Tag Archives: Writing

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Author Jeanie Franz Ransom recently invited me to join a blog hop. She compared it to a kids’ game of tag—she tagged me, now I answer her questions, then tag three more writers who will continue the game on their blogs next week. Swing by Jeanie’s blog to learn more about her and read her answers. What a fun way to get to know other bloggers and learn a few things about old friends, as well!

What are you working on right now?

An upper middle grade fantasy adventure called “The Amulet of Isis.”

While traveling in Egypt, four kids find a magical amulet that transports them back to ancient times. Before they know it, they’re swept into a whirlwind of murder plots, vengeful mummies and a perilous trip through the dark underworld.

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you probably saw last week’s post celebrating the completion of the first draft. Woohoo! Now I’m knee deep in the first round of edits.

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

I’ve seen a lot of time travel fiction that is almost entirely a product of the writer’s imagination—inspired by history, but not truly rooted in it. Those stories can be a lot of fun, but for me, this genre offers an unparalleled opportunity to whet kids’ appetite for history and mythology, firing their imaginations and making them want to learn more. I take plenty of artistic license to create a magical, fast-paced adventure, but it’s always grounded in the real history and mythology of the culture they’re visiting. Education can be fun!

Why do you write what you do?

I LOVE research. I completed most of a master’s degree in ancient and medieval history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Although I decided teaching was not my calling, I could happily spend days on end reading about the wonders of ancient civilizations. History is full of fantastic stories screaming to be told, and I want to bring them to life.

What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?

I love writing in a middle grade voice, and with so many cultures to visit, I could spend many years writing about my time-traveling kids.

There’s something else, though, that I need to write someday—a set of adult historicals set in sixth-century Gaul. I spent years compiling research for this project. I envision novels combining the epic life-and-death political struggles of “Game of Thrones” with the intimate female characterization of Philippa Gregory’s work. They’re truly compelling stories that few people have heard.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about me and “The Amulet of Isis.”  Now I’d like to hear about you! Please drop me a comment sharing why you were drawn to your current project.

And don’t forget to check out the fantastic authors I’ve tagged for next week!

Beth Carter, July 24th at http://banterwithbeth.blogspot.com/

A. M. Buxton, July 26th at http://ambuxton.wordpress.com/

Virginia Lori Jennings, July 26th at http://www.virginialorijennings.com

Does Editing Kill your Creativity?

I’m closing in on the end of my manuscript, with just five or six thousand words yet to write. I am SO excited about that! And even though I haven’t quite made it to the end yet, I’m already starting to look back at the process that got me here, comparing my methods with those of other writers I know.

I love to read my friends’ blogs—I learn so much about how different people approach the challenges of writing that way. I recall one friend in particular, Sheila McClune, writing about her difficulties switching between “writer head” and “editor head.” Once she stopped working on her first draft to go back and edit, she had a terrible time beginning to write again. That internal editor just wouldn’t shut up and let her create.

One would think I would have learned from her experience and avoided editing until I had a completed draft in hand. But no.

From the very beginning, I’ve been obsessively editing and seeking feedback to help me identify my personal foibles. Some chapters have already been through multiple rounds of revision and more than a dozen beta readers. I know writers who would cringe at the idea of letting so many cooks spoil the broth.

So was it a mistake? I don’t think so. As long as you get to your goal, it’s all good, right? No doubt I could have completed a first draft more quickly, but since this is my first attempt at a novel, I was on the steep part of the learning curve. Having that ongoing feedback helped me identify mistakes early on, and my writing improved immensely because of it. I may eat these words in a few months, but I’m hoping that means I’ll have less of a mess to clean up when I officially enter the revision stage.

The biggest thing I have learned is that every writer is different, and no single approach works for everyone. So how about you? Do you edit as you go or wait until your first draft is finished? I’d love to hear your experiences!

When Life Gets in the Way

I often hear my friends say they couldn’t write this week/month/year because life got in the way. And I’m as guilty as anybody. It’s easy to imagine that once we finish this project/season/insert-almost-anything-here, life will calm down, and we will be able carve out a peaceful space for our writing. Yeah, right. Never happens.

What I've been doing this week--vacation with the family.

What I’ve been doing this week–vacation with the family.

Because life goes on in all its messy glory, continually bringing new chaos. Work, kids, health problems—everybody’s challenges are different, but we all have them. Now sometimes there truly is something extraordinary happening in your life that requires all of your attention, but what about the rest of the time? How do we continue to make progress under less-than-ideal circumstances? Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

Prioritize. Take stock of your life every once in a while and think about what is most important to you, then continually remind yourself of those priorities. Don’t let all the ephemeral day-to-day concerns, like whether your house is perfectly clean before your friend comes over, steal all your productive hours.

Clear out the clutter. Hey, wait, didn’t I just encourage you not to spend so much time cleaning your house? I mean life clutter. Facebook games and TV shows you don’t even care about and all the little time sucks that are lurking out there waiting to get you. I’m soooo guilty of this one.

Find your happy place. Maybe you have or can create a home office. Maybe you like to write in a coffee shop, or a park, or your bed. The brain learns to respond to familiar stimuli, so having a favorite writing spot can help you slip into your creative mode more quickly.

Schedule writing time. Make it sacred. Make it happen. It works best if you can set up a consistent time, like writing an hour or two every morning before you begin your day. If your life doesn’t allow for that, don’t worry—you’re in good company. Look at your schedule for the week and find some time each day you can devote to writing. If you don’t plan ahead and put it in your schedule, chances are your day will slip away without a good time to write ever presenting itself.

Get your family on board. Let them know that writing is important to you and what a challenge it is to find time to flex your creativity. Make sure your family knows when you’ve scheduled certain times for your writing. If they understand what you’re doing, and that you’ll be available to them again soon, they’ll be more likely to leave you undisturbed.

Find a writing buddy. If making a commitment to yourself to write at certain times isn’t motivation enough, make that commitment to someone else. Set a date to meet a friend for writing time, either in person or online. Agree to write for half an hour, an hour or whatever works for you, then compare word counts at the end. The goal isn’t necessarily to write quickly, but simply to stay focused on the task for that period of time.

Grab snippets of time where you can. I haven’t been able to make this one work myself, but I have a friend who turns out amazing word counts this way. Carry a small computer or notebook then add a few sentences whenever you find yourself with a free moment—waiting for your lunch order, at the doctor’s office, you get the idea. Just like adding pennies to a jar, these little bits add up.

And with that, I’m off to squeeze in a few words before a vacation day of go-karting and swimming with the family. What are your ideas? How do you keep life from getting in the way?

Slaying the Demons

January’s over, and so is the JANO 2013 Writing Challenge sponsored by Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers. How did I do? Well, that’s a matter of perspective. Isn’t it always?

I wrote more than 20,000 new words—my biggest writing month ever, by far.

I worked through a sticky plot problem, researched the Egyptian underworld, outlined a whole series of new obstacles for my young heroes and spent a lot of time imagining scenes for the final act—all necessary steps for me before I’m ready to actually write.

Since JANO wanted us to submit our first pages, I faced my fear of coming up with a compelling opening and wrote a first page—which placed third in the Best First Page competition.

I also wrote a 100-word story description that won the prize for Best Blurb.

All in all, I’d say January was an outstanding month for my writing. And yet, technically, I failed.

Like National Novel Writing Month, NaNo for short, the goal of JANO was to produce 50,000 words in one month. As the challenge began, people offered advice on how to produce so many words so quickly—don’t think, don’t edit, don’t research, just write something even if it’s bad, use more words than you need to beef up your word count, etc.

Now there are as many ways to produce a manuscript as there are writers, and I know this method works beautifully for many people. This is the antithesis of how I write, however. I plot everything out carefully ahead of time. I research during every stage of my story planning, then research some more. I don’t begin writing until the scene is playing out in vivid detail in my head. I edit as I write, removing unnecessary words when I spot them. You get the idea.

So does a speed-writing challenge like JANO have any value for a slow-and-careful writer like myself? You bet! True, I will probably never “win” NaNo or JANO, but who cares? I’m 20,000 words closer to my goal of producing a publication-worthy manuscript. JANO helped me do that by giving me ammunition against my twin demons of Perfectionism and Procrastination.

Every writer—every human, for that matter—has their demons, and right now, those are mine. Don’t get me wrong, I procrastinated plenty. (Just look at my Twitter following—it ballooned from under a hundred to more than eight hundred in January. Not a terrible use of time, but writing my book would have been better.) But JANO gave me a reason to write the best story I’m capable of, even if it’s not perfect, and to do it right now. That was enough to help me have my best writing month ever.

So now that JANO’s over, how do I use these lessons moving forward? Obviously, I need deadlines and accountability—those are the weapons I need to fight my demons. JANO provided that for a few weeks, but what now? Oh, lovely critique partners, I think I have a job for you!

A Little New Year’s Optimism

2013 is going to be my year.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Every December, my head swells with grandiose visions of a new life filled with broccoli, elliptical trainers and an impossibly organized house. The same unfulfilled resolutions, year after year.

I have a special feeling about this year, though. Not that those extra pounds are going to magically melt away, or that the boxes piled in the garage will finally make it to the top of my priority list. No, what makes 2013 different is that after spending several years studying the craft of writing, outlining plot ideas and working on a “practice” novel, I’m ready to write my first “real” novel. One I’m eager to share with the world.

I’ve already made solid progress on this project–the plot is fully outlined and I’ve completed several chapters of reasonably polished prose. With most middle grade novels coming in under 50,000 words, I may very well complete my first draft by the end of January.

How amazing is that?

Some writers reach this milestone in a matter of months. For me, it’s the culmination of more than twenty years of growth and preparation. A dream that always seemed too far out of reach to ever become real.

Until now.

When next December rolls around, no doubt I’ll still need to lose weight, to organize my house and to search for an agent, but I will have completed my first novel.

And that will make 2013 something special.