#ROW80 check-ins, creativity

Writing the books of our hearts: Midweek ROW80 check-in

cropped-1163480_43811009_loveandcoffee.jpgAs writers, we’re often told to write the book of our hearts, which is great advice, especially for the fledgling writer. If our work taps into what we’re passionate about—for me, myth and magic are two such passions—it’s easier to make the pages of our stories sing. If the writer loves the subject matter, hopefully the reader will too.

I recently realized the kind of stories that I want to write, and why I’ve struggled with some of my projects in the past. As a reader, I gravitate toward simple, character-driven stories—tightly written tales with a strong voice and characters I love to follow. I love edgy urban fantasy, but I also like a quiet, passionate romance too. And for a while, I was trying to focus on edgier works, action-packed urban fantasy with lots of fight scenes. I’ve come to realize that while I can write fight scenes, that’s not where my passion lies. Some of my stories will certainly feature such scenes—when writing paranormal stories, there tends to be a brawl or two, or even an epic battle. And it’s true that writing those scenes can be challenging and fun.

But my passion is in those quiet moments, those simple stories that showcase the change of the characters, allowing themselves to be vulnerable, opening their hearts, learning from their mistakes, healing the wounds of the past. Even in my edgier stories, those issues will still take center stage. And recognizing that has made me a better writer. After all, anything we learn about ourselves as writers helps our writing.

ROW80 check-in…

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Finished!
  • Write a first draft of another novella novelette. Finished!
  • Start a second novelette. Wrote 3,949 words. Finished at 12K.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. Four of four books read. Reading a fifth book, “Manuscript Makeover” by Elizabeth Lyon.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. On track to meet this goal.
  • Blog two times per week. On track to meet this goal, though I missed the last Sunday check-in.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. On track to meet this goal.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

What about you? What stories makes your heart sing? What passions make frequent appearances in your work?

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#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?

#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?

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.

writing, writing process

Boy Talk: Writing the Male POV

I’ve been writing fiction since age 12 (if not earlier), and I’ve almost always written from the female POV. In my early years, I attribute it to a couple things: one, a leaning toward “write what you know” (i.e., as a girl, I found it easier to write from the POV of my female characters); and, two, my desire for fantasy books featuring strong female leads. I had a strong hunger for novels by writers like Tamora Pierce and Marion Zimmer Bradley. I realize that I was writing the kinds of books that I wanted to read, and those books involved strong female leads.

Considering that I grew up with two brothers and am married to a man I’ve known more than a decade, I assumed writing from the male perspective would come more easily. I often find myself pausing to think, “How would this man (character) approach this situation?” Our cultural upbringing has led us to communicate differently; where one places value and sees importance, how one handles a given situation, how one approaches conflict or strong emotion is driven not only by personality but also by gender. It varies from person to person, and gender is a part of that equation.

Getting inside my guys’ heads is always interesting to me; I often worry that I might fall into the trap of writing a male POV in a female voice. Since my novels and short stories are written from both the POV of the male and female protagonist, I don’t want to fall into the trap of writing the man’s perspective in my female lead’s voice. I strive for the depth and complexity that I know is in each character; I want them to be alive—deep and rich and passionate and electric. I want each word and phrase to hum with the energy of that character.

Perhaps because my latest character, an elf-investigator in a short story, is so different from me, I’ve found him a more challenging character. This is perhaps what I love most about him, that he’s somewhat of a mystery to me, that he isn’t just telling me who he is and is leaving me to figure him out. I find myself following him through his life in his world, trying to discern what motivates him, what his pet peeves are, his mannerisms, his thought processes. More than any other character before, he makes me try hard to get into his head and find his voice, his spirit. It’s a great challenge. I find that he’s one of those characters who will challenge me as a writer and that, even if I only get to spend a short story with him, he’ll be in my head for a while.

Writers like Cheyenne McCray and Sherrilyn Kenyon have provided me with examples of strong, well-developed male leads with wonderful voices, so I’m sure in the days to come I’ll be pouring through the pages of some of their works. McCray’s Keir in Wicked Magic has always fascinated me; there’s something about the tough male character whose ability to work as a delicate artist (whittling in careful detail) hints at an inner gentleness. The edginess of Kenyon’s character Dev in “No Mercy,” his temper combined with an off-the-wall sense of humor, makes him a fascinating read (I never know what’s going to pop into that man’s head next!). So here’s to hoping that this character can speak to me with the same strength that I’ve seen in other works, and that I can have the same dialogues with him that I do with some of my female characters. *cough “Zoe” cough*