Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals and look for new ways to make certain we actually accomplish what we set out to do. The idea sounds great and so many writers start off with the best intentions and then we hit the bitterness of reality. There are kids to pick up, a job to do, chores that need to be completed. Our writing can fall off and those goals of writing 200 words a day can fall too easily by the wayside. Before long the book we swore we would write this year or the word count we wanted to meet every week is not happening.

How can we make this work? How can we get our goals accomplished? Sometimes it starts by making smaller goals.  But… those goals are also a necessity. This past week I was part of an online group chat with authors and what I found was that almost all of us had one big goal – we all wanted to get a book finished and published.  The approaches to how to do it were as varied as the people. Some wanted to write every day. Others wanted to set certain goals for the week. Some wanted to get the book done as quickly as possible and then focus on editing.  And that is where writers should start. Let’s look at some of the strategies you might try to get your writing goals accomplished this year.

1.       Set goals. That was one of the first thing everyone in the writing group agreed. Setting a goal or several goals is a good to get started. That way you always have something to shoot for. If you don’t set a specific goal and you only give a vague idea of what you intend to do, how will you know when you’ve accomplished anything. Set a specific goal and then go after it.

2.       Set a goal that works for you.  If you know your work hours are long or that there are certain days you won’t have time, then setting a daily word-count goal may not work for you. However, setting a weekly writing goal might.  It might even make more sense to set an hourly goal – ‘I will write five hours this week.’

3.       Be realistic.  If you know you can’t write every single day then don’t make a goal of writing every single day. Set a goal of so many hours a day or set a word count for the day at the beginning of the week.

4.       Look for opportunities that will let you meet your goal.  Find that extra time right after the kids are put to bed or get up an hour early in the morning. When I had a regular job, I wrote in the hours before I had to get ready for work and often on weekends. I gave myself whole weekends of setting everything else aside and did a writing retreat on my own.

5.       Don’t let setbacks STOP you. We all can set goals that we want to meet and then suddenly three weeks have gone by and you haven’t written anything yet. Don’t panic. Just get started! Look over your goals again and see where they can be revised. And then get going again.

Writing can be a lonesome chore and it can get very difficult when you don’t feel like doing it, but sometimes you just have to sit down and DO it. Write something other than on your novel, like a blog or even just write down your feelings. If you want to succeed at your writing goals this year, unfortunately the only way you’re going to get there is to WRITE! 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Getting Back on Track - 5 Tips

The end of summer has always meant the end of the vacation season so it is time to get back on track – and that means getting back into a writing schedule.  How can you do it when there is still so much to be done?  We’ve learned a few tips that can help:

1. Schedule your writing time. When we were working regularly often we made time before going to work. Or we knew certain time on the weekends was a good time to write. Either way, the time was already set aside and just like brushing your teeth at a certain time or watching TV at a certain hour, when the clock rolls around to that time you should be ready to write. Schedule half an hour or an hour, but schedule it!

      2.Write during your lunch hour. Do you regularly have plans or people you go with? If not, take your ipad or notebook and sit down at the lunch table with them beside you. We’ve heard plenty of writers say they even GO out to restaurants or coffee shops to get a break from home and write.
       Set a daily word-count and find the time to reach it. Sometimes, when things get hectic it is hard to find a set time to write, but if you set a certain word count every day, you might be able to get in some writing here and there, and then by the time evening comes you may find you only need to write one more page to reach your goal.
      3. Set up a writing group.  One thing that has worked for us is to meet a couple of friends at a coffee shop and we talk for half an hour and then we sit and write for the next hour. It means we will get some writing done every day and often one or two of us will stay on to get more writing done.

4. Take a writing getaway. This is one of my favorites. Starting 30 years ago when I would drag around portable typewriters, notebooks and laptops wherever I was going, I began spoiling myself with weekend getaways out of town. I finished writing my first book that way. I had a favorite hotel on the beach where I could sit by the window, feel the ocean breeze and type. (I’m sure it drove the others staying there crazy) I was more than happy when I could finally take a computer and do the same thing. The schedule called a morning walk on the sand, breakfast, writing, and finally dinner by the beach t and then more writing – that was a great way to spend a weekend. I’ve done the same in the mountains and even in busy cities--though my walking there was shopping. But the fun part was getting away and indulging the writing spirit.  

       5. Try a new writing method.  If you're just getting back in the groove, try a new method of writing. This is a good time to experiment with something you have been wanting to try. This summer at the RWA National Convention, I attended a class on Scrivenor, and it made me curious enough that I want to see how it works.  I'm also experimenting with Dragon Speak which is dictating the story instead of writing. 

Whatever it takes to get you going again can not only get more words written, but it might rejuvenate your writing process.  What have you got to lose?  And think of how much you have to gain!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

5 Tips for Surviving the Summer

As summer ends we usually find that we've gotten a lot less done than we anticipated.  Often we set unrealistic goals about writing all through the summer vacation or carrying out all that fantastic research and now we're ready to write. In the meantime the project sits there and gathers dust, but it doesn't get started, much less finished.  So now, the summer is ending. What can you do to get yourself going again. The fall rush will soon be started, with the resumption of school and all those other small things that didn't get done still need doing.

And your writing project?  Again, it sits there.

What can you do to get going again? Well, with the kids back in school it might be time to set your new fall schedule too.

1. Set aside a writing time.  With schedules being re-done, why not try to set up your own writing time too. Try writing in the morning. Either do it once the kids are off to school  or try that final hour before having to go pick them up.

2. Go the library and do your research. With the kids back in school some of the busy time at the local library might be less busy and that could  mean a quieter time and less traffic at the library. If there is research you've been wanting to do, this might be the perfect time to to it.

3. Visit the local book store. Reading a new fiction novel might be just the thing to get your own writing ideas flowing again. Finding the latest release by your favorite author might also be a good way to get your own writing groove back.

4. Look for a critique group. Again, with the kids back in school, there might be other writers in your area looking to start a new group or for new members of an existing group. With the change in the season and in schedules some people might be falling out so the groups might be looking to re-arranging.

5. Try joining a new writing group. Some will stop for the summer, so check out the local libraries or look online to see if there are any writing groups meeting. Visit local book stores and check the bulletin boards to see if there are nearby groups looking for new members.

Whatever you choose to try, this is the perfect time of the year to start a new project. It's like the beginning of a new school year. The next few months will probably be spent inside, so why not begin a new book? You could be finished by next spring!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

5 Tips for Writing Descriptions

Today I got a question from a student in one of my writing classes about her characters. It wasn't about how to build them or how to make them unique. It was about how to describe them.  She had no idea where to start and it got me to thinking about how we place our characters into our stories.

How can you go about showing who they are without starting out with a long laundry list? You know that list -- you've seen it in book after book: he had brown hair, blue eyes, and a stocky build or she had blonde hair, bright green eyes and a body to kill for. One of my favorite authors (I won't mention who because she writes books that are bestsellers) but in every book the character description is the same starting with "she was a tall woman with....fill in the blanks, but it is always the same structure. Or you've seen that book where the author has the character stop in front of a mirror and examine her looks. That was the norm several years ago and writers used it so much it became a cliche.

Those options are there, but there have to be other ways too.

1. Try having another character describe your hero or heroine. Maybe the best friend admires your heroine's courage or maybe they discuss that attribute, plus others, in a conversation. This is a simple way to set the stage for what might be coming a little later. Or maybe the hero takes one look at the heroine and is drawn by her vibrant blue eyes--that tells the reader something about him and her at the same time.
2.  Have the character describe her/himself.  This works fine in a first person narrative.  I was always amused by how mystery author Sue Grafton would let Kinsey Milhone describe her carefree lifestyle and her lack of stylish concern.

3.  Compare characters. This can come from the character himself, comparing his strength on the football field or battle field to his chief rival, or having the heroine compare her physical strength with her sister who wouldn't be caught dead in a gym or on a soccer field.

4.  Try having the character lament the habits or looks they don't have. At the same time they can bring in the physique, looks or attributes they lack.  This can be very useful and fun if you are writing a lighthearted romance or your character is self deprecating at times.

5. Just do it! There are times when you have no choice but to be straight forward and just give the basic details. At times like that, just get it in there and get it completed so that you can move on. It might be in some of the small details as you start bringing your character to life in the first chapter or you might sneak it in as part of the opening action.

But remember, we do want to know what those look like. We want to know if she is taller than those around her and she is self conscious about it or if he is shorter than a the basketball players who tower around him as he takes them to task as their coach.

Monday, February 5, 2018

5 Tips for Writing Romantic Suspense

My writing career started off as a romance writer but I soon got the urge to write suspense as well. As I explain to friends and readers, those bodies just started falling and they kept turning up in strange places to ruin my romances until I couldn't very well ignore them. I had to include them in my romance stories and have my hero and heroine not only fall in love but solve the crime too.

Why write romance and romantic suspense? The combination can be fun. Just when things get slow in the romance, I can always have the suspense ratchet up because someone is either in danger or gets killed.  The same is true in suspense. When the heroine thinks all she has to do is solve the crime, suddenly some guy enters the picture and she has to deal with all these strange romantic feelings.  The treachery by an author never relents!  We love to torture our heroes and heroines and test them every way we can.  Shove a problem in their way and then let them get out!  So what do you need t know if you want to write romantic suspense?

1. Get both plots under way quickly. Don't hesitate on either one. Introduce the hero and heroine in
the first or second chapter and get the romance started, whether it is their meeting or using opposing viewpoints. Let the reader know who they will be following in the book. If you are writing romantic suspense, editors and romance publishers usually want their story to begin almost simultaneously with whatever the mystery is going to be. I've heard that from both agents and editors.

2. Get your characters involved not only with each other but with the story as well. We don't want a woman who is just along for the ride or the hero who just turns up when she needs help.  We want them both invested in the mystery, even if we aren't quite sure until the end if one or the other might even be involved in the murderous or criminal event.  If you can make one look guilty, even better!

3. Don't let the romance overwhelm the mystery or the other way around. As I mentioned earlier,we want this story to be 50-50 so neither one should overwhelm the other. You want to use the romance to keep the characters emotionally involved with each other, but they can both be involved in solving the mystery, even if they are on different sides or hoping for different outcomes.

4. Don't over do one element to the detriment of the other. If you find yourself more invested or involved in the romance, then perhaps you are writing a romantic story with suspense elements. On the other hand if you find yourself so focused on police activity or on law enforcement, then perhaps you are writing a detective story with romantic elements. Is there enough emotion involved? Would you rather focus on police details? Or are you so caught up in your romance you are simply sliding over those scenes involving crime solving? Be honest as you decide what you are writing. You can fix in the editing process, but by the end you should know which genre or sub genre your story belongs in before you got to an editor or agent.

5. Watch that ending. It needs to wrap up both the mystery and the romance. Perhaps the hero and heroine have just decided they are going to be friends now that they have solved the case, but be sure you have a satisfying conclusion for the reader.

There are more  rules for writing romantic suspense, but this is a good way to start. The main thing is to remember your characters. Which are they more suited for? Look them over and determine if they belong in a mystery or if they prefer a romance. Often your characters will know before you do! 

Monday, January 8, 2018

5 Tips for Getting off to A Fresh Writing Start

Every year in January would be writers, beginning writers and even published writers tell themselves this is the year they hit it big and get all the writing done that they set out to publish. Year after year things don’t happen for the majority of writers. They stare at the blank pages and then
either give up after a few days, abandon their project half way through or decide the effort isn’t worth it.
Some do many to stick with their idea and keep writing and writing, and editing and eventually get the project done. Will they turn it into a best seller? Well, that is another question altogether.  But that elusive golden ring cannot be the automatic end result we expect or we would never get started. We can keep it up there dangling above us and keep reaching for it and that can make the journey all the more fun. Think of how fulfilled you will be when you finally latch onto that golden ring and get a good firm grip on it.

But for the rest of us, we must keep battling away and reaching ever upward with our writing, whether we are working on the first short story, the third book we’ve written or the 8th novel in a series.  There is no looking back so we must keep moving forward in our writing journey. (well, there could be looking back. It just won’t get you published any faster)
            How do we get started off every new year with a reach toward that golden ring? We can either say we want it or we can do something about it and that means we must start writing. What could make this year different? Well, let’s look at some possibilities to get us started:

1,  Commit to writing or working on something writing related every day. Even if it isn’t new words on your novel, make certain you are working in some way in that direction of getting published. That can mean editing yesterday’s pages,  researching for tomorrow’s writing or going through old projects to find the one you want work on next. The biggest problem with this step and the reason I put it first is because this is just a first step. You have to move beyond it. If you don’t, you won’t ever get anything done.

2. Write something new – new words, new thoughts, new ideas! That means moving beyond that first step of research or digging out old things and then writing something fresh. You need to write new material at every opportunity so why not start every morning with some fresh writing, whether it’s on an old manuscript or a new blog. Write something  new everyday and engage your brain. Let it know it’s going to have to find something new to write  EVERY SINGLE DAY.

3. Pick up yesteday’s pages and edit or re-write them if you can’t think of what you want to write today. You may find something in there that will further the direction you want your story to go. Or you might find something totally different you want to try. If you want to try it, do that! Why not write the pages and see if the plot idea or character idea will work.

4. Pick up the story in a new place. Don’t just write the next scene. If you have made plotting notes, go ahead and write something in a future chapter that you know you want to use. Try the big fight scene or something that will be totally fun to write. You know you’re going to use the scene, write it now and have fun with it. You can always edit later.

5. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Again, this might entail writing not the next scene, but something further ahead or rewrite a scene you’ve already done but in a different way and with a different outcome. Does it change the course of your book? Perhaps, but it may make it better.

The main take away here is to keep writing. Start out the new year with a fresh outlook on your writing whether it’s just picking where you left off last year or you are starting something new. Use the new year as a time to commit to finishing this book and your other work.  

Monday, December 18, 2017

5 Tips for Finishing Up Your Writing Year

The year is rapidly heading toward its close and usually this is a good time to take stock of what we've accomplished in the last year and look forward to what we want to get done in the coming year. I have to admit it has been a busy year for me teaching writing classes, presenting workshops and working on two new non-fiction books, one of which will be ready to be published this month. In addition I have been editing my fiction books so another can be published next year as well as writing blogs regularly, including our new Novel Concepts fiction  blog which has presented two new fiction short stories.

But it is also a good time to look forward and that means looking at what you need to do to be ready for the new year.  Here are some quick and easy ideas to help you get ready for your writing in the new year and get you off to a fast start in 2018:

1. Look for old stories that you can polish.  Is there something you might have written in the past that just needs editing before it can be submitted or published?  Now is the time to pick up some of those unfinished pieces and see if they can be made publishable.

2. Look for new story ideas. This is a good time to start planning your year with new stories you might want to write. Make a list of them now so that when you sit down to write you already have a beginning idea to work from. And if crazy things are happening around you, pay attention to them. You might find yourself coming up with a new story idea just from something that happens to you or your family or friends this holiday season.

3. Re-organize your writing space. Many of us have a few days off around the holidays. Some of them may be crazy-busy or filled with the family, but after all the chaos has passed you might find yourself with some extra time. You can use that time to spruce up your writing area for the new year.

4.  Buy yourself a present of either a new book or new writing materials. Why not start the new year
with a new notebook or a new writing program? If you've been a good girl or good boy this year in the writing department, you deserve it!

5. Find time to relax and get re-energized for the new year. This time of year can be very busy and we don't want to be so stressed that we're not ready to face the new year. Take some time for yourself to just think about what you've accomplished this year and what you might want to accomplish next year.

The main thing you want to do is to be ready on January 1 or the next day to start off a new writing year.  Happy Holidays to all!

Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...