m going to write, even when it’s hard. And soon I will have a story to share.

Writers, I hope we stay united even as October draws to close. You have all helped me greatly, but the journey is not over yet – not for me, not for you, and certainly not for Sam and Judy. We all still have stories to tell.


  • This is great. I think taking the time to understand and strategize all of this can get your project on track. Looking forward to reading more!

    • crosscribe says:

      Thank you, Tammy! I’m realizing the story I have percolating in my mind will be the better for putting in this foundational work.

  • Jim says:

    Michelle, there is NO one way to write. It sounds like you are building a solid foundation before as opposed to fixing it later. This is an awesome approach! And just FYI- Writers Unite is not going anywhere. I’m going to keep it around for a long time. It’s been too much fun and too helpful. I think we as writers need to consistently write about what WE WANT to write about. Thanks so much for this great post!

    • crosscribe says:

      For the hundredth time I want to say “Thanks, Jim!” for thinking of and running with and sharing the Writers Unite project. I’m really glad it’s not going into storage or any such thing. :-)

  • Andrea says:

    There is such a fine line between too much planning and too little planning. It takes courage to go back to it and work to fix the problems instead of scrapping the whole thing. Personally, I would probably give up. Of course that is why I haven’t written anything in so long. So thanks for the courage to keep going because it is inspiring.

    • crosscribe says:

      It *is* easy to keep planning and never get to the business of *doing*. And I’m glad to be of any help I can to you as you write your stories. Isn’t it great to know there are others in the trenches (as it were) with us?

  • Aaron says:

    Michelle- this is awesome. I love that you decided to do what you needed to do to make your story a complete work, ground up. I love the idea of those sketches. I love the work you have put intowhat you want to write.

    Write on! I look forward to reading it.

    • crosscribe says:

      Thanks, Aaron! I’m hoping a better foundation and a good framework will help this story unfold the way I have it half-pictured inside my head.

  • ChadJ says:

    Michelle! You are doing the work! Love how you’re laying a solid foundation, and getting to know your characters. In essence, they are “schooling” you, i.e., you’re watching, observing, becoming a student of them. And I know that love (for that’s what it is) will shine through the finished work.

    • crosscribe says:

      I like how you phrased that, Chad — the characters are “schooling” me. I think that is spot-on. Now I need to remember to keep listening and observing as things progress.

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