Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ah Ha Moments

There is something magical about that moment when things finally click together. I mentioned in my last post that I am getting ready for my annual belly dance performance and have been struggling with the choreography for our group dance. I watched the tutorial videos, I watched the self made videos from our groups' rehearsals, nothing helped. I just couldn't get it to stick in my mind. I finally decided I had to go to the only rehearsal I would be able to and beg for help. Once I was there and moving with the music I found that rhythm inside and everything came together.

Writing is like that as well. I used to be one of those writers that says "I'm waiting for inspiration", "I just need to get everything perfect then I can write", "I can't just sit down and force it". The fact of the matter is none of that is true. Things are never "perfect" so if that is what you are waiting for, you will never write. Inspiration is all around us and as writers we can interpret it anyway we want. You don't wait for inspiration, you simply open your eyes to it. You absolutely can sit down and force yourself to work. It may take a few moments and a couple random paragraphs to get into the swing of things but with practice there is no reason for a writer to not be able to sit down and produce.

There are days when life gets in the way. Maybe you are sick, you have a day job, there is some major event happening that steals focus, these are all valid reasons why you couldn't write. They are also temporary. I'm not saying it is easy to pull up a chair and write the next NYT bestseller. If it were I would have taken my celebratory cruise years ago. (I promised myself and my manager an Alaskan cruise with my first advance big enough to take one.) But it is certainly possible to train yourself to work in a number of situations.

Just as you improve with every book you write, every class you take, or craft focus article / book / webinar, you can also improve your work ability. If you are in between projects or simply having trouble focusing on the one you want to finish, take a day and write something fun. Sit down, find a writing prompt that speaks to you (you can find prompts everywhere, trust me) and see what you come up with. I used to do an exercise in a writing group where we would all pick story elements for each other then the person would take all of the pieces chosen for them and create a short story. It was similar to a MadLibs style exercise and gave us some great laughs and creative works.

IN any form of creation, whether it be performance, writing, or even something delicious like cake art, there is that moment. The one when the vision becomes a reality. When every part comes together to give the artist a true understanding of the piece. I love when I bake and get to put all the small parts together so I can see it as a whole. I have always enjoyed the brief instant after I put on my costume and feel the music begin to flow through me when I am on stage. But there is nothing quite like those "ah ha" moments when you realize something or hear a character talking and suddenly know things just moments before had been a mystery even to you. Art of any sort has that moment and I for one live to experience them.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Crunch Time

For those wonderful people that read my blog, you may have noticed I have been absent for awhile. I have been diligently working on numerous projects but I apologize for the periodic (and in this case extended) negligence here. I did want to mention I have finished the rewrite of my debut novel Never Give Up and cannot wait to update the cover and Amazon link on my website as well as on Facebook and here. I have also been doing some personal things such as helping my mom as she prepares to enter a new chapter in her life and working to make a possible career change in my day job as well.

One of the things weighing on my mind is my upcoming belly dance performance I participate in annually. I am sure you are thinking, this is a writer's blog...why would we care about belly dancing? The fact is, like most creative types, my varied interests all tie together. Belly dancing affords me the opportunity to keep a toehold in a world that was one of my first loves, performing. There is a sense of freedom and escape when I move to the music. There are also lessons I take from each element of my life and apply back to others. Just today there were two things that struck me about belly dancing and writing that are shared. Taking a chance on something new and leaving things until the last minute.

With the performance only ten days away I am still practicing the choreography for both the group performance and my solo; I haven't even started to make my costume yet. I am working on everything but I feel that old deadline adrenaline sneaking up on me. I do that with writing as well. It seems no matter how much I try to manage my time correctly, I still end up pushing it until the last minute.

For trying new things I can see that in both as well. I have entered writing competitions and begun working on stories / poems / books that are completely foreign to me in terms of genre and character development. I want to push the envelope in ways that make me explore new options. Belly dance was a version of that as well since I am a classically trained ballerina at heart. What is life without a little risk, and more importantly, without that deadline to make you buckle down and do it already? Wish me luck, maybe I will share some clips and excerpts in the coming weeks.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Re-releases

At least once a week I see authors posting about the cover reveals or upcoming releases. I enjoy seeing the way they move forward and how the celebrate the next big thing in their careers. It also gets me down on myself sometimes because I haven't published anything since 2015 and the project I am currently working on is actually a release of a book I already published once.

I don't mean I haven't been writing. That would be far from the truth. I have five full length novels drafted and ready to be edited. I also have a small collection of short stories I could edit and submit for magazine / blog publications. My problem is I get stuck after the writing part. I am working to correct that but because it is a struggle I find it slows down every part of the process for me. Then the fact that I am working on a rewrite of a previously published book makes it that much more difficult to feel like I am moving forward.

What I keep reminding myself is that I can use what I have learned through the different channels of writing to make this previous novel a much better version when I release it back to the world. The cover has been elevated. The story is being reworked. The formatting was atrocious but now will be done correctly. Everything overall will make it something I can be proud to promote while I use these same editing skills I am honing now to get another of my novels currently sitting on my desk collecting dust the chance to see the light of day.

Once I have published Never Give Up again and released Breathe to the world I will be working on completing a series I cannot wait to share. With the four novellas and one novel in that series along with the previously mentioned novels I should have a decent amount of work to take to book shows while I work to complete my next series which will be submitted for traditional publishing consideration.

Working to rewrite something I thought I was done with has been frustrating but I know in the end it will be worth it. Sometimes moving forward isn't about creating something new but instead using new knowledge to improve something and give it the potential we know it should have had all along.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Editor's Block

Edits will be the death of me. I have written a number of novels. I have a series of novellas either fully drafted or at least outlined. I have files for more than two dozen books that are just waiting to be written, and I would be thrilled to write them all. The problem comes once I have finished. When those two beautiful little words arrive, The End. It should be the fun and exciting time of letting it rest before I jump in, make the needed corrections, then prepare to unleash it on the world. For some reason though I never feel that way.

I get lost in the story as I write it. The scenes playing out in my head only moments before the inspiration spreads through my fingertips to the keyboard and brings the characters to life. I have specific playlists for every book / series and I can feel the music begin to course through my veins, taking on a life of its own. I am one with my story and I discover new elements of my characters, scenery, and storyline around every corner and with every click of the keys.

But then those two words come that take everything away, The End. It's over. I see the words and simultaneously face the joy of accomplishment blended with the annoying indifference I have always associated with editing. Once I have discovered the story and taken the emotional journey through the pages I cannot muster the same enthusiasm to go on that ride again. I don't reread books I buy, I rarely rematch movies, my books are the same way. I am always eager for the next one instead. I am pushing myself to complete some of my books and get past this wall I have encountered so that I can get to those tantalizing tales staring in my brain.

There are characters calling out for me to come explore their world, or in the case of Amanda, to finish the series so she can have her story completed. Some books are emotional on another level and therefore difficult to write but I believe in the importance of the story being told. I have created a list of books and the order I would like to finish them. The plan is to get caught up and always have one book being written, one being edited, another being formatted / published, and one or two being submitted for traditional consideration.

I am hoping by the end of the year I will have trained myself to follow this plan and be working on books currently only in the concept stage. If I can do it I will have two novels and two novellas published, one series nearly complete, the third novella drafted, and the last novella researched. That will set me up perfectly to move forward next year. Time to cross my fingers and see how well I can stick to the plan.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Alienation

Earlier today I was scrolling through Facebook, as I do frequently to see what is new with friends and family. I saw updates on how kids were doing, some posts about new vegan recipes a friend was trying out, a request for recommendations on a good chiropractor, and then it happened. I was blasted with a full on political assault. It was only one post but the comments within that post were so hate-filled it nearly took my breath away. I instantly wanted to jump in and respond. I even went so far as to check out the other comments on the post and they were as spiteful and horrible as the initial post had been. I realized I would be crucified by the group if I decided to say anything.

It made me think back to the election when a famous author I follow posted his opinion of one of the candidates being more evil than any of his characters ever were. I happened to agree with his statement but as I read through the vile spewed at him from those that disagreed I realized just how far we have come from the time we could sit down and discuss a situation from different points of view in order to find common ground. Everyone seems to set in their ways and completely divided that there is no more discussion but only the need to despise those who think differently. Instead of presenting your side with evidence to back up your claim and being met with understanding and a calm retort all we have now are people calling each other names and ignoring any desire for an intellectual debate or conversation. It is enough to make a person want to leave social media altogether.

Because of my writing and the need to be able to promote, market, and interact with my readers, disappearing is not much of an option. So what is the answer? Do I simply unfollow, unfriend, or block every person that fills my newsfeed with this sort of hateful narcissism? Do I engage and continue what seems like a fruitless effort to change people's minds and open up the discussion? Should I only surround myself with those that feel the same as I do and behave like the rest of the world and ignore those that are different? I honestly don't know the answer. I do not want to alienate those who may support me or my work but I struggle to deal with people being so openly terrible to each other. The dream of our country, and atone time our society as a whole, was that people were people and what made us different could make us stronger and more well rounded but all of that seems to have fallen by the wayside which makes me sad.

It is possible just making this observation public and announcing that I did remove that particular person from my friends because the level of hate was too much may lead to a further loss in friends and support. For that I am sorry but for my own personal well being it is more important to not let the level of negativity get too high as to overwhelm my desire for a better world for us all.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Milestones

I have followed a number of shows from pilot to finale. I love seeing the evolution of the characters as well as what milestones the storyline accomplishes. Understandably, the longer a show goes on, the more difficult it is to find new goals for the characters to work toward and milestones to reach. Eventually things can become outlandish or lose any sense of direction. The same thing can happen when it comes to books.

If you write only a stand alone book but it is a long and intricate story the reader may become confused or exhausted trying to get through everything. It might be better to split the book up into two or more and focus on specific parts of the story in each book, keeping the flow going throughout each in the series. It is also important though, to end at the right time.

If you have a series that has been going for three books and you have an idea for a fourth, fifth, and even sixth book there is nothing wrong with extending that series to include them. If you have been writing the series because you love the characters but have run out of ideas it is better to wrap it up and give closure for the characters and readers. Don't keep inventing reasons to write about the same characters if you have come to a natural close. The writing will feel forced and the story will lose resonance with your readers. 

A solid ending is just as important. If loose ends are left flapping in the wind the readers will feel unsatisfied but a good finish can leave the reader wanting more. When a series ends if the reader is looking for more it can push them to check out your other work. In television shows I have watched I have seen ones that center around what will happen at the end aka How I Met Your Mother, it had one of the most unsatisfying endings I have ever seen in a television show. Then there were endings like the first time Will & Grace were ending that was done extremely well.

I know many writers are quick to distance themselves from television unless they hope to become screenwriters but I see many parallels between the two. I find inspiration for what has been done wrong and ways to emulate things I think flowed perfectly.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Time Crunch

Today I was watching an episode of Cake Wars on the Food Network. For those that don't know, there are two rounds of competition where bakers and cake artists battle to present cakes with design and flavor to represent a given theme. They are given a challenging time limit and must present their creations at the end of that time. As happens in every episode, someone struggled to complete their cake within the given time causing it to be unfinished and look sloppy compared to what they were trying to achieve.

It got me thinking about writing. Some authors, myself included, work well under a deadline. We find that looming goal to be an inspiration and it spurs us on the the finish line. There are others that find such constrictions to be oppressive. It makes them shut down creatively and makes any work completed seemed forced. There is nothing wrong with either style of writing but I got to thinking about those deadlines. If you create, or accept, a deadline and it is racing toward you but you find yourself behind, does your work suffer and become sloppy because of that pressure?

Do we decide to cut a chapter short. gloss over details of a character's background, or skimp on describing a particular scene in order to complete the story in time? Are there things we can ignore for the sake of meeting our goals or are we justifying less than stellar time management? On the show the judges critique the cakes and send home the contestants that don't live up to the challenge. In the writing world it isn't that cut and dry but we are judged constantly and a series of bad reviews can follow if you cut corners in your work.

I need the deadlines in order to push me but I think it is a lesson in time management. Without a particular time in which to complete a book I will linger over details, get distracted, or even start a whole new project without finishing the first one. I still need to be conscious of how I am progressing though. I want to put out books I'm proud of and make sure I am giving my readers the quality they deserve. It is a balancing act, much like getting a cake with the perfect amount of flavor and decoration.