Busy Little Artist

My Creative Process

The lovely and talented Emily P. DeLoach (author of the fantastic book Escaping the Mirror, which everyone should read) invited me to participate in a blog hop on the creative process. Here is my take:

What am I working on?

Probably way too many projects :-) I’m working on the revision of my fantasy romance novel, codename: Earthsinger. I received amazing feedback from my developmental editor, Danielle at Double Vision Editorial, and am busy pulling it all together. I’m also co-writing a paranormal romance serial with my partner-in-crime Nakeesha. We’re sending part one to beta readers today and are digging in to the draft of part two. In the midst of this, last week, I finished the first draft of a story that was nowhere on my writing schedule. It’s called Angelborn, and those 30,000 words just demanded to be written. I actually woke up at reeeally early one Saturday and crawled over my husband to find a pen and paper to start scrawling out ideas. When inspiration strikes, you have to follow!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My fantasy romance doesn’t take place in medieval times, but in a 1920’s-esque world where two races are separated by skin color, magical abilities and five hundred years of war.

I came up with the pseudo-tagline “romance for the head and the heart” because as much as I love fluffy, light stories, I can’t seem to write them. My characters tend to be tortured in some way: societal outcasts, refugees fleeing a brutal dictator, teens coping with a false diagnosis of mental illness, a daughter seeking closure from her dying, abusive father. I don’t see a romantic comedy in my future, though I won’t rule anything out.

Still, at the end of the day, I want my stories to make people feel good. Life is too real for too much realism in your fiction, in my opinion. Hence the magic and the happily ever afters.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I believe you should write the stories you want to read. I write characters of color because I want to read about them, and I believe others out there do as well. I write fantasy and paranormal stories because I want magic to be real, and believe that sometimes it is. Falling in love is the most magical thing of all, and I write love stories so I can experience the wonder over and over again.

How does my creative process work?

Occasionally the lightning bolt will strike and the words will magically flow from my fingers, but most of the time it isn’t like that. These days I get up at 6am every day to write for at least an hour and a half.

I keep a notebook of story ideas like most writers, but I take it one step further. When I have an idea, many times I’ll log in to 750words.com and just start writing a small section of it. Start in the middle and write for ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes longer, just to get it out of my system. I could use Scrivener or Word, but I don’t want to have to worry about filenames and where to put it on my computer, the website saves it and I can go back through all my idea snippets later on and choose one to expand on.

I talked a bit about fast drafting before – dumping out a first draft as quickly as possible helps me coalesce the idea in my mind. Then the second draft is all about fleshing it out, making sure there’s a plot and conflict, goals and motivations, and then a third draft to polish before anyone else looks at it. Critique partners are key to let me know when I’ve gone off the rails and to encourage and motivate me.

 

Tag, you’re it! Up Next on the Blog Hop: Angela D’Ambrosio & Nakeesha Seneb

Angela grew up in a small mountain town in Idaho and graduated at the top of her class of seven. She was born in Boise, Idaho in 1977, the second of four children and the only girl. She still lives in Boise, where she raises three small kids and blogs at http://angelad.me about reading, writing and the human condition. She has been featured in Go Read Your Lunch and IDAHO Magazine.

By trade, Nakeesha is a screenwriter. She wrote and produced for the kids’ programming block of the Black Family Channel. Currently, she teaches screenwriting and digital media production at an art college Washington, DC. She loves being immersed in a story whether it’s on a page or on the screen. Having success with the small screen, she’s turned her attention to the small press. She will be self-pubbing a collaborative shifter paranormal romance in the fall of 2014.

Do you want to play, too? Answer the four questions above and post a link here in the comments!

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The Magic of Writing Faster

This past weekend I attended a great workshop given by two publishing luminaries, Candace Havens and Liz Pelletier. Candace is known, at least in the romance writing community, for her online and in-person Fast Draft workshops.

For an indie author, writing fast is key. With some exceptions, indie publishing is a numbers game. We hear it all the time, write a series, release them as fast as you can. Four books a year is my goal, but there are plenty of authors who release far more frequently than that.

I want to write fast mostly to be able to tell all the stories inside of me within my lifetime. So many ideas, so little time. Banging out a book in a couple of weeks (or at least the first draft of a book) would go a long way towards meeting my goals and getting all these people out of my head.

According to Candace, there’s a zone you get into when writing fast where your subconscious takes over. I’ve definitely felt this. When inspiration hits, it’s like my fingers can’t write fast enough. Last summer, I wrote the first draft of my novel Earthsinger, 21,000 words in two days. (It’s since grown to 66,000.) The story flew from my fingertips and when I read it again, I didn’t even remember writing much of it.

Your subconscious is so powerful. Even though I haven’t yet matched that kind of speed, I can feel the wheels churning on my stories when I’m away from my computer. It’s a wonderful feeling to have that spark that comes when a problem you’ve been mulling over is solved. Things just click into place inside your head. Sometimes it feels like magic.

Here are some things that help me write faster:

  • Write, don’t edit. The writing/creative part of your brain and the editing/analytical part of your brain are incompatible. They compliment each other, but from a distance. Turn off your editor. Don’t read what you’ve written before. I use an Alphasmart Neo – with only 4 lines of text, and no annoying red lines indicating misspellings and errors.
  • Keep track of your daily word count. Use a notebook, a spreadsheet or an app. Keep track of time and number of words. It helps to know.
  • Know what you’re going to write before you sit down. Read this article if you haven’t. It changed my life. Even a pantser can visualize one scene at a time beforehand.
  • Don’t judge yourself. Writing fast can and will lead to a lot of crap, but there will be jewels in there as well. Clean it up later, at least you’ll have something to clean up!

If you’re interested in writing faster, I’d suggest taking Candace’s workshop either online or in-person at your first opportunity. The online version comes with a community for accountability where you post your daily page count to universal applause or nagging.

Other options for community include Camp Nanowrimo, which is starting again in July. You can choose “cabin mates” or have some chosen automatically for you – these are the folks that will keep you accountable on your mission for more words.

Maybe you won’t get to 5,000 words a day, but any increase in your daily word count gets you one step closer to that goal of a finished novel.

Do you have any tips for increasing your word count? Let me know in the comments.

photo credit: Éole via photopin cc

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A Little Magic with Your Technology

Transcendence2014PosterIn the very forgettable movie Transcendence, which we saw this weekend and will probably not still be in theaters next weekend, Johnny Depp is a brilliant scientist working on Artificial Intelligence research. If you’ve seen the trailer you know the basic plot — he’s shot and fatally wounded by a group of anti-technology terrorists (who, ironically, use quite a bit of technology when it meets their needs). Before Depp dies, his equally brilliant wife “uploads his consciousness” onto some hard drives, thus saving a version of “him.” Science: 1 point, death: 0. Only, wait, is that really him in that computer and why does he suddenly want to go online, get more power, take over the world? Mwahahaha. Continue reading…

Timeboxing: Change the Way you Waste Time

In a previous post, I talked about time management, and promised you some tools to help battle time wastage. It’s an on-going struggle, but this is what’s working for me right now.

In order to manage the commitment I’ve made myself to write (and finish what I write), plus my business & consulting, as well as family and other duties, I need to schedule them all. Without scheduling not only will things not get done, but since my memory basically looks like this –

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Photo Credit: vrogy via Compfight cc

– I won’t even remember what didn’t get done. This has resulted in me waking up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat from some nightmare about walking into class both late and naked. Continue reading…

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Anti-heroes and the Slaughter of the Innocents

Warning: This post contains spoilers for House of Cards seasons 1 & 2 and Breaking Bad season 1. They’re hidden and marked, but beware!

We’ll get back to organizing and time management, I promise, but today I really want to talk about something that’s been churning around in my mind partially due to my recent Netflix binge-watching adventures. 

I first started thinking about writing an anti-hero character around the time the 2nd Thor movie came out and everyone was talking about how people loved Loki so much more than Thor. Who doesn’t love a good anti-hero?

I still haven’t written a character like that, but the idea has been kicking around in my mind for a while. The basic premise is this: woman falls in love with Loki. Continue reading…

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Putting Yourself On Deadline

I love organizing. Not that this means I am organized. To prove this to you I submit a photo of the current state of my workspace.

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I removed nothing. Not even the potentially embarrassing things – for the sake of honesty and to shame myself into possibly cleaning it. Please, shame me in the comments. It will might possibly help. So perhaps you should take any organizing advice from with a grain of salt. But I do love forms, templates, lists, notebooks, folders, labels, stickers, etc. And there is a method to the madness, which I will share with you. Not because you asked me to, but then again, that’s what makes me so nice.

After years of false starts, not finishing a manuscript before starting new ones, that would inevitably not be finished, I grew frustrated and overhauled the way I thought about my writing. I’d joined a professional organization (MRW) and heard a published author bemoaning how she was on deadline and would be holed up for the next week because she had 40,000 more words to write. This was an impressive feat, no doubt, but what struck me the most was that she was on deadline. Now, I didn’t have an editor or anyone clamoring for my work except for my lovely critique partners, but I know a thing or two about deadlines, having been self-employed for the past seven years. More specifically, I know about self-imposed deadlines, but I’d never tried using them for my writing.

I put myself on deadline.

So I drew up a schedule. I’d started using Trello for my project management and I created another board for my writing. Took a look at the calendar and began setting some milestones. This was last fall and I knew I wanted to participate in Nanowrimo. It would take some time to plan that story so I had to finish the draft of the then-current WIP by September. Spend October planning and November writing a new novel. In December, I’d need to rest, then come back strong with revisions in January. 

I wrote it all down, subscribed to the Trello calendar in my Google calendar and put myself on deadline. It was a huge success. In order for this to work I had to carve out writing time and protect it. This piece of the puzzle came together thanks to one of Margie Lawson’s courses. One of the best things I took away from her class was the DUH rule. This stands for:

  1. Do it first, or as close to first as humanly possible
  2. Understand that it may be inconvenient and/or difficult and do it anyway
  3. Hurray, Celebrate! You did it!

Changed. My. Life.

So now, I write first. I get up a little earlier, write for at least an hour, sometimes more, every morning before I start my work day. I don’t answer the phone, check my email, or Twitter or Facebook before writing. I do it first. And it works.

This post is longer than I intended (I’m even nicer than I thought), so next time we’ll talk more about the war against time wastage and I’ll share some tools to help you turn the tide of the battle.

Do you plot your time or pants it? And how is that working for you? Let me know in the comments.

 

Photo Credit: AZRainman via Compfightcc

In Defense of Kissing Strangers

This is a video of people kissing. Not just people. Strangers. You’ve probably seen it, the thing exploded all over the internet last week. I’m told it’s a very good video, but I can’t be certain because I’ve only seen the first minute or so.

Now, I should tell you that I have a problem. (Well, obviously, but let’s tackle one at a time, shall we?) I never grew out of that stage where kids find it uncomfortable to watch people kiss. When I’m alone (or with people who won’t make fun of me) I still cover my eyes and peek through my fingers at couples kissing on television.  Not all the time, but often enough for it to be considered an actual problem.

Why? I’m not really sure. I think kissing is great, it’s fun, it burns calories, not to mention the emotional uplift it provides. I think people, in general, should kiss as much as possible. I just don’t want to see it.

For a long time I thought it was because it’s such a personal activity. I’ve never been a fan of PDA. The world doesn’t need to know or see or hear about everything. And I still feel that way, but it’s probably something a bit deeper than that. I feel the need to look away when that kind of emotional intensity is on display. Even kissing between two strangers who have no emotional connection is extremely intimate.

Even kissing between two strangers who have no emotional connection is extremely intimate.

This is supposed to be a post on why I write romance when I can’t even bear to watch people kissing on a TV screen. Frankly, I’d much rather read about kissing than watch it. I consider myself a visual person, I have a degree in film production and have dabbled in design for a living, I understand the power of the image. Is it that watching intimacy is more or less impactful than reading about it? Which is more immersive?

“The medium is the message,” Marshall McLuhan famously stated. Watching moments of real intimacy feels intrusive, voyeuristic, like I’m crashing a party when I should be safe at home. Reading about them, however, pulls me in, makes me feel included in the exchange, like my emotional intelligence is necessary for me to understand what’s happening on the page. I don’t feel like an outsider.

I love movies, don’t get me wrong. We probably see 60 movies, in the theater, each year. But I read more than twice that many books last year, the vast, vast majority of them with strong love stories. And when it comes down to what I want to spend my spare time writing, love always wins.

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A Journey of 30,000 Words Begins with a Single Click

I began writing a new story today, the first in a planned series of short contemporary romances with paranormal elements. Well, this one may end up being the third in the series, but I’m writing it first since it spoke to me that way. It’s always exciting to be starting something new, and after spending several months on the last story, I’m taking a break this month with something new while the last one is out with beta readers.

I love new beginnings, crisp sheets of paper, unused notebooks, a fresh pack of pens (Uniball Jetstream 1.0mm in case you’re wondering… my birthday is only a month away). The start of a new story, however, is also fraught with danger. When you’re revising something that you believe is at least half-way decent, the nagging self-doubts tend to creep up less often. I mean, all through the latest revision I was still worried that I’d wasted the past few months writing an epic feat of craptasticness that would never see the light of day — convinced no agent or editor would touch it and self-publishing it would be moronic. But then I would read a few chapters and fall in love with it all over again. If you believe you should write to make yourself happy, then I’d at least reached that goal.

But as I took a break from the world of that story and began plotting something entirely new, the possibilities were once again endless. Unsullied by my poor word choices, overlong sentences and persistent use of adverbs. There is something hypnotic and enticing about a blank page — or in this case, the tiny blank LCD screen of my Alphasmart.

It’s like walking into a theater during the previews, or popping in a Bluray and pressing play — or, if you will, like Schroedinger’s cat. Before we begin, it’s both a bestseller and campfire fodder. We don’t know what we’re in for until we’re in it. And that poor cat is always alive for me unless proven otherwise. Until you watch it, read it or write it (paint it, draw it or film it, etc.) there are no boundaries. It’s a quantum of creativity with infinite potential to suck or be amazing.

Maybe I’ll toss it aside after finishing it, or maybe I’ll read it in a few months, when it’s done, and fall in love with it for the hundredth time. The anticipation of the beginning of the journey is the addictive part, not just to see if someone will one day buy this and read it and give me a five star review — but just to see what comes out of my brain onto the page. Today, I took the first step.

What about you? Have you started anything new recently?

top image © Benjamin Gelman | Dreamstime.com