Posts Tagged ‘writing articles’

How We Write: When our soul is tired…

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Ever panic, thinking you might never be able to do what you love again?

panic

Me? I love writing. It’s my job,  but also my passion; how I enter the world. And after a season of not feeling well enough to do much of it, I was on a roll in 2012. That is, until the great crash of early 2013.

Hello, my name is Anna. And I haven’t been able to write for over two weeks. Not even a blog post. Me–and I LOVE to blog. Three, sometimes four times a week,  blogging is my morning writing exercise.

It’s how I prime the creative pump. It’s the blood that flows first, engaging my creativity, helping me smile or think or dig a little deeper  until I’m ready to tackle my daily pages. But ever since I turned in the final developmental rewrites for Three Days on Mimosa Lane the first week in February…nada. The well wasn’t just dry–picture a bunch of two-by-fours nailed across the opening, daring me to rip through them and face the big, bad ugly lurking beyond.

But why? Have the two and a half weeks been about being lazy? Giving up? What about the month before that, when I barely had the energy to complete the TDOML developmental edits and didn’t blog in January, either?

You’ve heard of bone tired. I think I’ve stumbled across the state of being I’m going to call Soul Tired.

soul tired

Overwhelmed. That’s where we sometimes find ourselves, whether its about writing or family or friends or other commitments that we love but realize we can’t face. Not right now. Not with a smile on our faces and a I’m so glad to be here hug.

When you’re soul tired, you’re disconnected. Sometimes, you’re overwhelmed. But always, always, you’re looking at the world around you and realizing you no longer know or feel your place in it. (more…)

How We Write: Deconstructing BEFORE Rewriting. No more excuses…

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Anyone–ANYONE–can deconstruct and rewrite a manuscript. Anyone can learn to rework a story one scene at a time. And we’re talking rewriting–NOT copy editing a manuscript to catch punctuation or grammar mistakes, or line editing to make sure prose flows beautifully. These skills are important, too, but only after an author has dissected the first draft and rewoven it’s parts into the best story possible. These are the ideas I discuss with writers at conferences year around.

This week in HoWW, I’ll do my best to cover the high points of a deconstruction technique that, combined with rewriting, it takes me a two-day weekend workshop to teach properly. This is interactive stuff that I love to work with in person, while students apply what I’m showing them to a work in progress. In fact I’m already lining up several hands-on rewriting workshops for 2013. And the mindset of one of these weekend retreats that I hope you’ll also achieve, at least a little, after reading this post, is–

  • No more excuses for not rewriting.
  • No more hiding behind “not seeing” what needs to be changed in your story.
  • No more big, scary book that’s too complicated to rework.
  • No more feeling out of control of your creativity as you rewrite!

Next Wednesday, we’ll get more into what to do with your story once you can see its various pieces more clearly. Today, let’s zero in on the seeing part!

Once your draft is completed, the story can seem too complex to tackle, right?

You feel too close to your work to be able to analyze and re-craft it. There’s just too much there, and it’s impossible to see where each change will take the story. It’s easy to find yourself rewriting in circles, never really getting anywhere. And who has that kind of time?

Under-Construction

So, let’s talk deconstruction technique. Not HOW to do the revisions themselves–that will be for next week.  And, frankly, fully learning how to revise a scene or a chapter or an act or an entire novel is more about trial and error and learning from experience). This is a post about how to deconstruct what you have, so you can get to work on what needs to be done–THAT I can show you today ;o)

How can you challenge each story component in your draft? (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Too Close to Quit?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Ever notice that the closer you draw to something you really want, the more inclined you can be to quit the race that’s gotten you there? I know I can’t be the only one who’s natural tendency is to dream big and fight hard to make that dream happen, only to begin doubting (or dreading failure) just as the moment of victory draws closest… It’s so easy to pursue something beyond your reach, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t intimidate or quit or back down. Not so easy, for many of those same people, to accept that the achievement of all that’s been fought for has really, truly arrived.

dont quit every difficulty is an opportunity in disguise

Precipitory anxiety is as natural an occurrence to my creative mind as craving the sound of water, feeling more inspired between midnight and 3 am than any other time of the day, and always looking for a different way to see and experience ordinary things others pass by without a second thought. I’m good in a fight. I’m the point person who believes any threat or challenge can not only be tackled but conquered. I’m a gamer. But…wait a minute…what do I do at game’s end? More often than not, I find my instincts screaming, “But…what do you mean it’s over?” Because, I think, it’s easier for me to be in love with the dream than to accept the scary proposition that I could actually bomb at the very thing I’m wanting so badly to happen. Sound familiar?

Puppy Dream big

I don’t know about you, but I feel much more in control when I’m scrapping and slugging it out and no one really expects me to get where I’m going but me.But put me in the end zone with folks cheering me on (or flash me an early glimpse of what that moment’s going to be like as I draw ever nearer), and I’m at least for a moment or two a freaked out writer geek who is terrified that everyone’s going to be looking while I somehow find a way to f**k it all up. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Suck it up. This is life. Live it out loud!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” we want to say some days. A lot of days lately. For so many people I know, this is a year of volatile change and redirection. “Enough is enough,” a lot of us have insisted, bending beneath the pressure but refusing to break. “I just want a little peace…” Understandable, unless what you’re saying is that you’d rather go back than forward. Reasonable, unless what you’re thinking is that the change is what’s crushing your sense of stability. It’s not. Life has gotten very real for a whole lot of my friends and family. It’s not at the moment something we can sit back and appreciate as we sip our coffee or toast with a glass of wine. It’s in our faces and demanding our attention and dragging us into its momentum as it shouts for us to wake up and LIVE!

you've got to be kidding me

Oh, come on. This is what we’re here for, right? To learn and grow and change and see what we’re meant to become next. It’s easy. To change jobs (or publishers) over and over until you find the right fit (hopefully…this time…), and somehow find a way to feel grateful that you have a job/publisher when so many others don’t. To pay all your bills as the teenager grows ever older and more of a money pit and to see your savings and retirement shrink because of the rising cost of living and the dwindling interest rates and volatile returns on stock market investments. To accept that retirement might be as far away a date for you now as it was when you first entered the workforce, but again, you’re working so keep you mind on the present and celebrate that joyous fact that the dollar you earn today is worth about a third of that first dollar you brought home straight out of college.

It’s easy to face all that and feel warm and fuzzy about your crumbling spot on the ledge overlooking the abyss, right? RIGHT?!

Josy and Pussycats

Yeah, I feel it too. That pinch. That pressure. That sense that everything’s spinning and spiralling and I’m clinging to my balance and putting everything I have into merely staying on my feet. But that’s reality, my friends. That’s what being alive feels like right now. That’s the world we’re living in, and we ARE lucky to be living it. To have choices and to have jobs and publishers and financial resources to compete for. 

The world can look grim all it wants to, but I tell myself every morning that I don’t have to see things that way. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Me and Dorchester, the CliffsNotes Version

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

You have to be willing to take risks in this business of ours. Calculated risks that are nonetheless precarious for the careful thought you put into jumping off whatever cliff of opportunity looms before you. Sometimes a marvelous parachute glide awaits you, easing you into your next step forward. Sometimes there turn out to be holes in your plan and you land in the trees–if you’re lucky. Sometimes you crash and burn completely. My experience with Dorchester Publishing these last few years, like many authors, has been more the latter.  But as of last week I can officially say it hasn’t been a crash and burn fiasco, and the trees that were grabbing at my chute are receding farther and farther away each time I look back. Perspective?One might call it that, this ah-ha sensation filling me. Hind sight gives us the illusion of finally seeing things as they were always meant to be. Maybe it’s just dumb luck… You be the judge.

perspective

Too often it feels as if I have absolutely NO idea how I got to this moment of deep sighing and appreciation for a journey well traveled and a fight bravely faced and won (Amazon, the publisher who also recently signed a three book deal with me to publish a women’s fiction/contemporary romance series has bought out Dorchester’s list at auction and will not only pay me royalties due from the last three years, but will re-list and potentially buy new titles into my sci-fi/fantasy series).

To be honest, I have some idea. But my mind’s still spinning as I process the twists and turns and decisions and retreats–stopping myself, ultimately, from making several end-game decisions that would have ended this wild ride before I achieved what I’d set out to. What follows is the CliffsNotes version of that adventure, because publishing can be a sucky journey for all of us and I’m happy to share my personal suckage if it might possibly help others finding themselves in their own potentially no-win situations, trying to choose the least objectionable of the unsatisfying options before them.

no win decision

But first, let’s identify what exactly I wanted to achieve from the start. Because the best business decisions are potentially bad business decisions, regardless of the odds in your favor, if you don’t understand your goal. My best advice to anyone when they ask me my opinion of what they should do about a book, agent, publisher or contract is to figure out what you want and determine the best way to achieve that. Beyond that, I got nothing. Because as you’ll see below, the rules are always changing and what works for me or someone else now may be a no-win choice for you tomorrow. You have to be flexible in this business. You have to dodge and duck and know when to jump or stand still.  None of which you can do effectively if you aren’t sure where you’re headed.

My goal with my sci-fi/fantasy series: To establish my mainstream fiction work and to build a series for a broader audience than my contemporary romance roots, into which I could continue to sell future novels. Simple right?

success failure

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

  • Round about the fall of 2008: Dorchester offers a 2-book deal for my Legacy Series. Dark Legacy to release nationwide in mass market paperback in the fall of 2009.
  • I deliver the book on time, but the advance money isn’t coming from the publisher as quickly as it should. Agent pushes hard behind the scenes, but we don’t pull the book from the schedule. It’s more important to my goal to be established as a mainstream author with bigger stories to sell than my category romance roots, than it is to join in the shrieks of dissatisfaction with the publisher beginning to rumble all over the Internet.
  • Fall, 2009: Dark Legacy in stores, positioned well, I’m signing in the B&N flagship store in New York’s Lincoln Center, and we’re off. Sales are good but nothing fabulous. We can do better, publisher says. My series is repositioned away from traditional romance and closer to the sci-fi/thriller market it’s better suited for.
  • Secret Legacy due to editor in early 2010 for a rushed summer 2010 release because they want to break it out. They’re behind this very different, edgy thing I’m doing with my mainstream work 110%. They’ve also by now paid me the advance I’m owed to date. Agent and I see this as a good chance to shine within a smaller traditional press, so I keep working.
  • Health issues and surgery prevent me from turning the second book in on time. Editor and publisher couldn’t have been more understanding. Deadline for delivering Secret Legacy is pushed to the spring of 2010, with a fall release. It’s the hardest writing period I’ve ever had, and I called my agent to quit more than once, but the book was finished and revised in a gruelingly short amount of time. If nothing else, this experience proved to me that I had to keep writing–if for no other reason than I couldn’t seem to make myself stop.
  • Fall 2010: Serious money spent on my part and committed by publisher to promote the book that should break out, even though remaining advance for the second book on the contract hasn’t yet been paid. However, lots of publisher plans–print and digital promotion. Extensive online blog tour being set up. Again, agent and I are staying focused on the publishing possibilities and my investing in my mainstream future, which means I continue to do my job and play nice while she rattles their cages fighting to get me the money owed.
  • Two weeks before Secret Legacy’s launch: it’s announced on the Internet (not to individual authors) that overnight Dorchester’s pulling their print publishing arm (meaning all my mass market print books are being yanked, never to be distributed retail) and beginning immediately  to shift to a digital first/print on demand business. My break out release: not going to happen. My sizable investment in promoting to mass market retailers and readers: wasted. My remaining faith in publisher: destroyed.
  • (more…)

How We Write: When we don’t wanna!

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

When you’re a tech writer, you learn you have to have head’s-down writing days. Whether you’re in a busy office or working at home and everyone’s pinging you on your laptop through your DSL or whatever and the phone won’t stop ringing, you have to learn how to tell everyone that you can’t chat today, or do lunch, or even make a hour-long meeting that should only take fifteen minutes. You have a certain number of pages to get done to stay on your project plan, and that’s just the way it’s going  to be. You’re not moving from your desk or even going to try and pretend to be social until they’re done.

Fiction writers need head’s-down days, too. I was talking with someone yesterday about meeting daily page count goals. If I could do it writing 600 pg. security administration guides (brain damge would be a more interesting pursuit), I can damn well do it writing something fun like how to make dreams leathal or how to kill a bad guy with a Yoo-hoo-spewing vending machine (don’t ask). Your daily fiction writing goal is your professional project. If you have to, make a formal plan to track it. Then follow the plan. Even if you think you can’t be creative today. Of course you can be creative. You’re a creative writer. It’s you job. DO IT.

writer defined

Sorry for yelling. I’m on target to write more this year than I have in the last two years combined, and I think it’s getting to me

AND I know it’s not that simple. We all have lives, and some of us (me included) work at home and that comes with a whole other world of distractions. But be committed to your page count. To your story. It has to be a priority. Otherwise, you’re not giving your creative job your all. And it will show in the characters and plot you develop. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Milestones and pushing beyond them…

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Whatever your long-term goal, meeting short-term milestones is the key to success. As is  enduring between them. The troughs between the high points is where it’s easiest to quit. Our souls are most vulnerable there. Our love for competing with ourselves is most at risk. It’s these between places where we’re more likely to hit a wall we feel we can’t possible scale…

hitting the wall woman

I’ve achieved several of work/book milestones the first half of 2012: getting back under contract; finishing novels; building up the editing side of my business; rediscovering what feeds me as an artists and committing myself to that journey above all else.

Personally, there have been even more highs: 21st wedding anniversary; my teenager’s success in his 3rd semester of high school, his kick-ass internship, his (waaaaaaa!) obtaining his driver’s license and next step toward freedom; my getting a handle on the health issues that have ground most everything else into the dust for 3 years and owning, along with my artistic inspiration, what will be required likely for the rest of my life to keep me thriving.

Startling progress for six months of living, particularly after the slow down that became my 2010 and 2011… Then I hit a wall in July that narrowed my focus to quite honestly getting through the next minute, next hour, next day, next deadline. So help me God, I was going to get through! And I did. Where, exactly, did July and the first part of August go?

hitting the wall sculpture

No wonder all I want to do right now is sit in a corner and quietly, passively, watch the world go by.

Like with the distance runners and swimmers we cheered on in the Olympics, just before and just after a peak in performance we’re exhausted as our bodies and minds are wanting to let down. We’re inspired, yes, but often least able to believe that pushing through MUST be done before all else. Our focus is skewed toward a short-term goal, and we begin to wander, to wonder, to miss the point0–that the journey is key, not the result. (more…)

How We Write: Drafting and Revising, Heaven or Hell?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

I’m a geeky, analysis-loving writer. I live to plan and revise. Drafting–NOT so much my happy place. While I’m drafting, I must continually slap my hand and let go of the overly organized stuff my brain prefers. So nix on clinging to the forms and charts that I’ve filled out and used to rough out my characters and plot. It’s the only way I ever get a draft done–I have to trust my instincts and my planning and let myself go–to PLAY.  Writing is improvisation. It’s playing. I’ve being asked a lot about my process as I do the blog tour for my latest release–here’s some of the high points about my drafting process.

draft free

Drafting is hell for me…until that ugly first draft is done. Then it becomes heaven, because now I have some place to start to REALLY craft a story I’ll love. Believe me, this is a dynamic that won’t change for my process. I just sent the first draft of my Christmas on Mimosa Lane to my Montlake editor after working on it FOREVER and much longer than I was supposed to have to write it (BLESS my editor and agent for being so patient while I tackled such a complex story), and only now do I really see the potential and beauty of what I’ll ge to work with through the editorial revision process.

And I’ve revised the entire thing myself something like 15 or 20 times already. The ending chapters–I must have rewritten them at least 10 times in the last few weeks. Character arcs–each one has been obsessed over. Subplots–do they reflect the main? Secondary characters–do they have their own story to tell, as well as playing into the central plot’s overall themes? Setting–how well have I show the reader what I need to, so hopefully she’ll feel what my characters are feeling within their world? And on and on… All because of the momentum I allow to build as I draft freely, and the notes I keep so I can come back and rip everything apart once I have a big picture of the entire story.

I draft (from a proposal synopsis and around three chapters) forward without stopping. No going back. No letting myself fix things or revise. Not until I reach the end. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be an end. (more…)

How We Write: Don’t Overwork Your Muse…

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

What do you do when your muse deserts you? What keeps you going when today’s tight market seems to be saying you should give it up? I’m on vacataion this week. And, yes, working a bit while I’m here. But first and foremost, I’m taking some much-needed downtime to recharge and prepare for the next big push in my job–which is waiting for me a soon as I step off the plane in Atlanta. I better be ready to go when I get back, but how exactly do I make that happen, and how do I keep from getting even more burned out?

Well, for me butteflies work…

butterfly farm blue

But maybe not so much for everyone else ;o)

The midlist is dying, we’re told. The task of getting the right manuscript on the right desk at the right time and selling a book has never seemed more Herculean. The average writer watches seven to ten years go by before she publishes her first manuscript. With odds like that, is it any real shock that from time to time the excitement that once inspired you to keep going just up and vanishes? We’ve all been there.
 
And let’s face it, nothing feels worse than to find yourself stuck in the quagmire you affectionately call your *%#$! work-in-progress, meanwhile everyone around you is effortlessly producing at Mach 3. You used to be producing, too. But now, plucking a fresh description or an unforgettable character out of what was once your boundless creativity is about as effortless as pulling a splinter from your hysterical six-year-old’s fingernail. There’s lots of screaming and tears involved, lots of wasted time trying to pin the little bugger down, only to have him scoot away just as you’re starting to make real progress. Finally at the end of your rope, you give up wrestling and wonder if you’ll ever be able to get the darn thing out.
 
So how do you recapture your muse?
(more…)

The Soul of the Matter/How We Write: Calming and Nurturing Yourself

Monday, June 11th, 2012

I read an article recently that suggests that while the tendency toward having a depressive personality can be hereditary, how that part of your psyche manifests itself depends a lot on whether you were raised in a conflict/anxiety-driven home environment or a calming/nurturing one. Heh. Guess what the growing up years were like for this curly-haired bruentte  whose happy-ending stories begin with broken characters who are worlds apart from each other and their hearts desire, forcing them to fight the entire book for that loving, sigh-worthy place waiting in their Emerald City?

Wickedwitch

Yeah, so it’s no mystery that dark and angsty writers tend not to come from the most warm and fuzzy of family bosoms. Then again, neither have a lot of the romantic comedy writers you love. The difference between them and me, I think, is that I find catharsis in facing the shadows within. While the lighter writers I admire heal by focusing on the good without, to get them through the tougher stuff. As many a wise person has said over the years–there are many roads to Oz.

Still, as I look at my body of work or even my current projects (a heroine with amnesia that must remember her troubled past to save her life–June 15th Dead Sexy release; a heroine just out of an abusive marriage who must face the emotional trauma she’s running from in order to save an abused little boy–July Heartwarming release; and a heroine who grew up homeless who must face the mother who abandoned her and give up her dreams of making the past better in order to have the future she’s always longed for–October Montlake release), the patterns are there and a little staggering.

I’m a woman dealing with what a lot of us do as adults–the fact that as children we weren’t loved and nurtured that we should have been by those who “took care of us.” The result–we live life too often still feeling abandoned, and frequently expect our friends and loved ones to chose to protect themselves whenever we most desperately need them to help us.

I write about strong heroines and protective heroes–but my mind doesn’t seem to be satisfied with simply brushing over the darkness that calls these characters to fight their epic battles. I evidently need to explore those places and spaces in my character’s (and my own) mind that are holding them (and me) back. My writing, I’ve come to realize–my creating–is about learning how to fight for the nurturing and care that I need, right along with my protagonist.

nurture

I’ve been described as a hopeful, inspiring writer, one who lifts readers up through realistic journeys that make you feel as if you, too, will find a happy ending at the conclusion of your battles. (more…)