Posts Tagged ‘writing articles’

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?

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?


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.


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…)

The Soul of the Matter: Give ‘Em Hell…

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

“If you fall pick yourself up off the floor (get  up). And when your bones can’t take no more (c’mon), just remember what you’re here for… Give ‘em hell, turn their heads. Gonna life life ’til we’re dead. Give me scares, give me pain. Then they’ll say of me… There goes the fighter… Here comes the fighter… This one’s a fighter.” ~~Gym Class Heroes, ft. Ryan Teddar, The Fighter

Watch this video. Listen to the song. Find all the lyrics and read them. Then do it all again.

“There’s no reason you should ever have your head down… It’s gonna take a couple right hooks, a few left jabs. For you to recognize you really ain’t got it so bad…”

gym class heroes

It’s been a long week, and I’m being torn in about ten directions at once. But I’m living a life I’d only dreamed of ten years ago. And this is my time to shine, fight, work through the bruises and the challenges, come out swinging despite the obstacles, and give ‘em hell!

Here’s hoping you do as well ;o)

How We Write: Women…

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

You wanna sell in romance and women’s fiction, give your heroine a strong hook. But don’t make her too damsel in distress, don’t make her too bitchy, don’t make her so smart she’s bossy, don’t make her too dumb, and don’t, don’t, don’t do anything to run away the average reader who buys the majority of books like the one you want to sell. Or should you? Because if she’s a down-the-middle kind of gal, where’s the hook? I’m just askin’.

In my Naked Hero blog post yesterday (over there I’m the Goddess of Mischief), a bunch of us chatted about favorite hero attributes. Now it’s the girls turn. And while I’m all for pleasing the reader, it can get a little crazy-making, talking with a publishers and editors about what they’re looking for in a heroine, what makes them want to pull their hair out about an over-used cliche, or want to smack a whiny leading lady, or turn a book down flat, because the female protagonist, in their opinion,  just won’t sell to readers, she’s just not what most everyone is looking for in an easy read like a romance.

Okay, but what about the widow of a defunked televangelist. A man who was exposed as a lying, cheating sinner, run out of town, on the lamb from the law, then turned up dead, leaving his wife and son destitute and at the mercy of the small town he swindeled?

Dream a Little Dream

Or a former snotty, priviledged, cruel small-town beauty queen who’s fallen on bad times and wants to make amends/start over, only no one’s buying it? (more…)

How We Write: Focus, goal, distraction, KNOCK IT OFF…

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

We’re creative creatures, writers. We’re artists. We want to imagine our worlds into being what we need them to be, how we need them to feel, and we need others to share in that vision, to see us. Unfortunately, for those of us who want to make a living from our art, we typically need to do all of that on deadline. And there’s the rub. A brief workadayreads interview with me went up yesterday, talking more about the business/insides of writing than my recent guest posts, so take a look. Then shoot back over here, and lets get down to the nitty gritty of how to focus when you have to. Because you have to. No matter how much you love your story or characters or your readers, this writing/creating gig becomes a job at some point, and if you can’t focus your energy on your creating long enough to actually create something on deadline, you’ll be writing for yourself and friends for a long, long time–but the new hearts and souls that you could have reached with your work won’t ever get to share in your creative journey.


Think of focus as a tool. A zoom lens. It’s the determination that you will get whatever you need to get done today, DONE TODAY. In however much time you have, you will make the impossible happen. Because you have to. Even if what needs to be done is an intensely personal, creative thing. Even if it’s like pouring your heart or rage or fear or insecurities onto a page, that’s your job today. And you’re focusing until your job is done.

focus goals

Your goal must remain your focus until you reach, well, your goal. Sounds easy, right? RIGHT.

Today, my goal is to get to the midpoint turning point of my book, (more…)

How We Write: Creating through the crazy…

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

“How do you keep a writing schedule like that, ” one of my weekend students asked, “when you’re editing and teaching and everything else? How do you know you’re going to be able to write, when you sit down at your desk every day?”

My answer–I don’t know if I can do it, until I do it.

Then again, I don’t let myself up from that desk, until I’ve found a way to plug into the muse, the creative inspiration, that will take me a step or two closer to realizing my dream for this new book, the way I have for all the other ones that have driven me equally crazy. Crazy, you understand, having become my natural state, so it’s not so strange a thing to be asking myself to dig deeper into the crazy well, whether I feel like it at that moment or not.

crazy live your life crazy

I love talking with small groups of authors, many of whom aren’t yet writing on publishing deadlines. Their energy is kinetic, frenetic, and contagious. They’d do almost anything to make their stories better and sellable and one step closer to being published. No matter how busy their lives are, no matter how much trouble they’re having with everything else, these hungry writers are dying to get back to their books and their critique groups and their creativity and make something happen on the page. 

I need to see that as often as possible, which is what makes weekend events like the one I just taught with my literary agent–and the first pitches I’ve officially taken for Entangled Publishing ;o)–exactly what I need when I’m too mired in my own impossible deadlines and creative low spots. Because fresh, energetic, wanna-be-published-at-all-costs authors like the ones at Carolina Romance Writers have just as much of a message for me as I do for them. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Love the One You’re With…

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Writers aren’t all that different for saner mortals. Even though most of us wear our freak flags like parade banners. As part of our every-day, we offer ourselves up for rejection–the very reality we tend to fear most. Because we’re bent that way. We write about our neuroses and dreams and innermost secrets. Then we go one step further in our quest to understand, by slapping our names onto what we’ve created before sending it out into the world to be judged. Which is tantamount to dropping your pants, then plastering a pic of the gory details all over social media. And in the end, most of us writer-types, the honest ones anyway, will admit that we’re TERR-I-FIED by the entire process, even though we cant’ stop ourselves from indulging in it. Why? For the same reason a “normal” person follows his or her passion. LOVE.


You don’t get to pick and chose how your mind works or what makes your creativity thrive. Life, in my honest opinion, is about learning to love who and what you are–and the love that you’re born to pursue.

Challenge that core reality, and you’re denying the inner freakishness that you’re here to explore and share. Take a look at my Things My Teenager Says series, if you want an idea of how proud I am of kids (and adults) who figure out exactly who and what they are, then fly that uniqueness proudly. I’m still on a path to owning my own stuff, probably a step or two behind my gifted teen. But I’m a writer. What can I say? I pay more attention most days to internal landscapes, than I do the world around me. I’ll catch up eventually. I’ll understand, one of these years, everything that love is supposed to mean to me and everything it’s not. Until then, I’ll be crazy, loud and proud, and fake it ’til I make it.

crazy love graphic

Being crazy in love with your uniqueness, even when it means standing out in ways that shriek at your insecurities and desperation to belong–that’s the life goal I wish for myself. And yourself. (more…)

How We Write: When we’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Writing like we’re on fire is every author’s dream. Creating free and feeling the juice and dying to find out what happens next. But how is that zone possible, when your control of the “business” world of your publishing slips beyond your grasp? I’m asked this question all the time. Possibly because I’m riding that slippery slope most of the time these days ;o) Not sure that’s a compliment to the state of my business. But it’s nice, too, living the unpredictability of my world in an outward way that makes others want to know how I’m dealing with all of it.

There are those, in my opinion, who want to tell you how to do what they themselves aren’t, because they’ve been blessed with the answers you can’t find anywhere else–self-help folks, especially in writing circles, who haven’t actually done what they’re promising they can help you be a success at, chap my hide.


If your fiction writing guru has never actually published a work of fiction, you should probably take that as a sign.

Just saying.

There are those who are going through what you’re needing help with, and just want to rant. I’m not a big fan of that approach either. Everyone needs to vent when the going gets tough, but making a career out of shocking the world with your bitterness or need to blame everyone but your own choices for your circumstances is a little too weak for my tastes.

Then there are those who live their trials and their successes in the open, with the same kind of honesty, and invite you into their up-and-down journey, as they try to make sense out of the mix. I’d like to think this latter approach is what I’ve been rambling about doing in How We Write. (more…)

How We Write: The Soul of the Matter

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

My Soul of the Matter posts are usually about my life and the life I see going on around me, and how I try to change daily the things I let prevent me from actually living. Because surviving isn’t enough. Thriving should be the goal. How We Write is usually a motivational rant about finding the soul of your writing, and not just worshiping craft rules. Today, I hope to accomplish both.


How we write isn’t always about process and technique. Because we’re creating story. And story is a powerful mechanism for changing minds, and through them our world. Always has been. We write because something drives us to touch readers’ imaginations and hearts and emotions. Their souls. That’s a powerful motivation that should never be completely obscured by our how.

My point?

Every story has a beginning. No matter how beautifully you’re capable of stringing words together, your story begins and ends with your character and your reader’s experience of that character’s journey. Your story must resonate with the heart. It helps if you connect with a theme (even in comedy) that reaches deep inside for a universal truth that can’t be denied. Then, if your gift is writing and you can master the toolbox of techniques that we must learn to bring that vision to life, your reader’s world will most definitely be touched by whatever inspired you to reach them.

How do we write ?

We focus first on the story, for as long as it takes to discover what we most want to say. And only then do we sit down to write.


For me, I’m an angsty writer who wishes my gift was making folks laugh until they cry. My work is cathartic at more of the other end of the spectrum. Darker-themed, challenging emotional journeys come to me. Always have. Like this morning, when it only took the first five minutes of my news program for my entire day (my life) to shift as I listened to this. (more…)