#ROW80 check-ins, mash-ups, writing updates

#ROW80 Sunday check-in and a round-up of posts to inspire a year of writing

ROW80LogocopyThis week’s word count: 2,545. That amounts to two out of three scenes in chapter two of my WIP, “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” So, I didn’t quite meet my goal of finishing a chapter this week. But I did some plotting work that should help make this draft more cohesive than my first drafts in the past, so I’m okay with not having a knockout word count this week.

I’m almost halfway through Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel.” That book is also helping me plot my current WIP, so I don’t get stuck halfway through. I didn’t finish reading chapter two in Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World,” so I’ll add that to my plate for the upcoming week.

I spent a decent amount of time this week getting reacquainted with Twitter and the WANATribe website, posted three blog posts, and jumped in as a last-minute ROW80 Round 1 sponsor. I also joined the Romance Writers of America Online Chapter, so I’m excited about where things are headed for 2014. It will be great to be interacting with fellow writers online, learning about their projects, and encouraging them as a #ROW80 sponsor.

We’re almost halfway through the first month of the New Year, and most of us spent part of this week trying to survive the brutal cold that made “polar vortex” a household term.

If you need some inspiration for staying on track with this year’s goals, look no further than this round-up of posts from across the Webz:

What about you? How are your goals for 2014 progressing?

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mash-ups, spirituality, sunday summary, yoga

The Intersection of Yoga and Writing–and this Week’s Mash-Up

photo from stock.xchng

Earlier this year, I rediscovered my yoga practice. For those of you who don’t do yoga, it’s more than a form of exercise; it’s a spiritual practice meant to bring mind, body, and soul into balance.

For most of my life, I’ve celebrated and revered the life of the mind. From the mind all great inventions and creations spring: Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Einstein’s theory of relativity. Gradually, I allowed my spiritual practice to fall away, too consumed with what I was doing. I saw my body merely as a tool, not as something to be honored in its own right.

By forcing us to become aware of our bodies–every muscle, every movement, every breath–yoga reconnects our busy minds, our stressed bodies, our neglected souls. Its art is in its simplicity: The focus on breathing in and out, the holding and releases of poses. Even wiggling the fingers, flexing the toes, following the breath from nose to belly, draws the awareness. We release the worries of our day. The books to be written, tasks to be completed fall away. And in that space, mind, body, and heart become one. By the end of the practice, we stop chiding ourselves for our failings. We accept ourselves as we are. True, that feeling rarely lasts, but it becomes easier to cultivate with each breath, each posture, each intention.

At the beginning of every practice, my instructor asks us to set an intention. In November, our focus has been gratitude. What are we grateful for? In that space, there’s no room to overthink. I’m grateful for my body, my life, my job, my art, the simple blessing of attending yoga class each week and the kind souls who join me there. We can also dedicate our practice to something, if we choose. The options are endless. These are not goals, but intentions–simpler, deeper, powerful.

Such a practice can also be helpful for us, as artists, as writers. Too many blog posts and articles tell us to set goals. We create Excel spreadsheets and track our word counts. Ours is a very goal-driven society, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes, it’s not the quantity of words written. It’s the intent with which we write.

During our yoga class, the sun’s last rays filter in through the high windows. Candles flicker from all corners of the room. Wooden floorboards creak gently beneath our feet as we stretch and move between poses. Quiet music plays in the background. There’s no competition; we’re too focused on our own breath, each person reaching as far into the pose as she can. Like writers before the blank page, it’s just us. No one is watching.

If you were to set an intention each day as you sat before the blank page, what would it be? An intention isn’t a goal, a number, something measured, easily achieved or clearly delivered. It comes from a deeper place.

The next time you sit down to write, how would you answer this question: Why are you writing today? What is your intention?

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness:

Mila Ballentine interviews enchantress of tales Tonya Kappes in this inspiring interview.
Michelle Davidson talks faerie-tale inspiration in this guest blog post at Nicole Zoltack’s blog.
Wisdom and Whimsy: Join the bloggers over at the Fantasy Collective for a celebration of author Anne McCaffrey’s work.
Lisa Lin offers tips to keep the procrastination faeries at bay.
In the midst of NaNo, memoirist Wade Rouse offers authors 10 ways to stay true to themselves in publishing.
Graphic designer, photographer, author. Melinda VanLone does it all, and Diane Capri caught up with her to chat about her upcoming release.

mash-ups, romance, sunday summary, writing updates

Growing as a Writer and a Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Sometimes, when it comes to art, getting stuck is exactly what the doctor ordered. I’ve had some issues with writer’s block this year. It’s not that I can’t write. On the contrary, I can sit in front of a blank page and write. Like most writers, I have no shortage of stories or words to tell them. But I realized that, while I can continue my current process, my current process isn’t working. It won’t get me where I want to go.

Every writers has some aspect of writing that doesn’t come easily. For me, it’s structure. I know how to write a scene, how to write chapter caps that leave readers itching to turn the page. No, right now, my biggest issue is with the flow of events. How do I get my characters from one place to another in a way that feels natural? How do I raise the stakes without writing my characters into a corner? If Character A does this in chapter X, what will happen in chapter Y? I suspect it’s not an uncommon problem, especially among pantsers.

photo from stock.xchng

I’ve realized I need a different approach. Past outlines I’ve written haven’t worked for me. The story comes out flat or the plot gets stuck. Sometimes, the characters don’t want to go into the kitchen; they don’t give a damn that the outline says it’s time to make tea and eat a scone. So how does a pantser like me–who often starts a story with an image, a character, a single scene–create a gripping plot?

Well, I’m still working on this. I don’t really want to spend years working on a single manuscript. I simply have too many stories to tell. Maybe I’m impatient, but I think it’s only practical to want to take our writing to the next level. I’m determined to smooth this issue out in my earlier drafts so my later drafts don’t need sweeping rewrites.

This week, I found a great resource: a “beat sheet” specifically for romance writers. (See the link to Jami Gold’s incredibly helpful post below.) I’ve reached a point where I need to both churn out new manuscripts and revise completed drafts. I can remain on my current pantser path, but I don’t really want to spend a couple years finishing a story, so there’s only one solution: Learn a new way. Which is exactly what I plan on doing. I have too many stories inside me not to.

What about you? Which aspect of writing have you most struggled with? How did you overcome this stumbling block?

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Stone circles and fairy rings: Imbue your life with a hint of magic and beauty with this post from Bealtaine Cottage.
Romancing the book: Jami Gold offers a beat sheet for writing romance.
Balancing the scenes: Kristen Lamb continues her series about structure with a discussion of scene.
Put your best blog forward: August McLaughlin discusses how and when to make changes to your blog.
Tips for NaNoWriMo: Romance author Maya Rodale, guest blogging over at Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen, dishes out a delicious portion of NaNoWriMo inspiration.

mash-ups, writing updates

Sunday Summary: Novella Writing and This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

I had a long but very scenic (translation: fall-foliage-filled) drive to Fredericksburg, Va., for the Virginia Romance Writers annual critique day. I received some great feedback on a couple projects from my fellow writers and got a sneak peek into their current WIPs. 🙂 This week I also started an outline for one of my novellas (Oak-Bound), thanks in part to advice on “crushing creative ADD” over at Mythic Scribes (see this week’s mash-up) and wrote another scene in my newest WIP.

Thanks to the enthusiasm of my fellow Virginia romance writers, I’m seriously considering plunging into this year’s round of NaNoWriMo. I haven’t written as much as I’ve wanted to this year, and I’d really like to dash off a draft of a novella before year’s end. Since this is the first year in a while that I haven’t been teaching in the fall semester, I’d like to try finishing one of my two novella projects. I also discovered this fantastic post by James Scott Bell about the novella structure. Previously, I’ve had trouble finding much beyond word counts and vague notions about what a novella should be, but Bell’s post really lays out the specifics. Anyone else out there a novella writer? What’s your favorite aspect of writing novella-length works? The most challenging?

Is anyone else planning on participating in NaNoWriMo?

Finally, This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness:

Author Elizabeth Marx, in a guest post at Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf, reveals her writing space and offers a dose of inspiration.
Autumn is the witching season, so be sure to check out the “Witches and Witchcraft” Reading Challenge and “There Are Witches in the Air” October giveaway and post series over at Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf.
From traditionally published to indie author, Orna Ross discusses the author’s role in her work’s creative direction at The Creative Penn blog.
Get your muse to focus using these 10 Easy Steps to Crush Creative ADD, over at Mythic Scribes.
Brynna Curry’s interview with author Rosanna Leo covers everything from writer’s block to hometowns.
Check out Belinda Pollard’s  tutorial on how to create videos for your author blog.
I got teary-eyed reading this post on Female Heroines and Real Compassion by Regan Black.

mash-ups, the seasons, writing updates

Sunday Summary: Pumpkins, Hayrides, and this Week’s Mash-up of Awesomeness

Today we had the first truly chilly day of the autumn season, and I’m breaking out the Halloween decorations. Yesterday, hubby and I enjoyed the fall foliage by taking a drive out to a local farm, where we picked out pumpkins, filled a basket full of gourds, and went on a hayride. It was a great way to spend an afternoon. Here’s a peek:

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I also recently started a new story. Tired of spinning my wheels on my current works in progress, I decided to try something fresh and new to get the creative juices flowing again. This story is not only set during the fall season but, more importantly, it’s set here in Virginia, the state I’ve called home for more than six years. It also pays homage to the Appalachian Mountains, which are as much a part of me as my stories are. Growing up in Pennsylvania, these mountains have inspired not only my stories, but also my drive to lead a sustainable lifestyle close to nature. They taught me about both nature’s fragility and its strength. I hope that through this story (spoiler: it features werewolves!) I can share some of the beauty that has inspired me.

Besides the world outside my door, the blogosphere is also full of awesomeness this week. Here are a few posts I really enjoyed.

This Week’s Mash-up of Awesomeness:

What about you? How has your week been? Any excitement, writing or otherwise?