I was discussing TV shows with my hubby the other night. He wanted me to binge watch a show with him. I told him I did not have time to pick up another show. His response? “You have the time; it’s just not a priority.”
My free time is limited these days, and I’ve cut back on certain things. I went from stay-at-home mom with plenty of time to volunteer at the school and watch TV to a full time writer on deadline while trying to do all the a stay-at-home mom stuff like making dinner (These small humans running around my house require constant feeding!) Things have changed, priorities have shifted, and it’s a work in progress. One thing I’ve had to work hard at not letting fall off my list is my relationship with my hubby. It’s honestly been difficult to find the right balance.
Here are some things I’ve had to cut back on or cut out of my life entirely:
- Morning television. It was nice knowing you, Kelly Ripa. Maybe we’ll catch up over the holidays.
- Volunteering. I know the greatest joy we get in life is giving back. And, I’ve done a lot of it over the past few years. From helping to run a local Mom’s Club to organizing our PTA Carnival to corralling eighty kids for an afterschool Lego Club. Someday, I’ll dip my toes into something worthwhile, but right now, I’vebacked off from volunteer commitments to focus on something else that gives me joy. Writing. Do I feel guilty? A little, but I’ll get over it.
- Cleaning. I’m not going to claim to have been a neat freak even before getting the writing bug. But, my family never had to dig through the pile of clean, unfolded laundry on my bedroom floor for a pair of undies. I can say with ~95% confidence you will not leave my house with a food-borne illness. However, if you are allergic to dog or cat hair, you’d better bring a bottle of Benadryl and/or an inhaler.
- Reading. I know this seems counter-intuitive. Most writing advice tells you to read, read, read in order to be a better writer. And, I do agree…to some extent. I AM reading for huge chunks of my day. But, I’m reading/editing my writing or reading/CP’ing for other writers. I’m also hesitant to read in the genre I’m writing, and these days I’m writing both contemporaries and historical romances. I’ve read interviews from Big Time authors who don’t read in their genre either, so I feel justified. I’m mostly afraid I’ll subconsciously transfer something. But, I’m a member of a kick-butt book club, and I always read our selection. Usually something highbrow and literary and depressing☺.
- Exercising. This is one area where I’m searching for balance. Mommy no likey the writer’s muffin-top I’ve cultivated, and as I am over forty now, it’s proving more difficult to control the expansion. But, I have a difficult time leaving my writing for a workout if I haven’t reached my word count goal for the day.
- Socializing. My days of gossiping in the PTA room or grabbing coffee or heading out for girl’s nights are on the wane. Besides my book club ladies and my local writing friends, who I see on a regular basis, there are only a handful of people that I call on a regular basis. I’m still close to a group of college girlfriends, and we get together a couple of weekends a year and email regularly. But, to be brutally honest, I don’t have time to expand my base of friends. Don’t I sound terribly unfriendly?
- Sleep. I think we’re all in this dozy boat, right? I’m either going to bed late to spend time with my hubby and/or getting up early to write before the kids wake up for school. The result is a deficit. Lack of sleep makes me very grumpy. So, back to Number 6…maybe you don’t want to be my friend anyway☺
* What about you guys? Anything you’ve given up to pursue writing or another dream? *
An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.
She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, is a finalist for the Stiletto Contest and for the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and is a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.
What happens when an author’s creativity slows to a tickle or stops altogether? Besides PANIC, Writer’s Block is the most common term for the condition. What are the causes? What’s the cure?
Lots of issues can lead to writer’s block, but one of the most frequent causes is burnout. Authors tend to write every day, usually eight or more hours a day and close to three hundred sixty-five days a year. A few days away can recharge the brain and allow the mind to focus on something else. Writing inspiration often comes from observing—people, nature, etc. Think of the time spent on “vacation” as research.
Stress is another major factor in abandonment by the muse. Unfortunately, it’s often a fact of life—but exercise can combat the effects of stress, leading to a relaxed mind and free-flowing thoughts. Diet, which may be affected by stress, can also affect mood and health, which in turn can cause stress. Break the cycle. Physical wellbeing can improve the state of the mind. Since writers tend to lead sedentary lives, proper diet and exercise can make a substantial difference in reducing writer’s block as well improving stress levels and general health.
Lack of sleep and some medications can also affect the ability to focus on a story. Note taking and in-depth plotting can be helpful aids in dealing with medication-related concentration problems. Better sleep habits or daily naps may make a difference with sleep deprivation and/or insomnia-related writing issues.
Possibly the most frustrating of all causes is the story itself. Oftentimes, the author’s subconscious mind notices problems with the story before the author does. Logic lapses, plot issues, and inconsistent characters aren’t always immediately apparent. Does the story start in the right place? Is each scene written in the most effective POV? Setting aside the manuscript for several days reduces familiarity, and mistakes are more easily spotted on a read-through. A critique partner or beta reader can also help in these instances. Fix the issues, and the story will likely begin flowing again.
Lack of confidence is another creativity killer. Some writers need to complete multiple drafts of a single manuscript before it’s ready for editing. Others edit as they go. No matter the process, writing should be as enjoyable as it is hard. Perfection isn’t the immediate goal. A finished manuscript comes first. Edits and feedback follow to improve the story and/or the craft.
Take a deep breath, give the muse a boot in the behind, and WRITE!
* What do you do when writer's block hits? Share your tips in the comments! *
When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-one years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers.
~ By Leigh Duvan
There are only a few days left to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2017.
You may still be on the fence about NaNo or thinking there’s no way you can win, so why bother even doing it. Today I’m going to tell you in Nike form to JUST DO IT! Sign up! Unless you’re going to be hiding under a rock for the month of November, there’s no reason not to be a participant. I’ll even make it easy for you. Here’s the sign up link: https://nanowrimo.org/
Now, before you think I’m crazy, hear me out. I've participated in NaNo four times over the course of the last four years. And in that time I've only officially won ONE TIME - yep, once. That very first year. It wasn’t easy and life was crazier than crazy - my strategy then was to panster my way through my book and lock myself in a room at home or coffee shop for hours at a time on weekends to make up for weekdays I didn’t write. But dagnabit, I’m competitive and HAD to win. I HAD to hit 50,000 new words. Even if they were crappy. And many were. I used every trick in the book - first and last names of characters, fully writing contractions out. Writing a useless scene I knew I would cut. You name it, I did it. I WON and had something in MS format to work with at the end of the month. Did I mention it was my first year taking writing as a profession seriously...so yah, I HAD to win!
With the goal of NaNo being to create habits and get it done because consistency leads to achievement. I had to have a plan - even for a Panster. Here’s how I did it:
I added padding in for the days I knew I wouldn't be able to write 1,667 words, like the days work would be insane and for those days around Thanksgiving where I knew family and friends would take up my time. What that meant was that on another day I would need more time to get three, four, or five thousand words in (remember that locked room?).I made sure my family was supportive and knew that mommy needed some alone time, and hubby was on deck to handle the basics for an hour or two or five when needed. But this post ISN’t about winning NaNo. This post is about being a winner whether you officially win NaNo or not. You see, the second year I participated, I only wrote25,000 words over 30 days. By NaNoWriMo standards, I LOST. I was a BIG LOSER. I had two business trips that month for 4-5 days each and Thanksgiving. I barely had time to breathe much less write and I felt terrible. Here’s when reality hit me - for someone who didn’t have time to write consistently 25,000 NEW words was an incredible amount in a month. That’s a good ⅓ of a book. Most people don’t write a ⅓ of a book in a quarter or year much less a month. That’s a WIN.
Now if you are used to writing one, two, three or four thousand words a day and you’re consistent you go get that book out there and I can’t wait to read it. Use NaNo the way you need to for you which is different and a separate post.If you get a few hundred words a day or maybe you get a couple thousand words over the course of a week or two or a month then Nano is the jumpstart that you need to get consistency under your belt. That’s why you want to be a participant. Back to my story of year two and those 25,000 words that I wrote. I was technically a “BIG LOSER” yet I had a strong mindset so I turned things around on myself. I was really a winner in my book because I had 25,000 new words to be able to edit and adjust and do something with. More than I started with on November 1st. That’s SOMETHING to celebrate and as writer’s we need to celebrate the wins. Sure I didn’t get the sponsor prizes, but new words on the page to edit meant so much more to me.
Year three was a complete bust. I wrote something like 3,000 words in the month. I was working a day job for 70 hours a week and had all the kid and family duties as hubby was traveling too. My house was cray cray. There was no way any writing was going to be done much less 1,667 a day. This had nothing to do with mindset. This was reality. I didn’t have to to think much less write.Basically I signed up and didn't fully participate. I don’t count that as a win or lose. But I realized that it was a time that I probably should not have even put the stress of NaNo on my plate. Year Four I didn't do Nano. I didn't sign up. I didn't plan to do it. I just let it go and pass me by because I was in the same boat as year three.
Now in my fifth year as a committed writer I am signed up for NaNo and what I realized is that when I get started on November 1st - no matter what I write, as long as I write, I am starting and finishing a winner. And I will admit I’m only working about 50 hours a week and there are no business trips coming up. So, there IS less external pressure. There is definitely a time to be a realist versus an optimist ;-)
I’ve decided, this time around, I'm a winner whether I get 10 words a day, 100 words a day or the magical 1,667 a day. If I win by their standards of 50,000 words - I get some prizes, Yay Me. And yes, that’s what I’m going for this time. The “Official Win”. However, if I get 20,000 new words for the month I STILL win and so do my readers. That's the beauty of mindset. Mindset helps you be the winner. Your mindset is where it's at. How you think about the experience will guide your experience.I'm going into it and I want you to go into it thinking about the fact that you are a winner as long as you get words toward your story done and you begin to create some pattern of consistency.
Maybe in those 30 days you can only write four days a week. But if those four days a week yield words and you're consistent you're a winner. Or maybe you can only write on the weekends but you crank out five to six thousand words on the weekend. You're a winner.
Maybe you write every other day and that becomes your pattern. If you come out at the end with more words than you started with YOU ARE A WINNER. I want you to remember that. Whether you “officially” win or lose NaNo if you get new words on paper you win and your readers will too.Leigh Duvan is a digital marketing strategist by day & a contemporary romance writer by night. She writes sweet and sassy stories and loves a loveable hero. She's a specialist in marketing & brand building designed to drawn in loyal and sticky fans. Complete with two decades of sales/marketing experience, she teaches new and experienced authors how to build and keep an engaged audience through brand awareness and community building, starting even before their first book release. An avid napper, she spends time running her kids here to there and traveling with her husband as often as possible. You can visit her at http://LeighDuvan.com.
The confusing world of Editing and Proofreading~ By Liz Dempsey
For the new writer, understanding the function of the professionals involved in the process of readying your book for market, and the terminology used by the editing and proofreading world, can be daunting. It doesn’t help that often the same job comes with several different titles. To help you get your head around it all and decide which type of editor and proofreader you need, here is a quick guide.
These are all pretty much the same thing. This type of editor will help you sort out the book as a whole. They will look at details such as plot, character arc, structure, and genre points. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about your story and characters as a whole, then this is the person you need. If you sign a contract with a publishing house, this is also the function of the editor you will have assigned to you.
A line editor will look at the way you use language to communicate your story to your reader. Their job is not to comb through your book looking for technical errors. They are looking at the creative content, writing style, pacing and language used at the sentence and paragraph level. They will check whether your language is clear, fluid, and enjoyable to read, and whether the words you’ve chosen convey a clear message, or are clichés and broad generalizations. If you want to ensure your story reads as well as it possibly can, in terms of language used and writing style, this is the editor you need.
This type of editor isn’t concerned with the overall story, character development or whether your book fits within the publishing house’s genres. This editor is concerned with flaws on a very technical level. They are interested in things such as appropriate word usage, consistency within the manuscript concerning story details andcharacter attributes, paragraphing and word choice, grammatical mistakes, spelling consistency, fact checking and general random mistakes. They will often make a style sheet for your work to ensure consistency. If you’re looking for someone with an eye for detail, who will take note of everything, including the colour of your characters’ hair and eyes and the spelling of your town’s name, to ensure they remain the same throughout your book, this is the editor for you.
A proofreader will read the final draft of your manuscript, after it has been through an editor. They will look at it with an eye towards grammatical correctness, consistent and correct spelling, spotting typos, accuracy in headings/footnotes/chapter and page numbers, and checking layout to ensure there are no extra gaps/lines or formatting errors. A proofreader is often the last person to look over your manuscript before it goes into mass production.
This person provides the extra service of reading your book in the same format as your reader, usually on an e-reader (such as a Kindle). A typo checker isn’t concerned with stylistic consistency or correct grammar. All they are looking for are mistakes, such as spelling errors and typos—the things that will jump out at a reader as incorrect when they read your finished work. They provide a final polish to ensure your book is as ready for your readers as it can possibly be.
What type of professional involvement you want in your work is up to you. You should go with what you are most comfortable using, what you feel your work most needs, and what your budget allows. The work I do mainly falls into the copy-editing, proofreading and typo checking categories.
I find that most writers, once they are happy with their overall storyline and comfortable with their style and use of language, work best with a Copy-Editor and then, as a final check, a read-through by a Typo Checker. With a bit of negotiation, a good Copy-Editor will be willing, and able, to catch most of the things that a proofreader would, but you will get more feedback for your money.
I hope this clarifies the process somewhat and helps you to choose the type of professional you need to work with to ensure you produce your best book possible. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.please get in touch with a sample of your work for a free quote.
The ProblemPersonally, I can't do that. I can not handle not knowing what I'm going to write, and even though I've been successfully NaNo'ing since 2007, I have yet to learn how to let loose and "just write." And if try to do so without any mental preparation and just one idea to cling to, the struggle gets very real. But I've got a trick. (It's likely review for many of you, so feel free to chime in and expand on this awfully simplistic overview.)
The TrickThe trick is simple. Put all your thoughts and ideas about your novel aside. Write them down if you must, and then get them out of your head. And then, focus on three things:
- What does your character want?
- Why does your protagonist want what she wants?
A Bit of VocabularyIt's much easier to figure out your character's GMC if you truly understand the following terms and how they relate to each other: Protagonist: A character who has a goal and wants something (a McGuffin). Antagonist: A character who wants to stop your protagonist from reaching his or her goal thus creating conflict, but isn't necessarily a "bad guy." (A grown-up who stops a toddler from running into the street after a ball isn't being mean or bad, but is preventing the toddler from reaching the ball. Diana's mother and Steve are antagonists, but aren't necessarily bad.) Villain: Well, you know... But just to clarify. . . please note that your antagonist and villain can be the same character. But if they're not, like in the case of Wonder Woman, don't forget that your antagonist is really the one who has the biggest impact when it comes to moving your story forward. If you want to get really creative, your protagonist can be your villain, like Dr. Horrible. McGuffin: What your protagonist wants (her goal). It can be a bag of pretzels or it can be world peace. It doesn't matter, as long as she truly wants something, and for a good reason (motivation).
Get to WorkHere's a chart I give my elementary school students. No, you don't have to color (though it would probably thrill your muses). I hope it'll help you over the next week and through November and beyond. If you start your noveling process by figuring out GMC, the details and specifics of your story will work themselves out along the way. I promise. [One more tip: Give your protagonist a taste of what she wants and take it away. Or give her what she wants and make her hate it.] For more info on GMC, listen to this fantastic episode of How Story Works.
* Who are the protagonists, antagonists, and villains in your favorite stories? Why?*Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels. In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist. She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.
~ By Melanie Greene
Who's up for a writing challenge?
Those familiar with writing know it can be a solitary occupation, even with the friendship and resources of a great group like Contemporary Romance RWA.
Those familiar with NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month -- know it can be an overwhelming pursuit to generate 50,000 new words in a one-month period.
Fortunately, the pursuit of those 50,000 words can be made more fun, and less solitary, by engaging in the community of others working towards the same goal.
This year, Contemporary Romance RWA is joining in the RWA Word War, an informal competition wherein RWA chapters pit their average word counts against those of other chapters. It's a friendly rivalry (so friendly, you can represent as many of your chapters as you like – give everyone credit for your words!) designed to encourage NaNoWriMo participants, to cheer on all those fast typists, and to maintain a sense of community during the often-isolating task of immersive writing.
Each week, I as team lead will send our word counts (gathered from the NaNoWriMo site) to the organizer, who will post the individual and chapter frontrunners in the closed Word Wars Facebook group. The Facebook group will also be a spot where people can cheer each other on, find word sprint buddies, share resources and prompts, or just growl about how hard this whole thing is! It’s a tighter and more easily navigable community than the NaNoWriMo boards, and participants get a chance to get to know writers from throughout RWA. (It’s not required that anyone join the group, or participate in it.) If you’re a member of our Word War team and are not yet a part of the group, send me a message (see below) so I can sort it out for you.
Not sure you’re up for writing 50,000 words in one month? Don’t worry – neither am I! It is a daunting undertaking for many of us, but part of the fun of Word War is the motivation to write as much as possible in 30 days, however much ‘possible’ turns out to be. Per the organizer, last November the 289 Word War participants (from 21 RWA chapters across North America) wrote 9,732,788 words! It’s great fun to know that 37588 of those words were mine. And even though I didn’t end up with a Winner’s Badge, I did end up with a novella I love.
This year, I hope to finish another novella and get back to work on a novel, so when November 30, 2017 rolls around, I can schedule publication dates for the next two titles in my Roll of the Dice series. And that’s a goal that will leave me feeling like a winner, no matter how short of 50,000 words I end up. Word War participants learn to celebrate each success, even the ones not on the official metric. Won’t you join us? Message me on FB or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are ready to accept the Word War challenge!
Melanie Greene lives in a little cottage in a giant city, with her husband and kids and cat and dog and all the people inhabiting her imagination. Find out more about her contemporary romances, including her Roll of the Dice series, at www.melaniegreene.com.
Note: read this true experience (from 6-26-2016) and then tell us what you would write for the very next line.
He: “I'm thinking about making some cowboy beans this evening for supper. You okay with my beans?”
She: “Sounds lovely.”
- - - Later that evening - - -
He is browning the meat and hears chopping behind him.
She sneaks over and dumps a pile of fragments into the meat.
He: “What was that?”
She: “Just a few onions.”
After some more stirring, he is briefly looking the other way when she squirts in a considerable volume of something from a squeeze bottle.
He: “What was that?”
He continues to stir and is checking the clock (in the other direction) momentarily when she shakes in several dollups of something.
He: “What was that?”
She: “Just a little Liquid Smoke.”
He: “Hey, who's making these cowboy beans? You or me?”
She: “You are, of course.”
[Okay, now that you’ve read the actual experience, tell us what you’d write for the very next line, if it was in your own story.]Jeff Salter, who has written 12 novels and five novellas, already has 14 fiction titles released with three royalty publishers. His most recent is “The Duchess of Earl” released in mid-July by Clean Reads. Two more titles are due out this year and he has several works in progress.