Tag Archives: writing

Donna Del Grosso’s here for a Playdate and Talkin’ ‘Bout Writing Crises

7 Dec

I’ve been going through a major writing crisis lately! For the past… little while… the writing blahs have invaded as a mountain of doubt has taken up residence upon my shoulders. When my misgivings first reared their ugly heads, I chalked it up to the fact that I’d received some unwelcome news about a submission. No big deal, I thought, not everyone is going to like my novel. Besides, I’m starting a brand new manuscript and I want to tell the world their story. It’s all good, right? But the next day, as I sat at the computer and re-read my work, a heavy hammer, full of misgivings, hit me over the head. Everything I had written the day before looked… unprintable. Every word. And no matter how much I tinkered with my chapter, I wasn’t happy.

 

This happened again. And again. And again. Phrases like This isn’t working and Writing isn’t fun anymore and questions like Why am I writing? and Who is going to read this? filled my mind. Along with self depreciating expressions like I don’t think I’m cut out for this after all and I’m only wasting my time. Moreover, I found that my whole body reacted negatively when I prepared to write. I wore a frown, my neck and shoulders stiffened and my stomach contents congealed. Until finally, I didn’t want to set foot in the office or take my laptop to Starbuck’s. Even now, as I think about writing, my stomach is twisting into tight knots when I think about working on my new manuscript.           

 

Huh??  When did I become so uncertain and unhappy about writing? After all, I’ve spent the last several years looking forward to the time after work, and on my weekends when I can sit in front of the computer and leave my life behind. Don’t get my wrong, I love my life. And I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s. But the time I spend writing is my getaway from the same old thing. My time to create a world and become someone else for awhile. Why, then, am I letting negative thoughts ruin my day? Or infiltrate my precious writing time? Pessimism won’t do anything for the writer inside me except erode my confidence in my writing ability and naturally, in myself. I understand we can’t always be confident all the time but I hate when I am so insecure. For some reason, however, those negative thoughts manifested and I’m having a hard time getting rid of them.

 

This morning, I absolutely had it with self-doubt and joyless writing. So, before I let the words I’m no good and this stinks debilitate me one more time, I decided to take an ice-pick and mallet and break them into tiny pieces. I listed all the phrases running through my mind and pulled them apart one by one.

 

I don’t think I’m cut out for this after all.        Really? Why? Because writing is difficult? Of course it is! I’m desperate to tell a story. Well, more than one story, to be honest. And I want to do it perfectly. I want to write so well that everyone who picks up my book experiences life through my characters. I want them to laugh, cry and maybe fall in love again. And, of course, I want them to love my books. But the problem is… I want it all now. I’m sorry, but that’s not going to happen. Frankly, I haven’t had enough practice. And I reckon I have a long way to go. I haven’t written enough.

                                                                                                                                                              

Gini Koch (Alien Proliferation) has commented on more than one occasion that “Every writer has a set number of words to get through before they stop sucking (stinking on ice, if you prefer). For most it will be in the hundreds of thousands; for some it will be in the millions. So the more you write, the sooner you get through your bad words and on to your good ones. And remember – the average novel is 100,000 words, so what I’m saying is that you have to write several books before you get good enough to write a publishable book.” Millions? Really? I know she’s right but hoped I was different. I’ve had dreams where-in I’m one of the lucky writers whose manuscript was accepted… first time! So when I received my first no after my first submission, I thought my dream died. And a little bit of my confidence died too.

 

This isn’t working        True. It’s not. I’m too busy letting my ego get in the way. Most likely, it’s the reason I’m not getting anywhere with my new ms. Never mind the fact that my internal editor is breathing down my neck and criticizing every word I write, I’m adding potholes and detours to my scenes whenever I write. I’m not listening to my characters. I’m forcing things to happen and rushing through my chapters. I’ve been battling my characters, my plot and myself since I began chapter one.  I re-wrote what I now call the bastard chapter countless times and it still wasn’t right. I’m big on loose outlines and character interviews to guide me and help me keep the flow of the story moving along.  But for some reason, I completely got away from them. Instead of moving forward, I ended up sitting still in a sea of uncertainty. 

 

I spent four plus years writing and perfecting my first novel. At the end of my second draft, I knew my characters well and I’d discovered some of the ideas I had about them at the beginning were wrong. Of course, I had to re-write. But by the time I was ready to submit my manuscript, I knew everything about them. I have the sneaky suspicion that I want to have that same knowledge about my new characters right now.

 

Writing isn’t fun anymore        That’s an expression I never thought I’d think, let alone say aloud, but I’ve repeated those words to myself over and over again. And for a writer, an attitude like that can cripple you. So, to keep from quitting writing completely, or maybe running into the path of an on-coming train, what do I do?

 

Laurie Schnebly Campbell (Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams) has some wonderful suggestions. In her class, Putting the Joy Back in Writing, she outlines some of the causes for joyless writing including feelings of apathy and fear of success. Then she dispenses the antidote. Her cure includes tips like re-reading your own work and asking yourself questions from the class worksheet. She also advises students to “take a vacation from writing. Instead, spend time on other hobbies that make you happy.” 

 

I took her advice. For almost a month, except on my beloved Starbuck Fridays, I stayed away from my computer. I left my thumb-drive at home and if I had the urge to re-read my current manuscript, I re-focused my desire. I finished a book and began another, picked up a research book I’d been dying to read and I pulled out a cook book and tried some favorite recipes. When I came home from work, instead of running to the computer, I spent time with my husband. The light in the office stayed off. In other words, I relaxed.

 

It worked! During my vacation from writing, I began this article. With no self imposed deadlines or the pressure of my own thoughts lurking around me, I pondered my frustrations. Soon, I realized all of them could be summed up in one word. Fear. I was afraid of starting the long, sometimes grueling, journey of writing another book. I didn’t want to face re-writes or well meaning friends advising me that the hero didn’t stay in character. I didn’t want to spend days in a scene only to discover that I was in the wrong place. And I didn’t want to take the chance to hear another “thanks but no-thanks.”

 

The moment I identified what ailed me, my fear disappeared and excitement about writing began to build. I looked forward to running into the office to sit, once again, in front of the computer. My smile returned and happiness filled me. The feeling of anticipation so great, I practically rubbed my palms together. I felt… light as a feather. I know now that I needed my vacation, no matter how much I loved writing. And though I was itching to get back at it, I didn’t rush. Instead, I let myself have those last two days off and enjoyed them.

 

Koch once said “the very definition of fear is: False Expectations Appearing Real.” I love that definition because it helped me understand that although there were good reasons for all my frustrations, I’d blown them out of proportion, distorting all of them and until they became fact. Koch’s definition now sits over my computer so I can re-read it in those times of doubt and frustration.

 

When I discussed this article with Schnebly, she said “fear might be the single biggest factor in taking the joy out of writing.” I think she’s right. But I also think a little dose of fear can help give it back. Facing my own fears forced me to look into myself and my new manuscript. I discovered I had the courage to take on the uncertainties thrown my way and use them to make my writing something I could love.

Passing on the Gavel

4 Dec

A time of celebration. The presidency for my Romance Writers of America chapter has been passed. 2011 found me in the position as the chapter’s president. Not at all a hard job, just a time-consuming job. Meetings every month, finding individuals to conduct those meetings and making sure a location has been secured can’t always be done in the space of a phone call. Then, we have to be persuasive with our members regarding membership, etc. This would be a tad harder. Some people are gentle and have to be treated as such. Problems come around, you sooth the ugly beast. The presidency is an all around position. You don’t vote, unless the results are tied. But you put together the wording of issues to be voted on.  You act as mediator when conflict arises. Then, you act as care taker to smooth the ruffled feathers of the one who is found incorrect. You’re an ear and a mouth piece for your chapter.

Though there are always problems, there are also the benefits. And, yes they do out weigh the pressure areas.

James Dashner, Clint Walker and Sherilynn Kenyon for just a few. Laura Bradford, Marlene Springer and Anita Mumm as well. These are people who I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful time getting to know. Rubbing elbows and working out writing problems with. And then of course, the major benefit; people listen a little more when have the title beside your signature.  Yeah, that part I’ll miss. The others, well that has to do with placement. I’m going to have to become more outgoing and rely on myself instead of the board position.

After a year, I am excited to pass on the gavel to my fellow group member, as well as looking forward to putting all my time into writing.  It not so much of the pressure and organization the presidency required of me, it’s because I’m a writer. I write.

Until next week,

Grand Mama; Doree Anderson

“Finally, a real Plot Mama!!”

12 Nov

Not that I was an imposter before, but now I mean it literally. Let me explain. I have been working on the same manuscript for roughly 3 years. 3 long, long, looooong years. To be fair, I got pregnant and had my son during that time. And with two young children, I only have about 2 hours a day in which to get my “work” done. It’s hard to be productive with such little “me-time.” But I researched, plotted and wrote the manuscript in 7 months, and then didn’t touch it again for another 16 months. Then I spent a full 12 months (a whole stinkin’ year!) trying to edit the dang thing.

Well. I’m done. Or, as done as I’m going to be at this point. I have more edits to come (ones suggested by an editor who wants me to submit the full!!) But I am not counting them as part of the time it took me to complete this story. Actually, if I’m being honest, it took a whole lot longer than 3 years. I have an old journal, with the word “LOVE” printed on the front, that I started in college to help keep track of ideas. Apparently, this particular story concept came to me in May 2000. So, if I want to get ticky-tacky, then it’s taken me just over 11 years. Yeah, let’s not go with that last one. It’s too depressing.

So how am I finally a real Plot Mama? You’ve probably guessed it by now. I’m FINALLY plotting again!! I feel like I’m getting back to the stuff I really love, the stuff that has always been my favorite part about writing. I enjoy getting to know my characters, figuring out whether or not they have tortured pasts and how I can torture them more. I adore all the research—remember, I write Regency-set historicals. You can never do too much research. (Though I am currently bogged down in the details of early 19th Century economics, in particular, the capital finance structures for trade investments.)  I love getting my rainbow of sticky notes out, writing down my plot points, and sticking them on my plot board. I even sort of like trying to figure out how my characters’ external and internal plot lines will intersect and pull my hero and heroine together. But what I really love, what I am most excited about, is writing again. I LOVE writing a first draft. I love sitting down and letting my Muse take over. Everything can be changed later. Anything can be fixed. The possibilities are infinite, or as infinite as my genre will allow. When I’m in the creation stage I feel so free—even though I write with a pretty detailed plot and some pantsters would argue that isn’t freeing at all. It is to me, and that’s what truly matters.

It’s nice to get back to doing something you really enjoy. Not that editing was all thorns and iron maidens. I liked certain parts of it. I particularly liked the part when I wrote some new scenes I felt needed to be added. ;) And there’s nothing like seeing the impact of layering. My final product is a vast improvement over what I originally wrote in my spiral notebooks.

So here’s to hoping my current project doesn’t take 3 years . . . or longer. Getting it written and edited in 6-9 months would be optimal. But I’ll take a year. A year is a nice round timeframe. And I do so love coming in under deadline (it’s the advertising saleswoman in me—that’s a blog for another time.) And here’s to getting back to writing!

BUBBLY ANNOUCEMENTS

11 Nov
Celebrating

Beautiful cover for ONE TRUE SIN by Melynda Beth Andrews. Check it out at http://melyndabethandrews.com 

IN HER SIGHTS by Robin Perini gets a 4.5 star review from RT Book Reviews. Check it out at http://www.rtbookreviews.com/book-review/her-sights-0  

MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS by Jacquie Rogers gets a 5 cup review from Coffee Time Romance. Check it out at http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/BookReviews/muchadoaboutmarshalsbyjacquierogers.html 

THE BET, a novella, by Darlene Panzera won Debbie Macomber’s Make Your Dreams Come True contest sponsored by Avon Books. Congrats Darlene! www.darlenepanzera.com  

THE ROCK STAR by Genie Gabriel is out now. Happy Release Genie! Take a peek at www.GenieGabriel.com 

THE SINNER by Margaret Mallory gets “Top Pick” from Night Owl Reviews and Alex MacDonald was rated “Delicious”! Way to go Margaret! Check it out at http://www.nightowlreviews.com/nor/Reviews/Jen719-reviews-The-Sinner-by-Margaret-Mallory.aspx    

LADY WICKED by Delle Jacobs gets a 4.5 stars from RT Book Reviews. Congrats Delle! http://tinyurl.com/4mjb6lh 

COURTING DARKNESS by Yasmine Galenorn has been nominated for RT Reviewer’s Choice award for best 2011 Urban Fantasy novel. Wonderful news Yasmine! http://www.galenorn.com/Otherworld/index.php?body=ow-courtingdarkness.htm 

HER ONE NIGHT PRINCE by Rebecca J. Clark is available now! Congrats Rebecca! http://www.rebeccajclark.com/ 

FOURTH AND GOAL by Jami Davenport gets a rave review from Jane Litte at Goodreads. “The ending was heartrending and I loved reading my way through the football season with a player who had lost his mojo.” Way to go Jami! http://www.jamidavenport.com 

THE HIGHLANDER’S HEART by Amanda Forester is out now. Happy Release Amanda! Check it out at http://amandaforester.com 

THE GUARDIAN by Margaret Mallory has been nominated for RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Scottish Historical of 2011. Way to go Margaret! www.MargaretMallory.com 

Love much, laugh often, live well,

Swan Mama signing off

#AmWriting ~ Why #Nano 2011?

1 Nov

Why do NaNo or National Novel Writing Month?

Well, because.

First, there’s the challenge. Write 50k words in 1 month.

See, between the kids home for summer vacation, and then going directly into my student teaching, I haven’t done much writing lately (Read: none). Now that I’m done with student teaching and don’t have any more classes until late November, it’s time to get back to writing. Woot!

So, not only do I need to write, but the challenge will spur me on.

Second, the friends and infectious atmosphere.

Everyone is always so helpful, and encouraging with each other. I know that with as long as it’s been since I’ve written regularly, it’s going to be hard to get back in the rhythm of doing it consistently: every day, butt in chair. Get the words out (and make them good, LOL). Get the stories on paper rather than just in my head.

Third, my own goals.

I have this series idea, had it for months now, that I want to write. Then, I want to take the leap and Indie publish them. I feel ready for that step in diversifying my writing career. I also have my publisher asking for more. And agent interest in my urban fantasies. Put all of that together, and I need to do a lot of writing, LOL.

So, are any of you doing Nano this year? If so, feel free to be my buddy. I’m higleyb on Nano :)

Until next week, happy writing.

HUSBANDS, SONS AND NEW COMPUTERS, OH MY!

28 Oct

Thursday, my son built me a new computer and he and my husband spent Saturday afternoon installing it in my new bookcase/desk. Can you color me happy???!!! On Sunday my husband fixed wires into nice hidden coils, installed the printer in the cabinet and tweaked everything so it was just right. 

Are these guys heroes or what? 

I’ve gone from a cramped corner to a beautiful desk in one weekend. Am I writing up a storm? You bet. Am I smiling? You bet. Do I love my guys? Always have, always will. 

This weekend is the Emerald City Writers Conference and I can’t go. I wrote an ms for the Finish the Damn Book Challenge that Cherry Adair hosts every year and I was hoping to go and snag one of the reads by an editor.  Am I sad? Well it’s not optimal to miss out on a chance like this, but I still have the story to shop around and the universe just handed me, via my son and husband, a huge prize in it’s own right so I’m believing this is a sign of more good things coming my way. 

A signature line from a friend caught my eye this morning and it’s just so cool I have to pass it on. It was from Jennifer Mills who writes romantic suspense and YA. “Thoughts become things…choose the good ones.” 

Love much, laugh often, live well,

Swan Mama signing off

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