Writing in Multiple Genres

March 24, 2008 at 11:01 am | Posted in creativity, getting organized, Jessica, writing | 2 Comments
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Back in February, I found a post written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted on Juggling Genres and the thoughts she shared have been bouncing around in my head ever since as I try to process what she said and see how it applies to my own genre juggling.

I admit, I was relieved to hear how Lauren phrased her reasons for diversifying her writing because quite honestly I had begun to think that I suffered from Writer’s A-D-D. My brain just does not want to hunker down and stay fixed in one particular genre or on one particular project at a time . . . and I have been struggling with myself in wondering if I just lacked the discipline to focus on the work at hand or if my creativity tended to function better if I gave it some license to roam from one project to the next.

After reading Lauren’s argument and after thinking through some other advice I have received over the years, I acquiesce that perhaps I land with a foot in both camps. And I have concluded that having Writer’s A-D-D is not wholly a bad thing.

The good news is that I have more than one idea when it comes to the stories I want to tell. The well is well-stocked and the voices all compete for air time. I have suffered creative draughts at times in the past, and, speaking from that experience, the schizophrenia is a much more cherished problem to have!

I have found, too, that when things start to stall on one project I can switch gears and start on another. And that change in focus somehow helps kickstart ideas and a number of solutions flow in a way that would not have happened if I forced myself to jackhammer through the block. Switching between projects tends to free my thoughts.

I like, too, that I will have different projects to discuss with different industry professionals, when and if I have the opportunity. The pendulum in the industry swings in odd ways at unexpected times, and you never know how your variety of projects may fit into the market. But for me, I write what feels authentic rather than to write what’s hot right now.

There are some dangers I can foresee in starting more than one wip at a time and in more than one genre, especially for an unpublished author —

–I know of a number of colleagues who are great at conceiving of new and interesting book ideas and getting the intro and some bones down on paper. The books start off well and have great promise, but these writers get to chapter three and decide to start something else . . . then never get back to the project left behind. The danger here is in not finishing what is started. This is where Writer’s A-D-D is potentially very destructive. Without the pressure of a contract or a drop-dead deadline, an unpublished author’s flexibility in this instance can do more harm than good.

–Some additional advice for unpublished authors wanting to write in multiple genres is to be consistent with the first few projects you sell out of the gate. The goal is to build an audience with your author brand so that readers know what kind of story they will get when they purchase one of your books. The consistency will build readership and anticipation . . . and rolling out books in more than one genre can stall loyalty and momentum.

The reasoning in Lauren’s post struck such a chord with me — we each are complex creatures with many sides to our lives and personalities, so what is more natural for a writer than to want to explore all those facets of being human? It is an excellent way to keep the writing fresh and interesting for ourselves, which is something Bria will talk about on Wednesday.

For now, I will leave you with another helpful blog post from CopyBlogger on 3 Sure-Fire Steps For Beating the Content Blues. These tips are great for people who may suffer from some attention deficit with their writing. I hope they help and I hope you keep writing — and if you’re working on more than one project in more than one genre, we’ll be rooting for you to find success with all of them!

-Jessica

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Writer Burnout – Friend or Foe

March 12, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Bria, career, creativity, writer's block, writing | 14 Comments

This month we had two wonderful Honorary Heartlettes guest blog for us. Mary Buckham and Diana Snell inspired us all.

Throughout the week people wrote in with their struggles and thanked the ladies for their generous words. There was a common denominator through most of the issues – they were all caused by burnout.

While burnout feels bad, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of it as a catalyst.

Burnout forces you to look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

Last week Jessica told me about a book she was reading and it dawned on me that I hadn’t read a book in weeks – everyone who knows me, gasp now. Typically I read a book each day and (when I’m not on assignment) I can read 2 a day and still enjoy my writing time.

But, with the Golden Heart finalists to be announced in 14 days, I’m in a bit of a panic. All the changes I wanted to make! All the editing that needed to happen! The proofing! The polishing! How will I ever finish?

Do nothing but write/edit/rewrite/edit/read/edit/polish/edit/polish. . . Burnout.

Burnout wasn’t on the list, but it happened.

This weekend I read two new books and one of my keepers. I watched a movie. I made some notes. I worked on my CP’s stuff. I started researching warriors’ castes and societies as war itself.

And the dreams started again – the ones that are so clear I have to get up in the middle of the night and write.

Burnout forced me to change my patterns and nothing but creative good came from it.

Treating writing as a career means knowing that, just like any job, you need to manage your stress before it becomes burnout. But once it does, just like any job, there are cures:

Look at your schedule – is it realistic, is it manageable, have you added unneeded extras, are you delegating (yes, your 8-year-old can unload the dishwasher.)

Are you beating your head against a wall – sometimes we call it “writer’s block” but it may just be burnout. Change your routine with one of Bria’s R’s:

 1. Research – sometimes research makes us look at what we’re writing about in a brand new way

2. Relaxation – it isn’t that you don’t have the time to relax, it’s that you don’t have the time to not relax. Writers are creative people and stress kills creativity – even if it’s one night off – relax and recharge.

3. Renewal – Beyond relaxation, renewal brings a freshness to your life and your writing. Think of relaxation as recharging a battery – great, but the life isn’t as strong or as long lasting. Renewal is buying yourself a brand new battery right out of the factory. Everyone’s is different. I gave myself a weekend alone in New Hampshire hiking (please, no lectures on hiking alone.) the time, the atmosphere and the activity brought me home excited to get to work again.

4. Remove Refuse – You heard me. Stop being so nice. There are people, activities and belongings that clutter your life and create a negative impact on, not only your writing career, but your life, your relationships and your joy. Get rid of them.

So, get out there, burn your burnout and then, Go Write.
-bria

RESEARCH: When to say When

February 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm | Posted in Bria, creativity, research, writing | 4 Comments

I’ll be honest from the beginning: I love research. I’m was that seven year old who would look something up in the encyclopedia and end up on the floor, surrounded by books, cross referencing everything with a handy-dandy dictionary in my lap.

My parents had no idea what to do with this.

I’m sure many writers have similar memories.

And so, let’s focus on, well, focus.

Research can grow wings and bring you places you’ve never been before. But how often are those tangents helpful for what you’re working on right now? While extra information can often turn your story in a newfound direction or give you story ideas for the future, it can also bring your current work to a screeching halt.

Before you begin your research, ask yourself:

• What do I need to know?
• Why do I need to know it?
• How does it fit into my story?

Post these next to your computer screen to keep you on target.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
If you’re clear on what you need to know, it will cut down on the bunny trails.

If you need to know about regency carriages, you don’t want to end up reading the entire history of the British Transportation System – sure, some of it might be interesting (that’s pushing it even for me) but, remind yourself of your time period and purpose.

WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW IT?
Let’s continue with the carriage example.

So, purpose. Someone looking up regency carriages is most likely to be doing that in order to give their character transportation. You wouldn’t want your governess riding about in a 1800’s version of a Ferrari or your Duke to brag about his Yugo.

If that’s your purpose, stop at the definition stage.

BUT, let’s say that Duke we were just talking about is horse mad and owns and races several carriages. The questions grow to where’s and how’s.

HOW DOES IT FIT INTO MY STORY?
Is this such a significant part of your story that it drives the plot, or a passing note?

Obviously if it’s only a small bit of information thrown in for setting and realism, it isn’t worth three days of research.

But, if the Duke’s whole reason for existing is tied into those carriages, if they pop up again and again, if they almost become a character themselves – then a lot of research is going to be needed to do them justice.

The point is that, just like any good thing, you CAN have too much research.

Be clear of what you need and why and know when to say “when.”

Love the word, do the work and Go Write
-bria

What I learned from a Hottie Band

February 6, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Bria, career, creativity, inspiration, music, writing, young adult | 6 Comments

Not long ago I heard a bunch of bands play out at a club and got a valuable lesson in writing (not to mention hotties.)

The first band came on – a bunch guys in their teens. Not bad. The sounded like a garage band and I think the sound guy was doing them a disservice in the still empty bar by having them amped so high the singers words were indistinguishable. But I enjoyed the show.

The second band came on, guys in their late 30’s/early 40’s. It was obvious they were all good at what they did. The made the band before them sound even more unfocused – the were a lot of fun and their set flew by.

The third –First Ave – band came on next. These guys had it going on the moment they started their individual sound checks. I turned to my friend and said, we’re going to like these guys, I know it.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote my vows to my craft, and one of the things I swore was that “I will behave professionally when representing my writing and myself and I will work at it as though I am already being paid.”  These guys did that.

The got on the stage and worked it like they were already rock stars (but not in an obnoxious way.) Individually they sounded great, coming together as a band, the sounded well  – I don’t know the music term for it, but if I was reading a novel, I would say “Their writing was tight.”

The worked the stage at every angle: Good music, professional (ok, rock star, but that’s what they’re striving to be) and hard work.

Hard work? How in the world could you know they were putting in hard work, Bria?

No one, no matter what their craft, gets their sound (words/paragraphs/chapters to us) that tight without a lot of focus, practice and dedication. I just wish I could bottle their charisma too!

I challenge you to check them out HERE and find your own new form of inspiration. What makes you think about your writing in a new way, who really challenges you?

Go Look inside and then Go Write,
-bria

Look back and Laugh

October 31, 2007 at 9:07 am | Posted in Bria, character, creativity, dialogue, Fast Draft, format, hero, inspiration, self-editing, writing | 2 Comments

I’m away at a week long writer’s retreat and so this week’s blog is my top ten of my own posts – feels like cheating, except I’m looking over my own stuff, so it’s a good review for me, right?

1.        The Grand Gesture
I love this post. The childhood story really happened, I love to think about what makes a good hero and, best of all, Elizabeth Boyle commented – I mean, seriously.
Which brings me directly to #2

2.     Too Perfect
It takes a look at how having a perfect hero isn’t perfect, it’s annoying and a little weak. A quick shout out to Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages helps to look at creating a more realistic character – especially the hero or heroine.
Sticking with heros and men is #3

3.   Sexy is as Sexy Does
Let’s take a look at what’s attractive AND what isn’t.

4.     Where the HECK is my Blog
Yet another reference to my own quirky-luck and self competitiveness.

5.     Dialogue and Punctuation
A writer’s rant turned into a public resource. LSU linked to us as a resource for how to punctuate dialogue — I’m so glad it was helpful to people. The basics should be what slow your writing down.

6.     My Blog Crush
More of my quirky look at life – I took the idea of a new inspiration and turned it into, apparently, a running joke online. The poet really is very good and one of the places I go when I need to re-think how I’m using words.  Right now that place is Tamara Pierce – how does she squeeze those stories in 55K words?

7.     The World In My Head
Yes, I’m one of those people who can be alone in a crowded room creating my own world. Especially during Fast Draft time such as this post fell into.  I KNOW some of you are doing NaNoWrMo, so you must know how I feel forced to focus all my energy in that one story for 2 weeks straight. 20 pages a day, what was I thinking – Thanks Candy Havers!

8.     What I Can’t/Won’t Write
This post got a lot of attention from people commenting off the blog about my willingness to throw this idea out there. Thanks for supporting my stand with my own personal values.

9.     Story Serendipity
Thank goodness for it!  That’s all I have to say.

10. Formatting Your Baby
It caused controversy in the comments and the FlanTastic chat, but the info there was checked by two print editors so I’m standing by it.
Well, this was fun. Hopefully right now I’m at the retreat writing a masterpiece — or at least not embarrassing myself too badly. 

Let me know your thoughts — I always love to hear feedback, positive and negative (yes, I said negative screw the “constructive.”)

Go Write
-bria
 

Mommy, tell me a story?

October 4, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Posted in creativity, imagination, Meg, story, storytelling | Leave a comment

My son loves books and stories. When he was younger we’d sit in the rocking chair and I’d create fantasies of his exploits with superheroes, dinosaurs and Peter Pan. His begging and whining for more kept him up long past bedtime so I had to create a story to limit the stories.

That is how Sagabell came into our lives. Sagabell is Tinkerbell’s sister and the Fairy of the Story. In the magic tree in Neverland, she weaves elaborate tales of mischief and fun. Each night she flies to our home and if my son is fast asleep, Sagabell leaves her handiwork in our magic story jar. If she finds him awake, her tiny wings fly her home and we have no adventure to ‘read’ the next night. And since she’s so small, she can only bring three stories to us. Then it’s lights out and off to sleep as fast as can be.

Believe it or not, this worked every night. Bedtime was a joy and we both looked forward to seeing if Sagabell came. He took his stories out of the magical jar, told me who was in them and listened attentively. Of course, he often tried to convince me Sagabell had snuck in an extra small account of life on Neverland and sometimes she did. That pixie couldn’t resist his excitement and cute freckles (or fairy kisses) anymore than I could.

Unfortunately, Sagabell no longer visits us. My son has outgrown his nap and falls asleep too quickly at bedtime for a story. Believe me, I’m not complaining, but sometimes I miss those moments when we escaped into a magical world where he battled Captain Hook or when Timmy the T-Rex moved into the neighborhood.

I loved that time for many reasons, one being that it reminded me how important the story is. You can have wonderful characters gifted with the ability to fly, but without having something for them to do, they just hover in the air. The story is in the action. The verbs we use to tell what’s going on. The answer to “and then what did he do?” Or “then what happened?” And “why?” That was how Sagabell came about- the ever present why in a toddler’s vocal repertoire.

Me: You can’t have another story tonight.
Son: Why?
Me: Um, because there aren’t anymore to tell.
Son: Why?
Me: (insert pause as I scramble for a good enough answer to stop the inquisition) Because the story fairy didn’t bring anymore last night.
Son: Why?

If you’ve ever been around a toddler in this phase, you know what I’m talking about. And I’m sure you had a limit on your creativity and finished with “Because I said so!” Unfortunately, in writing, we don’t get a “Because I said so!” We have to take the story to its end, even when we have no idea what to do with flying heroes. And when you’re stuck, use a toddler to prompt you with that wonderful “why” or “and then what does she do?” (I don’t recommend a real one in case you have limited patience- pretend or ask a grownup to help you). You’ll be amazed how quickly you get to the root of the story arc when pestered. Then you’ll have something exciting for the flying hero to do, something unique and attention grabbing so the reader will want you to put another story in their jar.

-Meg

The Color of Superstitions

September 5, 2007 at 9:52 am | Posted in Bria, creativity, Fast Draft, writing | 3 Comments
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I love new beginnings. The beginning of a new project is no different then any other new relationship.Every year when school started, I would have to get organized just so. I loved it.

I shared my locker with my 3 closest friends (it was in the premier location) and so I color coordinated my things to be able to find everything quickly:

English: Blue notebook, folder and book cover

History: Yellow notebook, folder and book cover

Math: Red notebook, folder and book cover

You get the idea. At first, everyone laughed at me, but they slowly noticed how quickly I could grab my stuff, have time to chat and get to class. And I always had the right things for the right class.The concept stuck with me.

I currently have three WIPs – and, while they’ve overlapped a little, they all start with their own colors.

YA Fantasy – Red. Red accordion folder, red notebook, red (ok pink) post its.

Historical Romance is all about Blue.

Short tongue-in-cheek contempt is a Green work all the way.

But the colors don’t stop there.  My editing pen colors are very specific as well, and this superstition has a tight hold on me. I once had to stop editing when my purple pen died to buy another one – a different color just wouldn’t do.The first run through of my Fast Draft work is in green. I love green pens and I know the FD is going to have a lot of edits, so I might as well love the color. Second run through edits are printed on the other side of the green edits and are purple.

With the two colored pens I know I’m always being consistent on which copy I’m looking at. I never grab the wrong set of edits.And then a new sheet of red pen edits – hopefully close to the final draft.

Now I can’t start a new project without it being assigned a color. I hadn’t realized this until a co-worker pointed it out, but it’s absolutely true.

I know superstitions are silly but growing up around a very superstitious Irish grandmother can definitely make you hold on to things. It works for me and it’s practical, so I choose to just call it organizing.

Go get organized and then, Go Write.

-bria 

The World In My Head

August 15, 2007 at 11:30 am | Posted in Bria, creativity, Fast Draft, inspiration, writing | Leave a comment

“But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” W.B. Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright.

Where do I write? If you want to know where to physically find me as I type away, I’m generally at the Barnes and Noble two towns over. They have an overstuffed chair section squeezed up against the windows between biography and sports – typically a quiet place to do my thing. But if you want to know where I write, that’s a little harder.

As Fast Draft begins again, I live in my head as I walk through the world.

My dreams have returned. I dream of Brennid and Faela in Technicolor reality, something that I cannot even reach for in my waking hours. I walk with them and feel their emotions and smell the dankness of a cavern or the smoke from the fire. The moonrise ritual each night dances before my eyes, as the water hits the ground and seeps through the sand.

Walking down the street this morning, Faela and I had a conversation about why she cannot align her duty with her desire. I asked her if it was not duty, isn’t it what she would have been looking for all along???

She had some choice things to say about my ‘dominating attitude.’ I tried to remind her I was the writer. . . that didn’t go so well.

Later, as I was cooking dinner, Brennid stood over my shoulder pointing out how bland my meal was. With his typical “In Seria we make everything an art to the senses. . .” statement, I finally tried opening that ‘new’ spice rack a friend gave me.

Thinking to escape them in the quiet of the shower, I let the water soothe me as I focused on anything that didn’t have to do with getting my 20 pages a day done. The headache that I’d been nursing all day needed some quiet to dissipate.

Yeah, did I mention that water is one of the two symbolic entities? The headache isn’t gone, but my central temple ritual is outlined.

So where do I write? I think the better question – if I’m truly chasing – is where don’t I write. Around us the world spins with Truths we bring to our work. Don’t let those moments and ideas slip by without capturing them.

So, Go Write!

-bria

PS – a Fast Draft team member asked me what I learned last time I Fast Drafted. Here’s what I told her.

Creative Spaces

August 13, 2007 at 8:48 am | Posted in creativity, Jessica, writing | Leave a comment

We thought it might be fun this week to talk a little bit about a particular piece of our writing processes, namely where it is that we get the writing done. I receive a number of electronic writing newsletters, and I love receiving each one for different reasons – between them, just about all of my writing interests, curiosities, and questions either get met or sufficiently piqued. One such newsletter, The Motivated Writer, has a fun segment in each issue called, ‘Creative Spaces’ in which a featured author provides a snapshot of the places where they write.

As for me, I don’t have a well-organized or feng shui’d space where I get my writing done. I just switched apartments, so while the intention is to have a home writing office I am still in the process of unpacking, decluttering, and purging, and, unfortunately, my eventual office is now my temporary storage facility.

I have had to find a way to get the writing done whenever I could find the time, wherever I was at the time. On an Alpha Smart or a spiral bound notebook, I have been able to continue on but have not been the most efficient writer.

All is not lost, however. I also just recently broke down and purchased my very first lap top and my writing is now more with me than it’s ever been. The good news: I can now write with greater ease, just about anywhere. My favorite place to work is in my new apartment while curled up on my loveseat or hunkered down in my bed, depending on the time of day.

So while I still strive to align my life with feng shui principles, the investment in my new lap top gives me a creative freedom and portability I hadn’t felt before. On the flip side, I have no more excuses not to write. As Marley so aptly stated last week, writers never truly take a vacation.

Have lap top, will write!

But when I do finally get that office ship-shape, perhaps I, too, will be able to share pictures of this motivated writer’s new creative spaces.

Wherever you do your best work, I hope you have the chance to spend lots of quality time there this week. Happy writing!

-Jessica

Lost in my own mind

July 27, 2007 at 3:06 pm | Posted in creativity, Meg, relationships, writing | Leave a comment

Ahh the contreat! A whole weekend to talk about writing, do some writing and read some writing. Heaven on earth. At least for me. It was great to be with my two heartlette pals- we laughed, we learned and (yes, as you can guess) we wrote.

At least I did. Being the wonderful, understanding ladies that they are, Jess and Bria allowed me a good portion of Saturday evening to finish a chapter I’ve been struggling with for weeks. They vacated the premises and checked in periodically to make sure I hadn’t tossed my laptop over the balcony in frustration. I finished the chapter and then some. It was great.

Well, mostly great. The problem was, I got so involved in my story, I had a hard time pulling myself out of it. When they returned and promptly instructed me to get out of my own head, I was too drained and my ability to communicate with live human beings disappeared. Verbally, I couldn’t complete my sentences or interpret nonverbal cues. I was a social mess.

If you’re a writer, I bet this has happened to you at least once (if not every day). You get so into your story or characters, you lose track of time and ability to function. Maybe you’ve missed an exit on the highway because you’re ironing out that conflict. Or you were late in picking someone up because that love scene was flowing out your fingertips. Or you lost bits of conversation because you were figuring out dialogue in your mind. Whatever the social infraction was, hopefully it wasn’t too detrimental to anyone’s welfare or relationship.

For me on the contreat, I was blessed to have two people who not only understood my needs, but respected them (even if they did laugh at me a bit). So I thank Bria and Jess for all they gave me on the contreat. I feel blessed to have these women in my life and I look forward to the next contreat!

If you’re thinking of attending a ready made conference, check out the chapter pages on RWA National. Just about every chapter has their own conference and some even have online courses. There is also Romance Divas that Bria has mentioned. They have courses all the time to enhance your writing. Or if you’re interested in having your own contreat with some friends, you can invoke your own guest speakers by ordering tapes of conferences (such as the 2007 RWA Nationals) to listen to with your writing friends.

–Meg

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