Craft · Uncategorized · Writing

Conquering Writer’s Block

Writer’s block, the point in time when a writer finds themselves with no words to write next, is a topic frequently talked about among authors. There are two camps on the issue: it does exist, it doesn’t exist. It is horrible when a writer is in the middle of it, especially with a deadline looming. You need the story to move forward. The characters to talk to you. You just want word count. You want anything but the last sentence you wrote yesterday, a week, or even a month before to still be the last sentence. (unless of course the sentence was “The End”).

I have a tight writing schedule right now (which I am happy about because that means I have deadlines, better than not having them) so I can’t allow writer’s block control over my time. I have to get the words out. I took some time and realized it’s not so such much there are no words to write but I’m “blocking” the right ones from coming. For me, I’ve found if I do one of the following three things I can get back on track.

Going back a few chapters.

I’m usually a write-straight-through-to-the-end writer. I don’t go back and edit as I write because I’ll get stuck just making changes. I can always find a word I’d like to change or a scene. It’s not productive for me because when I get to the end of the book I know the story and characters better and land up making changes, some major ones, anyway. No matter how much I outline the story always shifts a little. The characters will reveal things about themselves they hid from me earlier.

I’ve found that when the story comes to a screeching halt it’s because I drove the story “off into the ditch”. Either a character behaved in a way that’s contradictory without proper motivation for the change, or a character did something not feasible, or I’ve twisted and turned the plot so much the only way to make it work is through a huge coincidence. I’ve gotten better at listening and heeding the “don’t write anything” voice and go back and fix it. The more I just plow through the words, the bigger the mess and longer it takes to fix it.

Change my writing tool.

SafeandSoundCoverArt72dpi

When I was writing Safe and Sound, for a reason I still can’t explain, every time I sat down at the computer to type the words refused to come. I’d sit and stare at the screen. I’d type a sentence. Delete it. Type a paragraph. Delete it. Nothing worked. I’d finally get frustrated enough I’d leave the computer to go read or clean something. The moment I was away from the computer the words rushed into my head. I’d grab a notebook and start writing. Before I knew it, hours went by and I had pages and pages of story. I’d then go downstairs and type it all up. The majority of the book was written in notebooks then typed into the computer. That book would only come to life when I put pen to paper.

Change location.

The blue-screen of death took my laptop away and all I have is my trusty and reliable desktop. I love my nice big office and comfortable office chair, but the portability of my laptop is missed. I could take it anywhere and write. Sometimes I wrote better on the back porch, other times at the kitchen table, or even on the go. I can still write other places with a pen and paper, but like how a book wants to be written by hand, others want the computer. My stories can be a little demanding at times.

If you’re having trouble with your story “talking” to you, see if a change of place or breaking a habit helps get the communication going again.

Books · Reviews · Writing

SRP Review: The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wiggs

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This heroine review is going to be unlike any other I’ve written because I’m going to be talking about two characters, Linda and Molly. The reason this is unusual is Molly, the daughter of Linda, isn’t a point of view character so I only got to know her through Linda. Linda is the point of view character and while I enjoyed getting to know her, Molly is the character in The Goodbye Quilt who stuck out to me and made a place for herself in my heart.

I did like the main character, Linda, and enjoyed seeing her change and come into her own as she struggled to find a ‘new life’ and purpose for herself. Linda had jumped into the role of mother with her whole heart and now found herself kind of forced into a new role…which she wasn’t sure what it would be…when her daughter graduated from high school. What I really liked about Linda, and made her a self-rescue princess, is that she kept those ‘parts’ of herself she liked even though others felt she needed to branch out more. Linda grew while still staying true to herself at her core, which isn’t always and easy thing to do.

I’m thinking Molly resonated with me more because I have a daughter who will be graduating this year and will be venturing out on her own. I loved seeing Molly through her mother’s eyes and watching as Linda discovered the strength in her daughter. I held my breath at times as I waited to see what choices Molly would make, especially when she was pulled in two different directions. To me, Molly is a self-rescue princess because she stood up for herself and made her wishes known. What I really liked was how Molly made her decisions and voiced them in a strong and respectful way. It’s not always easy to get your point across to the people you love. Being able to do is while keeping your temper and attitude in check is a necessary skill and I believe a truly admirable quality.

Books · Reviews · Writing

SRP Review: Portrait of a Dead Guy by Larissa Reinhart

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had time to read. I missed reading. Missed spending time with heroines and heroes I hadn’t written. I wanted to meet new people rather than just spending time with ones I knew. A situation hard to work around when an author has two books coming in November. Editing took precedence over a lot of other areas in my life. Reading being the main one.

I was so excited when I completed the manuscripts and knew I had time to fall into a book. I needed a heroine who could make me laugh. One who had a unique way of viewing the world, situations, and even in how she reacted to them. A heroine who embraced herself, flaws and all, even when being truly, completely herself brought out judgments and made people question if she ever had been introduced to common sense.

Cherry Tucker was just that heroine. She knew how others viewed her and her family, yet remained true to herself and didn’t allow anyone to influence how she thought of herself — and her family. I have a feeling Cherry was able to brush off attitudes toward her because she accepted and admitted her own faults instead of denying them. I think this self-acceptance made Cherry able to accept others for who they were.

I love this attitude of Cherry’s and wished I could be the same. She doesn’t hold others responsible without also holding herself accountable for what happened. I love her honesty and the way she lives from her teenage mistakes — even when she can’t live them down. Cherry faces her troubles head on, giving everything she can to right the wrongs she feels are being committed. I’m looking forward to seeing Cherry in action in future stories and how she grows from her experience of tangling with a murderer.

Encouragement · Everyday Life · Writing

You are a Diva if — Not!

You are a Diva if…

you are not doing what others expect you to do at all times.

Or at least that is the impression I’m getting lately. Diva (along with narcissist) is a word I see and hear quite frequently. Sometimes diva is said tongue in check and a term a woman applies to herself, and other times it’s a putdown used against others. A recent blog post I read has me thinking about this a lot today and mostly because it has hurt people. Good people. Wonderful, hardworking, loving, giving women stretched almost to the point of breaking are made to feel that devoting time to their own dreams and goals is wrong. Sinful.

For most people, time is the most valuable and limited resource. Between jobs, second jobs (writing for some authors), family, household, volunteering most people are hanging on and just managing to get everything done. And sometimes tasks are not done and it adds on a layer of guilt and makes a person feel unworthy. Lacking.

Instead of trying to ease the burden, some are heaping on more guilt by labeling people divas or narcissists because they aren’t doing enough for others. And interesting to me, the “others” the labeler seems to be talking about is themselves. In these hand slaps, what I hear loud and clear is basically, “Using your time on yourself, and not me or what I say is important, makes you a Diva.”

Sadly, this phenomena seems to be more prevalent in Christian organizations and circles. If a woman (and yes, it’s usually a woman it’s directed at) isn’t giving all her ‘free’ time or personal time to causes and in support of others dreams and goals then she is a Diva with a capital D. To make sure she gets the point, some version of the “God is not happy with you” quote is throw in. I think sometimes in our quest to prove ourselves a good Christian to the world and make God love us, we forget 1. pointing out others ‘faults’/’sinful’ behavior isn’t proof and 2. He already does.

We do not know all that is happening in a person’s life at any given moment. Sometimes I don’t even know what is happening in mine. When someone doesn’t step up the way you feel they should, doesn’t do enough for you, it doesn’t mean they are a Diva. It could mean they have a lack of time. It could mean they’re struggling. It could mean they need your help.

“Do onto others as you would have them do unto you” should be said and thought of with a loving and giving spirit, not with a self-righteous and punishing spirit. As bling does not make a Diva, nor does having limited time to help others in their pursuits make a writer a Diva.

Books

My Scrapbooking Mystery has a Cover!

I’m so excited. Nothing makes a book feel so real to me than seeing the cover art. Even though I wrote The End a while ago, and have since done one edit on Cropped to Death, nothing brings out the excitement and says ‘book is coming out soon’ quite like seeing the cover for the first time.

I love the cover of Cropped to Death. It says mystery, scrapbooking, and fun. All that I believe the book contains and is about. I’ve been very fortunate that the covers artists who have designed covers for my books have been wonderful. (Henery Press, Desert Breeze Publishing, and Stephanie Mooney who I hired for my self-published book)

And, I know it’s not easy to get the right look for an author. Most of us have a picture in our mind of what that story looks like but it’s hard to get the picture in our head to translate to others. Putting tens of thousands of words into one picture is not an easy task. Dying for Redemption (which I republished myself) was a cover created solely based on the information I gave the artist. Even though I wrote the book, edited, and rewrote before I republished, there were times I wasn’t sure what it’s ‘face’ would be. It took me a while to find a cover artist to contact because first I had to narrow down the right style. There were also a few times I wanted to write ‘I don’t know’ when asked about what I liked to see on cover.

Actually, I had this moment of panic with all my covers. There is something intimidating about describing the image for a book. It’s kind of like asking what does a writer’s dream look like. It’s quite real but yet not quite tangible. Yet, each cover artists I’ve worked with has done that, and sometimes even showed me the perfect picture that I hadn’t even imagined for my story.

Books · How To · Reviews

SRP Non-Fiction Review: Organize for a Fresh Start by Susan Fay West

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This year, I’ve decided to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month. With celebrating the Self-Rescuing Princess type, I decided this year to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can either improve my skills in an area or learn a new one. For March, I decided to tackle organizing.

I really enjoyed Organize for A Fresh Start: Embrace Your Next Chapter in Life and how it focuses on organizing … from belongings, to finances, to time … after a person enters a new stage of life. It addresses how once a new stage of life is entered (marriage, divorce, children, grandchildren), the way we’ve done things in the past might no longer work. There are lists at the back of the book to help with decluttering projects.

I really liked how the book separates dealing with inherited items and those belongings of a deceased loved one, from regular accumulated stuff. The author acknowledges that it will be harder to make decisions on possessions passed down and those that had belonged to a loved one who has passed away. She is respectful about the feelings and memories associated with these special type of belongings and encourages people to take their time, even if it means a few years.

I found the book to be written in a very practical and encouraging style.  As I was reading, I kept nodding and started to understand why some of my organizing systems no longer worked. I have added more obligations and projects to my life over the last two years, and never took a look to make sure the old set-up for my office still worked for me now. Also, now that my children are teenagers, we need a new system in place with them to keep track of sports, work, and social schedules. Sometimes I walk away from books like this feeling discouraged and guilty for not having been able to keep everything maintained. This time I could see why our system doesn’t work and have some plans on what could work. No guilt, just helpful ideas.

Books · Contests · How To · Reviews

SRP Non-Fiction Review: Debt-Free Forever by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This year, I’ve decided to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month. With celebrating the Self-Rescuing Princess type, I decided this year to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can either improve my skills in an area or learn a new one. For February, I decided to tackle finances.

Now on to the review:

Debt-Free Forever is a finance book written in a style that sounds like a knowledgable friend employing the tough-love approach to getting you back on track money wise. Since my husband and I have been working on going and staying debt free, we’ve taken a few classes (Dave Ramsey, Ron Blue) on personal finances. And, I’ve also been reading different approaches to personal finances as books just seem to speak to me better.

Most ideas and suggestions are pretty standard and found across the board in classes and books, but occasionally I’ll find a new tidbit. Sometimes it’s not quite what was said more like the way it’s said that grabs my attention and makes a big impression. I sit back and take notice. One tip was to actually save the money ‘saved’ by using coupons or when I find the item I intended to purchase is on sale. It does make me wonder why I never really considered doing that before. I really save the money when I put it in our saving account and not just spend that amount on something else. Usually something else I don’t even really need at the time. Those good deals aren’t such good deals if the only reason for the purchase is to get the large percentage off (like clothes and book purchases).

What I really liked about the book, was that while it encouraged people to become debt-free and be responsible for their choices, it didn’t produce a lot of guilt or shame. I was proud of the changes we had made, confident in the direction we were heading, and had a few new ways to keep us on the right road.

Encouragement · Everyday Life · Writing

Setting Goals

I’ve been taking a finance class at church and this week’s assignment was about goal setting. The goal setting the course wanted us to focus on was financial ones. Plan out the big purchases we knew we needed to make in the next few years. List out the purchases and figure out the amount we needed to save for that item. My husband and I are determined not to use debt (credit cards and loans) as a method of purchasing large items. (newer car, kitchen remodel, vacations, etc). Thinking about $25,000 for a kitchen remodel is depressing. My first thought was we’ll never save that much. But, breaking the cost down to years, and then into months, made our goal seem doable. Reachable.

 I decided to take that mindset and apply it to my writing projects. I know how many books I’d like (and need) to complete this year and broke those projects down by word count. Writing 2,000 words a day (1,000 each book) for 2 different works-in-progress made the goal of completing those books more doable in my mind. Well, I did give myself permission to change it up if I’m in ‘the zone’. Write 2,000 on one book, and the next day 2,000 on the other project.

When I focused on the big goal –writing three books this year– it put a bit of pressure on my muse. I felt overwhelmed, discouraged and headed toward failure … and the year has just started. All I could picture in my mind was thousands upon thousands of words in a mish-mash, thousands of blank pages I needed to place all those words on. Three books. In one year? Not going to happen. Then I split those books into separate goals, then divided each of those books into  smaller daily word goals. By looking at those daily goals, I realized it was possible. Achievable. It didn’t look so bad when I saw how many words a day I had to write.

This week I started my daily goals for my projects. At the beginning of the week, I write down the words count I want to write each day, for each project and check them off as they are completed. I find myself more relaxed when I write. I didn’t think I could write 300,000 words this year. But I know I can do 2,000 words a day.

Whether it’s paying off debt, saving for a large purchase, or completing a book, the end goal because more manageable when it’s looked at in smaller bits rather than as a whole.

Encouragement · Writing

Taking My Own Advice

“Every writer’s journey is different.” This is a piece of advice I have given out, but haven’t been taking lately. It’s so easy to advise  and give encouragement to others, but so hard at times to do it for ourselves. I find myself questioning and comparing my ability, my commitment, and my success against how others are doing and managing their writing careers. And for the most part find myself falling short. Sometimes way short. Nothing shuts the muse down like brow-beating oneself.

But the truth is I’m not them. I’m not any other writer. I’m me. What works for one person will not work for me. Not only do we have different obligations, commitments, time available but also personalities. Some writers can write at a consistent breakneck speed, producing thousands upon thousands of words a day every day. I can’t. I can for a certain time period, but not on a daily basis. It’s just not the way I write best. I need time off to read, scrapbook, quilt.

Music is my muse. Without having time to just sit and listen to tunes that I have purchased, or spend some time browsing iTunes for new songs, I don’t feel ‘complete’. Some of my best characters and books have come from listening to a song and having a character or storyline come alive in my head. It’s my way to recharge. At times I feel as if any time not writing is wasted time. It means I’m not as committed as other writers. If I spent more time writing, I’d be more successful.

In order to live in the world of my characters, I have to spend time out of it. When my life only revolves around their lives (writing) then I find myself basing my worth on business … aka money. The self-defeating mindset that what I make determines my worth in life. A horrific untruth that I pound into my heart and soul. I keep reading advice that basically says the more books the better. I believe it and judge myself and work against that ‘truth’. I’ll forget about ‘my journey’ and try to duplicate others journey. Even worse, I start believing that if I’m not doing it that way (their way) it means I’m setting myself up for failure. An insistent voice scolds and says the only reason I’m not seeing success is because I’m not managing my writing career like them. But when I try, I fail and I realize the simple reason why … I’m trying to be someone else and not me. I forgot to take into account there is a difference between the words ‘mine’ and ‘their’.

What is theirs cannot be mine. For me to have ‘their’ success, I have to be ‘them’. I have to be someone else. I can’t. I can only be me. I have a different personality. A different background. Different obligations and commitments. I write best at different times. A different writing pattern and method is most suited to my personality and my life.  I have to find what works best for me and use all those methods to the best of my ability. 

Everyone’s journey is different and I can only succeed if I travel down mine.

Writing

It’s a Draft.

The other day, I struggled with turning off the inner editor and just allowing myself to write. I found myself over-analyzing every word. Each sentence took so long to write because I kept deleting them as they weren’t perfect. Just write, I’d tell myself and it worked for a few paragraphs, but then I’d start hitting the backspace key like crazy because one word didn’t feel right. I think it’s great for a writer to search for the perfect word but not at the expense of the writing.

And the writing was losing out. I didn’t enjoy it. I found a multitude of reasons for getting out of the chair or switching away from the work in progress. Laundry. Email check (I have three email accounts so this process can be a huge procrastination tool). Dishes. Another email check. Another load of laundry. The worst part of this struggle was the beating I gave myself. This book is not good enough. You’ll never finish this book. You are wasting your time doing this.

That voice was hard to overcome. I started saying “This is just a draft”, every time the critical voice spoke. Drafts are to get out the ‘bad’ words, the wrong words, the imperfect ones that will change when I edit. The book always get better after I edit so to get to the better, I had to first dump out the worst. There’s nothing quite like being your own worst enemy (or I guess ‘best’ enemy in a way) and harshest critic.

Finally, the mantra wore the inner editor down and it stepped aside so I could write. I know there will be changes but getting the words on the page the first time is always the hardest for me. It’s easier to fix the words when they’re on the page rather than stuck in my head.