#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, the writer's journey, writing process, writing updates

Empty-nest syndrome for writers: What do you do after you finish a story?

photo by David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos
The baby bird leaves the nest.
photo by David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I reached a milestone this week: I completed a draft of my first major writing project as a full-time writer. As I typed the words “The End” at the end of that manuscript, I knew it wasn’t actually The End. After all, this is only the first draft. Plus, I have more stories bottled up inside of me, characters whispering in my ear, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Such is the writer’s life.

But my daily writing sprints working on that story framed my days. Whether I was ready to pull my hair out or completely caught up in the flow of storytelling, working on that novella filled much of my time over the past few months. I awoke Thursday (the day after I finished the draft) to a sort of confusion. No working on that story today, I realized.

That vague sense of confusion mixed with accomplishment led me to wonder, “What do we do after we’ve completed a major project?” I know I want to let it sit for at least a month before I dive into revisions, so I can see the story with fresh eyes. So, what to do…

Take a vacation to the Bahamas?

Sounds fun, but a bit out of the budget.

Clean my office?

Well, yes, this needs to be done, but I needed a day or two to recharge before I tackled the stacks of papers and magazines in there.

Start another story immediately?

Well, I’m guessing that’s what an extremely prolific writer like Nora Roberts would do. And I did spend a day writing down scene/character/plot ideas for a new story. I haven’t set fingers to keyboard yet, though. This one is still in the brainstorming/planning pre-planning phase.

Other things have filled my days: A workshop on the use of Twitter for writers, presented by Marcy Kennedy over at WANA International. Continuing other ROW80 goals, such as reading to hone my craft. Creating an editing to-do list for the newly complete first draft. Making planning notes for a new story. Editing an article I wrote to submit for publication. Add in a dash of spring cleaning, and that sums up what I’ve been doing.

What do you do after you finish a major writing project? I’d love to know!

Sunday ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” Wrote 3,132 words this week. First draft is complete! Yippee! And: Yay!

2.) Read to hone my craft. Read two more chapters in Donald Maass’ “The Fire in Fiction.” Finished reading Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World.”

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays. Target met.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week. Target met.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.

6.) Super-secret project: Write two articles/posts each week for that project. Target not met. Admittedly, I’ve been slacking on this one the past few weeks.

This a blog hop!

***

What about you? What do you do when you’ve finished a draft? Do you take time to do something else before you start a new story? Do you edit immediately or let the story wait for a while? Do you need a cool-down period between large projects?

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#ROW80 check-ins, revising, writing process, writing updates

When the story veers off course–and midweek ROW80 check-in

Sometimes, the words flow like raindrops in a summer downpour. And then, that downpour is immediately followed by a dry spell.

I know the reason: I realized late last week as I sat down to write that I was headed in the wrong direction in my WIP. Part of me wanted to keep going, but that seems a bit like driving 15 miles in the wrong direction on the interstate because I took a wrong turn. No, the best thing to do is to pull over, figure out where I went wrong, retrace my steps, and get the story back on track.

And this despite the fact that I have an outline. I see now that part of the problem is that there are holes in the outline—why would the villain do X instead of Y, when Y is his normal modus operandi? How will his sudden change bring the heroine face to face with her greatest fears, and what’s the best way to show that on the page? What will she learn about herself and how will she change as a result?

So the beginning of this week hasn’t led to much writing, mostly just slogging through the story trying to identify the moment things veered off course and set them back on the correct path. Today, I have a new scene planned out that should help with that. This week is less about word count and more about re-envisioning some of my scenes—even though I’m so close to the end of this story I can feel it, and I really want to race toward The End.

Still, the beginning of the week hasn’t been completely unproductive. I went to a concert Monday night, and the music, a mix of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” with some Bach and Tchaikovsky thrown in, was the perfect backdrop for writing inspiration to strike. I began picturing scenes from a short story and, by the end of the performance, not only was I swept away by the music (the performance was fantastic!), but I also had a clearly formed idea for that story in my head.

I spent part of Tuesday jotting down notes and writing a brief synopsis for that story, a short but stinging sequel to the story I’m currently working on. 🙂

I also decided to go back and do Barbara Samuel’s Voice Worksheet again. I attended her voice workshop a couple years ago at a writing conference, and it provided great insight into my writing. It’s been a while since I’ve done any voice exercises, so I decided to give the worksheet a go. It was definitely worth revisiting.

ROW80 midweek check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic”: 2,700 to 3,000 words per week. Behind on this goal, since I’m revising instead of adding to the word count.

2.) Read to hone my craft: Making progress on this front.

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays: On track to meet this goal.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week. On track to meet this goal.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. On track so far.

6.) Super-secret project: Write two articles/posts each week for that project. No progress yet this week.

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), founded by author Kait Nolan, is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Do you ever do any writing exercises when you’re struggling with a WIP or need a change of pace? Which are your favorites?

Do you ever realize your WIP is heading in the wrong direction? If so, how do you get your story back on track?

And how are your goals coming along this week?

#ROW80 check-ins, decorating and organization, writing updates

Decluttering is good for the soul—and a midweek #ROW80 check-in

Maybe cabin fever is setting in after an unusually cold winter, or maybe it’s the fact that my husband and I have decided to move, after living in the same apartment for seven years. Lately, I’ve been on a decluttering/cleaning/stuff-purging frenzy.

Over the weekend, I cleaned out our pantry. I tossed anything that was expired, and it was a depressing amount of stuff. Apparently, a few years back, I went on a spice-buying spree during which I purchased every type of spice known to man. Unfortunately, I used some of those spices two or three times and never touched them again. I guess I quickly ran out of uses for celery and fennel seeds. I hate wasting anything, especially food that someone worked hard to grow and harvest. I was disappointed in myself for not having used up what I already had or for buying things that I must’ve known I wouldn’t use all of.

There is an upside: The spice rack is now alphabetized and all the expired goods have been purged.

spices

That’s good news, not just because it’s one less thing I’ll have to worry about when we move, but also because I’ve been on a cooking spree lately. A couple years ago, I was working multiple jobs and my husband was working full time and going to school part time. We didn’t have much free time, so we ate out a lot.

Now that I’ve left my day job to write full time, I don’t have any excuse but to cook. Last month, we ate out twice: once when I had a meeting at Panera Bread with my critique group and another time when we picked up some doughnuts from a local bakery as a treat. Total, we spent $12 on eating out the entire month.

With my well-organized pantry, I know exactly what I have, which means I can plan recipes and meals based on what’s currently in my cupboard. That means less waste—and less guilt. And it allows us to spend less at the grocery store, so we can save more quickly for a fully funded emergency fund and, eventually, a house to call our own.

Next on my decluttering tour: the boxes and stacks of papers in my office. There’s no way I need every piece of paper I’ve been keeping. Since sheets of paper feel more personal than food—and don’t come with handy expiration dates—the process of tossing some of my papers will be tougher, but it needs to be done.

I find this periodic decluttering serves several purposes. One, it increases my gratitude for the things I own. Two, it keeps my apartment tidier, which decreases my stress level. And, three, it helps me create a clutter-free, organized, and serene space to write, work, create, and live. All things considered, a much-needed decluttering session does wonders for my writer’s soul.

Midweek ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic”: 2,700 to 3,000 words per week. I’ve written 869 words in my WIP so far this week and am working on cleaning up a couple chapters to send to my crit partners.

2.) Read to hone my craft: Not much progress to report on this front.

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays: So far, so good.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week: Yes on Twitter. Not yet on WANA Tribe.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday: Done for Monday and Tuesday.

6.) Super-secret project: Write two articles/posts each week for that project: Wrote three articles, so I’ve already met this goal for the week. I didn’t do any work on this project last week, though, so I’m playing catch-up.

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), founded by author Kait Nolan, is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants, or check out the #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter.

Do you ever go on a decluttering spree? Are you suffering from cabin fever? And how are your writing goals for the week coming along?

#ROW80 check-ins, the writer's journey, writing updates

When the people in your life don’t support your writing career (plus an #ROW80 check-in)

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve encountered numerous stories about fellow writers who have faced resistance or outright disdain over their writing careers. It might be as simple as a parent who steers a child with an affinity toward the written word toward a safer career. (I was steered toward teaching, for instance.) Or a husband who hopes his wife will finish her novel and “get it out of her system”—as if a vocation were a phase, like that year she tried bangs or the summer she took up tai chi.

Maybe it was the critique partner who turned up her nose and insisted that she didn’t know how to critique “that kind of work” when we found our writing taking a new direction. Or perhaps it was a creative writing professor who, on the first day of class, announced that genre writing was off limits—even though the story of our hearts was one of science fiction or horror.

“When are you going to write a real book?” the children’s book author is asked. Never mind that children’s books nurture the next generation of bookworms or that almost all of us can wax nostalgic about a beloved childhood tale. Or perhaps a romance novelist is greeted by strange looks and words of caution, as though great storytellers haven’t been telling love stories since before the novel was even an art form.

These experiences can plant seeds of doubt.

Maybe we feel we should give up writing and become an accountant—they’re always in demand. Maybe we feel we should write in another genre—something more palatable to Great Aunt Mable, who just can’t figure out why you’re wasting your time writing “smut.”

Many of these aren’t attempts at sabotage. My mother’s encouragement to pursue a teaching career was based on her belief that “society will always need teachers.” She didn’t want me to face hardship and disappointment, and I can appreciate that. Our creative writing professors were probably trying to encourage us to broaden our horizons, not to dampen our spirits. And maybe, just maybe, our spouse wants us to finish our latest WIP so we’ll come out of our writing den and join him for an adventure in the real world—you know, the one that allegedly exists outside of our heads and imaginations but that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t contains actual dragons?

And then, yes, there are some people who mean real harm. They mean to bend us to their will and make us see the error of our ways. They make us feel like this…

photo by Kristin Nador, WANA Commons
photo by Kristin Nador, WANA Commons

Maybe they think artists are egomaniacs who spend their days contemplating their navels. Maybe they think the genre we write in is shameful and they mean to “enlighten us.” Maybe they have their own hang-ups and issues and we’re just getting sucked into their Vortex of Crazy. Those who mean well can be reasoned with. Those who mean us harm need firmer boundaries—maybe electrified fences in some cases.

Remember: We are not alone.

There’s good news. There are a lot of people in this world who will support your writing career, even if you’re a fledgling novelist with nothing more than a notebook or computer file of disjointed scenes, a battered copy of “Writing down the Bones,” and a dream. Because every writer, in addition to facing the forces of self-doubt, will face outside forces that feed that doubt. It might be as simple as the stereotypical image of the struggling artist, or a crit partner or reviewer who simply hates our work even when others chime in with honest support and legitimate praise.

birds of a feather... photo by Kristin Nador, WANA Commons
birds of a feather…
photo by Kristin Nador, WANA Commons

There are writing communities on the Web and in person, writing challenges to immerse ourselves in, conferences full of freaks like us. And all of those people, from the bestseller to the newbie, has faced many of the same challenges that we do. Other writers can offer words of encouragement, constructive criticism, practical advice, or simply a sympathetic ear.

If you are faced with someone who truly doesn’t support your work, you can turn to us—to Kristen Lamb and the awesome people you can meet on the WANA Tribe website, to the folks participating in Kait Nolan’s A Round of Words in 80 Days writing challenge, and to fellow writer-bloggers, writer-tweeters, and writer-Facebookers who walk their own writing roads.

As Kristen says, “We are not alone.” And I just want those of you who are facing Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers to know that.

What about you? Were there moments when you faced someone who didn’t support your writing career? How did that make you feel? How did you overcome that negativity?

Midweek ROW80 check-in

ROW80LogocopyWe got our first real snowfall of the winter. Even for Southwest Virginia, that’s late in the season. I think the official total was around 2 inches. I can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but it is nice to look out the window and see a bit of white—until I realize I have to clean that white stuff off the car and traipse around in it with the dog. 😉

WIP progress: Sent chapter two of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic” off to critique partners. Continued work on chapter three; wrote 838 words. That word count should be higher, but I took Monday off to spend with hubby, running errands and finishing painting our bedroom.

Reading to hone my craft: Finished reading Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel,” which I highly recommend. The book includes a lot of exercises for writers who have a tendency to get stuck during the drafting process, as well as ways to more effectively research, plan, and plot your novel (even if you’re NOT a plotter) to make the process go more smoothly.

Blog Wednesdays and Sundays: So far, so good.

How are your ROW80 goals coming along this week? Are you shoveling yourself out where you live?

#ROW80 check-ins, revising, writing process, writing updates

2nd chapter woes & an #ROW80 check-in

Is it just me, or are second chapters hard to write?

Maybe it depends on the nature of the story, but I often find myself stumbling on chapter two, rewriting over and over and trying to figure out where to go next. Part of this problem tends to be that I don’t know exactly where to go. I started out strong with a fresh idea and characters I found intriguing, but now I’m getting into the heart of the story and I realize that I don’t know what they’d do next or I don’t know enough about the world to figure out what will happen next. In a sense, it’s that transition from “something really strange happens” in chapter one to the rest of act one that’s killing me.

This go-around, I’m trying to solve that problem by doing some plotting and writing backstory before I plunge in. Still, just because you know what needs to happen doesn’t mean that the words will flow—and they haven’t been coming easily.

That said, I managed to finish chapter two of my WIP and dash off the first couple pages of the third chapter earlier this week. Chapter two still needs some serious revamping, however. The dialogue feels flat and expected, too repetitive and lacking in tension and double-duty details. The chapter picks up at the end, but I need to rework the first two scenes—probably condense them. For a novella, it’s a lot of conversation and backstory that doesn’t get us very far, and the relationship between the characters feels off. I’m happy with the pacing in the first chapter, and chapter three is shaping up to be action-filled. I just need to get chapter two moving with romantic tension and snappy, engaging dialogue.

Still, the important part is that there are words on the page and I have a sense of how to rewrite those pages—freshen and tighten the dialogue, strengthen the romantic tension between the characters, and prepare them for the fast-paced sequence of events that will follow. I also need to convey the necessary world-building information in a way that’s concise and doesn’t feel like a data dump or repeat something the reader already knows.

In my quest to write more cohesive first drafts, I’m also using Jami Gold’s beat sheet for romance writers. If you’re a romance writer–and especially if you’re also a pantser–I highly recommend it. It’s a downloadable Excel spreadsheet, and you can customize it to your target word-count. That’s definitely helped me get back on track when I get lost in the forest of my story.

ROW80Logocopy#ROW80 midweek check-in

  • Write and revise one chapter per week of WIP. Progress: I’ve finished writing chapter two and am working on revising it. I probably won’t get chapter three revised this week, but I’d like to finish as much of it as possible. A finished rough draft of chapter three would be great, but that might be pushing it.
  • Read to hone my craft: I still need to read more in Julia Cameron’s “Walking in this World” and Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel” this week.
  • Post on the blog Wednesdays and Sundays: Today’s post complete!

I know that some of you struggle with first chapters and others with last chapters. For me, I think I struggle most with second chapters for reasons that aren’t fully clear to me. What’s the hardest part of your story to write? What tools do you use to overcome that stumbling block? Any advice for penning a well-crafted, engaging second chapter?

I hope everyone’s having a great week and making progress toward their goals!

#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?

#ROW80 check-ins, writing updates

Electric Blankets and Goblin Glamours in the midweek #ROW80 check-in

ROW80LogocopyMy mother-in-law couldn’t have gotten us a more appropriate and timely Christmas present than the electric blanket she gave us. Hubby and I have spent the past few nights curled up under it and reading—anything to ignore the record-breaking cold temps outside. We haven’t been shoveling ourselves out of the snow here in Virginia, but it has been COLD.

I reworked the first scene of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic,” chapter two on Monday, and spent Tuesday working through some back story. This story is a novella, and I’m struggling to balance the fast-paced action the situation and format demand with time to develop the main characters’ relationship. (Thankfully, nothing brings your characters closer than running for their lives from goblins.) Spending time on back story before I write allows me to make every word and every scene count. So, while my word count for Tuesday wasn’t very high—I only added about 100 words to the actual story—I discovered plenty of interesting details. (Yes, one of those details involves a goblin using a glamour to disguise himself as a human—thus the title of today’s check-in post.)

Today and tomorrow, I’m hoping to knock out the rest of chapter two. That leaves me Friday to do some revising before I move on to chapter three next week.

I’ve also started reading Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel” and am reading chapter two of Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World.” (For those of you who aren’t familiar, Cameron’s books are set up so that each chapter represents one week in a weeks-long creative journey, so I’ll be reading one chapter per week in that book.)

Since I’ve already posted once today, I’ll keep this one short and sweet.

What about you? Where do you stand with your #ROW80 goals for this week?

ROW80, the writer's journey, writing process, writing updates

When becoming a better writer means finding a new approach—and #ROW80 Round 1 goals

In late 2013, I made a big decision: I left my job in university administration to become a full-time writer. I was simply ready for a change and, thanks to some major changes my husband and I made, we were finally able to truly afford it. We paid off our debts and stuck to a budget. We’re replacing one of our vehicles with a bicycle and cooking more meals at home—among other cost-saving measures. The choice to focus on writing full time for a few years isn’t without risks—it was a tough decision made after many late nights of thinking and number crunching, but I knew in my gut that it was time.

So now, here I am, rested and ready to don the cloak of full-time writer. And, I realize, I need a new approach to writing.

The old, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants way…

The old approach went something like this: I would take an initial idea—usually a character, image, or bit of setting or scene—and run with it, writing a first draft until, inevitably, I wrote myself into a corner. (Attention, fellow pantsers: Does this sound familiar?) Now stuck, I would go back to the beginning and rewrite until I had a plot that remotely made sense. I didn’t worry about how bad it was, how many holes or inconsistencies there were. After all, I could always revise. As a result, I was ending up with second or third drafts that were more like crappy first drafts. I made so many course corrections along the way that even my third drafts felt disjointed and unpolished. This approach worked fine when I was a novice, just dipping my toe into the waters of the craft. But I’m a few years along in my journey now, and, quite frankly, some examination of this process was necessary.

Last year, I began to examine my writing patterns. Why wasn’t it working? Why was I getting stuck so quickly? Why couldn’t I stick to an outline? Honestly, I didn’t get much writing down last year—some, but not nearly as much as previous years. I was stuck in my practice without knowing how to get better.

I realized that I needed a new approach. I’m a different writer now than I was five or six years ago. The old way just wasn’t working. So, with my latest WIP, “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic,” I’m trying a new approach.

A new approach—blending pantser and plotter methods…

First off, I’m trying to understand my characters better earlier in the process. After I got a couple chapters of the story down, I realized I wanted to know who my characters were as I was writing each scene and chapter. So I spent a lot of time doing character exercises and histories, including for my villain. Since the characters’ actions and reactions drive the story, it’s essential I know who they are and how they would think or behave from chapter one, page one. I don’t need to know everything about my world and my characters, but I’m trying to get to know them better before I’m too deep into the story. This way, hopefully the overall plot is more character driven and their reactions are more consistent and natural.

Secondly, all those years as an editor have given me a sharp critical eye. While it’s tougher now to silence my inner critic, I’m also better at seeing where a scene is working and where it’s not. Armed with that knowledge, I’m trying to revise each chapter once—just once, not ten times—before moving on to the next scene.

Hopefully, this new approach means that I end up with a more cohesive draft on the first go. I don’t expect that draft to be perfectly polished and publishable (how’s that for a tongue twister?), but I’m hoping to avoid the days where my third draft was really a first draft because it took me that long to figure out what the heck was going on.

What about your process?

Have you ever tried changing up your writing process? Process is such a personal, individualized part of being an artist, so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. It can take time to find a method that works. Have you ever reached a creative crossroads where you assessed your process and realized it was time for a change? If so, what changes did you make, and how did they help you along your journey?

#ROW80: 2014 Round 1 goals

That being said, here are my goals for A Round of Words in 80 Days (the writing challenge that knows you have a life):

  • Write/polish one chapter per week in WIP, “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.”
  • Read, at minimum, the following books to hone my craft:
    • “Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence” by Roz Morris
    •  “The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great” by Donald Maass
    • “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King
    • “Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity” by Julia Cameron
  • And, of course, I’ll be blogging on Wednesdays and Sundays to check in.

What are your writing goals for the first part of 2014?

personal journeys, the writer's journey, writing updates

dusting off my blog–finally!

Needless to say, I’ve been away from the blog for a while. There are quite a few dust bunnies to contend with on the website, but I’m determined to clear them out. (Thanks, August McLaughlin, for the gentle nudge.) 🙂 And I’ve also missed talking with my fellow bloggers. I’m really curious to hear what everyone has been up to lately.

Here’s a brief update on what I’ve been doing over the past few months:

1.) Revisions, part iv. I finished the third draft of “Made of Shadows” last year. I received some really great feedback from my critique group and from a couple of editors to whom I submitted it, so I’m currently digging into another round of revisions.

2.) From writer to thespian. After all of these long years working behind the keyboard, I dove into a new art form: acting. I played a supporting role in a local production of the Greek tragedy “Agamemnon.” I learned a lot about myself as an artist from the experience. Initially, I had a hard time not critiquing the wording of my lines. When I accepted that I could only focus on the delivery, not how the line was written, I was transformed. Actors experience art from the other side of the page, so I feel I grew as an artist. It was hard but rewarding work, and I met some really cool people along the way.

3.) A debt-free journey. In December, my husband graduated from college after six years as a part-time student. (Congrats, hubby!) And then we began the process of killing our student loan debt. We’re grateful for the education those loans gave us, but we are ready to destroy our student loan debt and focus more on giving, saving, and traveling. We’re definitely ready for some new adventures!

4.) Finding my “artist’s way.” Part of the reason there hasn’t been much blogging going on lately is because I’ve been caught in a horrible period of writer’s block. I’ve never had a storytelling problem I couldn’t write my way out of, but it’s been harder this year than in the past. That’s not to say I haven’t written at all–I have–but my progress hasn’t been as steady as in past years. I took some time to read Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” which is meant to help us tap into sources of creativity and overcome artists’ blocks. While a year with little writing is no fun, I am finding a greater clarity and sense of patience as I address changes to the latest draft of “Made of Shadows.”

Has anyone else tried Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” techniques? I know I’ve found them really useful.

Now, what about you? What has changed in your life in the past year–writing or otherwise? 🙂

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.