This morning, I sat in a crowded, hot gymnasium and watched my child sing his heart out at his Kindergarten Celebration. It was amazing. Amazing that I did not fully break into sobs (only got teary eyed). Amazing that just about every kid performed their heart out. And amazing that I found inspiration at this monumental occasion for my last blog.Okay, so that last one wasn’t so amazing. As you read last week, writing prompts come from everywhere, at any time, so elementary school shows can be a perfect place for that clarity and ‘aha’ moment. For me, it happened during the last song when all three classes sang:
“We’re great, but no one knows it
No one knows it so far
Someday they’ll realize how wonderful we are.
They’ll look at us and point at us
And then they’ll shout “Hurray!”
We’re great, but no one knows it
But they will some day!”
I think this is a mantra we should all memorize. For those of us struggling to finish that book, suffering through rejections or the endless wait for agent/editor responses, or yearning for our current published work to rise up the New York Times Bestseller’s list, we should all remember that we are great. Even though we might still have a lot left to learn, we are gifted and fantastic and someday soon, everyone will know it as long as we keep trying and working hard.
So for my last entry on this challenging and rewarding adventure in my life, I hope you take away the hopes and dreams I have for each of you. Keep working at it, keep writing and living your dream, because one day everyone will know how great you are. Someday you’ll walk into a room and get a ‘Hurray!’ I wish that for you!
And I wanted to thank Jessica and Bria for this journey. I learned so much about writing, myself and friendship, that I never would’ve experienced anywhere else. Both of these ladies are wonderful people and I hope they receive all the best in life.
When I graduated from college and then later repeated the event with grad school, one thing stood out in my head, one question echoed both times.WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Not that I was directionless or jobless or ambitionless or any other -less you want to throw out there, but time-wise I was shocked at how much time opened up from clearing out something I loved.
And boy, did I love school. I’m one of those lifetime learners people either completely identify with or think are nuts. But, even with the classes, commuting and commitment ending with the diploma handoff, the drive to fill that time was still there. Read! Write! Study! are difficult habits to break.
And so, while writing my last blog entry for Purple Hearts, I’m walking away with some amazing things.
The habit of regular research: The publishing industry is a complex and ever changing world. Working with Jessica has been an amazing, eye opening experience. I know few people who not only grasp the information and intricacies of the publishing world, but hold them and balance that knowledge in their heads for further dissemination.
The habit of balance: Meg has shown me that sometimes, REALLY, saying ‘when’ is important. Sometimes just knowing we can say ‘when’ give us the freedom to follow what we want and combine it with what we need.
The habit of reaching out: I have been amazed and humbled by the people who have been guest bloggers, commenters, blog-rollers, subscribers and drop-by visitors of the Purple Hearts. I have learned more through things people said in passing here – that to them may have been common sense – than to a lot of craft books I’ve read.
And so, as I take these new habits and apply them to my writing life, I know that this year of blogging has created a new writing me. A great thing to walk away with.
Thank you so much to everyone who has, on some level, been a Heartlette and participated in our merry little blog.
Check in over at my page where I’ll be occasionally updating with Things I Learn, Authors I Love and * hopefully* someday The Big News: HERE.
Good Luck to everyone. Don’t forget to keep writing because that’s what will get us there.
Tags: Dianna Love, Mary Buckham
Despite all the ups and downs, frustrations, and uncertainties, there are a number of satisfying things about writing and being a writer, and getting to the point where you can write THE END on a project is one of the best. But the accomplishment brings a bittersweet feeling as well, because after spending so much time working on something you love, something you devoted a great deal of time to, and something that has taught you A LOT, all that stuff also comes to a close with those two simple yet meaningful words.
And that’s how I feel about this blog, because today I write The End on my time here at the Purple Hearts.
Blogging over this past year has been an amazing experience. I learned more than I could ever convey and met some wonderful people as a result.
Two such people, Dianna Love and Mary Buckham, spent a day with us back in March with a post on BREAK INTO FICTION – WHAT IT TAKES TO GET PUBLISHED TODAY. In it, Mary shared the following:
The great news for writers everywhere is they have the choices daily to commit and work toward their goal of publication or not. They have the power. Many times as unpublished writers we think all the power is in the hands of editors or agents, but it’s not. It’s in your hands and the day you decide that nothing will stop you from being published is the day you’ll never turn back. You’ll make different choices as to how you spend your time, who you will associate with, how you will invest in your career. The greatest power to break into fiction publication rests with you and we’re here today to let you know that.
My leaving the blog comes down to the choices Mary mentioned above. Though endings are bittersweet, when one thing ends something new begins. And as writers we often look to start a new chapter with something completely different, which is exactly what I plan to do.
Thank you to those who spent your Mondays with me over this past year and to Meg and Bria for going on this journey with me. May you all keep writing and working toward your dreams!
After poking around the blog-o-sphere this past week, here are just a few blog postings we wanted to share with you:
In the past we’ve talked about the importance of word choice and making every word count and Phil Gladwin posted an awesome example on the Screenwriting Goldmine in his post, THE BEST DIALOGUE I NEVER WROTE . . . We really hope you check it out. It is so effective, it will give you chills!
We found this great new blog called Time to Write, and this week Jurgen Wulff writes about WHY YOU SHOULD WRITE ABOUT WRITING. Perhaps the advice shared can help make the process less of a struggle each time out. Click HERE for more.
And although this post is not from this past week, it’s another new blog (well, new to us) that we felt we should share. The blog is: Richard Curtis on Publishing in the 21st Century. One post worth mentioning, TWO WORLDS OF LITERATURE is worth a click. HERE.
Good stuff! Anything else you’d like to share? Please post the nod in our comments section so we can take a look.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Tags: Susan Wiggs, writing prompts
On Monday, Jessica ever so eloquently talked about writing prompts as a way to jump-start your writing. These prompts can be words, statements or high-tech concepts that can launch a scene or an entire book. The catalysts can be given to you (Jessica suggested numerous sites to find lists of prompts) or they can come from life. Inspiration can happen while your picking up your kids from school, shopping for groceries or watching Oprah. One never knows when lightening will strike and the concept for the next Golden Heart or RITA winner will rise in someone’s imagination.
My first book came from one simple statement uttered by a colleague at work (the same ‘prompter’ became the inspiration for the hero, but that’s another story for another time). My second story rose from a ‘what if’ moment. What could have happened if I had chosen a different path and stayed with ‘him’ instead of ending the relationship (mind you, I don’t think this ex-boyfriend would’ve turned into an alcoholic abuser, but the imagination travels far from reality sometimes. That’s the beauty -and curse -of being a writer). And believe it or not, the concept of my current manuscript came from a coffee stain on a book I’d borrowed from the library. It made me wonder who else had read the book and if they had enjoyed it or failed to finish it.
So writing prompts are everywhere- current events, past experiences, actual people, etc. I once had the pleasure of hearing Susan Wiggs talk about her process and she explained how a historical picture of a young woman launched the path to her current release, The Charm School. Imagine the power in that photo.
And writing prompts can be used to develop characters as well. As I’ve admitted often, I struggle with making my characters three-dimensional and have found worksheets to be useless. Instead, I’ve recently used a poetic device to remember the important characteristics I want in my hero and heroine. Once I’ve named the character (Sadie in this example), I use the letters to illustrate personality quirks, traits, etc.:
Aching from multiple losses
Invested in family
Escapes from life momentarily
Even names can be writing prompts to developing stories.
So what about you? What prompted your latest story, scene or character?
Every once in awhile we all have an “ah-ha” moment. I’m always jealous of writers who seem to get at least one big thing from every book, every speaker, ever workshop. Often, I feel my head nodding in agreement without the actual big moment coming. Lots of little, ‘yup. I got that’s’ but not a lot of epiphanies.
So, here I am, stalled out on the second book, and looking for an epiphany. A big AH-HA to get me moving again, when ironically enough, a discussion starts on the diva board last evening about first book fear.
I didn’t have that. I had no idea about all the ‘rules’ I was supposed to be following until the story was on the page. It was poorly written, but had great a great story and characters I connected with.
It took 5 weeks to write.
It took almost a year to re-write and edit.
Book two is obviously a completely different story (literally and figuratively) – I couldn’t grasp a strong desire to start book two.
Looking at the first pages of the first draft of my first manuscript truly opened my eyes. It was horrible. It didn’t flow, had errors all over the place, the world rules were in consistent, my sentence structure was blah, etc.
Book one, my beloved book one, was horrible.
Suddenly my metaphorical eyes opened. I could write horrible.
You see, all this time I thought I needed to write book two to the standard I had attempted to edit book one to. That is not going to happen because that took ten months.
We all repeat it again and again, but it’s apparently my turn to mis-quote the words of La Nora. “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.”
And so, Fast Draft is alive and well again. I’m FDing book two as we speak. It has its own challenges.
I’m doing less writing straight through because of chapters moved from the end of book one to the middle of book two. I’m having to go ‘back in time’ in a way to when my characters were younger, less evolved than where those moved chapters left them. I’m fighting against shifting directions because I like some of those moved chapters so much.
But still, I’m writing. I’m getting my 20 pages a day down and moving toward an extremely bad fast draft.
Just like book one.
Hearing the truth – Writing is Re-Writing – and knowing the truth are two different things, but it’s an ah-ha moment I won’t forget when it’s time to write book four. Or book five. Or. . .you get the point.
So, set aside your doubts, insecurities, annoyances and Go Write.
Just a reminder that we will be giving away a copy of Jessica Andersen’s book, NIGHTKEEPERS (released today!), at the end of the week. Please visit Jess’s guest blog on Hit the Gas and post a comment to be eligible. A lucky winner will be chosen at random on Friday afternoon.
Tags: Jessica Andersen, Marissa Doyle, Writer's Digest
Our friend, Marissa Doyle, has had great success with the debut of her novel, Bewitching Season. I couldn’t wait to buy this book when it hit the shelves on April 29. When I hunkered down and opened the first page, getting set to jump into this much-anticipated book, I was struck by her opening line — “Oh my God, you killed him!” — not because of the strength of the hook but because I recognized this very line as a writing prompt that was used in one of our RWA chapter meetings.
I was astounded that the one line used to jumpstart one of our chapter writing exercises launched this bewitching story Marissa had written. How very cool that six words could inspire the conception of an entire book! But isn’t that the way of it? Sometimes there is a lot more to prompt our creative ideas, but often the inspiration for a novel comes down to much less.
I thought a discussion of writing prompts would dovetail nicely with the topic of Jess Andersen’s guest post this week, because a prompt is one more option to use when feeling stuck in your writing. If you’re spinning your wheels, not sure what to do or where to go with your story, some free writing may be just the thing to help you through the quicksand. And what better way than to get a random suggestion, hit the gas, and run with it without a second guess.
Another web site that offers great prompts is called CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS. Feeling lucky? Pick a number at random to get your prompt for the day.
Or we can take a stab at it ourselves — what would you do with the following?
All was right with the world until that knock at the door changed everything.
Give yourself five minutes to write whatever comes to mind when you let your creativity play with that line. You never know if a random writing prompt could inspire you to hit the gas and write the book that becomes a much-anticipated new release!
Keep writing – the prompts are all around you!
Tags: Harlequin Intrigue, Nightkeepers
HIT THE GAS!
I’m a New Englander, which by definition means I drive way too much in the snow. I know that isn’t really what we want to be thinking of when we’re at the verge of summer, but bear with me. Or better yet, let’s turn it into a hydroplaning metaphor: it’s raining buckets and the roads are soaked. . . and you start to skid. What do you do next?
Well, let me tell you from experience that ‘hit the brakes’ usually isn’t a great answer. You’re way better off steering into the inertia, and either pausing a second… or hitting the gas. If you hit the gas, you might go flying off the road, you might break the skid and continue on your way, or you might do something in between those two extremes. But if you hit the brakes, you’re probably going to wind up spinning in place.
And personally, I’d rather make a mistake going forward than keep spinning my wheels, going nowhere.
The same can be said of the men and women of Nightkeepers (NAL, 6/3/08). They’re ordinary people like you and me (most of them, anyway) who are just now learning that they’ve inherited extraordinary powers and the task of saving the world from the prophesized 2012 doomsday. Time isn’t going to slow down and wait for them to catch up, nor are the Mayan demons who seek to precipitate the apocalypse four years before the 2012 end date. The Nightkeepers don’t have time to coast, and they sure as heck can’t hit the brakes. They can only go forward and deal with the consequences.
Will they fly off the road and wind up in a ditch? Maybe. Will they punch through and fulfill their twenty-times great-grandparents’ vow to protect mankind? Maybe. But you can be sure of one thing: they’re not spinning their wheels.
When I’m faced with a choice, whether in my writing career or my life, I try to make the active decision. It’s not always the right choice, but it’s a choice, dang it.
After I first conceived Nightkeepers, it took me a good eighteen months of research and writing, as well as an agent change, to get the project sold. But I kept writing and rewriting, throwing out version after version as I iterated to the final story. The same can be said of the writing process once the book sold, but in both cases, I kept moving forward. When something didn’t work, I tried something else with one goal in mind: making the story the biggest, best, brightest, loudest, sexiest book it could possibly be. I’d rather go down in flames for having tried something amazing and failed, than only partway failing because I only halfway tried.
So today, how about you challenge yourself? Make sure you make at least one of your mistakes going forward (but do your best to stay out of the ditch, okay?). And if you feel like it, let us know how it goes. Or tell us about a recent forward-moving decision that worked… or didn’t. Tell us… how did you hit the gas?
We’ll be giving away a copy to one lucky winner at the end of the week. Post a comment to be eligible.
Tags: Jennifer Jackson, Jessica Faust, Jonathan Lyons, Rachelle Gardner
It’s been a quiet week in the blog-o-sphere, we suspect because so many of our colleagues ventured to LA for Book Expo . . . but we managed to find a few noteworthy posts to share so here goes:
For more statistics on the number of books published, check out Laurie McLean’s blog notes on a recent RWA speech she gave at the San Diego conference. Learn the top five publishers of romance fiction (by sales), number of books published (rather than sold) by category, who are the readers, E-Books, POD Romance numbers and A LOT more.
What’s the difference between an agent and a publicist? Jessica Faust explains in her post, ARE AGENTS ALSO MANAGERS?
So . . . that’s our round-up for this week. Did we miss anything? Let us know! Please post your findings in this week’s comments section. We’d love to hear what you’ve found helpful from this week’s blog posts.
Have a great weekend!