8 things about Garth Brooks that might change the way you write

Susan-Meier ~ By Susan Meier Note: This post originally appeared here.  This is a blog I posted about a year ago...I read it (to remind myself of a few things) and realized this was some perfect "new year/new start" advice... Happy New Year! Enjoy! ... A few weeks ago, I had a bad cold and spent a Saturday and Sunday in bed. If you know anything about weekend TV, you know I was bored to the point of tears and ended up watching a "special" about Garth Brooks. But, man, am I ever glad I did. The show was designed so that Garth himself didn't do much talking. His friends talked about him, his work ethic, etc. After a while I started making notes. :) And here they are ... 8 things about Garth Brooks that might change the way you write. 1. He loves music and wants everybody to love music. That sounds pretty simple, until you really think it through. Because he loves music he promotes well...but he also writes, produces and sings the best songs. The best songs. And what does that mean for his audience? He doesn't shortchange them. They always get the best. So...If you really, really, really love WRITING and your genre, you should be looking for the best ideas. You should be doing YOUR best when you write. Your love of writing (or your genre) should shine through your work. 2. He has respect for other musicians and songwriters. You have to have a healthy respect for what you do and everyone who does it in order to be your best. If you only half-heartedly love romance, I genuinely believe it shows in your work. If you're working hard, if it takes you months to write a book, if you study writing, if you tear your scenes apart again and again to make them perfect...So are your peers. Lots of people are working full-time jobs and writing. Lots are caring for kids, elderly parents or disabled adult children. We should never, ever, ever discount the trials and tribulations of other writers. It just plain makes us better people to be kind to each other. And God likes that. :) 3.  He has a good range. Garth might be a country singer, but his songs transcend the genre.  Because of #4... 4.  He loves telling a good story. That's so true. His music is all about storytelling. And he does it well. He picks subjects that resonate, and he makes them vibrate with reality and emotion. Literally. LOL I heard Elton John talk about storytelling and music once and it totally changed the way I looked at music. He said smart songwriters tell a story because people love stories. Well, lucky us! That's our business. But that takes us back to not shortchanging your audience (something I talked about a few weeks ago in the Hybrids blog), to figuring out what they like to hear, to learning to write well...so your story is the best it can be. 5. He is an entertainer. And so should we be. People get a show when they go to see Garth. People want to be entertained when they read our books. So many times we get caught up in word counts and craft that we forget we're entertainers. Nora Roberts wasn't afraid to break a few rules. Suzanne Brockman took regular romance "hook" or trope stories and turned them  on their ears. Laura Kaye's writing vibrates with sensuality, even as her characters charm you to death. LOL When I pick up a book, I want to be swept away. And it took me a few books (like 20 -- sometimes I make my younger self sound like a real idiot) before I realized, as a reader, I wasn't special. All readers were like me. A book doesn't have to have tons of action or ideas that transcend the norm. The writer simply has to take her genre or subgenre's conventions and use them to entertain readers. We are entertainers. So...entertain. :) 6.  He has a respect for his audience (very much, his friends said, like another successful guy...Frank Sinatra) The pundits  used to tell us our audience was bored housewives. We now know that's not true. Our audience is lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, secretaries, nurses, business owners...Everybody.  You should appreciate the fact that a reader picked up your book. You should give her her money's worth. But most of all, you can't talk down to her. Readers are very smart. If you write poorly, they will spot it. If you don't research, they will know. If you don't like what you're doing and "phone in" your book, they'll see it. And they won't come back. So even your books with the tightest deadlines have to be your best work. (I'm talking to myself here because I'm a week late and tempted to write fast and get this turkey in. Instead, I slowed down...God help me...to make sure the book is the best it can be.) 7. He's never afraid to be passionate. And don't we love that? Being passionate, I think, is part of being a good entertainer. And we're all in the entertainment industry. I love category romance. :) I love the point in the story when the tension is so tight you know it could snap. The story could change. The characters could do something they regret. It puts me on the edge of my seat. That's what I want to see in books I read. That's what I want to get into my stories when I write. Granted, I'm not always successful...but I'm not afraid of that passion. Not afraid to confront it. In fact, smart romance writers use it! We are, after all, in the passion business! LOL 8. Even with success he remained a nice guy. :) Ah, would that we all could be. Sometimes I think it's easy for the uber successful to be nice guys. Let's face it. They're making the money. Readers are stroking their egos. Their Facebook fan page numbers are through the roof. Amazon loves them. Agents call them out of the blue. Editors call their agents and ask them to write something for them... Sigh. I could be nice if I were on top! That's what we all think. But the funny part of it is, the people on top have greater struggles than those of us hovering in the middle. There's constant expectation. Not just from their publishers, but from readers...AND THEMSELVES. When you are on top, you want to stay on top and there are thousands of wannabes nipping at your heels. So whether you're on the top or in the middle or just starting out, know this: You're going to have bad days. There will always be somebody who is doing better than you are. You will question your talent. There will never be enough hours in a day or days in a deadline... That does not give you license to be mean. In fact, given that we're all in this together, being nice to people is a way to form support groups, critique groups, lifeboat groups and make the friends who may someday save you. :) But being nice is just plain the right thing to do. Jealousy, meanness and condescension only make you sadder than you already are. In other words, you're hurting yourself. So grab your talent by the handle and get going. Don't worry about what anybody else is doing. Don't think you're better than anybody else. Don't worry that you're not getting the recognition you deserve. Just write your best book. Enjoy the process. And be a well rounded person. Enjoy your family. Love your spouse. Go fishing (or swimming or bingo playing or shopping). Have other passions aside from writing. Because nobody's ever clearly the best. Rankings change. Genres go in and out of style. Things like Facebook get invented and change everything. :) Don't be so one-dimensional that you can't be happy unless you're the best. :) And think of Garth Brooks. :) Be passionate, love your industry, love your audience, love your craft, love your peers, be a storyteller. A great storyteller. Be proud of yourself. :) As a special treat, we'll leave you with one of Garth Brooks' best "story-telling" songs:

 Are there any songs that have taught you about craft and story-telling? Leave a comment and let us know! 

Susan Meier is the author of over 60 books for Harlequin and Silhouette, Entangled Indulgence, Red Hot Bliss and Bliss and one of Guideposts’ Grace Chapel Inn series books, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. In 2013 she lived one of her career-long dreams. Her book, THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHER was a finalist for RWA’s highest honor, the Rita. The same year NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE’S TWINS was a National Reader’s Choice finalist and won the Book Buyer’s Best Award.Susan is married with three children and is one of eleven children, which is why love and family are always part of her stories.

Fitness for Writers: Learning Fitness Forgiveness [REPOST]

lisa~ By Lisa Siefert How many articles have you read in your lifetime on fitness and weight-loss? I’m 41 and have been reading women’s fashion and fitness magazines since I was ten. After three decades of being constantly bombarded with tips, tricks and fitness plans, I can confirm that to this day, I have not been able to consistently follow any of those helpful habits. Not one. Sometimes, I manage to get in one or two here or there but have I ever managed to eat 5-6 servings of fruits and veggies everyday followed by a 20-minute cardio session at 60 percent of my target max heart rate? Um, no. And I’m here to tell you, that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. Life happens, deadlines pop up or even better, sometimes you just don’t feel like it. The key isn’t admonishing your shortfalls with some mean girl inner dialogue bullying and then promising yourself that you’ll do better the next day. The answer is learning to forgive and let go. The media already places a tremendous amount of body shaming on us to last a few lifetimes. Why add to it? According to Dove, there were over 5 million negative body image tweets last year alone. As appalled as we all are at outrageous statements like the CEO of Lululemon, the popular fitness clothing brand, declaring that women’s inner thighs shouldn’t touch, I bet the things we say to ourselves are far worse. I’m here to declare a Fitness Forgiveness Revolution. Accept where you are, love the person and the body you have today because I can guarantee that hating yourself towards being more fit and healthy does not work. We all need to be kinder to ourselves when it comes to a missed workout or overindulging in a treat here and there. Life is meant for living and not for punishing ourselves over imperfections. That means, not punishing yourself by signing up for a Juice Cleanse as a quick-fix to the extra dessert you indulged in yesterday. Or declaring that you need to do 2 hours on the treadmill today to make up for yesterday’s missed workout. And most of all, not missing out on life because you don’t think you’re thin enough, fit enough or skinny enough to be seen at an event, in public or at the beach. Be nicer to yourself. Everyday for me isn’t perfect but I’m still trying. I’m not beating myself up over it. I simply wake up the next day and decide tomorrow will be another opportunity to try it again. I think too many of us, especially women, label ourselves as failures for not being perfect in our fitness endeavors, how our bodies look and well, pretty much everything else. And that’s really the #1 reason adopting new, healthier fitness habits fail. We’re too busy punishing ourselves to focus on the small achievements we do accomplish. Instead, declare that tomorrow is another day and another chance to try it again. Don’t give up! Keep going because everyday is a fresh opportunity to try it all over again. Lisa is an aspiring contemporary romance writer in San Diego, CA. She has been teaching group exercise classes since college and wants to share her love of health and fitness with other writers over at Fit & Wordy Girl. (Coming August 2015) RWA 2015 Annual Conference: Join her for your early morning workouts in New York. She will be teaching Pilates each day at 6:30am. All fitness levels welcome!

New Year, New Goals [REPOST]

annekemp~ By Anne Kemp Note: This was posted one year ago, but the message will always be relevant.  Happy 2015! Here’s to the New Year… It’s a time to reflect, take a look at what did and didn’t work last year and a good time to set new intentions for the year to come. Personally, I love taking the first week of the January (yes, I give myself a week to figure it out) to focus on my goals, both professional and personal, and what I really want to accomplish in the next 365 days. For many of us writer-types, we may decide to set a daily word count we’ll strive to hit or maybe a goal is to be more proactive on our social media (and not wait until we need to promote something before posting!). Some of us will be making it a goal to finish that work in progress and others will be just getting started with their first book – so exciting!! No matter where you are in the writing process, a new year can be like rewriting our own stories…and why not? Each year, I take a small chalkboard and write down in very specific details everything I want to accomplish. When it’s all done, I put that board on my desk so every time I sit down to work, play or just scroll online I see it. If I feel lazy and don’t want to write, I’ll see that spot on the board where I penciled in “Write 1500 words a day!!” and I’ll know it must be done. (Sigh….I will do it. Even though everything in me wants to curl up and watch Criminal Minds or Scandal. And the dog needs a walk. Then there’s my laundry….) For some of us, the art of making a resolution seems daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! There truly are no rules, just the ones we’ve made for ourselves. Did you make any resolutions or set any goals for the New Year? Feel free to share ‘em in the comments! Here’s to our best year of writing yet!!! Anne Kemp is an Amazon Best-Selling Author who writes contemporary romance from her office in Wellington, New Zealand – a far cry from her former life in Los Angeles, California! Anne loves chatting with fellow authors and fans on her Facebook page or you can find her on Twitter @MissAnneKemp

Happy New Year! Now What?

 Sherrie - Author - retouched~By Sherrie Hansen The excitement and bright lights of the holiday season have come and gone, and for me, the temptation to hunker down, eat a lot of fattening food, and hibernate for the rest of the winter is strong. If I’m not careful, dreary winter days, void of sunshine, can lull me into a lazy, lackadaisical mode that can last half the year. So I’m here today to challenge you – and me, too. There’s a rhythm to writing, and it’s time to get in sync! Because I live in the upper Midwest, my New Year starts out much like the Wizard of Oz – in black and white. Long nights, winter snow, fog, and ice, and shades of gray, overcast skies dominate our landscape. But the flipside is, the slow, boring days of January are a great time to start a new book or finish editing your old one. Like Dorothy, I spend my days dreaming of colorful characters and enchanted places, typing black words on a white screen to create worlds where flowers are blooming and the sunshine is golden. February is a time of romance. At my B&B, we lavish our customers with red strawberries dipped in chocolate fondue, seafood served in scallop shells on puff pastry hearts, and steaks topped with herbs de Provence and Roquefort cream. Yes, romance. You know what to do. Take a long soak in a bubble bath, let yourself dream a little, and start writing. March brings the winds of change. March is a time of new life – daffodils, kites and newborn lambs. But March is full of false starts and hopes dashed - thin crusts of ice with rushing water underneath, Easter snowstorms, cuteness and treachery all rolled into one. Sounds like the perfect time to hatch a plot, doesn’t it? With April showers and May flowers, come refreshment and a rainbow of colors. Rinse the cobwebs out of your mind and let yourself participate in the rebirth of the earth. Write with newly kindled passion. Step back, let go, and allow your characters to spring to life. Follow them and see where they take you. June and July are colored with the vibrant greens, pinks, purples, and yellows of summer. Hot and steamy, summer is filled with fireworks and fizzled relationships and a heightened sense of being. Let the hazy, lazy days of summer infuse your novel with short-term craziness. No need to commit to a specific plot. Just run with it. Feel the cool breezes – really feel them. Let yourself get a little sultry. Depending on where you live, August or September is a time of re-structuring. We’re forced to buckle down, go back to our studies, and get serious about finishing our summer projects. September is a month when forced disciplines and alarm clocks dominate out lives. What better time to start out fresh, wake up early and get an extra hour of writing worked into the schedule? The brilliant reds and oranges of October are a last hurrah that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Get your fill of color – and write – all you can. For the past several years, I’ve tried to have my novel half done by the end of October in hopes of being able to finish the rough draft during NaNoWriMo. Because my goal is to release one book a year, I have the first 10 months of the year to write the first half of the book. The end of the year is drawing near. Let October’s brilliance propel you into high gear. Do whatever you need to do to stay on track. By the time November rolls around, I’m ready for the challenge of writing 1667 words a day to write 50,000 words in November. I wrote large portions of Love Notes, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet in November because of NaNoWriMo. There’s no time to edit, rewrite or perfect. Just get the words on the paper. No matter how crazy or erratic your schedule, just get it done. There's plenty of time to get picky come December or January. December is a prelude to winter, a time to tie up loose ends. Give your readers the gift of yourself, shining through the pages of your novel. December can be exhilarating, or for some, a downer. But there's no need to drown in the dismal, sometimes depressing days. Let your writing be your Star in the East. Save on therapy sessions and write your heart out. Take those horrid or hilarious family gatherings and craft them into a scene. Make lemonade. And then, because you’re in the groove, the rhythm repeats. You get with the beat. Yes, Virginia, there is a time for every season. I do my edits and rewrites in December, January and February so I can send my manuscript to my publisher in March. They typically have it ready for release in July. For me, it's a good rhythm. Write no matter what’s going on around you, and in a matter of time, the cycle of writing will come full circle. Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. You can see what’s she’s up to at: 

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The Essential Key to Reaching Your Goals: Just Say No

Milou Koenings~ By Milou Koenings A few years ago, I was clearing out piles of papers on my desk. Note: This is a recurring goal of mine. I have fantasies of clear, minimalist workspaces. These are tempered by facts – studies prove people are more creative in messy spaces and I am very, very creative. Back to point. I was clearing out piles of papers on my desk. It was part of my New Year's Resolutions. Right there, number three on the list: Clear Off Desk!!! One particular piece of paper caught my eye because it was a hand-scribbled list that, like the one on my mind at the time, was titled: New Year's Resolutions. Double underline, plus a year – three years prior. Huh. Guess I hadn't made it to number three that year. I paused to see what else was on that old list. And that's when I pretty much gave up on New Year's Resolutions forever. Because except for the order in which some items appeared on it, it was exactly the same as the new list. Sleep more. Exercise more. Write more. Publish more. Eat more healthy foods. Eat less chocolate. Clear Off Desk!!! Right.  So if New Year's Resolutions didn't help me improve, what would? Surely, I was not doomed to live in a den of disappointments with no hope of a better me, was I? I chucked the resolutions and that was actually a transformative year for me. Many things happened that I can only liken to an earthquake shaking up my prior existence. Here's what I learned: Just Do It may work for Nike, but it didn't work for me. Setting more and more goals didn't help me accomplish more. It only grew my stress and disappointment. What I needed was this: Just Say No. Great ideas for novels sometimes come a dozen at a time.  Nora Roberts may be able to publish a dozen books in as many months (and leave me begging for more), but I am not. Pick three (two, one ... one half ...). And say no to all the others. Blog posts, short stories, articles, group projects – they're wonderful. So much fun. They could do such great things for my career!  Pick one, pick two. Say no to all the others. Social Media. Facebook fifteen times a day, Pinterest three hours a day, Twitter every thirty seconds ... Excuse me, who has time to write a book?  Make a plan, write it down and stick to it. And then say no to all the rest. All those papers on my desk?  Still too many, I'm afraid, but before they even land there... if they don't need to be there, just say no. It isn't the most sophisticated goal-setting program I've ever seen, perhaps not even a very inspiring one. But saying no helped me hit that year, for the first time, all the major professional milestones I had hoped for, whereas I'd managed, with a whole lot of work, blood, sweat and tears, to publish precisely zip in the eighteen months before that. And it keeps on working. I thought I'd reinvented the wheel. I was sure I was going to publish a book about this epiphany of mine. I already could picture my best-selling book cover: Just Say NO! Then a friend burst my bubble by sending me the following quote from Steve Jobs. Not only did Jobs beat me to it, he did so more eloquently:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done.”
Guess I'll be saying no to that particular book idea, then, so I can say yes to the contemporary romances I really want to write. Yes, to the books that are close to my heart. And yes, to more chocolate, sleep and exercise. Celery sticks ... meh ... Milou Koenings is an award-winning USA Today bestselling author who writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with happy endings bring joy to the world and so make it a better place. She's lived all over the world, working as a freelance travel and technology writer, but loves to stay home with her family more than anything. You can join her newsletter at www.miloukoenings.com Milou's a proud member of Sweet Romance Reads, where she blogs monthly every 21st of the month, and you can also get to know her better here:

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Goal Setting in 2016

PJs2015BioPic5 ~ PJ Sharon  PJ Sharon, here. As a published author with seven novels, a novella, a short story, a box set, and a non-fiction healthy lifestyle book (about to be released), I can say without a doubt that setting goals is essential to success. At the very least, setting goals will help you focus and keep you moving toward manifesting your dreams. It may also help you keep your sanity along the way. First, let me start by saying that “resolutions” are futile and “goals” are more like guidelines. Giving yourself absolutes is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. We aren’t perfect, and even at our best, we can only accomplish so much. “Resolving” to eat right, exercise, and publish two novels a year may seem like a good idea on January 1st, but what happens when we fall off the diet and exercise wagon or don’t meet that word count? Kids get sick, spouses and parents need attention, and let’s face it, the crazy world we live in is anything but predictable. Disappointment and attachment to failure can quickly derail motivation, so instead of making resolutions that will likely fall by the way side in a few weeks and leave you frustrated once again, here’s what I recommend. You’ll notice those goals above—eating healthy and exercising—are actually rather vague. The first key to goal setting is to be specific. Next, make goals measurable, realistic, and attainable. Write them down and don’t forget to set up rewards for when you reach a milestone. Specificity gives you a clear plan and a path to success. Instead of saying I’m going to “eat healthy,” say, “I’m going to have one egg, a piece of toast, and a quarter cup of cottage cheese for breakfast today.” See? Specific, measurable, realistic, and attainable. Fully expect your goals to change as the situation changes, and accept that your goals are simply a measure toward progress and not necessarily a final destination. Use goals to create a clear pathway to achieving your dreams and frequently evaluate what’s working in your plans and what’s not. Setting short term and long term goals can be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly for every project in your life. Not that life’s curveballs won’t likely derail the plan somewhere along the way, but having long range goals like a comfortable retirement are great motivators for keeping you on track. Breaking down your big goals into manageable steps can also make the big picture plan less overwhelming. Create lists, brain dumping grids, or use whatever method works for you, but find a way to get organized. Disorganization compounds feelings of being overwhelmed. Reassess goals quarterly as a rule, but don’t be rigid. Goals are fluid and your plan for setting them should be too. I’m a two-steps forward and one step back kind of goal setter, which means I am constantly taking a step back to reassess and make sure I’m headed in the right direction and that the goals I’m working toward are still what I truly want. Don’t be afraid to take a moment to regroup or even to change direction entirely if the path you’re on is making you miserable. Sometimes, the goals we set for ourselves aren’t conducive to the lifestyles we lead or even the least bit in keeping with what’s right for us. Make sure as you make and reassess your goals that you have your priorities straight. Know what is most important to you and keep your limitations in perspective. Unrealistic expectations lead to unnecessary stresses and are the first step to a downward spiral. For instance, I know that to keep up with the industry standard of publishing two books (or more) a year, I would have to work like a dog on my writing and give up other things that are important to me. Namely, spending one day a week with my granddaughter, running my holistic health care practice, and engaging in a consistent exercise regimen that helps me maintain a healthy spirit, mind, and body. Those are priorities that I won’t allow to take a back seat to writing productivity or financial gain. In addition, forcing myself to “produce” can take the joy out of writing…and isn’t that joy what makes the magic happen on the page? For me, the quality of my writing suffers when I don’t allow my creative process to flow naturally, and as for most things in life, quality usually trumps quantity. You need to be realistic about what you can, and are willing to do, to achieve your goals. One more point about goal setting. Sharing your goals can help you by keeping you held accountable and can help others by motivating them and giving them new ideas. Buddy up and work with close friends who are on similar paths. We aren’t alone in our struggles and needing to draw strength from others doesn’t make us weak. It simply makes us human. As January blusters in, have you set any goals for the first quarter of 2016? Are they specific, measurable, realistic, and attainable? In addition to authoring award winning young adult novels, PJ Sharon owns the holistic health care practice, ABSolute Fitness and Therapeutic Bodywork in Granby, CT. With over twenty-five years in the health and fitness industry, Ms. Sharon finally wrote the book all her clients have been asking for. Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle is a holistic living, self-help book, written to get people motivated and moving toward a more balanced and active lifestyle. When she’s not writing, or spreading the love through her practice, she can be found kayaking in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, and renovating an old farmhouse with the love of her life. E-mail address:  pjsharon64@gmail.com Website: http://www.pjsharon.com Follow PJ on Twitter: @pjsharon  / http://www.twitter.com/pjsharon “Like” PJ on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pjsharonbooks Find PJ on Amazon’s Author Central page: https://www.amazn.com/author/pjsharon Signup for PJ’s Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bm7rj5

Writing Sprints; I’m a Believer [Updated REPOST]

6B2B0212 (2) copy~ By Jeff Salter

[Note: This blog is based on detailed comments I sent to Nancy Herkness in October 2013, as she prepared an article on various writing challenges. Several sentences of my material appeared in that article, in the February 2014 issue (Vol. 34, Number 2) of Romance Writers Report (RWR).]

I used to look askance at the sprints – large and small – which I saw people chatting about. My initial reaction was: Writing is a solitary endeavor, so just do it by yourself and keep it to yourself. But after I accepted an invitation from a colleague for a small group sprint one evening in late May 2013, I was hooked. In that hour, I had produced nearly 1600 words on a story which I otherwise would not have gotten back to in who-knows-when.

Chatting about that experience (and perhaps several afterwards), I kind of stumbled into a separate group (previously begun by one of my Clean Reads colleagues) which she calls the Write-A-Thon. In that space, she – and, now, many others of us who’ve gotten involved – post our progress on certain projects, our daily word production (if notable), and (of course) our word counts from various sprints, including the main weekly one (to be explained below).

For a look at my earlier thoughts about sprinting, please take at look at my blog from August 2013:

http://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/sprinting-with-my-fingers/

Sprints as a Writing Challenge

The Write-A-Thon group/thread had been going on for quite some time, I believe, before I paid any attention to it – for the reasons I indicated above. But I was so jazzed by my experience in that very first small group sprint that I was yakking about it on the CR group and after several weeks. Around Aug. 1, I believe, our weekly sprinting adventure had been invited to migrate to the Write-A-Thon group/thread as a convenient venue.

We don’t have an official name, but I briefly called it the “Yee-Haw CR Weekly Sprint”. [No particular reason]. Most participants, however, think of it as the Write-A-Thon Sprint… though the Write-A-Thon group/thread often has other smaller sprints throughout the week.

Ours has taken the form of one hour – typically late evenings (Eastern time) – one night per week. We currently “assemble” at the Write-A-Thon group/thread in the few minutes prior to start time, type furiously for 60 minutes, and then begin posting our word counts at that site. At the end, one of us tallies the cumulative word counts for all participants and we often have over 10k words produced during that hour.

How I Arrived (and Why I Needed Help)

Over time, I had allowed myself to be basically frozen once I had a manuscript contracted and in edits. Of course, the edit process timetable was unpredictable (to me), so I might sit (mostly) idle – i.e., not starting anything new – for several weeks in a stretch, just waiting for the edits to return for my next part of the process. I couldn’t force myself to work on something different because I thought my brain had to be zeroed in on the particular story in the edit pipeline. Therefore, I lost weeks and months of potentially productive work time… just waiting.

After following that odd pattern for roughly 18 months – through the publication of three full-length novels and one short novella – I finally accepted that challenge of CR colleague and friend, Opal Campbell, to sprint with her and one or two others.

Then I was hooked: excited by my measurable progress on a different story, and truly stoked to learn that I could pick up a tale in mid-stride and actually produce — not only volume, but quality.

One unpredictable bonus:  each story I’ve sprinted on has developed some surprising and creative plot twists. I attribute this to the “flow” people describe when they’re sprinting without their inner editor being as engaged.

Difficulties / Coordination

Though the Write-A-Thon group/thread was begun by one particular author, this weekly sprint (which now uses that venue) is coordinated by the winner of the previous week’s competition. Our saying is:  winner gets bragging rights for a week and the responsibility for setting (and announcing / promoting) the sprint for next week.

The biggest challenge is selecting a date and time which will be convenient for the maximum number of participants. E.G., some of our participating colleagues are in places like Great Britain or Australia which are MANY hours ahead or behind a time we set in the U.S. Even inside America, we have a three hour spread between Eastern and Pacific time.

We’ve sprinted on several different days, but seem to favor Tuesdays and Thursdays the most. Though most of our sprints (so far) have started at 10 p.m. or 9 p.m. ET, we’ve also experimented with morning or mid-day sprints, some of which draw sizeable crowds.

We have lots of flexibility, especially for those overseas:  they’re allowed to sprint at a time workable for them and post their count. Then, when the rest of us sprint together, we aim for their mark.

Sprinting Goals

I had no particular goals when I began. In my 134 weekly sprints so far, my highest count has been 1823 words for the 60 minutes involved; lowest has been 815 words. Occasionally, I’ve missed a significant chunk of the sprint hour… but not enough to fret over. My approximate average for all 134 sprints so far has been approximately 1100 words per hour — a total of 147,400 words so far in 134 hours of writing!

My on-going goal is to add 1500 new words to whichever manuscript I’m sprinting on that hour and hope that I come in with the second highest total.  [That’s an inside joke, since the one with highest word count has to set and announce/promote the next week’s sprint].  

Concrete Results

Since May 2013, I have been busy revising, submitting, editing, correcting, proofing, and promoting other novels I’d previously written. Remember at the beginning of this article my whine about how I FORMERLY lost all those weeks and months between the various rounds of editing? Well, here is how I’ve done SINCE I began weekly sprinting in May 2013:

* started, finished, contracted, edited, and had published… two novels (G&MM and SOC8) and two novellas, (1SF and P2MM).

* started, finished, revised, and have either submitted or have ready to submit… three more novels (DOE, NEBA, and SM) and one novella (NEP).

* went thru the edits (for books previously submitted and contracted) on three novels which were released during this period (CUMC, HWR, and S7MI) 

* started numerous other stories (to many to list and related the word counts).

Summary: But I think you get my point: While (previously) I felt sort of stymied by the indeterminate lulls in the editing phases --- since I’ve been sprinting for 134 weeks, I’ve been decidedly productive!

What do you think? Have sprints helped you?  Leave a comment and let us know.  Besides 8 novels and 4 novellas (with three different royalty publishers), I’ve published non-fiction monographs, articles, book reviews, and over 120 poems; my writing has won nearly 40 awards, including several in national contests. As a newspaper photo-journalist, I published about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. I worked nearly 30 years in the field of librarianship. I’m a decorated USAF veteran (including a remote tour of duty in the Arctic). I’m the married parent of two and grandparent of six.

Wrimos on a Boat!

melissa~ By Melina Kantor  When it comes to NaNoWriMo, I'm known for being. . . enthusiastic. I start getting excited in October, if not sooner. In November, I walk around with my NaNo tote bag and my NaNo hoodie. Yup. I take it that seriously. The month long noveling frenzy has been a huge part of my life since November 2007, which is when I wrote my very first novel. This year, NaNoWriMo was extra special. It's my fourth NaNo in Jerusalem, and because of all the participation we had this year, it was the first time the community even began to compare to what I remember from New York (though our small but mighty group was always great). Honestly, I couldn't have asked to be part of a nicer, more giving, enthusiastic group of writers. IMG_1863But, come Day 29, I was losing steam. I was a day and a half behind, and not feeling very well. I'd plotted my novel, but I'd gone through most of my plot and was too tired to figure out what else to add. Lucky for me, that was the day one of my fellow Wrimos invited us to write on her boat in the Jaffa Port. Even luckier for me, I didn't cancel even though I woke up feeling awful. (A huge shout out to the group for being so very patient with me.) As soon a we got out of the car and immediately smelled the sea, I knew it was going to be an experience I'd never forget. Read on for highlights. 1. It felt great to be out of the intensity of Jerusalem, and in a place I’d only been to once (yup, that's a collage of the setting of my story on the screen).

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2. I put my hero and heroine on a boat, and then I made my heroine seasick. Since I was feeling really seasick myself, after not feeling well to begin with, it wasn’t a stretch. In fact, I was so dizzy I swore that the ramp onto the boat was moving. Rationally, I know it wasn’t, but to me it was spinning all over the place. Turns out, my character has similar reactions to boats. Who knew? (Again, a shout out to our host for being so patient.) But, all that upped my word count. [caption id="attachment_6474" align="aligncenter" width="240"]IMG_1873 See that ramp?[/caption] 3. There was a lot of laughter. A typo like this  on a menu and a bunch of writers? Hysterical. [caption id="attachment_6498" align="aligncenter" width="300"]12310673_10153606790620033_2665680747230837325_n Emotional Cheese. . .[/caption] 4. I saw how close I was to the setting of my book (my family's village in Crete)! Thanks for pointing that out, Victoria!

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5. How can you not be inspired in such a gorgeous place? (Note the "Jaffa Oranges.") [gallery ids="6486,6487,6488,6489,6491,6492,6493,6496,6497"] 6. The company was fabulous! Every time one of us reached a milestone, like 1,000 new words, we cheered. If we had a plot issue, we voiced it. I won't lie. Friendly peer pressure also helps. Here’s some of what some of the other "boat writers" had to say:
All the write-ins organised during the month helped me to get my novel written. Writing is usually such a solitary activity, and sharing the experience with others who are attempting the same thing at the same time provides much needed encouragement. I particularly enjoyed our day on a boat in the port of Jaffa, five of us typing away as the boat gently bobbed on the waves. By chance, my characters were looking out at the same Mediterranean Sea, but further north, on a similar sunny day. In short, my fourth NaNoWriMo was by far the best I've experienced.

~ Miriam

We met in cozy coffee shops, Israel's most legendary literary cafe, and a rustic high tech work hub. But the most amazing space of all was a boat docked in one of the most ancient ports on earth - Jaffa. I'd already finished my draft. Being on the boat in great company, surrounded by history and gently rocked by waves I closed my eyes and typed three pages inspired by a mystical Jewish concept of the Bible, using the concept of the horizon to create a modern commentary for my story. It was a truly creative highlight of the entire month.

~ Victoria

There was a moment during NaNoWriMo that stands out for me. I was sitting on the aft deck of the boat in the Jaffa Port, from where real and fictional characters have arrived and left: Napoleon, Ramses, Neptune, Jonah. I was typing away, lost in the creation of the daily 1667 words, when I looked up at the water, the light, the light on the water - and I thought wow! I got here. This is all I have ever wanted. I am writing a book. Bonus: I am writing a book on a boat. Although there was water flowing beneath me, I know support and encouragement of our group that gave me the ground to make this commitment to myself and my gift. Sigh. Bliss.

~ Our Wonderful Host, Margot

Point is, if you feel you’re in a rut and are suffering from writer’s block, do something completely out of the ordinary. I continued the scenes I wrote that day and made it to the 50K word finish line the next morning. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity! Has a change of scenery ever helped you with your writing? Tell us about it in the comments! Happy Writing! :-) 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 to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Visit her at http://melinakantor.com. She has been an avid NaNoWriMo participant since 2007, and this year was one of the municipal liaisons for the Jerusalem region. 

Okay, so I got published, now what?[REPOST]

Kate George In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not really a chick lit author. I’m published in mystery, and I’m not sure if the romance/coming of age story I’m shopping at the moment would qualify as chick lit. Not that it really matters, because when it comes to getting attention for our books we all need help. It doesn’t matter if we are self published, with one of the big publishing houses, or with a small one, until we start selling really well we’re pretty much on our own when it comes to the publicity budget. Why is it that publishers throw money at books that are already selling well? I don’t know but I don’t fret about it. It is what it is. I’ve heard it said that making it big in writing – becoming a bestseller – is a crap shoot. It’s all luck. And that may be true, but I believe we make our own luck. What am I talking about? It’s hard to describe but I’ll try… Have you heard the saying “insanity is repeating the same behaviors but expecting a different result?” There are things we should do over and over again. Writing really good books is one of those things. We could probably add washing the dishes and taking care of our health to that list, but unless you live next store to Oprah or Ellen you probably need to get out of your rut if you want to get your book noticed. Unfortunately, getting out of our ruts is uncomfortable. We like our comfort zones. (Okay so I’m assuming you like your comfort zone, most people do, but if you are a daredevil or extremely outgoing you’ve got the edge on the rest of us.) I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. But I do want people to know about my books. So here’s what I did: I volunteered for a makeover spread for a national magazine. I was hoping that maybe they would put Author, Kate George, in my caption. They didn’t, by the way, but something better happened. I figured at the very least I might get to talk to a handful of people who hadn’t read my books and maybe I’d come away with one new fan. We’ve all heard that we build our readership one person at a time. So that was my goal. I had to drive myself to New York, pose for the camera, get my hair dyed, go through styling and makeup, and pose for the camera again. All those things were way out of my realm of experience, but I have to say driving in New York City was the worst part. I live in a place with virtually no traffic. New York freeways are intimidating to me. The people at the photo shoot were really kind to me – that part wasn’t nearly as bad as the driving. Anyway at some time during the day we were all talking about what we did, and when the editor in charge of the photo spread found out I wrote books she offered to read and review one for me. I jumped on that offer, let me tell you. Six months later the review came out and my sales started climbing. Yay! Would this have happened if I’d stayed in my safe and rural part of the world? No it wouldn’t have. So am I recommending that you all run out and volunteer for a makeover in a magazine? No. Let me say that again. No. It worked for me, but you need to do what works for you. What I’m saying is get out of your comfort zone. Do things that put you in contact with people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to. If you only reach one person, that’s okay. Your best fans will be people you really connect with. Those are the people that will talk about you, and your books. They will start the word of mouth thing going. Here’s the hard part. After you do that once – go and do it again. Volunteer to be on talk radio. Organize a reading for a group of authors at your local library. Dance at the local park. Not everything will work, but those experiences that don’t create new readers will probably make really good material for your next book. Walk out the door and talk to someone new. Go forth and make your own luck – you can’t lose either way. When Ms. George first discovered Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie she realized that she could use her own off-beat sense of humor in her novels and she began writing seriously. Ms. George has always loved animals and they find their way into her novels on a regular basis. The dogs are often based on her own canine children and their fictional antics are usually rooted in the truth. The incident with the crazy skunk in California Schemin’ (March 2011) is not fictional, and although Ms. George did not actually tame the skunk in question, the attack is a true account and her house stank for days. For the record, the dogs would rather stink than be washed with peroxide, baking soda or dishwashing soap ever again. Moonlighting in Vermont is Ms. George's first book.

Craft Books and the Creative Process

Win Day~ By Win Day
Note: This post originally appeared here
I love to watch people work. No, it’s not that I’m lazy, or that I just want to sit on the sidelines of life. But I really enjoy watching someone do something they do well. Especially when it’s something I don’t know how to do myself. It doesn’t matter what that something is. On a recent 5+ hour flight the teenaged girl next to me braided and rebraided her long straight hair maybe a dozen times, each time a little differently. Since my hair is frizzy curly and doesn’t lend itself well to that sort of styling, I was fascinated by both the sheer number of different things she could get her hair to do and the apparent ease with which she made them happen. Chopping veggiesCooking shows intrigue me. I can’t figure out how they can cut and chop so quickly without leaving little bits of themselves mixed in with the minced onion. Construction sites are an endless source of interest: so many people doing so many different things! Music is another treat. Watching a performance, listening to a recording: I get caught up sometimes in the HOW of the piece as much as in the simple pleasure of experiencing it. I’ve got some recordings ABOUT recordings produced by a couple of my favourite artists. Live recording sessions, complete with interruptions to make changes on the fly; annotated recordings, where the singer/songwriter explains the production choices she made in compiling the final version: I take great delight in these glimpses into someone else’s creative process. When I started to write my novel I immersed myself in craft books and workshops. I’m all about process. In my business life my projects live and die by the processes I’ve developed over the years. I figured I could apply the same sort of systematic approach to writing the novel. Hah. Worried about booksIt didn’t take me long to get frustrated. No one process, no one system, called to me and said “look, look, this is how you do it!”. I found myself skimming and looking for highlights, those little gems of wisdom that I could incorporate into my own slowly developing process. I had forgotten that it took me years of  building websites and coaching web strategy to figure out my processes and systematize them. I wanted that same sort of ease, that same sense of certainty in my path, in my writing — and I wanted it RIGHT NOW! Dream on. Wasn’t going to happen. It took me the first few months to come to grips with being a pantser rather than a plotter. When I write for business I create an outline first, then deepen and annotate the outline, and THEN start writing. I expected that writing fiction would work the same way as writing non-fiction. And it might for some, but it sure doesn’t for me. For the novel I had just started writing. I knew the overall story I wanted to tell, I knew a bit about my heroine and hero (although I’ve learned a heck of a lot more along the way), I had some of the story arc highlights in mind, like stepping stones in a stream. But I didn’t have an outline, that bridge across the stream. At one point I needed to create a synopsis to enter a contest, but that was before I had reached the halfway point in the story I knew I wanted to tell. So I outlined, and then annotated that outline, to create a synopsis. And damned if the thing didn’t end up being more of a stumbling block than an aid. I found myself writing into plot dead ends because I was trying to force the story to follow the roadmap rather than letting it unwind as the characters told me what they wanted me to hear. Or I’d get stuck and simply could NOT figure out what was supposed to happen next. Because that wasn’t what was supposed to have happened at all. CreativeI scrapped the synopsis. And the writing started to flow again. But I still bought and read craft books, and attended craft workshops, even though they weren’t really “helping” me much. Or not as much as I expected them to. Or not in the way I expected them to. I finally figured out that what I value in those craft books and craft workshops isn’t so much what they are trying to teach me about a process or a method. It’s the glimpse into someone else’s creative process, more than the potential influence on mine, that’s important to me. There’s a whole lot of craft stuff I have yet to explore. It’s early on in this journey yet for me. But I’m less concerned about making sure that my work in progress conforms to the three act play, or whether I have the hero’s full external and internal goal/motivation/conflict all worked out in advance, than I used to be. I’ll just tell my stories and write the best books I can. And enjoy hearing about how other authors write theirs.
Win Day is a geekie web developer who loves to write stories about strong men and savvy women. Visit her writing website at www.windaywrites.com or her web development company at www.creativeimplementations.com.