New Worlds

As writers we talk all the time about how wonderful- and at times exasperating – it can be to play with words and forge out of them the story that seems to want to be there. We also like to flip out over our favorite books, new and old. Meeting people who like the same books as you is like meeting a best friend, especially if you both happen to like some obscure title no one has ever heard of.

Side note- for any of you artists or dancers or designers out there, do you do this? Form friendships based on a similar affinity for Monet, or Beethoven, or a spare and streamlined interior?

My preteen sister is here to stay this week, and yesterday we got to talk about books. For hours. She read The Face on the Milk Carton (anyone?) in three hours, and is halfway through her first time ever reading A Wrinkle in Time. Mattimeo from the Redwall series (fans?) is next up and she told me that while I’m at work, she’ll be reading, or working on writing prompts I give her. She loves to write, and took huge delight from reading me the multitude of short stories she has created in response to these prompts so at this summer.

If you’re feeling down about writing, or any art form really, remember these moments. The firsts. Recapture that joy, the excitement of first discovering what becomes a lifelong favorite, the thrill of creating things you were proud of, long before you knew to worry about form and style, substance and shape. Let go of all you know now and just DO. The adult in you will fix the mistakes and missteps later. LOVE creating, like you used to.

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Excitement in the Air…

Hey y’all – just dropping in for a surprise Thursday visit with some news: my first official post as a book blogger is up! You can read it here, and while you’re there, be sure and check out Kate’s many words of wisdom – I have learned a great deal about writing from her.

Be sure and say hi to her too, and follow her on Twitter if you do that sort of thing.

Be excited everyone – tomorrow is Friday! (begin early weekend party happiness)

On Character

One of my most boring titles ever, yes- but it’s been a ridiculous week and we’re only halfway through, so give me a break.

I’ve been seeing a lot of advice and ideas on character out there in the writing world lately, so I just thought I’d throw my two cents in for today, along with a horrendous cliche, yes- I refer you to the above.

Sometimes a story begins with a phrase. Sometimes a picture, sometimes an event, sometimes only a name, but something always sparks that story, and something is what brings it along, what pumps through your veins and keeps you moving. But no matter how it begins, at some point,somewhere, that story’s got to have a character in it.

Who is that person? What do they want? Why has their story, out of all the stories in the world, thrown itself at you? I think these questions are at the very core of our writing.

Where someone is depends on what they do, what they like, who they know. What they like and do and who they know depends on what sort of person they are, and that is character.

The heartbeat of the story.

I think it’s easy as writers to give a character a name, a place, actions, friends, lovers, goals, activities, and ultimately story, without ever knowing who they are. We are each the hero of our own stories. We each belong in a place and time- each of us dream and believe and love and hope and dare and achieve and suffer, and even though we might be one of a crowd of millions, not a single one of us can slip into another person’s experience- except through story.

So that, rough and tumultuous as it is, is my final thought on character. A story does not exist without a centerpiece- a story is a reason, an experience, a history. Someone’s reason, experience, history. As long as that someone is clear,present and sound- fully accounted for in the writing, as long as it’s their pulse that beats through the story, you have character. And powerful character at that.

A Single Writing Weekend

I just finished up one of my most exciting weekends to date (and in a minute you’ll find out why,despite being spectacular, it also is notable for showing how little of a life I have!)

I spent it writing. (And there you have it)

If you read semi-regularly, you know I am in the midst of writing a contemporary romantic suspense novel in the first-person, present tense.

Not my forte. Not even my usual, in fact, it’s a complete split from both the subject matter and the style I usually operate in. It’s been, by turns, exciting, horrifying, and painful.

I hit just about 40 thousand words and it became a languorous climb up a mountain that didn’t seem to have a peak. I pressed on, as noted in last Monday’s post, but it was painful. The joy of writing was gone, and I desperately needed a jump start.

So, I had a mini, at-home, party of one, writer’s retreat. As of last night, Faded Roses stands at just over 62 thousand words and the end is very much in view.

I could ramble about the things I learned until you just run from the post, but I’ll make it short and sweet. I learned that setting impossible goals is powerful for the soul. I learned that sometimes, we have to write not WHEN, but UNTIL we feel like writing. I found that we are capable of things we think we can’t do, that we should never underestimate the power of housekeeping, cooking, or exercise to spark creativity, and that sometimes, maybe all the time, we can barely hang on- and still find strength to reach the summit.

What tools can I give you, found within my surprising box this weekend?

1) Change up the song. I moved from slower, deep music to something upbeat and powerful. Whether it was because that’s where the character is going or it’s what I need to be, I don’t know, but it worked. Think about the music.

2) On that note- sorry- also think environment. I set myself up a lovely writing space with candles, inspirational sayings, and reference books. Turns out, this book needs to be written sitting on my bedroom floor with my back against the bed and fresh air blowing through the windows. The right space might not be the same for every novel. Find the one for your story.

3) I learned the value of breaks. Pay attention to your body. If it’s stiff, go do kettlebells or ride your bike. If you’re thirsty, grab some water- don’t let them become distractions from writing, but also don’t ignore those messages.

4) Set an impossible and ridiculous goal. You’ll feel a bit silly when you don’t make it- I didn’t write 30k in one weekend- but it will swiftly be washed away by the wonder of all you did do. And you’ll be that much further down the road.

5) Believe. It might not come easy. You might want to weep that a sentence so monstrous found life at your fingertips. But don’t give up on the story, don’t give in to anything or anyone, that tells you it’s not worth it, including yourself. Even if it becomes your worst novel or story ever, well then- that’s out of the way. On to bigger and better things.

We can do this, y’all- we can achieve our dreams and passions, we can envision big and do still bigger things- we can accomplish all we wish to. We just have to go for it.

Author Interview: Rebecca Paula

Drumroll please – announcing…my very first interview!

 I met the lovely Rebecca Paula, a writer of historical romance, via the websitImagee Figment while we were both engaged in the wilds of National Novel Writing Month, and somehow we tumbled into a delightful writerly friendship. She’s a great lady for good advice and has been running into some amazing opportunities lately. She agreed to answer a bunch of questions for me, so without further ado, here she is! I hope you enjoy her just as much as I have, and be sure to follow her on Twitter – she’s going places!

1) Let’s get to know you:

Your favorite color: It changes. Sometimes it’s blue, sometimes yellow, most of the time it’s pink.

Your favorite animal:…would be the cat. That’s mostly because I have the greatest cat ever in the history of ever, who’s hilarious. If you follow me on Twitter, I talk about Bella a lot.

Your favorite snacks: I am addicted to cheddar rice cakes. They’re my go to snack while I’m writing. I also love tea, especially Earl Grey.

Your favorite tv shows: I’m pretty obsessed with British TV. I can’t pick a favorite, but Downton Abbey is close to the top of my list. I also love Covert Affairs and New Girl.

2) When was the very first time you remember wanting to write? What inspired that moment?

In fifth grade, I was assigned to write a diary from the POV of Brian from Hatchet. That was really when lightning struck for me and I found my place. From that assignment on, it’s just been me wanting to write, whether it was fiction or nonfiction, I wrote.

3) What are you currently working on?

Right now, I’m working on a lot. I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to write full-time right now, so I’m taking advantage and working, working, working. I’ve finished Etiquette with the Devil, which is the first book of seven in an historical romance series. I’m revising its sequel, The Lady and the Guttersnipe, and am drafting the third book. I’m planning on writing a short contemporary romance this summer too on a dare from my husband, which will be based in New England.

4) Talk about your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process, and a little bit about how you work.
I love revising. I could revise forever. There’s something magical about the whole process. Drafting is touch and go for me in terms of love and hate. I think my least favorite parts have been summarizes my stories – so synopsizes, loglines, etc. Those are cruel. I would much rather cut words and “kill my darlings” than tackle anything that shortens my story. I hope it’s a skill I learn with time and becomes a bit easier.

5) Name some authors you esteem or books you’ve read repeatedly- what about them inspires you?

As far as books, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read The Great Gatbsy and Wuthering Heights. Those are two of my favorites.

I love F. Scott Fitzgerald and the lyrical style of his prose. I love that his stories are romantic yet tragic. I always thought his stories were honest portrayals of the human experience. I admire Meredith Duran for her beautiful writing and unique historical romance plots. I love that she steps outside of the normal mold of a typical romance novel. Her plots are always fresh. And I admire John Green…because he’s John Green. His writing is breathtaking and poignant.

6) Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what do you do to get over it, and if not, why not?

I totally believe in writer’s block. We’ve all had times where we want to yell at our computer screens because we’re stuck. I think the most important thing is to learn that yes, it does exist, and you can get through it by writing. Seems obvious, but whenever I’m stuck, I switch to another scene or POV, sometimes even another project. If you write, you’ll eventually get unstuck and work through that tricky spot.

7) What would you tell someone who’s never put pen to page- or fingers to keyboard- because they are convinced they can’t do it?

The trickiest thing about writing is writing. It won’t be an easy process, but there isn’t a better feeling than printing out your book and seeing the stacks and stacks of pages with words your wrote. Be careful not to be caught up all of the writing advice out there and the “writers” who love to talk about writing but never actually write. Trust that you have your own voice. You can write what you love or something completely new and exciting, but write, write, write.

Becka especially wants you all to know:

I love meeting other writers and talking books, so follow me on Twitter (@beckapaula) and say hi, or visit my website at rebeccapaula.com to find out more about my writing.

 

And there you have it everyone – my first interview, and with a wonderful friend to boot! Now get out there and do that most difficult part of writing: start writing. As Becka says, don’t get caught up in do’s and don’ts so much that your voice gets squashed, and never spend more time talking about writing than doing it – write what comes to you and never look back.

Don’t forget to check Becka out at her website and on Twitter, and keep an eye out – Flash Fiction Friday will be up next! Now- to your instruments, and let the writing begin!

Force and a Gentle Nudge

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re all like me, you’ve got half a dozen- that’s a very kind estimate- projects scattered around  unfinished. Or maybe the first draft is done, but you haven’t gone back in and sifted out the gold. Maybe you’ve got half-completed paintings laying around, half-composed songs that went awry somewhere…any of those things.

Then, you probably have your current project. Maybe you laid the rest aside for the one and it’s going swimmingly, and it’s the best thing you could’ve ever done. But maybe that old project lurks in the back of your mind, or maybe there’s a sense of failure at not completing it, or maybe even guilty springings-up of desire to return to it, despite your current work.

I’m hard at work on the Novel that Scares Me, and even though its very slow going, I’m usually adding a thousand words a day or so. But last night I was so overwhelmed that I pulled out the draft of The Sea Between Eternity and Time- remember that April novel, that monstrosity? I revised the first 15 thousand words, and something came alive again. I remembered why I wrote those books, to escape, but also why I need to press on in this one, because reality isn’t something you can just run from, always.

So, my advice? Go with it. Finish everything you start, even if you think you’ll never use it, but don’t be afraid to intersperse it with the projects that give you amazing joy. That’s how you balance the burden and gift of creativity.