Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's been a while... but the ideas don't stop

It's been a while - like six months - since I blogged.

It's also been a while since I've written anything on either of the two manuscripts I currently have in progress. The paying work just has to have priority at present.

Being in this situation doesn't make me particularly happy. Of course, lots of paying work is good and I have great clients. But in my heart of hearts, it's not what I want to be doing. Still, we all have to decide on our own priorities at any given time, right?

 In fact, not being able to write fiction highlights for me how much I do still want to write and publish books. So that's a good thing - the fact that I'm not ready to give up no matter how long it's taking me to actually finish writing at least one book!

The other aspect to this period that I find interesting is that the book ideas just don't stop. Ideas for a Regency mystery-romance series have been percolating over the last week (I actually sat down this morning to start typing up the plot outlines, but got distracted by this instead! Another hazard of an over-full brain which tries to cope by flitting from one thing to another...)

I take encouragement from the fact the ideas are still there, the characters saying, "Hey, what about this? We could do that?" It's all there, waiting for the right time.

So, yes, Dan Millman (self-help lecturer and author), you're absolutely right. I can do anything - write fiction, write commercial and PR copy, cook, garden, walk the dog, love my husband - but I can't do it all at the same time.

The time to write, to be the author I've always wanted to be, will come. It's just not quite yet.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Critique groups: celebrating achievements and kicking your butt when you need it!

Writing-wise, I had quite an achievement last week. I actually finished re-writing chapter 3..! And, wait for it, I'm now writing chapter 4!

Why, you may ask, is this significant?

The previous incarnations of this WIP didn't have chapters, just scenes which didn't fit the plot outline the way I wanted them to. I would keep re-writing chapters 2 and 3 and never getting past the end of chapter 3 before I'd want to start ALL over again. So this is the first time that I am writing words for the fourth chapter and it feels really good! Especially because I'm actually HAPPY with chapters 1, 2 and 3 now and can leave them alone until it's time to edit the whole book.

For achieving this mini goal, I'm giving myself a little pat on the back with the help of some lovely working dogs - are they cute?

How you celebrate those mini goals in the long road of writing a fiction novel? Do you give yourself permission to take some time to read for enjoyment? Take a day off? Enjoy something decadent to eat?

My critique group recently started a private group on Facebook, so I was able to share my achievement with these four wonderful women who understand what I'm going through. While my husband sort of gets it, it really does help to have other writers with whom you can share the highs, lows and frustrations of creating a story and crafting a book.

My group's now calling to read chapter 4 as soon as it's finished, so the little slogan over on the left feels about right!

But the a**-kicking is a good thing, right?. We all need it and sometimes you just plum run out of gumption to kick your own butt for one more day, one more half hour of writing, one more word to finish that scene perfectly.

Having friends saying they really want to read your story, to find out what happens is the BEST! It's what I'm writing for - readers who enjoy MY story. Brilliant. Best kind of a**-kicking a gal can get.

And on that note, best I get back to writing :)

Until next time, all the best,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Author platform - what's it all about?

I've been reading about "author platform" a fair bit lately and worrying, as I do, that I don't know what my platform is. A lot of people suggest that by golly, I better have one established before I've written my book because I won't have time to establish it once the book's published.

So what do you reckon about "platform"? Do you have one? Do you even know what it is?

In the interests of finding out whether I'm on the right track, I recently bought Get known before the Book Deal by Christina Katz. Okay, I haven't read it yet, but it's there, ready, when I finish reading Penni Sansevieri's Red Hot Internet Publicity - which I have to say has lots of really excellent ideas for my business website. But I won't start thinking about that now...
I've also done a fair bit of internet browsing and there are plenty of interesting articles like this one from Kristen Lamb about understanding author platform.

So I get that I would do well to have:
  • a Facebook profile (check)
  • a Twitter presence (check, although I don't tweet nor follow many people/organisations yet - it just feels like another time-suck at the moment)
  • a website (check. cateharris.com really does need to get linked to this blog. I'm sure it's a doodle to do if only I could find the time to research how to do it...)
  • a blog (double check)
  • posting on fellow authors' blogs (not yet - what would I say?)
  • Pinterest - looks good, but is it worthwhile?
  • speaking engagements - I think you need an actual book first
  • etc, etc...
Golly, and then there's your author brand, what sort of things you choose to write about/share with readers and potential readers, the imagery you select, the colour and tone of all your online profiles and sites.

I'm beginning to wonder if there's more time involved in establishing the platform than there is in writing. This morning, for example, instead of doing my two hours writing, I played around with themes on Blogger. Hmmm... Not productive! I'm so going to get my hand slapped by my critique group on Sunday... And seeing as I have enough trouble carving time from my day to actually write, well... my brain's in a muddle.

After all that, I think my current position on author platform is - yes, it's something I need to keep learning about. It's something I can jot down notes on when ideas come to me, or are suggested by my writing buddies - that external view is such a help. It's something I can tick away at, but not at the expense of actual writing time.

So what does author platform mean to you? Do you worry about it? Or are you just out there talking about your books, your work in whatever forum - online or in person - you happen to stumble across? I'd love to know.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Overcoming the "life gets in the way of writing" syndrome

Life sure gets in the way sometimes, huh? Especially when fiction writing isn't your main source of income, or, in fact, any form of income at the present time. No matter how much working on my manuscript(s) makes me happy there have been HUGE periods of time this year when I haven't had time to write, have been too stressed to write and just plain haven't wanted to write.

It feels stupid/stink/lame to say life gets in the way. But the reality is that we're all juggling the various components of our lives, deciding our own priorities and even when you want to write, there are times when you need to put that aside and focus on other things.

One of my priorities is sitting at the end of the bed, watching me, waiting for her walk. Her name is Ruby and one of the very good things about owning a dog when you're a writer is the fact that you do need to get off your butt and walk the dog. The getting off your butt bit is critical, I've decided to one's physical and mental health.

At the moment, I'm rehashing the first three chapters of a romantic suspense. It's not the first time I've rehashed this book, but I hope I'm finally on the right track with the plot and can move on to actually finish the whole manuscript.

People say they have trouble getting to through the saggy middle. Gee, I'd actually like to make it to the middle of this story so I can see if it's saggy or not!

Other writers have told me you'll learn aspects of the craft of writing when you're ready. I can relate to this better this year after several light bulb moments when Randy Ingermanson, the 'snowflake guy' from http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/ spoke at our RWNZ conference. Basically I figured out that I wasn't being nearly as mean as I needed to be to my characters. You'd think for a romantic suspense, I'd have chucked them in the deep end and made them suffer, sweat and panic. Well, you would think that. Trouble was I had about 15,000 words of them getting to know each other while sort of in a panic about running away from the bad guys. Nup. Re-write! Re-write!

The weird thing was the plot outline was looking promising - lots of action, lots of drama, lots of emotional high and low points. I haven't figured out why I was letting myself write off on these soft, lame tangents in stead of facing what needed to be done - bringing the bad guys in and truly making my characters sink or swim.

So that's where I'm at this week. Re-writing the first 10,000 words. Again.

No matter what my lovely critique group members say, I can't just start from where I was up to, because that was wrong! So wrong I'm not even sure I should call myself an amateur suspense writer. DOH!

Anyway, so, it's all part of the learning process, isn't it? I just hope it doesn't take me another two years to plot the next book and that's before I attempt to write it, then re-write it, etc, etc.

The good thing is I do think I've got the premise and characters pretty much on the right track. And what I've written isn't bad - I even have "oh, that's quite good moments" - but I can do and will do better.

While looking for a couple of progress tracking tools today - all in the interests of trying to finish this book this year - I came across these word tracker spreadsheets among the writing resources available from Svenja Liv. They're pretty full-on spreadsheets and as I've developed excel spreadsheets of my own in the past, I might simply utilise some of the ideas which are really excellent. Clearly a very talented person with the complex Excel formulas and groovy colour layouts. We all appreciate the sharing of this kind of resource :)

So, I better go walk the dog. More writing later... I can't leave my poor characters in the midst of a car crash for much longer...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

21 days of writing

There's plenty of reference to research that shows it takes 21 days to form a new habit, or lose an unwanted one. So I figure it's worth applying this idea to writing.

I know I'm not alone in struggling to find time to write fiction around all the other things that go on in your life - work, family, friends, pets, gardening, exercise, cleaning, etc, etc. Because I write for a living, I've used that as an excuse that it's even harder for me to commit to my fiction projects.

So, starting 13 June, I work on the WIP I got all inspired about last week for one hour a day. Doesn't matter if I have to split that hour up, whether it's completed in the morning or at night. I just have to do it. Every day. For 21 days.

Sounds simple, huh?

Oh, and I'm also doing 21 days of yoga practice too. Nothing major, starting with 15 minutes every day of the sun salute routine we learnt at class last year.

I can do it. I want to do it. I am doing it!

There are numerous interesting posts online to read on the whole habit-forming concept. Here are some that appealed to me:

Do you really know what you want? The law of attraction really works when we are clear about our intentions. If we merely wish for something to happen, it won’t. You have to be able to feel it, smell it, see it… 

According to yoga teachings , it takes:
    40 days to change a bad habit into a positive one;90 days confirms the new habit in you; 120 days allows the new habit to become who you are; 1,000 days ensures you have mastered the habit.
An online tool to help you form your desired new habits.

What would you like to change about your life - writing or otherwise - where the 21 days of practice concept could help you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finding inspiration anywhere

A seemingly random thing has pushed me back into wanting to work on one of my WIPs - which is a very good thing, as it's been some time since I've pulled the laptop out with fiction writing in mind.

We went to drinks for a friend's birthday over the weekend and I realised that her new partner was totally hero material -- well, he has the physical characteristics I want my former Special Forces hero to have. During a plotting session a while back, I thought actor Daniel Craig would provide enough inspiration -- and he certainly provides plenty, but  I don't know him personally. I've never had the opportunity to be in his physical presence (more's the pity, but then you think what the heck would I ever talk about with Daniel Craig, so never mind...)

So, as the friend's boyfriend and I chatted over drinks, I was mentally cataloguing the sheer weight of muscle on his arms, the intricate tattoos on one arm which he'd told me tells the story of his son's life, the chiseled jaw, his stature and presence -- they all added up to provide me with a real live person on which to base my hero.And that was certainly an inspirational moment and shows we can find ideas for our books anywhere, and why going out into the world can be a very good thing for writers.

The second piece of inspiration came from reading a Nora Roberts book, The Search. This fantastic story was set in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle, a place I wondered whether it might be possible for my characters to slip back into the US without having a border control passport check. Still not sure about the border control aspect, but it sure was great to read a really enjoyable book - just as you'd expect from Ms Roberts - set in an area that I had already started to research as a possible setting for a couple of scenes of my WIP. That was very cool and unexpected.

These discoveries inspired me to think hard about this book, about what I'd done with it so far, where I wanted it to go and why it appealed to me then and now.

Of course I will be very careful not to make my hero too much like the person I know, but it's amazing how real I could make my hero seem to me by picturing him via a kind of overlay on my friend. (No offense to the friend intended - he's a wonderful guy and I was listening to our conversation, honestly!) Never before have I met someone who could inspire aspects of my fictional character, so that's been great.

The other funny thing I discovered this morning while I was reading through the plot outline I started developing with First Draft in 30 Days was that when I had been working on this WIP pantser-style, I'd already written several scenes that now I realise do not add anything constructive to the story. It was like writing your way through a maze and hitting the dead end. So, right now, I'm inspired by the thought that I really am onto something with this whole concept of plotting and developing characters before I write too much of the story. I think it might end up being a blend of plotting/planning and then drafting scenes and/or chapters. Well, that's the process that appeals at the moment, so I can feel that I'm making real progress on the actual story, while also keeping the story going in the right direction. We'll see... it's all a fun learning experience, isn't it?
Happy writing, all.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another useful book: The Novel Writer's Toolkit

Just a quick note this morning about Bob Mayer's The Novel Writer's Toolkit.

Ever since I participated in Bob' Warrior Writer workshop a year or so ago, I've been following his comments on writing and publishing. I bought the Warrior Writer book too, but must admit became completely distracted by the fact that it's not properly formatted, could do with a massive tidy-up and be presented professionally. If you can get past that, there are many really interesting things to think about, particularly about you and what you want out of being a writer.

The NWT also covers much of the same ground, but that's okay, as I needed to think seriously about what I want out of being a writer on this road to publication. (It's also professionally edited, formatted and laid out, which is nice!)

When I did the WW workshop, I, like many others, was writing goals such as wanting to be a New York Times bestselling author within 5 years and the like. Okay, it's got the first part of the SMART goal concept right - it's specific and measurable - but is it achieveable? Well, maybe, but there are many, many things outside my control when it comes to making it onto the NYT bestseller list!

So, it's proving valuable to relook at ME as a writer. As Bob says: It all begins with you, the creator of your novel.

In this first chapter about you as a writer, Bob also says that the more you write, the more you will become a fan of outlining and doing a lot of work before you write the first sentence. Naturally, this resonates with me given what I've been doing with First Draft in 30 Days.

Bob talks about patience and self-discipline (not my strongest characteristics), the ability to organise (sometimes), an active imagination (sure!), the mind (well, I do have one), contentment and desire where he talks about money vs the desire to write and that balance we're always working on (yes, that's a balancing act for me too), setting objectives (I'm very good at setting them; sadly, I'm not a proven completer), writer's block (where I agreed with Bob's assessment that much of the time writer's block is another name for procrastination and I am a Master Procrastinator!), open-mindedness or willingness to change (yep, I'm willing to change), the writing routine (sometimes good, mostly not), and passion for your story (and that's what I keep losing).

It's all good stuff! Currently I'm working through the section of turning an idea into a story. This may be where I find my ideas haven't been strong enough which could be why I lose passion and stop working on them. Or, hopefully, as I think FDi30D is showing me, that the hard work developing plot and characters needs to come first for me.

All I know is whenever I think about giving up the idea of writing, I get really, really sad. The natural optimist in me says "you CAN do this, you're a smart woman, come on!"

So onwards and upwards on this fascinating learning process.
Happy writing all