Posts Tagged ‘Montlake Romance’

How We Write: Day 5, One Step, One Leap at a time…

Friday, June 7th, 2013

When you have to go back to the beginning, do your step outline. Steps and leaps are what we’re talking about today. When you’re rewriting and you can’t see where you’re going, it’s time to retrace your steps. Every step. Every leap. What have you had your characters doing? Why are they doing it. What’s in their way (conflict), stopping them from getting what they want (goal), and how does that change their goal or the reason they keep fighting (motivation)? In EVERY scene. In EVERY story turning point.


That’s what I’ve been doing for two days. We’re going to forget Day 3 and 4 like they never happened–because they didn’t for me, from a work standpoint. That’s how my life’s going these days. I can’t move forward, in the midst of chaos. But that doesn’t mean I stop working on my story. It means I find different ways to look at what I have so far–and this week, I’ve worked on another rewriting/manuscript deconstruction technique I’ve learned…step  outlining  what I’ve already written, to discover where my story AND character arcs need to be refined and deepened. Not just one or two scenes. Every scene. From the beginning. Until you realize what’s blocking the escalating conflict and flow of your characters and plot.

Yep. That’s a lot of work. (more…)

How We Write: Day 2 of Rewriting Is my B**ch. Simple, right?

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Yeah, I said it. Because part of what I teach is that at this point of the process–the rewriting of a full draft that rarely wants to be rewritten–your job isn’t easy. Either the overwhelming work to be done is going to win, or you’re going to win because you’re a professional writer. And the only way for you to win, is to take control and show the rewrites or the new draft or whatever stage you’re in, that you’re the boss.

The way to do that?


No, the process isn’t simple. You have to keep it simple.


When you’re drafting with a plan (and you have a plan, right?) or rewriting with plan (because you revamp your plan for your story before you rewrite, right?), you stop the overwhelming, sinking feeling that you can’t succeed at something as complex as creating a novel–by focusing on one piece of the story at a time, until the whole manuscript finally begins to take shape.

I encourage students to do what I do…focus on the beginning, middle, and end of your characters’ journeys, as you plot or deconstruct or draft write a novel. I also teach students to pinpoint the emotional focus of a character at the inciting incident of a story, then at the black moment, and only then at the middle of the book. If you can define for yourself or me or a critique partner what your character’s internal journey will be at these three story points , you’ll never be writing or rewriting into a void.

An example?

My protagonist/heroine in my Mimosa Lane WIP (Book 3 of my Seasons of the Heart series) grew up in a dysfunctional family. That could have made her angry at the world and rebellious (as it does our hero, but that’s another blog post). Instead, while she’s wary of ever making family work for her, it’s made her a champion of other families and of the kids she teaches and cares for in her job (she’s an amazing assistant elementary school principal, whom you get to know in Seasons of the Heart Book 2, Three Days on Mimosa Lane). Sound interesting? I hope so.

But that’s only the beginning. It’s nowhere close to a full story arc. Not yet. And if I’m going to rewrite my muddled and wandering draft into the best story it can be, I need to understand my protagonist’s emotional/internal journey as I weave her in and out of the external story points I’ve already created–I need to motivate her carefully and throw the right conflict at her for the right reasons (using my hero and key secondary characters), so that she’ll change and grow and achieve a goal by the end of the book that she/we wouldn’t have thought possible at the beginning–claiming the happy family she’s always wanted, even if that family can never be the perfect thing she dreamed of as a little girl.

The simple part
(that’s taken me a long time to arrive at, longer than most other stories I’ve written, because of the complexity of the characters and community I’m writing about)

Heroine at the story Inciting Incident: She’s surround herself with love and family (other peoples’), focusing on her job and helping the ideal community she’s grateful to be a part of. Her success at her job helps other families and the children she’s responsible for thrive, and that makes her happy, or so she’s convinced herself.


How We Write: The Ugly, Sleep-deprived Truth…

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

For the next 12 days, I’m writing ugly–revising ugly, mostly–and I’m blog posting every day about it. I taught a NC retreat weekend a few weeks ago and am teaching again this weekend coming up on what it means to draft and revise as a professional fiction writer. Students tend not to believe that it’s as hard for the pros as it is for them. I tend to believe and teach that it’s harder.

I say I work 15-20 hr days at this point in the process.


Because of personal issues, I’m so far behind with this deadline (and am working on an extension my publisher graciously gave me) that it’s going to be more like 20 hrs a day. No. Really. I have close to 100k words of meandering draft, with no end in sight, even though I know what I want the ending to be. Only the beginning and middle of this thing won’t take form enough for me to be able to finish it. So it’s back to the drawing/design board. I’m deconstructing again and revamping character/plot/story AGAIN, the way I teach other writers to.

And I’ll be recording daily here, for  anyone who’s in the same place or is interested in following a long for the hell of it. In the end, this is a job, as much as I love to create and spend time with my characters. I have a series and a book to do my very best to bring to life and finish. I have a publisher, editor and agent counting on me to fulfill my obligation, no matter the chaos going on in my personal life. I have a plan for my career that I don’t intend to let fizzle away because of some bumps in the road.

There will always be bumps in the road. I have the great pleasure and luck of doing what I love for a living–most of the time I love it, anyway. Sometimes this is simply my job–and my kid needs to go to college, so I do my job.

So for 12 days I’m working my ass off to turn this thing over to my editor on June 15th. You can do anything for 12 days, right?

Join me, won’t you?

For those who follow my process as I teach it, here’s the new plan (character-driven, of course), from the analysis I spent most of yesterday pulling together. Today, I’m ripping at the old draft, cutting and tuning things up and moving scenes/plot points as needed. Likely, that’ll be all I do this week–ALL on hard copy, because that’s how I see story best at this stage. It’s most of us see it best, not that I’m insisting you try it this way, unless you’re one of my students, and then, yeah, I’ll insist!

Story Themes (weave in from beginning, through the middle, to the end): (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Poetry is when you feel…

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” ~~Robert Frost

That’s the poem that inspired my Three Days on Mimosa Lane. Because it’s another book about family and emotional journeys and finding your way through difficulty that mostly no one else knows you’re going through. And that’s poetry to me. I’ve never ceased to be amazed by what the human spirit can survive and conquer and thrive in the midst of. And I never forget, despite my own rocky journey as a child, what family and friendship and love can mean, when you allow the poetry of them into your life.

poetry ink blotI don’t write poetry. Not professionally. But I do see emotion and feelings and how a writer, any writer, portrays them on the page as a unique form of poetry that changes from voice to voice.

I see the same thing in everyday life, as I observe everyday people and families.

How we create happiness and peace, or how we destroy both, is poetry personified.

We choose our path. We choose our reaction to the world. And our choices affect so much more than our own experience. The emotions we invite into our reality echo into others, and we either build up or we destroy the positive energy around us. We add to and give back to the world, despite its challenges, or we merely take, and we take for granted all the good beyond our struggles. We value every moment, and we help others do the same, or we declare that we don’t deserve better–and we limit those we love to the same meager existence.

family heart

I write about family, always have, always will. (more…)

GoodReads ARC Giveaway!

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Want a FREE ARC?



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Three Days on Mimosa Lane by Anna DeStefano

Three Days on Mimosa Lane

by Anna DeStefano

Giveaway ends May 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

How We Write: What does your wall look like?

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Every book just flows from my fingers, like a movie playing itself from my imagination into the most beautiful of prose… And THEN, I wake up.

Such is the charmed life of a working fiction writer.

I’m a month away from my next manuscript deadline–the fourth in a year, and each night when I sleep (not that I sleep much), I dream of the book magically being done and the pressure being off and me and my husband and son being on a beach somewhere whiling away simple hours free of the fear that I won’t EVER puzzle this story out.

But that dream doesn’t last long, unfortunately, before a darker one takes over.

I’ve hit a wall, you see, as I do with every story.

hitting the wall woman

I teach others how to do this stuff, so you’d think I’d know better how to handle this place in the process that we all come to. Yet the despair is always here waiting for me. The wall is my darkest creative point–when I must push through doubt and confusion and make story and character make sense NOW, because there’s no more time for them to figure themselves out on their own.

And in my dreams, when they stop being fanciful and take a nightmarish turn toward reality, this is what my wall often looks like.

hitting the wall windows and doors

It has doors and windows, I realize once I calm down. There are openings in the wall I fear blocks my story, doors and windows that I can see through, create through, believe through. THAT’S my job. It’s yours, too, when you write.

I’ve been at this long enough to understand and organize my process. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Create or fade away…

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

I’m an overwhelmed writer who’s been hiding from my writing for a week or two…or three. But not writing makes me feel even more overwhelmed. It’s not a cliche. Whether you’re an artist or not, if you’re not interacting with what inspires you in the world, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make whatever funk’s messing with you worse.


It’s easy to feel burned out these days. As parents and business people and friends and lovers and, yes, creators of things that inspire others, we’re doing more each day and often getting paid less, which means if we want to pay our bills that even more doing looms on the horizon. And our souls can suffer, bottoming out and leaving us in a mental fetal position where we feel we have nothing else to give ourselves or others.

And then it’s not quite winter anymore and not quite spring, and crawling under the covers (at least mentally) and feeling blue seems like a good one-day, short-term solution…until it turns into weeks of letting ourselves off the hook.

soul weary tree

It’s so easy to stop interacting with what challenges us and feeds us at the same time. It’s human nature when we’re on overload to scale things back to the bare minimum. We get the day-to-day done that keeps the water coming out of the faucets and lights on, while we’re emotionally absent in ways that at first protect us, but then begin to drain us.

There’s a common ground to find. There’s a balance we need to seek, instead of the oblivion of just turning our creative, vulnerable, softer side off for a while, so it can lick its wounds.

We think backing away from what makes us uniquely us (and the part of us that’s so exhausted, because we’ve put so much of ourselves out there already) is the answer. And maybe for a a day or two, it is. But not feeling stressed (or telling ourselves that’s the ideal) is a gateway drug. For a day or two, it’s a lovely zen. Then it becomes a hideout, and then an addiction in which we convince ourselves that we don’t want to go to that stressed place again. Ever.

Creatively, stress is most often what drives us. (more…)

How We Write: When we’re not…

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

I’ve been frozen. My fingers have been still. But my mind has been racing. I’m a writer who’s been in one of those fugue states between projects that is full of thinking and planning and anxiously wondering, but not full of words. They’re not coming. They’re not my friends right now. They want to be now, but I’m mute. They’re jealous and needy and greedy and bitchy, and I’m not sleeping, the way I don’t when I’m on deadline. I can’t write. Not yet. But I will. Soon. Why can’t the words understand that?

i can and i will watch me

I stress about and regress into and resist these times between most every major project. I should be catching up on business and planning. I should be enjoying the peace and freedom of a deadline well met. But I’m angtsty instead. Writing is my natural state. I feel at loose ends and a little like I’m lazy when I’m not.  But I’ve delivered three books in a row in the last nine months, and my mind needs a break–whether it wants one or not.

People are waiting for me to get up-to-date on emails and commitments and plans for the rest of 2013. Friends are wanting to catch up, and so do I! But I’m still wanting to hide a bit. Okay, a lot. The pressure hasn’t let up, and I’m not sure it will until the next story is flowing. It’s not natural for me–this down time. But it IS part of my writing, and it’s time I accept that.

I need to conquer this state of letting go that renews and gives me direction and fills me with the hope (often unreasonable hope) that the next book will be magic, just as the last one was (you know, once I’d revised it like 100 times, because I was dreading working on it not to long ago, the same way I’m dreading the new words).

Let go of things

We need to trust the not writing parts of our creative process, the same as we do the writing ones. We need to see that we can’t always be ON, and that trying to force ourselves to be will defeat us in the end. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Sunday, Sunday…Rest with me, won’t you?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Resting isn’t for the faint of heart. Resting with purpose, that is. Being lazy has its place, no doubt. But resting isn’t all we need, when rebuilding is the goal. Revitalizing. Renewing. Reconnecting with who and what we are beneath the work and the responsibilities and the demands on our emotional selves that drive us to the brink. These are the intricate, delicate bones of real rest.


Good times, bad times, all the time that we spend being and doing and saying what the world accepts we are… Our outward selves are important. But it’s the inner us that only we know how to feed, and it’s our own renewal that only we are responsible for in the end.

To others, we are the combination of everything they’ve seen and heard us do and say, and everything they’ve thought about that person they’ve watched perform for them. But unless we come with our own running narrative (too bad we can’t all live in a novel, right?) others don’t know what we really fee and need and aren’t getting, not unless we tell them. And who wants to be that needy girl, right?

So we muddle through–the kind of muddling that takes a lot of skill and deflection while we take care of our own stuff, on our own, so others won’t see so much of it that they’d get fed up with how demanding we could really be if we let our insecurities off their leash. That kind of muddling can be exhausting. (more…)

Thank you…

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

My family and I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday week.

christmas vintage

And I wanted to say a special thank you to all who’ve supported Christmas on Mimosa Lane’s release. My first women’s fiction/contemporary romance hybrid was quite a risk to take. My emotional, angsty voice is something you dig, or you really REALLY don’t. Going with Montlake and their primarily digital plans for the book was a scary shift in publishing paths, too. But to all my readers and fans I wanted to say, OMG, your response to the book has been overwhelming. I couldn’t be more blown away.

COML Front 240x360

At the time of this blog post, COML has 69 Five Star reviews, is still the #1 Family Saga on Amazon, and has sold more than 40,000 copies in just two months!

What can I say, except that you guys ROCK!

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for embracing this special book and the series I’ve been lucky enough to begin at Montlake. Now, I’m off to finish Book Two, aiming for a late Summer/early Fall release ;o)

Here’s to an exciting 2013!