Friday, August 31, 2018

My Writing Process

I have a weird writing process. In the 'biz, there are two types of writers. "Pantsers" who write by the "seat of their pants" and "Plotters" who make extensive outlines and character sketches. While I think about my characters a great deal, I don't ever write an extensive outline and although I like to discovery write, I can't be completely open ended or I'd go crazy. Hence, the hybrid term: plantser.  I like the term because it sounds like I might be plantsing through the pansies or something.

Anyway, usually I start with an idea, a premise, a character or even a title. And I plant it like a seed in fertile imagination watered with fiction and non-fiction alike. And I start my first draft. I call this a discovery draft and on bad days a crap draft.

I write about 20,000 words, exploring the world, and characters. Then I show it to my husband to see if my idea shows promise. Thumbs up, I continue.  Thumbs down, I can it. For now.

After my surely brilliant work of 20,000 I ask myself, what am I trying to say? What is the book about? Now I start to think. Writing looks a lot like staring out the window. But I also think about my book, my plot and my characters when I'm not doing anything that requires great mental energy: in the shower, while driving on errands, while punching a weighted bag (I wrote a lot of Baker's Dozen in my head while hitting the bag and listening to U2 in the basement of our house in St. Louis.) Exercise for me is a great time to "hear" my characters. My body is busy, but my mind can wander.

Most often I write dialogue first. I think it's my years of theater training, or perhaps because until sixth grade I hated wearing my glasses and depended largely on my auditory senses to gather information about my world. (I was as blind as a naked mole.) Whatever the reason, I write a scene in dialogue first, then go back and fill it in with setting and description. Details bring a story to life. The right details at least.

People ask me where I get my ideas. Well, they come from all over. I wanted Andy Baker to be a marital artist. I took Tae Kwon Do for a semester in college and loved it. All those hits on the bag in my basement was Andy's character getting stronger. When I wrapped my hands, the make-out scene in the workout room was born.

Hugh/Christiaan was born from an Imagine Dragons song. I had the idea of him, but I heard "Demons" and I was like, that's his essence. He's afraid of letting Andy inside because of what's there. Also "Monster." He's afraid of what he'll become and Andy, although she's tough, keeps him from going off the edge.

Publishing a book is scary. It's letting the reader (you) into my dreams. I'm giving you a part of my heart, my hopes, my fears. Writers face all sorts of rejection before we get published. It's encouraging to hear people enjoy my book, because it means we share the same dreams.  If you like action, adventure, romance and comedy then you'll enjoy my books.

What else would you like to know about writing?  Would you like to know the nuts and bolts of getting a manuscript published?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Balancing Life

Photo Cred: Monica Brown


Balancing your family and work is tricky at best. As a writer, I am plotting one manuscript, writing another, and editing yet another all while promoting the most current book. How do I balance that with all the demands of a wife and mother? One word: Prioritize.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I ask myself is what time shall I take my nap. Just kidding. Mostly. Actually nearly every week for several years, I write a list of priorities for that week, sometimes by the day. Anything with a deadline has priority, and anything not done will be moved to the next week. (I've had some things that have moved from week to week for several weeks until the items just fall of my lists completely.)

The one thing I prioritize is family time. This comes in the form of family scriptures and family prayer. Family meals get tricky with busy evenings, but we try for them.

I also prioritize my personal time to refill and recharge. Every morning I spend fifteen minutes in personal spiritual study/meditation and prayer. I also exercise daily for physical and mental health replenishment. I find if I don't do these things, I am not nearly as effective at wifing, mothering or writing.

The last thing I prioritize is time with my husband. He works a demanding job. We both volunteer time to our church. Making sure we connect is a priority. As a couple, we also take time to read the scriptures and pray every day. We also make sure we have a weekly date. Often the "date" is my husband reading my latest WIP and giving me ideas.

If I make sure I prioritize properly, then everything else falls into place nicely. Anything falling off the list, falls off the list.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Top Ten Tips for Fighting Discouragement

I asked my most ardent fans (my daughter and my husband) what I should write about on my blog and my daughter said I should write about encouraging others to keep writing. I feel like I've learned a lot in writing for the past ten years, and I'd love to share.

Writing, and almost any other creative endeavor is a long process. From the spiritual creation or idea of it until its execution and finished product can take months if not years. Keeping going during that time can become a challenge. Here are my tips to stay motivated.

1. Remember why you started in the first place. I am a storyteller. I always have been. I'm horrid at asking questions but learning. But I think of funny scenarios. I'm the dreamer. Someone tells me a detail and I create a story. I don't write for the royalty check. I don't write to be famous-- although that would be nice. I write because I believe fiction can heal. I write because I believe we all need to safely escape. I write because I want to create happiness for others.

2. Don't listen to the critics and the nay-sayers. There are weak-minded people who will always tell you what you can't do. These people have little imagination and I think they are cowards. Be the brave person who defies the odds, who conquers the mountain, who stands at the top and yells, "I did it!"

3. Find your tribe. This is so important to me. I love finding like-minded people who have the same goal. They will lift you up and remind you about your number one reason for creating. Communicate with your tribe, bear your soul to them let them lift you up.

4. Encourage others. No matter where you stand on the platform, you can always find someone to encourage. Creating isn't a competition or a race. It's a shared experience. And someone can always use an uplifting word.

5. Share you talents. Don't hide your candle under a bushel. Share to me means two things: one, let other people see your work and two, teach someone else how to do what you are doing. You'll be surprised how much you grow from either one of these two exercises. Musicians don't wait until they can preform the Moonlight Sonata before they play in public. "Swans on the Lake" is a concert piece as well as "Für Elise."

6. Just keep going. I lived in Switzerland in my twenties. True story time. Once, a friend and I were painting a bathroom for service in the back of hairdressing shop. While we were painting, a man came in to take a shower. I glanced at my friend, my eyes widened as this man started revealing flesh. "Just keep going," she said. We never would've finished the bathroom if we'd let every little thing stop us. Thankfully, he only took a "spit" bath, but the lesson is still the same. "Just keep going." Don't let anything stop you. Create through good times, through hard times, through sad times, through happy times. You'll be surprised what comes out when you do.

8. Get feedback from the right sources. One of the most discouraging thing for me at the beginning of my writing was rejection without a response. Why was I getting rejected? I wished they give me some clue as to why my work didn't meet their standards. It really couldn't be that "My story didn't resonate with them." I knew that was code for something else. I just didn't know how to decipher agent/editor-ese. At a writer's conference, I found out that there were contests I could enter and I could get feedback from judges who were agents, editors and other novelists. For a mere $25 entry free, I could find out why they would reject my manuscript. That was money well-spent!

9. Ask for help. I'm religious so this is something ingrained in me. I believe that God is a Creator and he wants us to be like him. When I am stuck, I ask Him for help. If you're not into praying, you can ask the universe, the Cosmos or a paid professional.

10. Believe in yourself and in what you are doing. Everyone has a unique perspective on life. If you don't believe me, just ask my kids who started the fight and they'll both give you different answers. You have something unique to give, something that no one else has. Give it, give it generously and it will come back to you generously. You are needed. Your art is needed!

What other tips help you fight discouragement?

Updated Cover for Baker's Dozen

Happy to announce the updated cover for Baker's Dozen! My publisher was so understanding and even asked me why I hadn't asked ...