Friday, October 11, 2013



I've had a nice few months here on Blogger, but have decided it is time to move my blog over to my website: I'm using Wordpress and learning a lot every day. Whew!

See you at my new digs!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writer Survival

I've been MIA from my blog lately and realized that this weekend wasn't going to be any easier, despite my earlier in the week wishful thinking. We've had rotating illnesses, allergies, computer troubles, etc. and the extra care-taking hasn't left me with much energy at the end of the day for blogging. I know, I know: common complaint. And, truly, I try to write posts that have inspired me in some way. I already worry I have the tendency to slip into working out my writerly angst via my blog. *blink, blink

So, this will be short, but hopefully angst-free. The things I turn to when I need help, or comfort, or am exhausted.

1. Favorite sweater--I have tweeted and written about the sweater. I'm not at the point where I am superstitious about it, but it is something I use to help me change gears. Kind of like how Mr. Rogers would exchange his jacket for his cardigan at the beginning of the show. It's like a cue to me that I'm in a different mode. I don't need it, but I like it because it helps me settle in and focus. Wow, how I've come to appreciate being able to take long and short range thinking when it comes to a project. Focus matters.

2. Favorite beverage--Mine is currently hot tea. That's likely because of my (annoying) allergies and having had it with cough drops. Yuck. Again, after coffee, which is essential for survival, tea lets me write, sip, write, sip and see forward progression. When the tea gets cold, I notice that I've lost myself in something that I'm doing. And, just my observation here since writers get a reputation for being drinkers. Personally, I have no idea how anyone could write something coherent once they are intoxicated. I don't mix the two, not even just a glass of wine. Not judging, just saying it doesn't work for me and I am still struck by folks who think it does. 

3. Favorite buddy to talk to about your passion--Mine is my husband. He's so supportive, somehow cares deeply about my writing, and ventures opinions that make me think. He gives me confidence and helps me find time to write. EVERYONE needs someone like this in their lives. They may not live with you. They may not even be someone you can see every day. But, I think having a support system for your writing is necessary. Even if they don't totally get it. They need to get what it means to you (mostly) and support that.

4. Favorite way to work off steam--Mine is walking, with the occasional jog, and dancing around my living room with my kids. Loooong before having kids, it was a kickboxing class. You have to move your body on a regular basis to be healthy. You don't need to be a gym rat, but you need to find something you enjoy doing and do it a few times a week.

I hope that you all stay healthy! What are your best tips for self-care?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Celebrating and Catching My Breath

I shared this on twitter the other night but have been looking forward to writing a brief blog post about it too: I FINISHED MY DRAFT!



Clocking in at 84,109. Draft #1 is done. I promptly shed a few tears after typing The End. And texted my husband, who was downstairs, giving me some writerly space, but waiting for an update. Then I brought my laptop downstairs for him to read and I tweeted my victory. To my sweet tweeps who responded, thank you so much! I look forward to doing the same for you! Mwah!

Okay, so now what? I feel like I finished a long race (*cough, like 20 months long, if we're counting). I had two false starts....several thousand words in. Alas. But my pace definitely picked up over the summer. So now I'm gulping in air, bent over by the side of the road, knowing there's so much more to be done.

I have resisted reading over the whole draft in the past few months. In fact, since I put it on Scrivener, I have only looked forward, sometimes skipping around, and focused on wordcount. Which is great. But, now, I want to step back and assess what needs to be fixed and just exactly what I put on the page.

It is totally daunting. But, as a fan of lists, I think I will start compiling the FINITE number of things I need to do to edit and revise my draft before I show it to anyone else. The list, however, is big. It feels infinite. It's still mostly in my head because I'm afraid to see how long the thing will be. But, I'll crank it out, even if it is just to prove to myself that it won't be double-digits pages long. I hope.

The plan is to look at the big picture first, the macro-edits, I believe they are called, even though I am dying to read through it and fix my typos and repeated words, etc., etc. As a plotter-pantser hybrid, I had created parts of an outline, pieces of beat-structure, and then just needed to write the darn draft. So I forged ahead, keeping my major focus on conflict in every scene. In some ways, I'm not sure the piece works as a whole. That's what I want to assess by stepping back from it.

I am so grateful for Christina Dodd's writing advice where she talks about writing a book backwards, and then several others in different ways. It sounds simple, but to be given that kind of freedom, was really helpful. There were scenes I knew I wanted to include, plot points I had figured out, but several chunks were missing. I was really only able to write them...when I did. An excellent interview with Joss Whedon came out this summer and one of the takeaways I had was how Whedon talks about writing the scenes your heart is in first. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote the middle and then the very end, just days ago. My heart, and mind, knew what certain scenes would be like. Those came easily. And that's why, for the most part, I wrote them early on.

So, I'll be editing, churning through my research list (figure this out, how would this have been done, what did people wear when they did whatever, etc.) which seems endless, and then working my way in, scene by scene, then line by line. And as I do this, I am filing away ideas for WIP #2 that I've been dying to write for months now. First things first.

Oh, and updating the blog, moving it over to Wordpress, learning Wordpress, adding pictures, syncing it with my website, looking into finding a critique group and/or beta readers, deciding if I'm querying or going the self-pub route. Excuse me for a moment.

Aaaah! Haaaaaayyyylllp!

*smooths hair

Ahem. Whew. Please feel free to share your updates and advice in the comments or via twitter. One of my favorite professors used to say life is a series of lists, until we die. It reads so morbidly, but I took his advice to mean that there will always be lists and there's no point in freaking out about the endless number of things to do. That's just life.

Happy reading and writing. I'm waiting for The Cardigan to come out of the dryer. It's my lucky charm.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Writing and Writing and Writing

I'm keeping it brief today because I'm trying to finish the WIP. Progress is slow. I'm close to being done with the first draft. And, yes, internal conflict is still giving me fits. I'm determined to slog through though, finish, and then step back and see what needs fixing.

In the meantime, here's a brief scene from PeeWee's Big Adventure that comes to mind as I turn over plot points and stare at my computer screen, occasionally talking to myself. Skip to 2:25 for the "knitting" line, akin to my writing and writing. Sigh.

Looking forward to my tequila celebration dance when this draft is done. You will all be invited. :)

Happy Writing!

P.S. My admiration for writers continues to grow, not that I ever thought it was an easy thing to do. But, seriously.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Home Stretch, Ha!

Must...finish...this...draft. So I've been staring down the last few thousand words, struggling a bit with character motivations at the first part of the month. I believe I have that figured out, at least to the point where I can, eventually, type The End.

I thought I'd share some brief updates since people learn in different ways. As you may know, I participated in JuNoWriMo this summer and was able to make excellent progress on the WIP. This was such a lovely feeling of accomplishment. One of the things I noticed in looking back on my wordcounts for June was that I had several zeros (12!), which made me think I had stared down the daily wordcount goal and decided not to write at all. Silly writer.

So I wanted to change it up for July and see what that would accomplish. My plan for July was to write every day. And I did that. No zeros. My total wordcount for July was around what I'd been able to write in June, but without the guilt. There were clear advantages to pushing towards a larger wordcount goal over a month's time, but staying in my story for so long, even if it was briefly some days in July, prevented guilt. And that's always a good thing.

Heading into August I knew would be rough, mostly for personal reasons, like back to school prep and increased childcare demands. That added up to less overall time and energy to write. So, August, despite my fab progress in the J-months of summer, has been a bit of a bust, other than on the weekends. And, to the surprise of no one, once I got off-track with my daily writing, my wordcounts went downhill. A writerly snail's pace. Sigh.

But, I look back because I want to learn and I hope I can set myself up to do better next time.

I am within spitting distance of finishing, with scenes in the absolute middle and then the very end to complete. And as my kids are all back to school by tomorrow, at least, I have realized that I have to put butt in chair and write every day until I finish. I am that close and this is quite doable. (And fun and exciting!)

I wish I had a little gem to end on but really one thing I've learned about my summer writing is that I can try different things, make adjustments, and (al-freaking-most) get there. There's always more to learn. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get it. This is where I am, this summer, with this WIP.

What have you learned about yourself this summer?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Helicopter Writer: Falling in Love With Conflict

I've often thought it would be interesting to interview characters from my favorite romance novels at different points in their stories. (And I've used this as a technique for my writing when I get stuck.) One of the things that stands out to me is, how at varying stages, if the character asked me what I thought about their relationship, I would probably tell them to get the hell out of there. That's certainly not true about every romance novel, but there is something about putting two people who are so different into a story and having them fall in love. Their ability to overcome obstacles is part of what makes the story so thrilling and their inevitable (but nail biting!) HEA so rewarding. And while external conflict needs to be worked out, it is the internal conflict, to me, that should be equally, if not more compelling.

But having a lot of conflict between characters is one of the differences between relationships in Romancelandia vs Real Life. In real life, relationships shouldn't be that difficult, particularly at the beginning of a relationship. That's the easy part, when everyone puts in a lot of effort, both in terms of manners and appearance, among other aspects of just getting to know someone. Early stages of dating (courtship) should be fun and exciting, not angsty. But who wants to read about that?

And that's the issue I've been chewing over the past two weeks since I write fiction and not a relationship how-to: conflict that is both exciting and realistic (mostly). I don't want to write about Real Life, or write some sort of "this is how healthy relationships should look" book. Although, to be fair, I believe that the genre can be particularly empowering in terms of showing healthy, communicative, respectful, sexually gratifying, etc. relationships.

What I began worrying about in my own writing was that I wasn't going to allow my characters to be that bad to each other. As I mull over certain scenes between my hero and heroine, I'd find myself pulling back on what I'd let them do or say to each other. In essence, behaving like a helicopter-mom. (A term I detest, btw.) Though one could discuss the parallels between parenting and writing, I know that my job as a writer is to drop-kick my characters into conflict. Boom. Fly out of the nest. And when it comes to internal conflict as it relates to the romantic relationship, that is HARD for me as I write, for a few reasons.

It is funny that characters in Romancelandia fight falling in love more than anyone would in Real Life. They go to great lengths of avoidance and denial to prevent something that lots of people would run towards. That is one quality that has tripped me up as I explore (and create) the internal conflict between my characters.

What I also started to realize, strangely, is that I am afraid of what I'll put out there, between them. I've given myself and my characters a set of parameters that might just be too narrow. Maybe it's a struggle for likability and that has me worrying that my heroine is too nice. It may also be because I want to create some ideal, so my hero is too perfect. Ack! Who wants to read a story about that couple? I'll be okay if they get there in the end, but not through the whole story.

Another aspect I've been staring down in my WIP, is the idea that I want to put something out there--conflict, resolution, character growth--that doesn't make me say "Oh, dear, no. Absolutely, not." More than just "that's terrible," I am worrying, a bit, that some underlying message in my own writing will make me recoil. I am scratching my head trying to remember if I've ever had that reaction to someone else's work. I don't really think so. So, again, I'm finding that my Inner Editor can be pre-emptively judgy and fear has had me stuck at a certain wordcount.

Perhaps it is inexperience or inadequately developed characters that has me stuck? So much to learn. Again, I've come back to the idea of making authorial decisions, putting them out there, stepping back, and making revisions. Sigh. Kind of obvious, but clearly I believe in an examined life.

Those are the ideas that I wrestle with as I close in on the final few (some at the middle and some at the end) chapters to write.

Here's to first drafts, exciting scenes, and loads of conflict. And, yes, I am comforting myself with the plan that whatever trouble my characters get into, they'll be able to get themselves out of.

What are your thoughts about dating in Real Life vs Romancelandia?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wishes & Thanks

This will likely be a shorter post than normal but I wanted to say thank you to the twitter friends and acquaintances I've made since starting this blog and my writerly twitter-handle. Your encouragement means so much! I only hope that I can return the favor.

What a lonely journey writing can be. But it doesn't have to be. :) There are times in my life I've felt doubt and uncertainty and this is another one of them. Strangely though, and I don't know what it is about the goal of writing a book, there is also something that hits me as being pretentious. Ugh. I don't think it is possible to feel both insecure and pretentious at the same time, but, in my weaker moments, there it is. Ah, well. Have a goal and don't be ashamed of it, I suppose.

I've made good progress on the WIP (just a sneeze away from 60k--woo!) and I hope that you all have too. Last month I Wri-Mo-ed (highly recommend!) and this month, I'm making sure I write every day. So far, my July streak is unbroken and it absolutely feels like I make progress every day.

Sometimes I feel a bit silly blogging about writing when I am such a newbie on certain levels. This week though, I realized that the journey to completion of the first book is a one-time experience. It is something special to go from I-always-wanted-to-do-that to I-freaking-did-it. And, just for perspective, for each post I write, I read dozens more, grateful to other bloggers and writers for putting their thoughts and encouragement and advice out there. My goal is to do the same.

Today is my birthday and, as usual, makes me contemplative of the past year. I am so grateful for where I am in my life and for the love of my family. (Smooches!) What a wonderful opportunity writing has provided in enabling me to pursue something I've loved for so long, but never taken that seriously for myself. When I see young writers pursuing such careers I am amazed. Still, life hits you when it hits you and now is a good time for me. So, I keep writing, loving it, and shaking my head at myself at times that I've decided to hang out a shingle and write a book. In my day job I meet too many people who have no idea what they want. I'm grateful I don't struggle with that issue.

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone! Happy writing & reading! Wishing you all success and resolve as you go after what you want. Dream big. Life's short.