Kick Start the New Year!

Out with the old and in with the new... it's not just a cliche. If you are a professional writer than this should be your mantra for getting ready for 2010. It can't be said enough that in order to be treated as a professional we must first treat ourselves as professionals. I've been in this business long enough to know that I can't expect someone else to push me if I want to accomplish my goals. I need to do it myself. No one else can put my butt in the chair and no one else can make my fingers hit the keyboard. I need to do that myself.

Accept it...
It's about more than making resolutions and goals. We need to be able to put practices in place that show that we are actively pursuing a publishing career. It's not enough to say that I want to be published. I must say how I am going to accomplish it.

I will write 1,000 words a day.
I will log it on a daily log sheet.
If I miss a day I will go forward and not quit. But I will hold myself accountable by showing that I didn't acomplish what I'd promised myself.

I use this word a lot, both in my day job and my writing. As I said before it's not enough to wish. If you don't do the work then you only have yourself to blame. I may not always write every day (today was a good example). But I always do something that moves my career forward. Today, it was a day of organization. I organized all those wayward receipts and put them into the log that I use for tax purposes. This is the first time ever that I've had all my writing receipts logged before the end of the New Year. It feels good. I could beat myself up for not writing, but I did do something that contributes to my treating myself as a professional. In any job there are those days when the drudgery involves endless paperwork (scheduling, yuck) and you would rather be doing the fun stuff. Still, without it the wheels would not keep turning and we would only resent the fact that we had gotten behind or missed something.

So, for my first suggestion on Kick Start your New Year I want to know what you are going to do that will change how you treat yourself as a professional? I'd like to hear it...

"Honest" Writing

I'm not sure how much grief I may get for this blog post or whether or not I understand what it is that I'm trying to say to the extent that I may convey it clearly to anyone else. But lately I've found that when my writing is lacking it's due to the fact that I have written what I would call an "honest" book.

By "honest" I mean a book that genuinely taps into emotions and conveys them to the reader. I've picked up tons of books that I was excited to read only to find that they fell flat when reading them. They may have initially captured my interest, but they failed to touch my heart. And that is failure with a book. As writers we are told to write what we know or to write from the heart. But how many of us truly understand that to do this means to put our emotions out there for anyone to see. We must lay our souls bare in order to capture the essence of our story. Notice... I didn't say our character's soul? That's because whether we like it or not our characters are a true reflection of what we see, feel, think and hear. Their experiences are our own and until we truly understand the emotions that come with those experiences we can't truly write and "honest book".

I write about grief a lot in my stories. Mostly, there's the grief of losing a loved one. When I wrote Three Truths my mother's cancer had taken it's final downturn. This was in January of that year and we were told that there would be no more surgeries, she could undergo the chemo and radiation, but the effect would remain the same. I don't remember having a physical reaction to the news. I know that I was sad, but on the outside I remained hopeful for my mother's sake. I sat down to write Three Truths and I wanted to write about possibilities and about hope. In many ways I accomplished this, but I also, ironically, dealt with loss and the ability to open your heart again after loss. I had no idea how important that was going to become to me in the short 9 months after the final diagnosis. But all the fears, hurt, hope... they're all there in the book. I set it all in a fairy tale setting, but the emotions were mine and they were real.

I've been working on a new story lately, one that I haven't fully come to realize it's potential. There is plenty of potential there. But I realized that what was bothering me most was that I hadn't managed to inject enough "honesty" into the story. The characters were too good, too happy and too settled to be set amongst a mystery. I hadn't given them hardships and I hadn't given them a heart that could shatter or break open wide with love. I hadn't given them something that they couldn't bear to lose and then taken it away from them.

So, it's back to the drawing board. I need to understand just what it is that they are truly hiding within themselves. Maybe, when I do discover it... I'll be able to write that "honest" book.

Slugging away at my writing...

Day 3: And so far I've managed to write each day. I have a measly little goal of a 100 words, but find that most days I blow that away... except today. Oh, I got to my goal. But it wasn't easy. I'm tired and cranky and had a long, long day of pre-Christmas retail work. The last thing that I could think about was being creative. Still, I manage to get those words onto the page. And I can truthfully say that I am proud of myself. Besides, there is always tomorrow to finish the Great American Novel. :)

When Inspiration Strikes

I'm up early. At least early for me. Hubby has left at this unGodly hour for work and I found that I couldn't let the characters in my head stay silent anymore. For two days I have worked long hours with only a few minutes caught here and there to be able to satisfy their need for attention. But this morning they want their time in the light. I've turned on the lights on the tree, set a pot of coffee to brew and sit here in semi darkness trying to rationalize why, on one of my few days off I'm not lounging in bed with the covers pulled up around me and dreaming of warm places.

For some reason the holidays have always been a fairly creative time for me. I don't know if it's just my minds complete knowlege that there is very little time allotted for creative endeavors. Or if it's the fact that this is the Universe's way of reminding me that this is what I truly wish I was doing. But since bills must be paid and a roof must stay over our heads, I know that I must work.

Still, it's at these quiet times that I know my soul can't deny that what I truly want to be doing is writing. So, for now... I wish you all a pleasant morning and a cup of something to warm you. May you have a wonderful day and be blessed in your endeavors.

Writing the Road Less Traveled

Surprise yourself. If you outline, be loose as you lay out the story. If you just write without an outline, hack away in semi-darkness. If you know your destination, don’t take the freeway. Explore the back roads. Visit landmarks that are off the beaten track. Ask yourself as you write, Is there another way to get where I’m going?
The above quote came from Gail Carson Levine's blog where she posts about predictability. Some of you may know Ms. Levine for her young adult books such as Ella Enchanted. But she's been writing mysteries lately and she has a lot to offer in the way of help for writers.

I think the above quote really does sum up what we should be thinking when it come to writing books that satisfy our readers. She's relentless in questioning whether the point being offered is taking the easy way out for the writer and thereby cheating the reader. Frankly, she's got a point. I do think that writer's are a hard reader to satisfy. We tend to tear things apart and be much more critical than a non-writing reader. But shouldn't we be stretching, trying to make those books the best they can be? Shouldn't we be interested in creating that mystery that surprises and delights?

She talks about when you come to a plot point in the story to make a list of possibilities for the book. Then look at them all and take the one that is the most unlikely or hardest to get to... take the road less traveled. Offer your readers an opportunity to be surprised and inspired and delighted. Make the story worthwhile to both yourself and your readers. Keep them coming back. 

And while your at it, check out Gail's blog... it's worth the trip.

Work Messes with my Writing...

Since I have yet to hit either the lottery or the NYT list it is a given that I am reduced to continuing on with my day job. The title "day job" is a bit of a misnomer in this case since I work retail. For instance, I worked until 9:30pm last night... only to turn around and work at 9 this morning. But since, I'm not independently wealthy I must continue on and write while I can.

At the recent Maine RWA Christmas party (hosted by the fabulous Diane Amos) a few of us had a discussion about one of the chapter's motivation loops. It's called the Word Ho's. And no, you're not reading that wrong. This was a yahoo list that was developed over the last year so that it could help motivate and keep members accountable. They report in on their progress and are responsible for doing as little as 100 words a day. That could be a paragraph for some... a sentence for others :) But the idea is to keep it simple, keep them writing and keep them accountable for putting the words on the page.

The idea of giving our members a tool like this has been in the works for years. We've tried giving out tickets for accomplishments and postings of work for the day. There have been just as many ideas thrown out as we've tried. I think that the biggest part of it's success is that you are holding yourself accountable in front of other people. Kind of like dieting with a friend. We all succeed better when we know that someone is loooking.

So, for now, the Word Ho's appear to be staying.

Blog Envy

I've got it.

I normally peruse quite a few blogs when given the chance. Mostly I read author blogs, usually ones that involve mystery or romance authors. But every once in awhile I come across a blog that really "WOWS" me.

This week it was Desperately Seeking My Inner Mary Poppins.

This blog works on so many levels. First, the writing is good. Any authors out there looking for a little bit of that sense that someone else understand our insanity will get it by reading Mary Beth's posts. (more...)

Memories of home and holidays

A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I started a fan page on Facebook for my hometown, Cundy's Harbor, Maine. We did it because there were so many of us living abroad (that is... beyond the town line) that we wanted to make sure that there was a place for many of us to go and register our thoughts. As of the last count we had 87 fans. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you figure that Cundy's Harbor is just a small part of a bigger town and the main road is only about 9 miles long... this is quite a few of us. More are coming I'm sure. Making that turn onto the harbor road is the same for me as going home. Even as I cross Gurnet Bridge I can feel it in my bones. That familiarity. That sense of place. That part of my soul. (...more)

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