Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My writing rituals, part three

Public Library

My last two rituals encourage silliness and concentration.

I love to listen to music while I write. Anything from classical to blues to rock to pop, I’m there.  Music distracts my critic voice and allows me to get my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

I can create words and not worry if they are trite or cliché or just plain stupid. The beat also encourages me to wiggle about, get up and dance, look up and away from my computer. Getting up and shaking your rear to The Archie’s will solve just about any writing problem you can come up with. Stuck? Wrote yourself into a corner? Not hearing your characters? Get up and do The Monkey and you’ll find the answer.

Yes, I mean it.

My very last ritual is the most traditional one of all. I like to write at the library. All the books surrounding me remind me that publication is possible! All the people working helps me focus on my own work. The giant windows that overlook the duck ponds let in plenty of light and create a peaceful atmosphere. I can put on my headphones, rock out, and work uninterrupted by thoughts of housework, personal anxieties, or non-writing tasks.

Exercise plus peaceful concentration plus silly equals writing that will move your readers.

Write on!

Monday, July 25, 2011

My writing rituals, part two

My second ritual is keeping a journal.

I used to do the Daily Pages suggested by Julia Cameron in her wonderful book, The Artist’s Way.Artist's Way 

However, I soon found that I spent the entire time chronicling my chronic pain problems. I mean, really? Who wants to spend all their time thinking about how much everything hurts? It just made me more depressed.  That’s why I work out first.

After I eat my breakfast and check on the day’s news, I access my mystical creativity place by clearing out what is rummaging around in my brain. I write down all my emotions, what I have been doing, my insights, and my worries. Once those are out of my mind, I brainstorm and list what I will work on this day.

Journaling is almost always in long hand. Something about the way I shape my letters stimulates the visual center of my brain. Description is not my strength, so this loosens me up for putting in the setting for my stories.

Otherwise, my readers (and I!) have no idea where things are taking place, and that’s just no fun.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My writing rituals, part one

“Every writer needs a dog to teach her fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before she lies down.

When I think about my writing rituals, I always mangle this quote from Roger Caras. Every writer has a ritual, a way of telling her brain that now is the time to take the ideas that swirl around and put them in a concrete form. Some of us need silence. Some need music or tea or food or warm hands. The truth is that rituals do not guarantee a good day’s writing, but they certainly up the odds in your favor. And what writer can afford to muck up her odds?

I have a couple of rituals that helps my productivity.

My truly important ritual is exercise. Physical self-care is always the first thing of my day. I roll out of bed, put on my sweats, and take my curvy backside to the gym. A bizarre combination of walking, lifting, physical therapy, belly dancing, and relaxation (not all at once) keeps me from falling into a rut.

Exercise gives me the stamina to sit at my desk and it unlocks my brain. Some of my most creative solutions have come to me during my endless laps around the track. The other regulars at the gym have frequently seen me scribbling madly on a piece of paper towel with a golf pencil. 

Hey, I'm a writer. I'm immune to embarrassment and I have no fear of looking like an idiot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where I was, what I was doing, Part Four

At the PRO retreat, Cherry Adair (Mentor of the Year) shared some statistics to help us stay brave.

80% of all Americans say they want to write a book.

Of that 80%, 2% of them start a book.

Of that 2%, 5% actually finish the book.

So, if you want to write, go for the fences. Do it! Define your success, make friends, and keep writing!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where I was, what I was doing, Part Three.

Carolyn Pittis (see previous post) also drove the Clue Bus through our writer's brains. She shared the things writers must focus on in order to create and produce in ways that makes us happy.

  1. WRITE. Always, always keep your eye on your work. If you don't write, this list won't mean anything.
  2. Decide on what is your measure of success. Being self-sufficient? Getting published at least once? Having a group of fellow writers around so you can enjoy all those good stories? You decide on your success, not anyone else. 
  3. Figure out your business plans. This doesn't have to be a big, scary deal - when I first tried to write a business plan, I stopped after three sentences and had a big glass of wine instead. Instead, frame the idea as a way to understand your definition of success. Do you understand how other players win? What do you have to offer in your product? Who are the best partners for you to achieve that success you want? What is the best way to inform yourself as to the economics of your business?
Think about these ideas. How many books a year do you want to write? What kinds of support do you need to achieve these goals?

Support is something writers and other artists don't talk about much; but we need people who encourage our brave hearts. We take risks, we try new things, we test social mores. This can be exhausting and frightening.

So think about what helps you put your Butt in Chair and Fingers on Keyboard. Do you need pep talks? Brainstorming friends? Someone to help you write query letters?

In the end, all of these ideas and questions lead back to the most important Clue that Carolyn gave us - always keep writing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where I was, what I was doing, Part Two.

Due to jet lag, I got a late start on the conference on Wednesday, the 29th. Fortunately, I was able to get up and get going in time for the PRO Retreat.

In RWA, there are various sub-groups aimed towards serving the needs of every member. The PRO subgroup is aimed at people who have finished a manuscript and sent it to an agent or editor. (If you get accepted, then you move into the Published Author Network group, but I'm not there yet.)

The PRO retreat ran from 2:00 to 5:30 and was packed full of things to help unpublished authors reach their goals.

The Keynote speaker was Carolyn Pittis, the Senior Vice-President for Global Marketing Strategy and Operations at HarperCollins. Carolyn is a supergenius who understands her field better than anyone I've heard speak on the changing environments of publishing and creating. I take notes very quickly (all those years in graduate school come in handy for something!), but even I could hardly keep up with her insightful analysis.

If anyone who was at the retreat wants to chime in on anything I missed, please feel free!

I've been hearing about "The Digital Revolution" since I was in Library School back in 1996. In these last six months, the revolution come into fruition faster than it was in the last 15 years. Since Christmas 2010, the new players in publishing - Apple, Google, Amazon - and in retail - CES reported over one hundred  new electronic devices in the past year- caused the biggest jump ever in the purchase of e-books.

J.K. Rowling has left traditional publishing to go completely to online sales. On the other hand, Amanda Hocking, one of the most successful e-writers ever, has joined a traditional, paper-based publisher in order to get her books into Wal-mart and other brick and mortar shops.

The rise of new tech, the increase of data, and the wider demand of consumer choices has created an atmosphere that allows writers to chose paths they never would have thought of. No longer is the NYT or the USAToday bestseller lists the only choices in the path to success.

Authors deciding to publish their books have to ask themselves some key questions:

1. Money: What is my break-even number? How much money do I have to make as a writer in order to write comfortably?

2. Marketing: Do I have to have marketing reach on my own? How much do I need? And (here's the big one), how much do I like marketing?

3. Collaboration: Contrary to the myth of the solitary writer, writing and publishing is an act of collaboration. How much do you need to control your work? How well do you take feedback? Can you handle someone  telling what you need to do to make your work more market friendly?

4. Author Equity: How much do others like your work? What might I do to increase my work's popularity?

Next time, I'll be talking about what authors need to focus on in today's market.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where I was, what I was doing, Part One.

The Romance Writers of America's National Conference was held from June 28th through July 1st in New York City in Midtown Manhattan. This trip was the perfect combination of NYC (crowds, humidity) and RWA (creativity, inspiration).

I'd been dreaming of New York since I was a young girl, and I'd been dreaming of going to Nationals since I joined RWA six years ago. What a perfect opportunity to combine my dreams into one neat package! The Charming Man was not about to be left behind, so the two of us planned and schemed until we got our butts in our airplane and took off. :)

I've often said that if you want to learn to write, you must join RWA. This conference proves it.

2000+ writers mingled with agents, editors, heads of publishing houses, and each other. The book signing's line coiled around three floors and then out to the street - and it raised $57,000 for adult literacy. Editors from every publishing house spoke freely about their jobs and what kinds of books they were looking for.

There were hundreds of workshops in five tracks:
  • Craft
  • Career
  • Writer's Life/Muse
  • Publishing
  • Research
Just on the first day, there were over twenty five workshops with names such as:
  • Building Your Author Website
  • Creating Three Dimensional Characters
  • Show Me the Money! (Yes, it was about how you will get paid as an author)
  • Writing Romance through Separation and Divorce
  • Twenty Five Years in Romance: An editor explains Romance Publishing and how it works
As you can imagine, it was like earning a BA in Creative Writing in a long weekend. And it rocked!

Monday, July 11, 2011


I have returned from the wilds of the East Coast! I am currently drafting my posts about my visit to New York and the RWA National Conference. But first, a picture to tease:
A black figure libation bowl from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.