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Posts tagged with: writer’s journey

Finding the Aha Moments

Last week, for about the twelfth time, I found myself befuddled up to my eyeballs over a romantic suspense work in progress. Whether you’re a panster, like myself, or a plotter, at some point you could find fresh ideas hiding in the deepest, darkness recesses of your mind amongst a pile of crappy overused ideas. When this happened to me in the past, I’d walked around for days mulling over my problem, my plot’s direction, which is perfectly fine, if you don’t have a deadline and or have time to waste. This time I purchased a few books (Snap: Seizing Your AHA Moments by Katherine Ramsland and Your Creative Brain by Shelly Carson, PHD) and learned for one that mulling is an acceptable process to release your muse. What I also learned, so far, that the more tricks you use to open the gates the faster that will happen.

We’re like the grains of sand on a pearly white beach. Besides having the potential to be stuck in places we really don’t want to go, we’re totally awesome and unique and we all learn in different ways. And in combination of ways.

It’s alleged that we have seven mind-sets (seven ways of learning and using our minds): Absorb Brainset, Envision Brainset, Connect Brainset, Reason Brainset, Evaluate Brainset, Transform Brainset, and Stream Brainset. I’m not going to divulge every detail I’ve learned from these books so far. I suggest you check them out for yourself.  However, I will share a concise description of each mindset and an exercise you can use that key to unlock your mind’s muse.

Absorb Mindset: Ability to absorb new information in a non-judgmental way to be stored for use later when you can use say information to see associations between objects and to remain open to your subconscious.  

Exercise: Pick a space, indoor or outside. For five minutes, really absorb your surroundings. Notice the colors, textures, lines and shadows.  Then touch, listen, smell and taste. Next pick an object and think of a new way use for it. We’ve all seen the Knorr Side Dish commercial where a cork screw is used as a coat nail and a fork is used a cabinet handle. That is the same idea.

Envision Mindset:  In this mindset we deliberately imagine ways to solve problems, using absorb information. This mindset is well known to creative people.  The exercise below will help you increase your mental imagery. It turns off the stream of unwanted thoughts.

Exercise: Close your eyes and take three deep cleansing breathes. Now image your happy place. Where you feel the most relax? Picture yourself there. Allow yourself to feel the surroundings. If your recliner, feel the texture of the material against your skin, the firmness of the cushion surrounding you, the angle of your body as you relax. Are there sounds around you? Soft music or maybe a ball game on the T.V., or your children playing at your feet.  How about smells, tastes.  Allow yourself to enjoy your happy place for a few minutes.

Connect Mindset:  This mindset allows you to spawn many ideas without concerns to how they will play out. You’ll think out of the box. Successful use of this mindset could lead you to become overwhelmed with creative possible ideas. You’ll become energized and excited about your work.

Exercise: Set a timer for three minutes. On a piece of paper write down as many uses for a shoe you can think of. Then set the timer again and write down all the things you can do with a shoelace. Set the timer again and jot down the consequences of a torn shoelace.

Reason Brainset: This brainset solves problems logically, using all your storage memories and knowledge. It allows you to control what thoughts occupy your mind. It is deliberate and necessary as you complete your creative project. It is the perfect mindset to flesh out a whimsical idea and make it realistic. It helps you motivate action, manage time, increases chances for success, strengthens self-confidence and heightens sense of control over your life. It’s one mindset I’ve consciously worked on every single day, several times a day, over the last several months.

Exercise: You will stop particular unwanted thoughts or train of thoughts as soon as they enter you mind by simply saying, “Don’t go there.” Or “Thinking of this is not my on my hour’s agenda.”

Evaluate Mindset: Coming up with fresh ideas is vital is our line of work, but judging whether those ideas are indeed worth spending time one is also essential. This is where this mindset comes in. Three factors are necessary: active judgement, focused attention and impersonality. We need to judge our work against others of which it’s competing. Not us against them. This is about our work, not ourselves. In order to do that, we need to get some distance from our work, judge it with respect, don’t toss the work mid-project, look at each of its parts and evaluate their merits, and look at the work from the point of view of your audience. Be flexible. Consult others. Be hard on your work and not yourself!

Exercise: On a sheet of paper write the titles of your top ten books of all time.  Imagine they’re no longer available anywhere or ever again. Now, ( I know you’re going to hate me)  cross off five. Behind them, write why you crossed them off.

Transform Mindset:  Is all about emotion. Our emotion. Our negative emotions and how they affect our memories and visions. It’s important we know this mindset and how it disturbs our creativity. It is a what-if state, just like the envision mindset, but unlike the purposeful imaginings of the later, this mindset’s themes are worry, anxiety, self-pity or regret.  But this mindset can help with your creative project. Our characters are an extension of humanity.  People have flaws, negative thoughts, regrets. We can use this mindset to write timeless characters if only we draw on the transform mindset.

Exercise: Pick three things in your home that you feel best represents you: personality, taste, qualities. Now write a paragraph about each and how they relate to you. Did you learn anything about yourself? Was there a negative or positive view of yourself?

The Stream Mindset: We refer to this mindset as being in ‘the zone.’ It is the unique melding of self and action. You lose your sense of self and focus on the world at hand. But how do we achieve this mindset.

First, you need the expertise to enter the stream mindset. Second, you need to be engaged in an activity that intrinsically motivating you. (Intrinsic motivation means that you’re involved in an activity because of an internal award and not an external one.) Do you write for the joy of writing?

Exercise: On a piece of paper jot down five activities that had your blood surging and your mind whirling. These activities are your passion.

 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’ve only touched on the information contained in these two books. In fact, I’m not finished with either of them, but what I’ve learned so far has helped me to be more productive, to think out of the box on my wip, and be more acceptable of the amount of work I can accomplish in a day.

Collaboration: How NOT to Commit Murder

dreamstime_crow on gravestoneMany moons ago, a younger cousin requested help with his writing.  He’s a marvelous storyteller, enjoys roll-playing games, and, like me, is a Ren Faire denizen, but his writing was what he calls organic—aka weak, wordy, and wandering, in need of industrial-strength honing.  Since he’s more like a brother than a cousin, I agreed.

I had several advantages:  

I am the elder.  Cousin remembers the days he, along with my brothers, was put in my charge.  Old habits die hard.

I have more experience.  At the time, I wrote a quarterly magazine column, handled publicity for several youth related organizations, and had two books under contract—which I, later (with cause), withdrew.

Cousin wanted to learn.  No question about who had final authority.

A word of warning:  No matter how well you think you know someone, be prepared to learn more about both that person and yourself.  Not all of it will be good.  There will be days you won’t like the face across the desk.  Worse, you won’t like the one in the mirror.

One of the first things we did was attend a local RWA® meeting where writing friends, Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick, gave a talk on collaboration.  A husband and wife team who write as May McGoldrick (historical) and Jan Coffey (romantic suspense), they punctuated the discussion with audience roll-play.  The first warning bells tolled, but we moved blithely on, confident family ties would ease our way.

They didn’t.

Knowing Cuz wasn’t keen on Historical Romance, and being a closet Sci-fi geek who once dreamed of being an MD—and studied accordingly—I whistled up an idea that combined our interests.  Next, a comprehensive outline complete with character profiles, the particulars of two disparate worlds, and enough conflict to set those worlds aflame.  Since the Sci-fi romance genre did not yet exist, I considered it a fun exercise to hone Cuz’s wordsmithing skills.

Hah!

SAM_0159First mistake:  The outline. (Photos are of the original chapter by chapter concept.)

I’m a pantser.  Dyed-in-the-wool, can’t-write-any-other-way type.  I wanted to get us thinking along the same lines, not strangle us with them.  Cuz’s writing style and mine went to war.  Finding a way to mesh diametrically opposed processes took a wee while.  

If you are a plotter, run from collaboration with a pantser.  All those nice bullet points you put in your outline will become points of contention.  Baldness will be the least onerous outcome.  And two pantsers?  I’m thinking chaos, but it would be interesting to see the final result—if one didn’t cosh the other.SAM_0160

 

Second mistake:  I wrote the heroine.  Cuz got the hero.  

Never would the twain meet.  Narrative passages had to be worked and reworked ad nauseum.  Oh, and my heroine would not have given Cuz’s hero a second glance—except to insure her aim when she shot him.

The list goes on, but this post is supposed to be about how NOT to commit murder, not the myriad reasons why doing so will cross your mind—repeatedly—so let’s move on.

SAM_0161As I said, being the experienced elder gave me leverage.  You may not have that, but it’s important to recognize strengths and weaknesses and step forward or back accordingly.

Cuz took my ideas and ran with them, coming up with things that would never have occurred to me (Sentient androids?  Really?).  His aerospace industry experience provided a knowledge base alien to me.  His perspective also added a depth I would have missed.

I am a word junkie.  Words delight me with their shades of meaning and inherent strength.  Putting them together just so is crack for my addiction.  Add a creative streak that makes the Atlantic look like spit on the sidewalk, and storytelling comes naturally.  And, since the hero is fashioned after a 12th century Scots warrior, my infatuation with history proved handy.

We began to achieve balance.

That’s not to say we didn’t argue.  We did.  Often.  For hours.  Sometimes Cuz’s writing didn’t accurately convey his ideas.  I’d rework a scene, adding continuity and strengthening prose, only to have him come back with a resounding, “That’s not what I meant.”  Frustrating—for both of us.  He threw ideas at me like a pitching machine run amuck (thank you, Donald Maas).  I couldn’t simply dodge them; I had to explain why I wouldn’t swing.  We’d argue—again.

Then there are the small things, the previously written bits that trip you if you aren’t wary.  I have a mind for such details and often scoured the manuscript to find what precluded Cuz’s latest idea or snippet of heroic dialogue.  It didn’t help that life intervened mid-story.  The manuscript languished, all but forgotten–except at family functions when we’d unfailingly end up discussing it—for nearly a decade.

Thus, we call it The-Story-That-Wouldn’t-Die.

Things we’ve learned:

The strongest glue for any collaboration is respect.  Respect for the other person’s ideas, talents, strengths, and opinions.  Without it, clashes will destroy the partnership before it can mature.

Life happens.  Death, illness, accidents don’t care about commitments.  And when two people are involved, twice as much can go wrong.  Add the give and take necessary to determine the best story solutions, and flexibility is a must.

When words won’t come to explain or an idea won’t gel into something easily shared, patience saves lives.  After a time, you learn to hear past the words.

Sometimes you must be willing to see where the wrong road leads.  When time comes to backtrack, you might find yourself with a treasure taking the right road probably wouldn’t have revealed.  If not, there’s always the childish satifaction of, “I told you so.”

Collaboration isn’t for everyone.  Truth is, had Cuz been anyone else, I doubt we would have stuck it out, but I didn’t kill him, he didn’t kill me, and our exercise is now a full-fledged book.  The feedback from those few who’ve read it is encouraging.  One reader, who prefers suspense to romance of any kind, called it gripping and admitted, despite reservations, she read it in one sitting.  It’s a long book!  Have to say, that one earned a cheer and a tear or two.

So, let me introduce you to a brainchild conceived in the 90s, nurtured off and on as life allowed since late 2009, and finally, brought into the world January 2015.

Does she have a soul?SwordandtheStarshipDigital2Smaller

 Genetically engineered to blend with a sophisticated, aristocratic society, Valara F’al-ten awakens from her hibernetic sleep in an uncharted star system, orbiting a planet rich in resources Earth Colony 5 needs, but how does one negotiate inter-galactic trade agreements with a society that still wields swords?

Clan High Chieftain, Gordain Ryn Phellan, has problems—an outlawed clan, a rival chieftain, and a despot with mind-control capabilities—even before he captures the bewitching female who claims to have a flying ship.  That she could be kin to his greatest foe and was assembled rather than born should repel him.  It doesn’t.  Instead, he finds himself torn between his responsibility to the clans and his escalating desire for her.

Despite unnerving physical and emotional changes, Lara needs to complete her mission, but Dain’s enemies have other plans.  Past and future collide as they work together to neutralize the threats, leaving Lara caught between duty and the yearning of her awakening heart. 

Currently available for Kindle, but alternate formats will follow in a few days.

We also have a website.  It’s a bit sparse at the moment, but books 2 & 3 are already in the mental womb.  Shorter gestation should make birthing these new babies—(choke) interesting.

 

 

 

Closet Writers

CLOSET WRITER

http://www.dreamstime.com/working-late-free-stock-photography-imagefree59647

http://www.dreamstime.com/working-late-free-stock-photography-imagefree59647

Closet writers break my heart. Any reason a writer keeps their writing a secret is just wrong, unless the writing is extremely personal and not meant for other’s eyes. I was a closet writer.

There are many reasons why writers remain in the closet and the Rubies have had discussions concerning them. At some time or another, many of us have faced the road-blocks that kept us from being us.

Some writers think they haven’t read enough books to be considered a writing expert. In their minds, if people find out they write, they must’ve read every single book ever published. I’m here to tell you that I’ve never read Huck Finn, War and Peace, Fifty Shades Of Gray or a zillion other classic or best-selling books. Does that confession make me less of a writer? I think not.

Being shy, it can take years for some people to join a writer’s group. A long, long time ago, when the internet was young and a thing called dial-up was used to connect to it, writers actually went to public meetings to connect with those of like minds. Walking into a meeting can be daunting to a wall flower. I know because I’m an introvert. The internet and the ambiguity it provides, has made it easier for some writers to connect to others, but not all. They remain in the background, unsure of themselves.  To them, I say, “it’s always the quiet ones who make the biggest impression when they’re ready.” Rest assured most writers are genuinely nice and more than willing to help other writers in any way they can. You only need to be serious about the craft to be considered a writer by them.

A closet writer might feel they don’t know enough about the craft and until they know all there is to know they remain in seclusion. I’m not sure if there is anyone out there who knows it all. Well, maybe King, Patterson or Nora. Only they can answer that question. The point being, the majority of writers will openly admit that they don’t know everything and that they learn something new all the time. Join the club that strives to be better at their craft.

dreamstimefree_666077My writing sucks. It very well could, but are you the best judge? You’ve read and studied and wrote and edited. Now it’s time to trust yourself and share your work. If a critique offers constructive advice, weigh it, and then accept it or not. In the end, it’s your story. There is no greater joy for a writer than when a reader enjoys your work. The only way to know that joy is to share your gift.

There are those who really, really want to be a writer but struggle to do the work required. Writing is hard work and takes a huge amount of time. Completing a work is possible a word at a time. Commit to the work, or perhaps another hobby would be better for you.

I’m fortunate. I’m a writer who has had the support of family and friends for many years, but that wasn’t always the case. I once was a closet writer. I was told that my dreams of becoming a published writer were stupid and thus I hid my passion. Now, when I read the notebooks I filled during that time, I cringe at the darkness that shadowed my life.

One day, I finally broke and said to myself, “This is my life and I don’t want to look back and wonder what if I’d taken one step. Would my dreams have come true?” That was a year of change for me on many levels. It was a hard trial but through it I learned I had the support of mBooks 2012 001 (640x480)any family members. I read craft books. I joined a writer’s group. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I attended conferences and workshops.  I found more support through my writer friends. I met the man of my dreams and he became my biggest supporter. I will love him forever for letting me be me.

Life doesn’t give us do-overs, but it does give us second chances. Take the step toward being you.

 

 

It is Better to Have Loved and Lost…

So I’ve had this love affair with grammar ever since I can remember. In school, I relished writing research papers and making sure the punctuation and sentence structure were just right. I cherished being able to tell the difference between an adjective and an adverb. I loved the way sentence diagrams looked laid out on the page. How orderly my little world seemed. Everything had its place. I made good grades, because I always tried to follow the rules. If I wasn’t sure of something, I could go to my trusty little grammar book and look it up.

Then I started writing for fun. I wrote manuscripts, entered contests, and picked up six critique partners along the way. And almost overnight, my world became a messy place. Why? Because the rules that once governed my writing, no longer applied—at least not as rigidly as they once did. So I’m here to mourn the loss of seven of my favorite rules:sad punctuation

  1. The semicolon. Oh how I loved this little punctuation mark. Joining two independent clauses was once so easy. Just slip a semicolon between them and voila! The first manuscript I wrote was riddled with semicolons…well, maybe not riddled, but it certainly had more than its fair share.
  2. The word that. When I was in school, I learned that an indirect quotation was always set off by this particular word. He said that I needed to finish my homework by tomorrow. I entered my first writing contest years ago and was in for a shock. Almost every instance of the word that had a strike mark through it. I couldn’t believe it. I went to several online groups and vented my outrage. And I found out the judge was right. When writing fiction, the word that causes a reader to slow down rather than glide over the prose. So I waved goodbye to my much used friend.
  3. Never start a sentence with a conjunction. Okay, I admit I’ve embraced the breaking of this particular rule a little too well. My CPs often have to rein me in when it comes to starting sentences with ands, buts, or ors. I love them. To me, starting a sentence with a conjunction makes for a smooth passage from one thought to another. But (hee hee, see what I did there?) they really should be used in moderation.
  4. The colon. I actually still use this punctuation mark, and my editor leaves them in! I think the colon has now taken the place of my beloved semicolon, since I can get away with sneaking them in from time to time.
  5. The lowly comma. <big sigh> How many of you remember the thousand and one rules for comma usage? I can remember looking these up in my grammar book to make sure I put that comma in just the right spot. I loved the comma desperately (notice the forbidden use of the adverb in this sentence). But now? I’m a comma minimalist. No more debates about the serial comma. No more making sure each comma placement is just so. I want my readers to be able to drift through my story without putting them through an obstacle course of punctuation marks. Except when the tone changes or I’m writing romantic suspense. Then I use commas to make the writing a little more jagged or to make the reader push harder to get through certain passages. I still love how this little mark can change the tone and flavor of sentences. I just don’t follow all the rules anymore.
  6. Sentence fragments. Yep. I’m now guilty of throwing a single word onto the written page, plunking a period after it, and calling it done. I can remember when that would have earned me a big red circle and an I.S. notation (incomplete sentence). This is another one that should be used in moderation (and I tend to sprinkle them a bit too liberally). When used correctly, the sentence fragment can make a big impact on your story.
  7. A paragraph must have at least three sentences. Maybe this rule isn’t in effect any longer (yes, I’m that old), but when I was in school, this rule was a biggie. I often sat in my seat grabbing at any random sentence and sticking it into my paper just so I could call a paragraph a paragraph. Oh how my little world has changed. There are times in my books when I have a paragraph that consists of a single word. There’s always a flicker of guilt when I hit that enter key afterwards, but I somehow manage to live with the shame.

So that’s my list. How about you? Are there any grammar rules you’ve left behind and wished you hadn’t? Or do you find ways to have your cake and eat it too? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think breaking the rules should be an excuse for sloppy writing. As the old saying goes…you have to know the rules before you can break them. I admit I do miss the days when everything was cut and dried. I still tend to be a rule follower in real life, which creates a dilemma for me when I write. But <insert evil laugh at conjunction usage> I now tend to just shrug and move on to my next sentence fragment.

Ruby Release: Finding Her Rhythm by Dani Wade

One of the joys of my Indie-publishing endeavors is being able to write a book how it wants to be written– let the characters lead me and follow them without restraints (or into restraints, if that’s where they want to go). My editors have led my Harlequin books in great directions, strengthening them and my skills. But there are just certain things Harlequin books don’t do. So Indie publishing lets me explore different aspects of my creativity.

In this case, I was able to follow the leading of my hero – my rock star hero.

Danielle_FindingHer

When I first envisionsed Michael Korvello, little voices nagged at me. There’s a long-held rumor that editors don’t want Rock Stars. They aren’t popular enough. But still he hung around – that bad boy, brooding rocker attracted to the anti-thesis of his high profile lifestyle, his nanny.

I just couldn’t get him out of my mind, and before long, despite the push and pull of my first print release and new proposals, I had the full-blown story of a man who was lonely but afraid of revealing his true nature. And a woman so battered by life that trust had been all but obliterated – especially for a first rate performer.

So I chose to follow my characters and discovered a world beneath a world. The performer who wants to be seen and loved as a real man. A family who misses him. A woman who learns to trust him to protect her. A brother who teases and torments him, but who always has his back – on and off the road.

They took me on a journey and I enjoyed every minute! (Well, until I reached revisions.) A journey of a family trying to find each other again, and a man hell bent on using his sexual talents to teach a woman everything that she’s capable of, and everything they can be together.

So let’s celebrate those fun journeys we get to take when we follow wherever our characters lead! Share the last “fun” discovery you made about your book/characters while writing!

One commenter will win a giftie! An Amazon or B&N giftcard for a new journey of discovery.

Dani

To Tell or Not to Tell

When I first joined RWA, I read time and again: when people ask what you do, tell them you’re an author. Own it and be proud of yourself. I do and I am. It’s a lot easier when I can follow up with “and my first book will be on the shelves in August 2013,” but I’ve become very comfortable talking with others about my writing. Readers and non-readers.

But I recently ran into a situation that made me think twice.

From the time I started writing, I’ve had to work up the courage to tell people I was an author. I still vividly remember the nervous churning in my stomach when I told my husband I wanted to write my first book. I’m a lucky woman. He was supportive of me as so many people have been along the way. Being outed as a romance writer at a church women’s retreat broke me of a lot of worry, since having 40 people take turns asking, “What do you write?” creates a bit of a thick skin.

But I’ve now found myself actively deciding to keep my authordom a secret. Only in one place – my new day job. I work in an office with six women, but only 2 of them know I write. Why keep it a secret? An upper management boss who only proves more and more how much of a problem this would be with her. She’s extremely conservative and holds to an old-school level of professionalism. She finds something to criticize, no matter how small. That shirt’s a little too low in the front. Those shoes aren’t professional enough. That subject is too personal for the office. While I wouldn’t lie if asked directly, I’m not going out of my way to “share”.

As more time passes, I realize how much of my true self I’m hiding each day. I’m living a double life and not very happy about it. So much of myself is tied up in my writing. I find it very hard not to share my writing triumphs with my fellow workers. To not mention when my characters are giving me a hard time while everyone talks about their rough days. I even have to keep mum about my plans for the weekends, since “writing, writing, and more writing” might raise some eyebrows. But I draw the line at hiding my writing on my lunch break. I usually have a notebook or laptop and what I’m doing on my time is no one’s business – and no one has asked directly yet. Much to my surprise. That particular boss has caught me in the break room and asked questions about my laptop, but draws short of questioning what I’m actually working on.

I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll say when she asks. Not because I’m ashamed of my writing, or what I write, but because I don’t want to be hassled over something that’s none of her business.

So my question for all of you is: When do you tell? When do you not? Are there certain situations you avoid, or have you become comfortable enough to share indiscriminently?

Dani

I’ll check in on my lunch break and after work! Another thing I’m not allowed at this job is personal use of the internet, which I understand a lot more but is very hard when I’d like to be playing with all of you!!!  :)

 

Call Waiting

Are you, like me, sitting by the telephone waiting for that special editor to woo you with a three-book deal? Wondering if your ears are burning not because you have a medical condition but because an entire acquisitions committee is discussing your stellar publishing future? Four of my manuscripts have done the rounds of New York, so I know it’s hard not to obsess over that life-changing Call. I find a watched pot never boils, and similarly, a watched phone does not ring. (Actually, my phone did once ring when I happened to be staring at it, but the caller was a telemarketer asking if I was happy with my mobile service.) So how do you cope with submission obsession? The key is to keep busy. I know a few tricks to help you productively pass the time while you’re on Call waiting.

Plot your next book (and, hey, write it, too) – This trick is self-explanatory, but so important because plotting, researching and writing a new manuscript keeps you very busy. Not only that, you learn from every book you write. And the more books you write, the more chances you have of selling.

Write short stories ­– A friend once told me the best way to keep your skills sharp is to write short stories because it teaches you to right tight. Short stories are…um, short. So if you’re between books, this is the perfect time to develop a short story. You could submit to the magazine market, or self-publish an anthology by yourself or with a band of authors.

Figure out your place in the cyber world and build your brand – A web presence is essential these days. Agents, publishers, readers – they all want to find you online in some capacity. Do you want a website? Can you keep up a regular blog? Gather a Twitter following? Choose an option that will best suit your personality, available time, and financial position.

Get organised – Tidy up your workspace. Get your files in order. Stock up on stationery. Draw up a submissions spreadsheet. Ask yourself if your method of writing is really working for you. Do you need to try a new M.O. for your next project?

Choices, choices – There’s more than one way to get published. Ever looked into going indie? Self-publishing may suit your next book or your current book. Or maybe a book from your past that can be updated and readied for the e-marketplace.

Brush up with a writing course – Need help with characterisation? Plotting? Members of Romance Writers of America can “attend” RWA University. Some classes are free. You can also participate in online/offline chapter courses and short courses offered by community colleges.

Get a new hobby – If you’re writing for publication, then consider it your job, not your hobby. Someone smart once said you have to experience life in order to write fiction. Keep yourself refreshed and well rounded by immersing yourself in another activity. One of my favourite new pastimes is baking cakes for friends and colleagues. Cake-eating is making me incredibly well rounded, if you know what I mean. I guess I have to be careful not to let the baking and eating take precedence over writing.

Forgetaboutit! Once my agent sends a book out to editors, I trick myself into forgetting all about it. I have a memory like a sieve, so this is easier for me than it is for most people. One thing you do have to remember is that the book is out of your hands now. You’ve worked hard to make it shiny and marketable and the best it can be. Let your work speak for itself. In the meantime, see trick number one – plot and write your next book!

This song is dedicated to all of you patient authors out there waiting for the call — Call Me by Blondie.

How do you cope with being on submission? If you’re a published author, how do you pass the time when you’re waiting for word from your editor or agent?

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My infamous “low cake.” I’m working on improvements while I wait for The Call.

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Chocolate Frangelico brownies

In Defense of Reading

How many times have you stood in a group of writers and heard this:

“I never have time to read anymore.”

“It’s been a year since I’ve read anything besides my own work.”

“I don’t read because (insert reason here). But that’s okay.”

Um, no. It isn’t.

I’ve heard statements like these aplenty through the years and they’ve always made me a little sad. It wasn’t until I found myself in the same boat that I started to examine this phenomenon. There are so many excuses for us, as writers, to not read, and the majority of them boil down to one basic reason: TIME.

But I’ve begun to question: Will our writing/creativity suffer if we don’t read?

stack-of-books

Reading for pleasure should be a treasured gift to writers. After all, the majority of us came to writing through reading. But it also allows writers to:

1. Re-experience what its like for a reader to get “lost in a book”. We all have memories of this magical phenomena, but the more distant the recollection, the less the potency. Reaffirm your own wish for your readers by returning to your reading roots.

2. Absorb new techniques – not by “studying/dissecting” the written word, but through effortless osmosis. Just like we did before we ever started writing. Later, after you come out the other side of the story, you can ask yourself why you loved the characters or what kept you turning the page. But relax and let your writer’s eye take knowledge in while your reader’s brain is fully engaged.

3. Doing anything you enjoy, sparking your imagination, refills the creative well that gets drained with every project you invest yourself in. It relaxes you, opens your creativity to possibilities, and generally brings us to that peaceful place where we can create without straining or overburdening ourselves.

4. Being a writer doesn’t mean forsaking those things we enjoy. If we do, then our writing suffers. This quote from NYT bestselling author Linda Howard explains this very well:

The fact is, being a writer doesn’t mean you have no life other than writing, any more than being a schoolteacher means you live in the classroom and do nothing else.  Our lives are just like everyone else’s, other than the writing part.  We still have dentist appointments, need flu shots, have fender-benders and children (not sure there’s a difference <G>).  Those things — normal as they are — are stressful enough without throwing in the added stress of feeling frantic because they’re taking away from our writing time.  We still need to enjoy ourselves.  We’re driven by some weird internal chemistry, but we need to give ourselves a break.

Life happens to everyone.  It’s here for us to live, and we should live it, because otherwise we’ve thrown away the most precious part of our writing.  If we give up doing what we enjoy, whether it’s reading or taking long walks or anything else, we’ve given away a precious spark that makes us more human.  Yeah, you may write a more technically perfect manuscript if you devote every free hour to it, but if you really live, you’ll be able to write a more vital, human manuscript — and, as a reader, I can tell you that I’d rather read a book where the characters come alive, than one that’s technically perfect but is as limp as uncooked bacon.

That about says it all…don’t you think?

 

While I know all of this is true, TIME is still an issue. Believe me, as a writer with a full-time day job and a family, I know this is true. So let me share some strategies for fitting reading into a very busy life.

1. Read a little each night before bed or to unwind after work. If you’re the type of reader who can string out a good book, twenty minutes a day would work well for you. Give you a little boost at the end of a long day.

2. Another option for this type of reader is to carry a book in your purse and read while waiting in line, out to eat, etc. Fill those little pockets of time with the yumminess of good characters and thrilling plots.

3. I, unfortunately, can’t read a short time and put an interesting book down. I’m more of a binge reader, so I’ve set up a reward day (or weekends for big projects) when I give myself permission to indulge. Some reward-worthy tasks include finishing a rough draft, after revisions, after completing a writing challenge, or after a set period of strenuous writing. Then I can dip into a new book guilt-free (mostly) and come back to my own writing refreshed.

4. Set up a regular date night – just yourself and your new favorite book. Whether its once a week, every two weeks, or one weekend a month, mark your calendar for a regular reading time as a reminder that its important (and essential to your creative function) to enjoy some downtime.

So as a writer, do you still read? Let’s talk about the whys, the why nots…and how you work reading into your writing schedule.

Season Sense

If you’re thinking this blog is about setting, you’re totally wrong.  Maybe I should’ve changed the title so you wouldn’t have thought so, but after I started brainstorming ideas for a blog it actually fit.

My original idea was to write about two lessons I learned many years ago from my creative writing professor which, yes, would’ve pertained to setting, but then two of my Ruby sisters had also mentioned on our private loop that they planned blogs about the subject. Although I knew we’d approach the subject matter from different angles, I kind of figured our readers would say enough already.  So I’ll save my thoughts on setting for another time.

Anyway, going back to my creative writing classes— since I know you’re all dying to know what they were—the first one was free writing. We all know what that is, right? You just write whatever comes to mind without stopping for a length of time and the writing doesn’t need to follow rhythm or reason. It’s a way of freeing your muse. Thinking about that lesson helped me put a twist on the second lecture, which was setting sense and had to do with experiencing your world, and ‘Wala’  I think I came up with unique tutorial for our awesome followers.

Story Alchemy

In the middle of May, I took some time off from my hellish work schedule for a retreat, up in the mountains of North Carolina.  The occasion was a weekend hosted by singer-songwriter David Wilcox.  As always, listening to David’s music recharges my batteries.  But I have to say that the most surprising and inspiring moments of this year’s retreat came during a workshop for songwriters given by Laura Hope-Gill, a North Carolina poet.  (http://laurahopegill.blogspot.com/)

Laura spoke of the alchemy of the writing process.  And her discussion of alchemy has led me on an interesting writer’s journey.

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The Latest Comments

  • Arlene Hittle: Sounds great!
  • Gwyn: Reading the premise made me smile, Vivi. Sounds like a winner!
  • Anne Marie Becker: Looks like a great book! Congratulations on the new release!
  • Elizabeth Essex: What a delightful premise. Can’t wait to read it! Congrats on your release Vivi/Lizzie!...
  • jbrayweber: Sounds like a fun book, Vivi! Congrats on the new release!

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