Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Perfectionism!

Sometimes being a writer is really hard.  Writing takes thought, organization, skill and a hint of wild abandonment to make it really work.  The problem with all of that is, it is really hard to abandon all the organization which is sometimes required to write a good story.  This, my friends, is my main problem.  When I want to tell a story I sit down and start pounding it out.  The part of the story that has driven me to the madness of writing flow freely, as if the Muse Goddess was sitting on my shoulder and sprinkling me with magic writing dust. But then there are the other parts of the story that I am driven to because plot, or character decisions, or whatever else, that stops me in my tracks.

I don't know about you, but sometimes writing feels like an exercise in frustration. You know what you want to happen, you know how it is suppose to happen, but then for whatever reason in the world you can't make it happen! This is what I call Perfectionism- the inability to move past something because it didn't work exactly the way you wanted it to.  This "P" word is the exact reason I have an entire back log of unfinished manuscripts just mocking me in my Word file.  They are a constant reminder of all the stories that didn't go as planned, but really, what ever does go the way we want it to? 

I like to use the analogy of traveling with children. Before you even leave the driveway things have stopped going as planned.  What would happen if we abandoned every trip, or vacation because the itinerary got messed up before we even had the car loaded?  Perfectionism is holding us back fellow writers! We worry about what others are going to think about the story before we even get the whole thing down on paper. We wonder if our book is going to be the next Harry Potter, but we never finish the dang thing because one of our characters grow a personality and throw off the whole plan.  What we need to do is stop trying to have perfect rough drafts, that is what edits and revisions are for. No one has ever written a perfect rough draft. that is why it is call a ROUGH draft.  So lets stop with all the frets and worries. Lets just get  the story down on paper, and then we can go back and start polishing. Not even diamonds are born perfect. 

So here is my challenge, and my goal for myself.  Instead of stopping when it gets hard, I am going to push through it.  I might have one or two chapters of complete trash, but somewhere in all that mess of words is a great idea, but I can't have it until I write it down.  Next I am going to open up that dusty old Word file and start working on a story in there.  I wrote what I already have because there was something to love about it.  A character who needed to be heard, a story that needs to be told, so I need allow myself to fall in love all over again. I'm going to say goodby to Perfectionism and say hello to story telling.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Plugging along!

How has your 30 day writing challenge been going?  Mine had a rocky start, but I am pulling it together.  I find that I get a lot of joy out of writing, even if it is hundreds of words a day.  The story I am working on is a remix of my Nano book this year. It is fun to delve farther into my characters backgrounds, get to know them a little bit better.  The story takes on a whole different life when you are not so rushed to put words down on the page.

Just the other day I was trying to work through a plot twist.  My MC ran into big trouble that I wasn't counting on, and it really threw me for a loop.  It doesn't change the overall outcome of the book, but it sure throws a wrench in all the plans I had made.  Now I have to figure out how to get her out of trouble but stay in love with my Hero.  Oh the joys of writing!

I hope you all are able to pound some words out here or there.  I know it can be hard with the demands of life, but why not do something that makes you happy.  A few minutes in my imaginary world with my imaginary friends makes a whole lot of difference in the real world.  So do something for yourself and your readers and get creative!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

30 Day Writing Challenge

OK, I am doing this mostly for me to get back on track this year, but I am going to do a 30 day writing challenge.  I have lots of projects I want to be working on but I don't find the time to do it, so this month I am going to make time.  This isn't going to be like Nano, I am not going for a word count, I am just going for quality writing time.  I don't care if it is 10 words a day, but I AM going to write. 

I recently saw something about writing that said if you are not dedicated enough to your craft then you will not succeed. I want to enjoy writing, but also be productive. So anyone who wants to join me I hope to be adding updates every few days about my progress.  I am not starting a new project but working on something I started during Nano.  This is my hope that this year I can get a couple more books published and I think this is a good way to start. Good luck fellow writers and I hope your New Year's writing goals are a success!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pants-er!

Are you a pants-er?  Do you sit down and make it work no matter what happens? Then you might be a great Nano writer!

Last week I covered the way that I do Nano, but that isn't the only way, no sir, you could Pants it!  I tried the technique a few years ago and failed miserable so it doesn't work for me, but it might for you.  As far as I can tell you don't do much planning at all, accept maybe a concept and a title, the latter less important than the first.  Then when November 1st rolls around you just start pounding it out.

I can see the appeal in this method. A great idea can flow better then something plotted down to its last breath, and you have all the creative liberty in the world not being married to an idea.  I have on occasion Panted parts of my manuscript, and it can be quite liberating. The reason it doesn't work for me all the time, is because I tend to clam up when I can't come up with the next idea. I like some sort of idea as to where I am going, so if I get stuck I can refer back to my notes and pick up the pieces and move on. 

Still if you choose to Pants I wish you all the luck in the world. Technically, spontaneity and free flow really are the purpose of Nano in the first place.  It helps you to put away the annoying personal editor that talks to us all the time, and have a great time doing what we love, writing!  No matter how you plan on approaching this feat of writing craziness I wish you all the luck in the world, and may the Pants be with you!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Meet Mortianna DeWinters, the villain for my upcoming Nano book.  She looks harmless enough until you know just what is going on with her.  Fueled by jealousy for her dead half sister, she is determined to ruin the reputation of the newest young Opera Star, her niece.  When the girl is married to a wealthy Count Mortianna did what every other crazy woman would do, she murdered him!

There you go, how do her open arms look now? Hehe!

One of the things I have done in the past for Nano books, that has stuck throughout all of my writing is assigning a picture to my characters.  After my character interviews I start looking for someone who fits the bill.  In Mortianna's case I knew I wanted a woman who was still beautiful even thought she was older.  I wanted a red head of sorts, mostly because I think red heads are very clever and have a whole lot of common sense, even if they are on this side of crazy like Mortianna.  (Let me preface this by saying I have a number of red headed friends and family members and they are all great!) I also like this picture because she has very innocent quality about her until you find out that she is a murderer.  I wanted her to be eccentric enough that she could pull off her character traits but also have the qualities of a normal human.  Also Julianna' Moores performance in "An Ideal Husband," played largely into my choice. 

Having a visual also helps me to refer back to some of my characters traits without having to scroll through the bio's.  I can clearly see their features and the look on the faces that help me to write a more believable character. 
This is Paige Orr the niece in my new book.  She is beautiful and innocent looking as well. But the look on her face is also determination.  We can get that she is young with dark hair and eyes.  She looks rather petite and quiet but again the look on her face says a whole lot more.  She may have been beaten once but she isn't going to put up with it anymore, and if you don't believe her, just try something. 

Sometimes when I write I get characters mixed up with other, especially if they have a lot of the same characteristics. It is easy for me to look at this picture of Paige and remember many of her traits that is important to her character.  In this case I choose an actress I know nothing about so I haven't been influenced by her acting so I can't make her anything I want as long as she fits my character. 


Sometimes I browse pictures of actors and actresses online until I find what I am looking for. Take this talented man for example. If you know who he is you know exactly how he can be cast as a book character.  Not only his appearance but his amazing presence can lend itself to a character. 

Nano tip of the day.  Use visuals when you write.  This isn't limited to characters. Landscapes, buildings, maps, flowers, etc. can help make your story more down to earth and bring it closer to home for your readers. 

Happy planning!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nano Planning!

So my writing friends, the time is again upon us to plan for Nano! For weeks I had no idea what I wanted to write about, but a grand idea has come to me and now I am excited about the upcoming Nano month.  Today I wanted to talk about planning.  How do you get ready for your writing?  Some years I have just gone into the month without much planning at all, other times I have done quite a bit of writing before hand in an effort to get to know my characters.  This year was a planning year so I am excited to share some ideas. If you do something different, or find something that works really good for you feel free to share it.Today I am going to cover just one of my techniques, and hopefully we can cover others through out the rest of the week.

1. First off you need to have a good idea of what you want to write about, what you wanted my plot to be like and picking characters that fit with your ideas. Also a time period, setting, and lesser characters all need to be decided.  In my case I needed a hero and a heroin, but there are a lot of players in this new book and I wanted to be able to keep them all straight, but how?

2. Character interviews, or reviews.  Sometimes it is helpful to ask your characters questions about what they want from the story. What is their end goal? What do they want to succeed?  This is a good way to get to know your characters.  I read somewhere that even our villains think they have good intentions.  Not every one is purely evil, most good bad guys have very human, understandable traits. Make sure that you know what everyone wants from the story so that you can understand why they do the things that they do. Things like age, birth, childhood memories, and physical characteristics are helpful in this stage so you know what their proper reaction to things will be.  A twenty year old woman is going to react differently than a thirty five year old woman. Maturity or perceived maturity is a big thing in writing to make it believable. Rich, poor, strong, weak, all of these characteristics will lend life to your character.

Also background checks are incredibly important. There isn't a lot of time to fill your manuscripts full of background, but that doesn't mean that your characters don't have one.  The things that happen in our lives make us who we are, influence what we do from here on out.  We can't just assume that a person is a villain because we want them to be, there has to be a real reason for the story to be valid.  The same goes for our hero's, they are human but something about their past has caused them to be heroic, what was it?  These are good questions to ask your character so you know them before you start writing their lives. 

I find if I know my characters and what motivates them I don't spend time trying to figure out what they would do in a certain situation. It would be completely natural to write what happens next because I know them better than I know myself. Don't be afraid to do this because you think there will be no spontaneity in your writing because that just isn't the case.  Sometimes, more often then not, I still manage to surprise myself with what I do.  Just because you know someone doesn't mean they can't surprise you. 

Those are two of my preparations for writing Nano.  I should really take a lesson from myself and be better at doing this for my other manuscripts.  If you do something similar let us know it, comparing notes is the best way to improve our writing. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back to School!

I don't know about you but getting back into the swing of school is hard!! The kids don't want to get out of bed, and I spend the bulk of my day trying to put my house and myself back to order after a crazy summer.  I told myself this week I needed to buckle down and get some writing done.  You would think with all the kids in school for most of the day that would be easy, but it just isn't.  Then it hit me the other day, I only have two months to get my first draft done on my most recent manuscript, and then I need to get crakin on NANOWRIMO!! Can you believe it is only two months away! AHAH.

My hubby asked me the other day if I have any ideas, and I am flat out.  Often time things that happen in my everyday life catches my eye and I can form a plot around it. Sometimes it is a crazy dream, or something I witness in the grocery store, but no matter how hard I look I can't come up with a good idea.  Some years for Nano I have great ideas, I can't wait to get them down on paper, and for months before November 1st I am playing over and over the opening pages. Sometimes I have pictures printed out and detailed outlines waiting to go, but this year I have nothing, nada, capoot! 

Talk about stressful for a writer.  We make a living on having good ideas and making them into great stories.  It is fun to think up a character and develop their lives, get to know then, want for them and hurt for them. In a way it is like being a parent to a whole slew of people.  I love the creativity that comes along with the stories and the escape to a different place and time it affords me.  I guess I have to say that is my favorite part of the story writing process, getting to know the people in my books. 

So alas I may start Nano with no idea at all but I am determined to succeed!  Just like my kids, who don't want to get up, or do homework we preserver, and I will preserver.  But...if any of you have a good idea, I would love to hear about it. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

End of Summer!

Saturday my husband and I were walking through our back yard, and I mentioned to him that we were nearing the end of summer.  The end of long warm nights and summer flowers.  The time when kids get ready to go back to school, and we struggle to regain some kind of schedule.  Some years this is a hard time for me because I love summer! I like to be able to go outside in bare feet. I like to hear the sprinklers and watch my garden go from nothing, to full out explosion of green and yummieness.  It is true that after three months of summer my kids are a little bit on edge, and there are days they drive me crazy, but I love the smell of their hair when they come in from playing all day, all warm and smelling like the sun.  Or how they look covered in Popsicle, after swimming in the pool. These are the memories I won't easily forget.

Still a schedule is something I crave.  I would like to get up in the morning and have my day planned down to the hour.  I work so much better when I know what is happening and when it is going to happen rather than wandering around wondering what I should do next.  I look forward to getting everyone to school and having two or more hours to work on what I want to work on. I look forward to two hours of writing when no one needs me to do anything, and I can really get in deep to the story instead of stopping to help someone get a drink, or turn on a TV show.  Don't get me wrong, I love to spend time with my kids, but school offers me time to be me.

Anyway, I was walking in my beautiful back yard thinking about how much fun we have had this summer, almost wishing it wouldn't end but I realized that is the ebb and flow of life.  We have days in the sun, and days when it is almost to cold to do anything.  Right now my children are young and spending long days at the pool with cousins is part of the living process.  School will start and we will move on from Summer of 2013, but somethings never leave you.  So here we go school year 2013, bring on the homework, fall leaves, Halloween, apple cider, and snow boots, I'm ready!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Best Laid Plans!

You have heard it before, "The best laid plans of mice and men!" Well that was camp Nano for me last month. I wanted a reason to write every day, but I didn't take into account all the other things that I needed to do last month.  While I did get a good start on my Nano book I ran into problems along the way, and needless to say, I was not successful.

There have been times in my writing career that I have found myself unsuccessful and it had managed to get me down. There was a time when the reviews on one of my books made me want to give up all together. I didn't take into account that people have every right to express their opinion, and I just needed to take what they were saying and learn from it. Sometimes our success only come from our failures.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend the week up at Girls Camp. Monday through Friday I spent all my time with wonderful leaders and a huge group of amazing girls. We did crafts, talked, laughed, hiked and stayed up way to late. Wednesday when we went on our hike I found myself struggling to make it down the mountain. I had been up since 4:00 am and I was tired!  A sweet girl walked with me and kept me company, and we had a good conversation. I told her about the last time I hiked that particular hike, and I came across snail making its way down the path. I told her how I picked the snail up to look at it the put it back up on the mountains side so it wouldn't get stepped on. It didn't occur to me until later that I might have set the poor thing back several days worth of work. It reminded me an awful lot about how life can set us back when we already felt like we put in so much work. I couldn't help but point this out to my hike companion, and she managed to change my perspective on everything in a few short sentences.

She was quick to remind me that sometimes a set back is really just giving us a head start on something else. I may have felt like I was moving that snail away from his goal, but maybe I moved him closer to something that would be of more help to him at that time.  I don't know about the snail, but there are times when my setbacks really have been the beginning of something I never would have imagined.  I hope from now on I can learn and grow from the frustrations I face in my life and use them to boost me in a better direction.  I hope that for all of you too.  Happy reading, and or writing and know you can do great things!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Using Your Thinker


Because I write mostly historical novels I have had to do a lot of research to understand the way things use to be.  I actually like to do the work, it is interesting to me and I find life in the old west fascinating.  I also enjoy reading historical novels of all shapes and sizes, because I have always enjoyed learning.

My current Camp Nano book takes place mostly on a ship, an old ship, and I have done some looking around and learning about ships and the process it takes to actually make on work. I have a printout of a ship taped to the wall in my writing nook for reference, and this morning as I was getting ready, my daughter asked me what the picture was. I told her I needed it for the book I was working on and she asked, "Why?"

I think a lot of people who don't write don't understand how much work goes into the book before you even really start on it. Once you learn the information it is a lot easier to write a second, third, fourth book in the same time period, but if you decide to change to something different you need to do the research all over again.  Like I said before, this is a process I really enjoy and I think it really adds to the story when you have correct facts and information in your book.

One caution I give about information though, is not to have information dumps in your book. It is cool to learn about new things but if you just dump the information in different parts of your book, your readers are going to feel like they are in a history class and loose interest. Remember that tidbits here and there are much better, kinda like those little Dove chocolate nuggets, bits of sweetness through the story.

The beauty of the brain is that we get to use it for some amazing things.  So use your thinker this week, learn something new, even work on something new, and definitely eat chocolate!