That Moment When It Clicks

We all have those moments when it clicks. When doing suddenly becomes infinitely easier.

Perhaps it’s the moment when you are learning to ride a bike and you finally make more than a few inches before scraping your knee.

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About how it’s going teaching my daughter.

Maybe it’s the moment when you can finally see the image a differential equation represents without needing a graphing calculator. Yeah, that moment didn’t happen for me either.

A friend of mine makes and sells jewelry, and she has repeatedly told me how she’ll be bombarded by ideas one day and then will have no ideas for weeks after. She has to quickly write down the ideas as they come because they are flashes of inspiration. If she doesn’t write them down, they’re gone.

I have my own experience with this on a regular basis. My muse comes and visits me, and together, we can produce one-thousand words in less than an hour. Good words. Stuff that will get refined, but stuff that I think will still be there in the final draft.

Then, there’s the days she doesn’t visit. Like a Saturday not long ago where I managed to squeeze in three hours of writing. I got less than a thousand words during those three hours, and I’m not sure any of them are good.

Magic

But, I did get them down. So, progress. I can edit something that exists, but I can’t edit a blank page.

Still, I understand why people get discouraged. When the muse is here, we can create in hours what would take days of toil. Yet, those days of toil are still important.

You don’t get to ride the bike without the hours of learning put in beforehand. You don’t understand the differential equations in a moment unless you’re that one kid in my second semester calc class. Okay, maybe you never understand them completely, but if you don’t do the work to get there, you’ll never have the chance understand them.

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Yeah, I know they’re not differential equations.

I sometimes think this is what inspiration is all about. Basically, the motivational poster that says it’s 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration, yet, I think it’s true even if I’m not much for motivational posters.

I’m trying to treat the hour my muse visits me as the reward for the previous three hours of grinding work. If I just wait for her, she won’t come. She’s waiting for me to put in the work before giving my prize. Maybe I’m right on this, or maybe its complete garbage to make me feel better, but at least it gets stuff done.

 

How about you? Do you find you have to struggle for things and then there’s a magic moment where it clicks? Do you wait for inspiration, or do you plod through? Maybe you were the kid in the back of my class that just “got” differential equations so your muse is always ready to go?

 

 

Where's the Obsession?

I finished up my revision over two weeks ago. Normally, I’d be plunging ahead into my next project, flush with the excitement of something new.

Except this time, the creativity isn’t coming.

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You and me both.
Reminds me of the song Where Have All the Cowboys Gone by Paula Cole, just replace Cowboys in the song with inspiration. Interesting that I’ve never been a big fan of the song. Kept trying to figure out why the singer needed a cowboy rather than making her own happily-ever-after if she wasn’t finding it from her partner. I listen to lyrics too closely, sometimes.

Still, I have several characters floating around in my head, but none of them are really meshing with a solid story or a love interest. I write Romance, so the love interest is critical.

Not sure what’s causing this. Perhaps I’m trying too hard. Or not hard enough. Or I’m feeling burned out with the book I wrote, the other I revised, and having a full time job.

Or, perhaps, I’m having a bit of a book hangover.

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I spent a lot of time with the last set of characters. Really working hard to put them on the page and bring them to life.

Normally, the way I deal with loss is move right into the next story. But it’s not working this time. The first few weeks of writing a new story is what carries me through. The excitement. The freshness of the project. The need to get the swirling maelstrom in my head onto paper.

I normally love starting a new project. The time to create. To make something out of nothing.

So far, no fabulous ideas begging to be put on paper have usurped my every waking moment. I tried reading a couple of novels for inspiration, but I couldn’t get into them either.

Not sure what’s creating this sudden lack of creativity, but it can go ahead and be on its way now. I’m ready for my next obsession.

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How about you? Ever have your creativity suddenly dry up or just lose interest in something? What did you do to rekindle the spark?

Morning Children: A Special Torment to Writers

My husband and I are both night people. We’ve learned to adjust our internal clocks to take into account work and other grown-up responsibilities. While it’s not nearly as hard to get up at 6 am now as it was when I was a teenager, I didn’t have to get up at 6 am on Saturday when I was a teen.

Our oldest child is a morning person. Always has been, and she’s never had a concept of “weekend”. We had to get her a digital clock before she was three so that we could forbid her from leaving her bedroom in the morning before her clock said 6 on it. And yes, she learned numbers early so we weren’t getting up with the sun in the summer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way…

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While I’ve been able to adjust myself to getting up long before a night-person should, I haven’t convinced my muse to join me.

As much as I’ve sat diligently in front of my computer during afternoon nap-time on the weekends, my muse is nowhere to be found. Sure, I can pound out a few words, but it’s not the same. Whether you write, paint, compose music, there’s this creative zone that you get into that allows you to achieve more in an hour than you can in three. There’s something magical about this time. It’s like fairy wings and unicorn farts have jumped into the mortal plane.

For me, this ultra-creative time always, always, always comes after 8 pm. Usually later, but given my current need to be up with the birds, I try to be in bed before 10:30 because 6 am comes around awfully early.

There are those days when inspiration strikes, and I seize upon it, blowing through my bedtime even though I know will pay for it in the morning. And oh do I! Nothing quite like a chipper preschooler bouncing around the house rather than getting ready for school to put your previous night’s choice into perspective.

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Of course, my preschooler isn’t making the beds, eating her breakfast, or getting ready for the day. Heck no!  These are days that she requires the most wrangling. It’s like she knows I’m struggling and chooses that time to drown me rather than throw me a rope. Because children smell weakness and will exploit it at every opportunity.

I wish I had something insightful to offer. Some way that I’ve conquered the muse and brought her to my side before the owls come out. But I haven’t. I still have to make the choice most nights as to whether I’m on a roll and have to keep going, or whether I need to be a grown-up and go to bed. I’d love to say the grown-up wins most nights…

 

How about you? Are you a morning person or a night person? Does it work for you? When do you find yourself most creative? Have you figured out how to get your muse to come on your terms?

Me and My Big Mouth

Ever say something you wish you could take back?

Most of us do, and this happened to me the other day. Don’t even remember where it came from, but I said I had managed to put 50,000 words on the page for a new story in a month. I figured another 10,000 words should take me to the end of the first draft (I write skeletons, remember?).

My muse heard that, because of course she did, crossed her arm over her chest and flew away.

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In case anyone’s seen mine.

I am not sure what to do to convince her to come back. Perhaps she needs me to eat a bag of oreos while trying to finish the chapter I’m working on, knowing full well I don’t like oreos.

Not sure what her demands are as she’s made herself rather scarce.

It’s not writer’s block because I can still make some headway, but it’s not the magical page devouring progress I was making.

And no, I know better than to take a break and wait for her to come back. Uh-uh. Played that game and lost more than once.

So, time to apply bottom to chair and bleed out as many words as possible.

Perhaps when she sees I’m sincere, she’ll return. If she doesn’t, I’ll scratch out the rest of the words to the ending of the story the hard way. Even with her inspiration, when it comes time to edit, there’s no easy way about it.

Magic

But if you’ve seen her, please tell her I’m sorry. I’ll shut my mouth until the book is finished, and she’s booked her vacation to Cancun while I start the revision process.

 

How about you? Have you ever lost your muse? Why? What did you do to get him/her back?

 

5 Things I Have Learned from Writing Book Reviews

At the end of this week-long book review fest, and all of the other reviews I have posted over the last few months, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned for my own work from writing them.

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  1. Characters, characters, characters – I can forgive A LOT in a story if I am in love with the characters.
  2. Plots can be simple – I write and read a lot of romance novels. The romance comes first in the story, but there is usually a plot holding it all together. This can be as simple as: find the murderer. Find the thief. Free the hero from a curse.
  3. But there needs to be a clear plot – simple is fine. Preferable, even. But there needs to be one. And it needs to be believable.
  4. Adverbs aren’t all bad – One of my favorite books was filled with “ly” words. Overflowing with them. I still loved it. I am not entirely sure how the author pulled it off, but her work was sensuous and was one of the best seductions I have read.
  5. Show, Don’t Tell is Real – Most of the stories I disliked the most were ones where what I was told about a character contradicted what the character did. Brave characters who then cower over mean words said to them. Witty characters who never say a funny or insightful word. Kind characters who hang out in ballrooms the whole story. Perhaps it is the cognitive dissonance this creates that makes me dislike them so much. Interesting, as I am sure the author was telling me these amazing things about the characters to get me to love them.

Perfect Isn't Everything

I have pushed myself hard to get back to editing my manuscript. I would love to say I am making tons of progress and it is coming along smashingly.

Okay, I could tell you that, but I’d be lying.

I came to the conclusion that “perfect” or even “really good” isn’t everything. Sometimes, words on the page, reasonably not sucking, is good enough.

I came to this conclusion when I got unexpected feedback on the first five chapters I’d sent out some time ago. It got me thinking and renewed my interest in the characters. It made me see them through someone else’s eyes and realize that the story, for all of its early draft flaws, was still reasonably not sucking.

So, I worked on a bit more polishing and sent out a few more chapters. More feedback came back . . . And I worked some more.

Apparently, what I need is feedback. The whole writing in a sealed off safe room has its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks.

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I feel like my writing is “cruising” along an old switchback dirt road. Not always sure if I’m coming or going. Never fast. And always worried about that rut on the side of the road that will stop my writing altogether. Getting a bit of feedback helps keep me focused on the road rather than the potholes. Okay, metaphor exhausted.

So, yes, I have taken up editing again. I have worked through a lot of really awful writing on my part (really, did I write that?!?) And some pretty horrendous storytelling. (I let a character do what?!?) But it was a first draft, and I think the first rewrite is the hardest. Especially if you’ve had a break from your manuscript.

I remember my own advice about remembering to keep writing something new to keep the creative fires burning. So, I also attempted a flash fiction challenge last weekend, but only got to about 200 words of the 1,000 word challenge. Perhaps I will try again.

New ideas are also percolating for a new novel, and I solved some big underlying issues to make a character I developed for a SciFi setting work in a fantasy world. I loved her and wanted to give her a story of her own. Amazing how characters drive you to find solutions.

If you listen.

 

 

3 Things I Learned From Not Wanting to Write Anymore (and Sticking with It)

If you saw my post the other day, you read the culmination of a couple weeks of frustration and not wanting to write. I finally decided to admit what was going through my head, and it actually helped. A lot. Here are three things I learned that helped get me back to being excited to write again.

Magic

Revision is Important, but so is Creating Something New

The first draft of the first novel I’ve written in over 8 years was . . . rough. Okay, as I have heard other bloggers call it, it was brain vomit on the page. I spent three times longer revising this piece of work than I spent writing it. Yeah. Three times. Some of the revisions were fun, especially the early ones where things were still being fleshed out and there was a lot of additions and even more changes. The later revisions were less than fun, but they needed to be done.

During the months of revising Knight of Valor, I started work on a second novel. Need a better title than Devil’s Due, but that’s what I’m calling it now. I finished the first draft of this novel while I was still tinkering with revisions on Knight of Valor.

Now I have two novels that needs to be revised. So I didn’t start work on a third (even though I have several ideas percolating) because I was spending all my writing time revising. As important as revising is, it doesn’t keep me nearly as engaged or as happy as writing something new.

DH had recommended I write something for myself, something I would never try to publish, so I could enjoy it and not worry about revisions. He recommended I write fan fiction so it wouldn’t even be a temptation. I heard his words but didn’t listen (sorry DH!).

When Mariah Avix over at 600 Second Saga reminded me that creating was important, too, it really hit home.  Guess DH had to soften my thick skull up first.

 

Talk to Someone (and Listen!)

It really helped to hear other people remind me how important creating was. How there is more to the process than the end product. Sometimes the process itself is important.

And I love creating new characters, new conflicts, and finding a way to have them conquer it and live happily ever after. Yeah, romance writer here. You can tell.

I had lost perspective of that. And I hadn’t spent much time fleshing out new characters in months.

And, er, well, listen when people tell you something, even if you don’t want to hear it. (Sorry, DH!)

 

Keep Reading

This, honestly, helped. Way more than I thought it would. I picked new-to-me-authors, and while I really disliked some of what I read, I really liked others. Or parts of others. The reading in and of itself helped a little. Hearing a new voice has it pros, but the way my brain works when I read is that I no longer “see” the words on the page. So I don’t learn much on the craft piece just by reading. What I do learn more about is storytelling, but only when I ask why. Why did I like or dislike a heroine? Why was I bored and skimming through sections? How did an author craft a believable romance versus one that made me roll my eyes? What did I like about a hero that made him memorable? What parts of the steamy scenes drew me in? Bored me? Made me skim them to get them over with?

I am going to try to keep up with reading more, even if it means writing less. We’ll see if I still feel this way in a couple of weeks, but I am hoping it helps with the quality of my writing (and revising).

Besides, I love a good book.

3 Things to Do When You Just Don't Wanna Write Anymore

I am supposed to be doing yet another revision then packaging up my manuscript for submission. Again.

It didn’t start out as a terrible revision. Give the heroine a bit more backstory and a secret about what she did to survive as a serf in a land ruled by undead. Make the hero want more than just to take her to safety. Make him want to know the ins and outs of how the home she’s escaping from works to give his side an advantage should it come to war.

Seemed easy enough.

Then I started worrying that maybe the hero came off as too soft and needed to make sure his alpha characteristics came through. Also doable.

But I don’t wanna. I just don’t.

Sure, I spend my hour a day sitting in front of the computer screen, but it’s not the same. I feel like my creativity disappeared and took any desire I had to write with it. I used to skip off to my laptop after the kids were in bed and try to snitch a few extra minutes here and there. Now, I boot up Word and just sort of look at it before letting Time Thieves steal into my thoughts.

  • DD could use a new raincoat. And maybe a swimsuit for this summer.
  • Do I need to put another order in for diapers for the baby?
  • Ooooh, MacBook in rose gold with the new skylake processor. I need a new laptop. When does the MacBook pro come out with skylake?

I’d love to give you three steps I used to get my mojo back, but I haven’t found them yet.

DH asked me why I write. I have thought long and hard about it, and I don’t know. It’s a lot of work. Hours and hours of work. I have been writing on and off since I was a kid. I write for a while, get discouraged and put it away, only to bring it out again years later.

So why do I get discouraged? I have finished several novels in my lifetime. None of them published.

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And there it is.

All this work, all this effort, and never the validation that its even worth someone else reading.

I “know” publishing isn’t the end all and be all of being a writer, but it is a part of it. How many artists would spend 150 hours or more on a painting only to stuff it in a closet for no one to see?

I’d love to give you a list of what I’ve done to get back my mojo. I don’t have one yet. But here are:

Three Things I’m Doing When I Just Don’t Wanna Write Anymore

  1. Sit at the computer every night – I am still spending my hour working on my manuscript every night. No, it’s not as productive as it was, but I don’t want to lose this hour I’ve carved out for myself
  2. Read More – I’m still a much bigger fan of printed books than ebooks, but I am learning to be okay with ebooks because there are so many more titles available for them. I then went and bought (read some, still reading others) a couple of books I normally wouldn’t have. Thinking through what I like and don’t like about a new-to-me author has helped me think about some of own work in a different way.
  3. Exercising – I still have issues with the ankle I broke back in November and am starting physical therapy for it. Part of this process included the doctor giving me clearance for low impact exercise, so I can now walk or use my elliptical again. If I’m on the elliptical, I read. If I walk, I chat with DH or just let myself think.

Follow Your Passion: Write What You Love

I write fantasy romance novels because that is what I love. Magic, knights, necromancers, and dragons. A hero and heroine who will fight through everything thrown at them and then live happily ever. It’s not a popular area of writing, not like Regency, nor is it the “next up and coming thing”.

But I both love to read it, and I love to write it. (When I can find the kind of work I like to read, anyway. If you know any Stephanie Laurens meets Tolkien authors, let me know!

When I am working in my world, and it frequently is work, it’s a place I want to be with characters I love or love to hate.

FantasyWoman

This is the TED talk I watched while on maternity leave and is what inspired me to write again: https://www.ted.com/talks/larry_smith_why_you_will_fail_to_have_a_great_career?language=en

Putting it succinctly, Larry Smith tells you to follow your passion. To do what you would do even if you weren’t paid for it.

It really put into context a lot of things for me.

Or maybe it spurred a midlife crisis.

Either way, it got me to write again.

After subscribing to the Writer’s Digest to get electronic access to agents and publishers, I have also been put on their “send me tons of advertising” list.

I’m amazed at how many solicitations I’ve received. I’m starting to think there are more people making a living on “helping” people become writers than there are people making a living writing.

But I digress. One of the classes that stood out to me was the one showing me how to make a career out of writing. The ad was something like:  “The Top 9 Most Lucrative Writing Opportunities.”  It’s selling point was that it wasn’t novel writing or anything like it.

Which wasn’t a selling point to me. The whole ad felt so much like a scam that I was reminded of those signs on the side of the road –  “Make $2,000 a week from home!”.

Whether it was a scam or not, if you already have a day job that pays the bills, why would you want to do this? Why would you want to trade your current career for a writing gig you don’t actually want to do?

Even if it isn’t a scam, that’s not following your passion.

I say write what you love. Bring your passion. Love your characters. Love how they change through the crucible of your plot.

Your readers will see this, and they will love right along with you.

And it will make the hours of work worth it to you because you are doing what you love.

I’ve never heard of a single “mega-author” admitting that they wrote something they didn’t love. Or that they wrote it because it was “trending” or “made money”. Some authors single-handedly made new genres by writing what they loved (Tolkien comes to mind).

If you’re going to spend the hours writing it, make it something you love. Something you’re proud of. Your passion.

Kids

This is a bit of a tangent from trying to chronicle my writing journey, but I realized, it’s as much a part of the journey as rough drafts, revisions, and the submission process.

Balancing writing with kids.

DH and I were “older” when we had kids, and we’d already been married seven years when our first child was born. DH had agreed to be the primary care giver as my day job is more demanding. And many of you are laughing at this.

DH does an amazing job with our two little ones. It’s just biology that’s against us. When they were very little and needed to be nursed, that was mom. When they get hurt or sick or injured, they want mom. When they want to play, however, they are daddy’s angels.

With all the illnesses we’ve been up against lately, they have needed a lot of mommy time. A part of me is frustrated, and a part of me melts when they want to climb into my lap and cuddle.

After we had our first child, I stumbled across a bunch of research showing that childless people are happier. As there are no guarantees that children will support you in your old age, and given how insanely expensive children are (read a mortgage payment a month per child for daycare), the study recommended socking that money away and using that to pay for your care in your later years.

At the time, I was mortified. What had we done? Would this precious little bundle really cause us that much trauma? Of course I was high on new mommy hormones when I thought of her as precious. She taught me the error of my ways as she howled, not cried but howled, every time I put her down. Wouldn’t tolerate a baby sling or Bjorn, either. I learned to do everything, and I mean everything, one handed so she was always in my arms.

So the answer is more complex for me than the research indicates. Some of the happiest moments, angriest moments, and proudest moments have come because of the kids.

It’s more like a roller coaster than the steady state happy we were at before kids. The baby babbles happily in the background as I write this, making me smile even now. That smile will morph into endless frustration tonight when she refuses to sleep and thinks 2 am is playtime when we have to be up for work in a few hours.

My writing journey includes them with it. Sometimes detouring me or slowing down my progress, but never maliciously. Never on purpose. They are little and need a lot of me right now, and I am trying to keep that in perspective. Trying to remember all the people that have told me how much you’re going to miss it when they’re not this little.

I wonder if those people’s kids had them up at 2 am every night.