Tag Archives: writing craft

Writing is a Muscle—Use it, or Lose it

Moonday Mania

a blog for the readers and writers

It’s the end of the summer. Out here in Colorado, kids are heading back to school, the nights are getting cooler, and we’re on to the last of my summer blogs on The Top Five Things I’ve Learned Writing Romance. Today’s topic may be the most important of all: Writing is a muscle—use it, or lose it.

Here is the list of the other top five things I’ve learned writing romance, and the links to the posts:

  1. As soon as I think I’m on a writing roll, life will intervene.
  2. The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible and roll with it.
  3. There is no such thing as the muse.
  4. There is such a thing as resistance.
  5. Writing is a muscle. Use it, or lose it.

Now on with today’s blog:

Writing is hard!

I have had a lot of ups and downs in my effort to write on a regular basis. Sometimes it seems like I get on a writing roll (writing three days a week and getting 10k done) and then it happens: life laughs at me and says “Sorry! Time for a family emergency. No writing for you!”

GRR!

Why is this so upsetting? Because, just like running, lifting weights, or even walking more than ten minutes, it when you don’t use your writing muscles, they degrade.

I know I can write. I know I can get a good sized rough draft done in about 2 months, but my health, my family’s health, and various other interruptions mean that the last book took four months to write, instead of 2. And that just frustrates me.

In fact, I think I can even do better!

I wrote for 11 days in April, 8 days in July, and four in August for a total of 66,556 words. An average of just under 3,ooo words per day. Now that sounds pretty impressive, but let’s take a better look at that. Some of those days I wrote less than 1,000 words, and some days I wrote nearly 5,000 words. Why were they different?

  • Amount of time is a piece of that: some days I only had an hour to write, some days I had four.
  • Organization is also a piece: sometimes the synopsis and beat sheet were spot on and I could really sit down and just write. Some days I had to throw out the synopsis and figure out what I needed to do.

Getting back to writing is slow writing.

But mostly, it had to do with if I’d written that week at all, or if I was sitting down to a cold and chilly keyboard. The first few days of July, when I hadn’t touched this manuscript since the end of April, my pace was super slow. The first two days: 331 and 433 respectively.

The more I sit down and write, the faster the words roll out. If I want to write a book in two months, they need to be consecutive months, they need to be consecutive weeks, and the best possible scenario? They really need to be consecutive days.

Imagine if on the days when I wrote a few hundred words, I actually wrote my average of 3,000 words. (And this really is my average. If I’m writing 2-3 days per week for 3 hours at a time, I write 3k per sitting.) My word count on those days would be 3 times what I actually wrote. And that would mean I could have written the entire rough draft in less than a month, instead of two months stretched over four months.

Wow! I’d be a superhero writer!

muscle

Photo by Denis Yang, creative commons

 

 How do you get to be your own writing superhero?

Write as much as you can as often as you can. It’s that simple. Okay, it’s not that simple. Writing is just like working out. It takes discipline and focus. And it takes getting to the job day after day, even when you don’t want to.

Notice, I can tell you what you should do, but I struggle with it myself. But when I crunch these numbers, I can see superherodom in my future. And I want it.

How can I write like this?

I won’t lie, it’s hard. But like all good things it comes with it’s own reward. Just like working out, when you write on a consistent schedule, you’ll see your muscles getting stronger.

I’m going to test out my theory. I’m goaling writing my next book in a month. It has a 50k rough draft goal. At 3k per day, that’s 16 writing days. And if I can get my writing speed up because I’m writing faster? I think it’s still 16 3 hour days because the days I wrote 5k I sat at the keyboard for an extra hour per day to make up the time from the days I couldn’t get to the writing.

So that’s the goal for the next project:

16 days writing. Want to see my plans? I’ll be detailing my calendar in my next writing post. Want to see how I do? Check in at the end of September and we’ll see how we’re doing. Thousands of people achieve this very goal in the month of November. The most I’ve ever written in 30 days is 30,000 words.

Life? Challenge accepted. Superhero, here I come!

***

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s newsletter and get your link to download your exclusive FREE book, please click HERE.

Rogue Enforcer by jessica aspen

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Lesson Two From the Writing Path:Your characters will try to wrestle for the controls

Moonday Mania

a blog about writers, writing and the roadblocks we all face

Last week I started this series of blogs about my romance writing lessons, well, roadblocks really, with a post on how life gets in the way of my goals. You can read that HERE. This week I’m addressing lesson two. And in the following weeks I’ll be hitting the other three top lessons I’ve learned by writing and publishing paranormal romance.

On writing, plotting, and how characters are lying in wait, ready to derail your best laid plots.

Lesson number two:

The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible, and roll with it.

You’ve heard of it. Writers who detail all their plots in advance, and then stick to every single plot point.

Well, I’m here to tell you that those writers are the minority. You see, writers are divided into different camps. There are the pantsers: those who don’t plot at all, but just sit down and write, never knowing where the plot is going. Then there are those stick in the mud, rigid plotters: they stick tight to their plan, even if the characters beg plead and threaten mutiny. But most of us are somewhere in the middle. We have an idea of the story. We know the begining, maybe the middle, and the end. We know the highlights.

Some of us fill in the story from there. Some of us, like me, write down as much as they can of the plot points from begining to end, trying to peg down the route like you would plan your summer road trip. But, as we all know, not all road trips are smooth driving.

Yeah, those characters are frustrating sometimes.

It’s taken me a long time to work out how to plot a story. I have a very effective method that gives me a beginning, middle, end—and lots of hot romance and exciting plot points in between. But rarely do I end up sticking with the whole thing. That’s because, even though I have my plot down, my characters are never quite pressed out. They tend to pop up with ideas and motivations that I had no idea about when I was outlining their stories. And so, I need to be flexible and change the story when they ask for it.

Demand it.

Absolutely refuse to cooperate until I rewrite.

Characters drive the story.

In addition to outlining your story, you have to decide if your tale is plot driven or character driven. While I love having a good, fast-paced plot, in romance the characters have to drive the story. That’s because, no matter what else is going on, it’s the emotional changes of the couple and how they go from not meshing to totally being immersed in each other, that is the essence of romance.

And that’s where my characters will change my plot lines.

I’ll think the plot goes one way, and that’s a perfectly great way for the plot to go, and then the characters’ emotional changes will move the plot an entirely different way. A great example of that is in the third book in the Tales of the Black Court. I knew the Black Queen had to die. I’d known it since the first book. But, when it came time for her to die, she threw a total twist at me. I’m not going to spoil it for people who haven’t read Broken Mirror, but suffice to say, Aeval’s death was nothing like I’d planned.

And that’s okay. That just means that I have another book to write!

Does life ever throw you curves when you think you have it all plotted out? Do people sometimes do things totally unexpectedly? 

Want to read the rest of my five lessons from writing romance?

Here are the rest of the lessons I’ll be addressing.

  1. As soon as I think I’m on a writing roll, life will intervene. (Check out the first post)
  2. The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible and roll with it. (That’s this one!)
  3. There is no such thing as the muse. (Next week’s post)
  4. There is such a thing as resistance.
  5. Writing is a muscle. Use it, or lose it.

***

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s newsletter and get your link to download your exclusive FREE book, please click HERE.

Rogue Enforcer by jessica aspen

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NaNo-ing Along

Moonday Mania

a blog for anyone struggling to write

It’s Camp Nano time and I’m writing! Or I’m trying to write. I got a great start last week.

camp nanowrimo participant 2014Mary Guida (ML Guida) and I went up to her cabin and did some plot work and writing and by the end of July 2nd I had over four thousand words. And then I had come back down off of the mountain and pick up all the things I’d let fall by the wayside so I could go away. Like, the day-job, my kids, and my parents. That took all of July 3rd. And of course I took July 4th off. It was a holiday and the house was full of people and we went to my friend K2’s house for fabulous homemade ice cream (she had dinner there too, but the ice cream was phenomenal!) and fireworks.

Long story short I found myself way behind by July 6th.

Grr.

So, why didn’t I sit down in the mornings I had free and write?

I’ll tell you why.

I didn’t have enough of this story pre-planned.

I’ve been busy getting my blogs written, getting THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST ready for publication, and busy with the day job and life. Plotting has taken a backseat because, let’s face it, it’s hard. It’s tough to know where I want this story to go. I know the beginning. I have my fairy tale. I know my hero and heroine. I even have the ending down (and boy do I have a whopping surprise for the ending of this book!) But I’m missing the big fat pieces that go in the middle. And that is tricky when you are sitting down with the goal of pounding out 1400 words a day.

No, it’s actually 2400 words a day because I’m heading to RWA and I know I won’t write there.

No, it’s really 3,000 words per day because now I’m so far behind I have to race to catch up!

Zounds!

So how do you get over falling behind?

I’ll tell you what I did. I spent Sunday morning plotting and working on my Snowflake. Now I have the next four chapters outlined and I have some other pieces put into place. I’ll need more if I’m to succeed at this. I’ll need to spend an afternoon next week working on the next section, and then another day working on the end, but I have enough to get writing. And the more I write, the more this story comes together, the more I get excited about it.

And I am excited about it. 🙂

While I dreaded sitting down and working on the parts I had no clue what to do with, those first four thousand words flowed like melted butter on popcorn. MMM. Nothing better. And now that I have the next section? It’s on to snacking time!

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? You don’t have to work on a novel or even set your goal at 50,000 words. You can work on anything writing related and set whatever goal you want to. It’s camp!

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My Writing Process Blog Tour-Jessica Aspen Style

Moonday Mania

a blog for writers and readers

This is the next stop on the My Writing Process Blog Tour, and I want to thank Joan Leacott for inviting me to this tour. Thanks, Joan! If you didn’t come here from Joan’s site I would like to introduce you to her lovely contemporary romances set in Clarence Bay, Canada. If you love complex family dynamics, intertwined relationships, and  quite simply, romance, then check out Joan’s first book Above Scandal, HERE. And to find out about Joan’s writing process, click HERE.

Now for my writing process.

1) What am I working on?
Currently I am working on the third book in my Tales of the Black Court series. Book one: The Dark Huntsman came out in October 2013 and book two: Prince by Blood and Bone is off to the final editor. (Whew!) I am in the process of just starting book three: Broken Mirror which will complete the trilogy and tell the tale of the last MacElvy cousin, Cassie. I’m currently working on the outline, and while I have some ideas for this book that I’ve known I want to work on for a long time, I’m not really ready to give you all the details. All I’ll say is that if you’ve read the books, you’ve met the hero already. Hint, he’s fae and a member of the Black Court.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have two different series of twisted fairy tales out, each one has it’s own unique twists and turns. Tales of the Black Court takes place in both the modern world and the fae world between the worlds of Underhill. While I use fairy tales as a scaffolding for my plots, I never stick exactly to the classic tales. There are no traditional princesses, my evil queen is not the only true evil in the court, and the prince is never what he seems. What you will find are elements of the fairy tales: Poisoned apples, enchanted beasts, and psychics who are actually magic mirrors.

In my other fairy tale series I write about modern day shapeshifters hidden in the Colorado Rockies. These tales are contemporary twists of the old tales. In my Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods series you’ll find werewolves and werebears as well as glimpses of the classic fairy tale elements. A great example is in Snow and the Seventh Wolf, the step-mother is an online talk show host of a show called The Queen of Bitch. I love the tongue in cheek elements I’ve been able to insert into these spicy, new adult tales.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I started twisting fairy tales because I’ve always loved the way authors have done this. I’ve read fairy tales, and fairy tale twists for years, but at the time I started there weren’t many romance writers doing it. Now there are many and I love to explore how each of us can take the exact same story and twist it a different way. I’ve even twisted the same story, Snow White, in both of my series, and I expect that will happen again as I explore the next trilogy planned for my court series and also continue to play in the woods with my shape-shifters. I like both types of stories and I don’t think I’ll be giving either up soon!

4) How does your writing process work?

My writing process has changed over the last few years. I used to be a total seat-of-the-pantser. I wrote both Little Red Riding Wolf and The Dark Huntsman by just sitting down and letting go. But they both required extensive editing for plot, as well as time spent thinking about what might come next and I realized that if I continued to write that way, I’d be writing very slow. So I’ve changed now. I go through a plotting process called The Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson. (I’ve written several posts on this, you can find some of them HERE, and HERE.)

The Snowflake Method is a very quick outline of what your story is going to look like overall and doesn’t take much time. After a week or two I have a great scaffold for my story to rest on. Next I write a fast draft, NANOWRIMO style, getting as many words down on the page without worrying too much about mistakes, or details. If I need to do some research, I make a note on the side of my document. All of these notes and the fleshing out part comes with the next draft. Draft two: I refine the plot, fill in the blanks, and add words. Usually about twenty percent more than the original draft.

Then comes the editing. I go through each chapter line by line before sending it to my crit partner, ML Guida. She sends it back with little notes like, “Slow down, honey.” or “I don’t understand this.” or “Yes, you got that one right!”

I go back through that chapter again, then send her the next one. We do that for the entire manuscript and when it’s finished it goes off to my professional editor for developmental edits.

Then it comes back to me. I re-write, make corrections, and send it off to my OOOPS! editor, who catches my grammar and spelling errors, and (hopefully) any weird things like changing hair color.

And then it’s finished! WOOT!

fairy tale rose in mirrorWow! This is a super long post on my writing process. This blog hop is an exponential blog hop. Every time an author is chosen, she’s supposed to choose three more authors, but that means that at some point most authors have already participated. I’m coming in at that point, so instead of three new authors with brand new writing processes, I’m going to direct you to a few  you might have missed on the tour. Authors Lizzie T. Leaf asked me to participate, as did author Elaine Cougler and Lynn Cahoon, and for various reasons I had to decline. Please check out these authors blogs and enjoy what they have to say about their writing processes.

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Promises Made, But Not Kept, by Snow White and the Huntsman

Thursday’s Bite

a paranormal blog

When a writer, or a director, puts together a story they make promises to their audience. They layer story questions, create familiar patterns, and use story structure to lure us into their world. When you take a common story it’s even more important to stay true to your promises. Why? Because you have chosen to present a story that people think they know.

snow white and the huntsmanThat’s right. We think we know Snow White.

Ask most people and they will respond that Snow White is a romance. It’s not. Oh, it has all the elements. Young beautiful girl, handsome prince, the kiss. Oh, and the happy ending. We all know that there should be a HEA. Right? Maybe. In the original Snow White the happy ending is not when the prince, (who by the way has never seen Snow White before) kisses her dead lips and wakes her from her sleep. It’s not when he marries her and sweeps her off to live in the castle. The actual ending is when the Evil Queen is danced to death in her red hot iron shoes. That’s a Grimm HEA.

(I’m choosing to insert my spoiler alert here. By now, I hope most of you have seen this movie or chosen not to, so if you are planning on still seeing it, watch out!)

But what’s important is that we all think Snow White is a romance. Why? It’s what we want from fairy tales. They make a promise. Snow White and the Huntsman made promises. And all the way through the movie they are left broken. From the outset we expect a HEA. That promise is made by twisting Snow White, a romance, so if you are making the decision not to give the audience the big HEA, you had better give them a satisfying movie. But all the way through there are moments where the audience says, wait, she was supposed to…

For example, when Gus the dwarf dies (I did post the spoiler alert!)  Snow rushes to his side and comforts him. For some reason I expected her to sing to him. I don’t know why, I just did. But she didn’t. Okay, no problem. But I also expect her to kiss his forehead. Why? Once again I can’t tell you why. Something about the direction of the scene felt like she should kiss him. As an author I can say that it would foreshadow the kiss at the end that wakes up Snow from her own pseudo-death, but as a movie goer, I just wanted the kiss. And I felt let down when it didn’t happen. What’s more, my daughter sitting next to me said out loud, “She should have kissed him. This is one of the moments in the movie, Mom, where you think something should happen and it doesn’t. It’s one of the reasons I felt let down when I left the movie.”

Wow.

I sat there thinking it (we rented it, the girls had already seen it) and my daughter (seventeen, and the target audience for this movie) said it. We felt let down. And it was only the middle of the movie.

I’ll skip the small let down moments throughout the film. Let’s just say that there were several points where I just felt something should happen, and it didn’t. And all of us agreed on those points. (Yes, we talk about the movie and analyze it as we watch. That’s what happens in a writing family.) But the worst was the ending. There was no HEA!

Wait a minute! Was the Evil Queen killed? Yes, she was. Was Snow White restored to her throne? Yes, she was. Did she avoid the secondary romance to the guy who looked like he should be the romantic interest, but really wasn’t? (ie, the stand in for the prince, William) Yes, she did. Or wait. We don’t know. We think she did, but I suspect that after the movie she succumbed to political pressure and married him.

What???

Okay, so the title led me to believe that this was a romance between, you guessed it, Snow White and the Huntsman. That’s the movie title. They didn’t call it, Snow White and the Queen. They didn’t title it Snow White Kicks Ass. They didn’t title it, Come See This Romance and Get Let Down. It was supposed to be about Snow White, the Huntsman, and their romance. We all knew it. The title told us so. A big promise made.

chris hemsworthAnd that was the build up within the movie. All through the movie you can see, yes, she should be in love with William, her child hood friend and social equal. But she’s not. She falls in love with the rough edged (and very hot) Chris Hemsworth. The director took two very popular leading stars and put them together, showed them falling in love, and then at the end. Nada.

William (the prince stand-in) kisses her dead lips, and she’s still dead. The Huntsman kisses her, and she wakes up! True love, right? That’s what we expect. But at the end, when she becomes queen, he’s lurking in the background of the court, and William is up front, waiting to step in and marry her. That’s the end. NO HEA FOR ME! Or my teen age daughters. We, all of us romantics, were let down.

Why would the director make this decision? Why promise us the HEA all the way through the movie, then leave Bella (ooops, sorry) Snow up on the dias alone?

I don’t know.

All I can think of is he (I have to check, it was a male director, right? Yes, of course it was.) thought there were too many barriers between a Princess and a low-born huntsman to marry. So what? YOU PROMISED!

We believed you when Snow (who has been locked in the same cell since she was a child) escapes. We accepted (okay, we all questioned it, but moved on) when there was a pure white horse waiting for her on the beach. And even though she’s never exercised, ridden a horse, or wielded a sword, we let it go when she dons mail and leads the army to the castle. Why? Because the HEA would be coming and we would feel satisfied. All the broken promises and leaps of faith would be forgiven. But that didn’t happen.

Don’t do this with your book. If you promise your readers a certain action, then deliver. You can twist the action. Snow White could have abdicated the throne and run off with the Huntsman. William could have spoke up and fought for her to marry whomever she pleased. It doesn’t matter how you do it. If you’ve promised it to us, we will believe you when you deliver. So deliver.

Deliver on the small promises too. Not kissing Gus, or singing to him was a let-down, right when we should be immersed in the world of the movie. These small let-downs are why readers (and movie goers) say, “I just didn’t love it.” That’s the way I felt after the movie. I liked it. The special effects were amazing. The right pieces were there, but it missed. Many times.

Make those story promises. Make them with your title, your cover, your small and large choices throughout the book. Leave them unanswered for a little while. Make us turn pages fast, looking for those answers. Layer them throughout your book or movie, but fulfill each and every one, big and small, or you’ll find your block buster, busted.

Did you see Snow White and the Huntsman? Did you enjoy it? Were there other moments you picked out as being let-downs? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Click HERE to see how badly I’m doing at NANOWRIMO. Click HERE to discover Little Red Riding Wolf on sale for $3.99 on Passion in Print’s website. (I promise I fulfilled my story promises.)

Love Alpha Males? I’m joining up with the Holiday Gifts of Love blog hop, starting December 14th, details to follow.

Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop

Coming December 14th! Prizes galore!

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Discover The Fire in Fiction, another book for the author’s keeper shelf

Moonday Madness

a blog about the craft of writing, or whatever

If you haven’t picked up The Fire in Fiction, and you are an author, go buy it. This is as strong a recommendation as I give. Donald Maass (And yes, there are two a’s and two s’s, he has almost as big a problem getting people to spell his name as I do!) is what we in the industry call an über agent and he has read more of the slush pile than I even want to contemplate. In this book he picks out a few select things that make novels great.

the fire in fiction, by donald maassBut even if your novel doesn’t approach greatness, and lets face it, few do, you can use these techniques to improve it. The book is organized by sections such as heroes, settings and voice. This is helpful because it enables you to go directly to the section where you are having trouble. You know, when that agent sends the rejection letter that says “I loved your idea, just didn’t love the hero” or “I loved your idea, just didn’t needs some tweaking on the voice”. Or whatever. It’s a manual for tweaking each overall need in your novel. And that is a powerful tool.

Not only does Donald Maass give us an overview of what great novels have, he shows us how we can fix ours, and even provides a handy worksheet at the back of each section. This way you not only can absorb the words of great novelists, absorb Donald’s take on each excerpt, but you have a way to apply his words of wisdom. And they are words of wisdom.

I’m reading this book straight through, but I plan to make it a keeper on my bookshelf. Already it is full of stickies and yellow and orange highlighting so when I go back to that section for help, I  know what I wanted to remember. And just in case I don’t, there are the worksheets. Definitely a keeper.

Do you have this book on your bookshelf? What about Donald Maass’s other book and workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel? That’s one I hear a lot about and now that I’ve read The Fire in Fiction, I intend to go after that one next. What workbooks do you use to increase tension and develop your setting, scene and characters in your books?

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Craft Books on a Writer’s Bookshelf, book one

Moonday Mania

a blog on the craft of writing

As most authors do, I collect books on writing. How to improve my craft, or books on how others have done so. So I’m starting a series on the most important books on my bookshelf and why.

On Writing

On Writingby Stephen King.

This book is single handedly the one I quote the most. I’m likely misquoting, but I love Stephen King‘s take on writing and the writing life. It’s an autobiography, but maybe because the author has been a writer almost since he could read, it is also a book on craft. It’s honest,and frank, and a little bit scary. When I first read it as a mom, with two young kids, and a part-time job, it made me angry.

carrie, original movie posterMost of the book goes through his life and how he become a writer. How he wrote and submitted all the time. What influenced him. And it’s a love story about his wife, Tabitha, who is also an author. One of the most impressive things about the book is how much his love and respect for Tabitha come through the pages. I love this book. I love reading about how he grew as an author. About how he struggled financially, but won the publishing lottery with Carrie. But at the end, he got me. He goes on a rant about how you need to be committed to the craft and you have to write every day or you are not an author. In fact, if you are not this committed, you should give up.

I was aghast.

How could I commit that much of my time and if I didn’t, should I just throw the whole idea into the trash? It was humbling to see how committed he had been at the beginning when he too was a young parent. Working during the day, then coming home to take care of the kids while his wife went to her job, he sat at a child’s desk and wrote. Obviously either his wife was cleaning the house and doing all the shopping and maybe now writing as much as she would have liked to, or (and this is highly likely given many writer’s houses) they ran out of food constantly and lived in a pig sty.

Something has to give.

I don’t know what it was in Stephen King’s life, being the woman, I’m inclined to think his wife gave up more writing time, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is when he writes that particular portion of the book he’s actually talking to himself.

While he was working on the end of On Writing, he has a horrific accident. And he can’t write for  a long time. Then it’s very painful to sit and write. The end of that book is a lecture to us, but it’s mostly a lecture to himself that he can’t give up. And he doesn’t. He finishes the book and he keeps writing.

That’s the lesson I took from Stephen King. Not that I should give up if I couldn’t do this perfectly, but that if I gave up in the face of whatever challenges I had, then I wasn’t a real author to begin with. So I didn’t give up. I don’t give up.

I also don’t write every day. I should. I know I should. But I’m the mom. And no matter what that works out to be in other people’s houses, in mine it means that my time goes first to everyone else. It means that I don’t do fiction writing on the weekends, instead I’ll do this kind of stuff. Blogging or articles or promotion. I’m not giving up. But I need to do things that don’t require my whole attention. And writing fiction does. Fiction requires every ounce of focus I have. And that’s Stephen King’s real message.

Have you read On Writing? What messages did you take away from it? Is it on your bookshelf? Did you keep it?

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Discover how to Create Connections, with Summer Mahan

 Moonday Mania

a blog on the craft of writing

Today I have on guest author Summer Mahan. Summer is a blogger from Her Story Calls and a fellow romance author from CRW. She’s lively and fun and one of the best people to hang around with if you meet her at a convention or a retreat. She also has great advice for aurthors on making connections today, so read on!

Creating Connections

 Connections. The number one trait all best-selling authors have is creating a connection with their audience.

Somehow they can fulfill a need or satisfy a want within their readers. Loyal fans who wait for months for their books and then stay up late into the night and forget to cook dinner for their loved ones.

How can some authors make this hair pulling journey of writing seem so simple and effortless from the start of chapter one down to the end? If you find out please let me know. Now, I’m no expert, but my research has pointed me on the path that begins and ends with characters.

While it’s true that you might pick a book in a grocery store line because of the back read,  mostly due towards plot, or because of a great cover-the reason you continue to read is because characters.

Story is about the characters. Great story is about great characters.

Take your favorite book, movie or play. Now dissect why you love it so much.

Is it because of the heart pounding plot? The flow or voice of sequence? The eloquence of speech, scenery or structure? Perhaps. But I’d bet nine times out of ten the story you love is all because of the characters.

For some reason their struggle has become your struggle. Their pain has become your pain. And you’re rooting for them right up until their hopefully happy ending and they get what they deserve. Because you’re right there with them all along the way.

And fingers crossed, in the end we all get what we deserve.

So how does one go about creating this awe inspiring connection?

  1. Make your character likeable
  2. Make a compelling and interesting career or past
  3. Honorable, loyal
  4. Flawed and/or  vulnerable
  5. Capable of fear
  6. Heroic in some way (big or small)
  7. Unique in their voice
  8. Capable of learning and/or changing
  9. Real to the reader due to motivations, desires, loyalties(this is big)
  10. A dirty little secret. Or just a secret
  11. Let them struggle for redemption (big or small)

And no matter what you do don’t…

  1. Let the characters be stupid
  2. Or do stupid things
  3. Stereotype (always add spice and special twists)

I hope this helps in some way in your writing. I’ll continue throughout the month with more details about these above traits on my blog www.herstorycalls.com .

Please add any connections you think are notable in the comments. The wonderful thing about writers is all the great information we share.

Take care and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Thanks for having me, Jessica! Until next time. 😉

Summer Mahan

Love*Laugh*Read

www.SummerMahan.com

 Summer Mahan 

Loves to laugh. Adores sparkling conversation, wit, and charm. Believes reading is a pleasure one should indulge in at least once a day and writing is for the fearless. She loves her family, diet Coke, Scotland and pasta. Contemplates that picking a favorite genre to write is much like choosing a favorite child-it’s not possible. Summer hopes to never stop learning what the world has to offer and telling the stories it reveals.

You can find Summer blogging at Her Story Calls and at SummerMahan.com

Thanks Summer. Please leave a comment for Summer below and don’t forget to enter to win great prizes  (including 4 copies of Little Red Riding Wolf, by Jessica Aspen) during my January and February promotion. To enter please click HERE and follow the directions.

(Details available on the contest page HERE).

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Kristen Lamb

Moonday Mania

A blog on the craft of Writing

Once an author becomes serious about being a professional author it is difficult not to find yourself wondering what in the world is this marketing thing and where do I start?

Never fear, Kristen Lamb is here!

My go to expert for social media is Kristen Lamb, one of her recent posts (click HERE) touches on something I am just now starting to struggle with, analytics. Kristen’s blog always has something of interest to writers, but her social media expertise is what keeps me coming back. She is the author of my favorite social media book, We Are Not Alone. We Are Not Alone is the book that got me thinking about how to blog, not just spitting out words on the page.

In We Are Not Alone, Kristen focuses on the whys, wherefores and what the hell-do-I-do nows of social media. Kristen walks you through every step from developing a brand to what you should and should not be doing on your blog.

I am in direct violation of Kristen’s advice with this very column! Kristen says you should be blogging on what you are writing in order to reach readers. And of course, blogging on writing violates that very idea. That is exactly why I added my Thursday’s Bite blog, which focuses on Paranormal. It’s also why I developed Paranormal Freebies “A place where paranormal readers and authors converge.” Both of these endevours tie me to readers who may or may not be authors.

Kristen’s other book Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer is blog focused. That is on my TBR list, once I finish We Are Not Alone. I’m sure I’ll find out just what else it is that I’m not doing right. Actually I plan on doing most of what Kristen says, and on ParanormalFreebies.com, I actually have. On that site I have book reviews coming up on the first Monday’s of the month. I have a variety of interested authors blogging on interesting topics, and I get to blog there myself on all things magical and mystical.

Kristen not only has these two fantastic books to help you along, but she blogs regularly on topics ranging from marketing to editing to the social faux pas that can kill you on Twitter. And she’s funny. Did I mention that? Just go look at the tab on her website about the Pants of Shame. 

It’s because of Kristen that I started reading The Tipping Point and I’m now thinking about how to make not just my posts “sticky” but maybe somehow my book or my pen name. Hmm, who knew we’d all want to get sticky? The Tipping Point is a great audio read when you have a long drive, although I hear the rights are in turmoil so I don’t think you can purchase it in audio. The library is where I had to go to read Malcom Gladwell’s thought provoking book on what makes epidemics tip. Now I understand the Twilight epidemic.

Kristen also teaches classes at Bob Mayer’s site Who Dares Wins Publishing. I have on my to do list to take a class from either her or Bob or Jennifer Talty this year. It’s on my bucket list and at an affordable $20-$40 for an online class all I have to do is find the time. Okay, I’m making the time.

In the meantime you’ll find me in doctor’s office’s, waiting in the car to pick people up and at the breakfast table, highlighter in hand, pouring over We Are Not Alone. And of course I drink my coffee in the mornings looking over Kristen’s blogs. You should too. Just don’t have a mouthful of coffee when looking at the “Pants of Shame”. I refuse to be held responsible.

Have you checked out Kristen’s blog? What is your favorite piece of advice she gives? Have you read the post on WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE STAR WARS PREQUELS? If you have, tell me, isn’t that the best Darth Vadar costume ever!?

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Advanced Plotting with Chris Eboch

Moonday Madness

A blog about the craft of writing

Today’s guest is multi-published author Chris Eboch. Chris is not only an accomplished fiction author, but she now teaches what she has learned. Her book Advanced Plotting will help you smooth out those bumps in the road. 

A woman heard I was a writer with 12 books published, and she said, “Why aren’t you living in Beverly Hills?”

I managed to keep a straight face. Besides the fact that I prefer New Mexico to Beverly Hills, 12 books in about as many years does not pay a living wage. It does, however, mean that I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve written historical fiction (The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery set in ancient Egypt, and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure, both for ages nine and up), an original paperback series (the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs, also for kids), and various types of work for hire. I also recently started writing romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock (Rattled is a treasure hunting adventure in the New Mexico wilderness).

Besides my published books, I have a dozen unpublished manuscripts – part of the learning process. I learn a lot from teaching other writers as well. I lead workshops, work with students through a correspondence school, and do private manuscript critiques. You can’t analyze thousands of stories and novels without learning a few things about what works and what doesn’t.

And yet, somehow, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to see the flaws in your own work. But I’ve found a method to help. I call it the Plot Outline Exercise, and I discuss it at length in my book Advanced Plotting. The short summary is, you make an outline of your finished manuscript, briefly describing the main action and any subplots in each chapter. Then you analyze your plot. Looking at the outline, rather than the entire manuscript, makes it easier to see the big picture without getting distracted by little details.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes a lot of work to make a manuscript strong, so I ask over 40 questions, divided into sections for Conflict, Tension, Main Character, Subplots and Secondary Characters, Theme, and Fine Tuning. For example, here are the opening three from Conflict (and each of these bullet points I consider to be one question, despite the multiple question marks):

·         Put a check mark by the line if there is conflict in that chapter. For chapters where there is no conflict, can you cut those, interweave with other chapters, or add new conflict? The conflict can be physical danger, emotional stress, or both, so long as the main character (MC) is facing a challenge.

·         Where do we learn what the main conflict is? Could it be sooner? Is there some form of conflict at the beginning, even if it is not the main conflict? Does it at least relate to the main conflict? The inciting incident—the problem that gets the story going—should happen as soon as possible, but not until the moment is ripe. The reader must have enough understanding of the character and situation to make the incident meaningful. Too soon, and the reader is confused. Too late, and the reader gets bored first.

·         Where do we learn the stakes? What are they? Do you have positive stakes (what the MC will get if he succeeds), negative stakes (what the MC will suffer if he fails), or best of all, both? Could the penalty for failure be worse? Your MC should not be able to walk away without penalty.

As you answer each question, you make notes on the outline for where you need to make changes on your manuscript. Then, of course, you need to actually make the changes. Advanced Plotting has over 20 additional articles to explain how to make these changes, covering topics such as getting off to a fast start and using cliffhanger chapter endings.

As I said, it isn’t easy to do this kind of revision, but when the result is a much stronger manuscript, it’s worthwhile. Since I now outline before I start writing, I use the Plot Outline Exercise at that planning stage and catch a lot of problems early, but not every writer can – or wants to – sketch out a manuscript in detail in advance. However you write, making an outline at some point can help you see what you really have, so you can identify and fix problems.

Learn more about Chris and read excerpts of her work at www.chriseboch.com (for children’s books) or www.krisbock.com (for adult romantic suspense written under the name Kris Bock) or see her Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/. You can also read excerpts from Advance Plotting on her blog:http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/.

Thanks Chris! Leave a question or comment for Chris and you will be entered in today’s Halloween Treats drawing for an autographed copy of Michelle Celmer’s A Clandestine Corporate Affair. All commenters will be entered in the drawing for three grand prizes to occur on October 31st, so check back to see if you are a winner! Saturday’s winner is Gloria Richard! Congratulations Gloria, send me your address and I’ll send you the book!

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