Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Drowning in a sea of edits...

My current writing soundtrack: Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis

"The difference between the right word
and the almost right word
is the difference between
lightning and a lightning bug."

Mark Twain

This quote pretty much sums up my struggle with editing right now!

A single word can make a massive difference and I am laboring over every single word...

How can I say this in fewer words? How can I perfectly convey what I am trying to say? Am I in the right point of view? Are my tenses correct? Is that image vivid enough? Is the dialogue snappy enough?

I am drowning in a sea of 96,000 words!
So to guide me along the way, give me a framework within which to work, I bought some books about self-editing. Perhaps I can learn some new strokes that will help me keep my head above water and, maybe - just maybe - make it back to shore!


I'm also taking a plotting class called "The 'W' plot" at Hearts Through History Romance Writers.
Have you read these books? Were they helpful? Taken the class? What do you do to tame the self-editing beast?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Author Interview and Contest at Armchair Heroines

Please join us over at Armchair Heroines for an interview with Colorado author, Melissa Mayhue. This week we are talking with Melissa about her first Daughters of the Glen book, Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband.

You can comment here and at Armchair Heroines for a chance to win a signed copy of Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband!

Hope you enjoy Melissa's insights.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Why I Love Writing

Wordplay and Witticisms: Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

—Mark Twain

Congratulations to the contest winner over at Armchair Heroines: Bethre! Head over to AH tomorrow to hear the first installment of a progressive interview with Daughters of the Glen series author, Melissa Mayhue!

Tuesday Ten: Why I Love to Write...

1. Great Characters - men, women, children, animals...I love to get inside their heads!

2. Snappy Dialogue

3. Settings - from the exotic to the everyday

4. Plot twists

5. Character flaws and eccentricities - nobody's perfect!

6. Eliciting emotion from my reader - laughter, tears, blinding anger...bring it!

7. Finding new ways to describe everyday things

8. The feel of flying fingers along the keyboard when I'm on a roll

9. Finding the perfect word to convey exactly what I'm trying to say

10. My favorite: leaving the reader with a renewed sense of awe and wonder, a strengthened belief in love, happy endings and the presence of good in the world!

What are your favorite things about writing? What keeps bringing you back to that chair?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Turning off the monkey mind

I haven't been sleeping well lately...too many ideas and projects swirling around in my brain. But I know that if I'm not careful, that creative flow will cease. Abruptly. Especially if I can't get some rest. Plus my kids are sick of me being cranky with them because I'm tired!

So here are a couple of things I tried that seemed to help:

Progressive Relaxation: Probably nothing new to most of you. I've heard of it before but for some reason it slipped off my radar. Now I am using it when I'm sitting at the computer or laying in bed at night. Pick a starting point, the feet work best for me. Consciously flex your feet as hard as you can, then relax them. Next move to your lower legs, flex then relax. And on and on until you have relaxed your entire body or you have fallen asleep, whichever comes first. I also like to envision a ball of sparkly, white light (think sparklers at the 4th of July) starting at my feet and drifting across my entire body, completely relaxing me as it goes.

Breathing Exercises: I learned this one from Andrew Weil in his book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. It is an ancient yogic breathing practice. You want your tongue in the yogic position. Place the tip of your tongue behind and just above your teeth on the soft skin there. Start by exhaling fully. You want to make a loud whooshing sound as you exhale. Then breathe in for a count of four. Next hold your breath for a count of seven. Then breathe out for a count of eight making the whooshing sound again. Repeat that whole cycle four times. My brain always quiets down after that one!

You can also try counting backwards along with your breathing. For example, breathe in and out, that is twenty, in and out, nineteen...keep going until your mind wanders. Keep practicing until you can get to one without losing concentration. You can start with ten if you are struggling to get to one from twenty.

Next week on Fall Back Friday, we'll talk about how taking a "breathing break" can help your writing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Author Interview & Contest at Armchair Heroines: Robin D. Owens

Hello, everybody!

Today is Word Wizard Wednesday over at Armchair Heroines featuring author is Robin D. Owens. Click through to read her interview. You can comment here and at Armchair Heroines for two entries into the contest!

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Contest Winner & Tuesday Top Ten: Editing

Wordplay and Witticisms: This word comes from the French Prusse, meaning Prussia. It has come to mean "neat or stylish".

I am thrilled to announce the winner of the autographed copy of The Vampire Shrink by Lynda Hilburn is...


E-mail me your snail mail address and your book will soon be winging its way to you! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who commented. A huge thank you to Lynda Hilburn for taking time out of her busy shedule to hang out with us!

Tomorrow we will be welcoming Robin D. Owens, author of Heart Mate and Heart Thief (among many)!

Tuesday Top Ten:

How is your manuscript reading coming along? Once you have read your entire manuscript you can jump into the editing and revising process with both feet. Here are ten things to watch for, in no particular order:

1. Character inconsistencies: You want to have a firm grasp on your characters. They need to have a goal, a motivation and a conflict that is keeping them from their goal. All of your characters' actions come from these!

2. Point of View: make sure it stays consistent. Avoid "head jumping" especially as a new writer. Your story will tighten up if you keep the number of minds the reader can "read" minimal.

3. Dialogue tags ("he said", "she said"): You have to walk a thin line here. You need enough so the reader knows who is speaking but not so many to create distraction. Be wary of using too many unique tags like "exclaimed", "answered", "replied". Readers see but don't notice "said" yet it serves the purpose of identifying the speaker. Unique tags can be even more distracting so use them sparingly.

4. The word "that": Take it out if you can. For example, "She said that Mary was coming," can be "She said Mary was coming." Too many "thats" can be distracting and slow down the pace of your writing.

5. Adverbs: If you are using a lot of "ly" words, try to find a stronger verb that doesn't need an adverb. For example, "said quietly" could be "whispered".

6. Grammar: You're an author, a word wizard. You need to have a strong, basic grasp of grammar. If you don't, get one - now, before you do anything else.

7. Spelling: See above

8. Style: Watch for run-on sentences, sentences that are confusing, overusing a specific word. For more information, check out The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. This is a good reference book to have in your library.

9. "Be" Verbs: These can slow down your story. Try to find alternatives.

10. All of the above "rules" are made to be broken: That is the beauty (or horror) of writing and editing. There are no hard and fast rules, no one way that's "right". But they can be helpful, especially for writing newbies. Rules can guide you and give you focus. They can make the daunting task of editing and revising a little less overwhelming. Then as you become more proficient (and you will), you can bend and break the rules...

Try not to bite off more than you can chew. Editing is a slow process. If you start getting tired, your mind will wander and you will miss problems. Make a page goal or take it one chapter at a time! I try to edit 10 to 15 pages a day.

Good luck and keep writing! Have questions? Put them in the comments and I will do my best to address them!

W & W Answer: "Spruced up"...the Prussians were thought to be fashionably attired. For more fun check out Orijinz.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rest and the Writer...

Wordplay and Witticisms: "Never be afraid to sit awhile and think."
~ Lorraine Hansberry
American Playwright, A Raisin in the Sun

My current writing soundtrack: Silence is golden...at least right now!

TGIF...and that means it is time for a "Fall Back Fridays" post.

Although this blog is called "No Rest for the Querying", today we are going to flout it and talk about the importance of taking it easy!

How many of us burn the candle at both ends? Yeah, that's what I figured!

In my experience, there are very few writers who just write. Many of us are the primary caregivers for our families or have jobs outside the home. So we sneak our writing in whenever we can grab a spare moment. And for many of us that comes in the early morning or late evening. Translation: we writers are seriously sleep-deprived!

So, today take twenty minutes and rest...

In his book Healthy Aging, Andrew Weil says:

"Napping is just one way of taking care of the body's need for rest. You can also lie in a hammock or just stare into space. The essence of rest is not doing - that is, being passive on both the physical and mental levels."

He goes on to say:

"The body needs rest, both to balance physical activity and to recharge the mind."

I take that to mean that resting, even a quick cat nap is good for my writing!

It's not necessarily easy to turn off our minds, and we'll address that in another post, but for today just find a place to plant yourself and "not do".

See ya' - I'm off to find a hammock!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Author Interview: Lynda Hilburn

It's Wednesday! I am thrilled to announce that our Word Wizard for today is Lynda Hilburn...

The Vampire Shrink by Lynda Hilburn

This book is an urban fantasyand I am left pining for more!

My favorite part? Devereux. Here's a hero I can sink my teeth into…come on, it's a vampire book. You had to know there was going to be at least one bad vampire pun.

Anyway, I love this handsome, fanged devil! You see, I'm the kind of girl who wants it all. I want to be respected as a woman, have lots of choices, and be able to make up my own mind. But there is also something intensely appealing about an 800 year-old vampire complete with a few chauvinistic bents. I'd love for him to want to take care of me, spoil me rotten, even protect me. We might have to talk about that title "Master", though...

I have a signed copy of Lynda Hilburn's The Vampire Shrink for one lucky reader. Post a comment below about your experience with vampires. Like them? Why? Dislike them? Why is that? This contest is being run on both of my blogs, but I only have one copy to give away. Feel free to pop over to Armchair Heroines and post a comment there as well! One random winner will be chosen on Tuesday, June 24th.

And now, without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Lynda Hilburn, today's Word Wizard and author of The Vampire Shrink...
*crazy applause*

Thanks so much for having me, Tiffany!

Great to have you here, Lynda. How did you get started writing?

I've written nonfiction for 30 years, mostly articles, columns, humor pieces, workshop/presentation materials and free-form journaling. At the end of 2003, during a hypnosis workshop, one of my students noticed that I had lots of vampire books (of the horror persuasion) on my bookshelves. She asked if I knew about something called "paranormal romance?" Paranormal romance? No, I hadn't ever heard of that. She rattled off names of authors I hadn't read, and enthused about the great books I was missing out on. Armed with the list she provided for me, I headed off to the library and devoured every paranormal I could find. I was in bloodsucking heaven. Also, right about that time, urban fantasy began sticking its dark little toe into the publishing pool as well. Since I'd always loved to write, it didn't take me long to find myself sitting in front of my computer, pounding out my first fiction tales. Of course, those first tales will remain hidden under my bed, never to see the light of day! I couldn't believe how much fun it was to write fiction rather than nonfiction. My imagination exploded. Now I'm addicted.

Where do you find inspiration?
My writing tends to be character-driven. I get inspired by people. Mostly clients, since my series is about a psychologist who becomes embroiled in the vampire underworld. It was a client session that inspired the idea for The Vampire Shrink. I couldn't stop thinking about how fascinating it would be if a real vampire showed up in my waiting room. Especially a gorgeous one. I write about what I know, so that means my stories all contain elements of psychology, metaphysics, occultism, magic, nontraditional spirituality, the intuitive arts and higher consciousness. I can't resist lifting up every rock to see what's underneath.

Who's your favorite, Alan or Devereux? (That is really an unfair question, but I couldn't resist!)
Well, as you might expect, I'll say I love them both. I like Alan's irreverence and his obvious insecurities. But I'm a vampire fan, first and foremost. I adore Devereux. He's a combination of all the vampire qualities I like: great looking, highly intelligent, motivated to continue learning and growing over his vast lifespan -- a vampire who isn't upset about being a vampire. He doesn't hate himself. He enjoys blood and isn't shy about sharing that knowledge with the heroine, Kismet. I'm planning to have Alan make a return appearance in a future book. Right now, he's off chasing a very bad vampire.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
My early goals all centered around music and singing. First, I wanted to be a Broadway star, then -- after I fell in love with the music of the late 60s and early 70s -- I knew I had to be a rock star. I spent 20 years singing in rock and roll bands. I never became a star, but during that time I discovered that I was interested in too many things to simply pick one thing. So, I studied metaphysics, wrote articles for newspapers, gave Tarot readings, went to college (undergraduate and graduate) to study psychology, raised my son as a single mom, and kept adding interests and skills. Now, when I think about what I want to be when I grow up, I just answer "happy."

What's your biggest writing challenge?
Making myself sit in the chair and write. I can always think of several other things I could do. I have plenty of time to write, and lots of reasons to write, so maybe I ought to give myself a therapy session to find out what the problem is!!

What's your favorite way to interact with your readers, besides through your novels?
I enjoy doing presentations, attending conferences and arranging book signings. But, having said that, I'll admit that I'm an introvert -- even painfully shy in situations where I don't have a clear role and I don't know anyone -- so I'm even happier to connect with readers via my blog and through email! I love hearing from readers.

Random question: Given the choice of anyone in the world, living or dead, who would you like to have as a dinner guest?
Well, as long as I'm not dinner, I'd like to have a chat with Dracula. What a twisted, intriguing psyche he must have (I imagine, grin!). Maybe I'd invite Anne Rice's Lestat to join us, just for another extraordinary viewpoint. Think of the case studies my heroine, Kismet Knight, would write! (Of course, I'd have to have Devereux near by, just to keep things under control. After all, he is my hero!)

Thanks again, Tiffany!! I look forward to finding out who wins the copy of The Vampire Shrink! The next book in the Kismet Knight, Ph.D., Vampire Psychologist series comes out this October: Dark Harvest.

Whew-ew! Thank you, Lynda. I can't wait to read Dark Harvest...

Don't forget to post in order to be entered into the contest! Be sure to visit Lynda's website to learn more about her fascinating world.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Going Topless Contest Winner

*Drum Roll, please!*

The winner of the signed copy of Going Topless by Renee Knowles is...


*Confetti flying, horns tooting*

Robyn, email me at Tiffany@TiffanyJames.net with your snail mail address and I will put your prize in the mail. If I don't hear from you by Sunday, June 22nd, I will draw a new winner!

Thanks to everyone who commented and made our first contest a success. Tune in this Wednesday for our Word Wizard, Lynda Hilburn! You could be the winner of a signed copy of her book The Vampire Shrink.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We Now Return To Our Work In Progress

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." ~Vincent Van Gogh

Before we do anything today, I am going to encourage every single one of you to head over to Chiron O'Keefe's blog, Write Soul, read today's entry, and Visualize The Reality You Want To Create. I suggest you do that visualization every day and revisit her post as often as necessary, until you see yourself as a writer!

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested." -- Sir Francis Bacon

And some are to be hacked up, jabbed, cut and pasted, rearranged and...

Yes, it is time to enter the world of editing and revision *ear-splitting scream*!

Don't worry! It is going to be OK. We are going to take our own sweet time with this. We are going to break it down into manageable pieces and embrace editing, relish revising.

If you wrote your first draft with flying fingers and pantalones flambé, then it is time to hit the brakes and take a deep breath. Revising and editing are beasts of a completely different nature and speed. This process is slow and tedious. It is time to embrace your inner tortoise and kiss that hare good-bye.

We are going to start by carving out a chunk of time (or several smaller ones). Then sit down, take a deep breath and read. That's it! NO - don't touch the keyboard, put down that red pen...just read. Get reacquainted with your characters, get a feel for your first draft, watch the plot flow (or not). Yes, you will probably find pieces that make you cringe, but you will also be pleasantly surprised to find places where the words flow together beautifully, evoking poignant emotions, delicious dialogue and compelling conflict.

So, I am going to leave you with this task for a few days. Sit back and read! Then on Wednesday, we'll have som fun with this week's word wizard, Lynda Hilburn.

Let me know what you find as you wander through your first draft!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Self Care for the Writer

Wordplay and Witticisms: "With stammering lips and insufficent sounds, I strive and struggle to deliver right the music of my nature..."
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

We are just about to break our "manuscript fast" and launch into the daunting task of manuscript editing...a perfect time to talk about taking care of yourself - your body to be more exact. Plus, today is "Fall Back Friday" (as in take a break, refresh, renew, etc.) so it is fitting!

In my other life I am a massage therapist. The large majority of my clients suffer from work induced problems. Translation? They sit at a desk all day and spend eight hours wreaking complete havoc on their bodies! But I'm just sitting there, how can that wreak bodily havoc? Believe me, it can and does!

You've heard the phrase: "a rolling stone gathers no moss"? Well, a stationary one does...and it isn't pretty. The moss I am referring to manifests as tight, inefficient muscles, decreased attention and alertness, poor circulation, increased stress, and pain. OK, so I am being a bit liberal in my interpretation of this idiom, but bear with me.

Sitting too long at a desk or computer isn't good. There are a handful of looooong posts in this comment alone, and they have the potential to be snoozers, so just trust me on this one. And you have probably experienced this for yourself. Your neck gets tight, maybe you even end up with a headache. Your forearms tingle and ache. Your brain becomes sluggish, etc.

So what's a time-challenged, work-loving writer to do?

Take a break, frequently!

Yeah, we've all heard it, but do we do it? I admit sometimes I am religious about taking breaks - even setting a timer to remind me. Other times? Not so much.

So here is your gentle reminder: take a break from that screen, that chair, that desk. Walk around a little, roll your shoulders, do some yoga. Get a glass of water (good for so many reasons). Do some deep breathing - especially to get that brain moving. Hey, that oxygen might even stimulate a great new idea, plot point or character motivation! It doesn't really matter what you do. What's important is that you just do it: get up off your bootie and move around a little. Take a break. James Brown is in my head singing:

"Get up offa that thing, and dance 'till you feel better,
Get up offa that thing, and try to release that pressure!
Get up offa that thing, and shake 'till you feel better,
Get up offa that thing, and shake it, say it now!"

So get up offa that thing, just for a few moments. Then settle back in and pick up where you left off. Your body, mind and writing will thank you!

Do you take breaks? If so, what do you do to ease those aching eyes, muscles and mind?

Don't forget - our contest is still running. You'll be entered to win a signed copy of Going Topless by Renee Knowles. See Tuesday's post.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Author Interview: Renee Knowles

We have been working hard all week...time for a break and some fun!

A warm welcome and deafening round of applause for Renee Knowles! Renee has graciously agreed to answer some questions for us here at No Rest.. and we have one signed copy of her first book, Going Topless, up for grabs. (Contest information at the end of the post).

Thanks for being here, Renee!

First off, tell us a little about Going Topless:

There are three women around which the novel is based. Which one do you most identify with and why?

I would say Susannah. She is vulnerable and full of pain over the death of her husband, but she has a certain strength—a steel spine— that keeps her going. I admire her. And, of course, she meets a sizzling younger man who helps her regain her mojo—who wouldn’t want that?

But I think at the essence of Susannah is a woman who is trying to find herself again. Not as a wife or a sister or a business owner, but just as a woman, plain and simple.

Your descriptions of Amsterdam feel very real to me. Have you been there before?

Yes! I lived in Frankfurt for a year and visited Amsterdam twice during that time. I love the city. It’s such an eclectic mix of romance and history and a new, modern way of living and thinking. One of my favorite places to visit was the Rijksmuseum. They have been undergoing a multi-year renovation, which left their very best pieces of Dutch art on display. The art was moving and spectacular.

I included a scene in the book between Susannah and Hagen set in this museum. I wanted to bring the history and feel of the city into the book in a way that wasn’t obtrusive.

Tell us a little about your road to “published author”:

Writing has always been a passion for me. I’ve written since I was just a child, stories always rolling around in my head :) But I didn’t seriously begin writing novels with the intent to publish until maybe 4-5 years ago. I took classes, read A LOT of books—craft books, writing life books, books in my genre, and I attended conferences.

I would have to say that to have the fortune to be mentored by NYT best-selling author, Eloisa James, whose work I adore, was probably the one catalyst for me to being able to write more marketable work.

And I began exploring more in my writing, and writing what I love to read. I’ve learned that sometimes breaking the rules is a good thing…

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read. Read. Read. Make sure you explore different genres and both non-fiction as well as fiction. It will give you a great sense of good writing and what is currently marketable.

Also, study your craft and network with other writers for support. This is a tough business and having a writing friend to call or e-mail when a rejection rolls in makes it so much easier to deal with the disappointment.

Finally, keep writing and believe in your dream!

What are you working on now?

I have two releases this summer that I’m very excited about! First, in July I have my first release with The Wild Rose Press. Courting Trouble is a sizzling and sensual historical romance. My hero in this work, Anthony, was one of my favorites to write. He is strong, sexy and loyal, yet he also has a tenderness about him, which stole my heart.

Also, in August I have a new erotic contemporary romance series coming from Siren Publishing. Pleasures, Inc. is based around a male escort service where the hottest men fulfill your steamiest fantasies, and they are there for your pleasure only… The first book, Guilty Pleasures, will be out in August.

If your readers want to learn more about these books or read an excerpt, they can visit my website at

And your random question: You have the power to go any distance into the future and, after one year, return to the present with any knowledge you gained but with no physical objects. How far would you go and what knowledge would you bring back with you?

Hmm, really great question, Tiffany! I think I would like to go about 50 years into the future. My reason is there is a lot of global warming “warnings” that focus on that time as being key to the loss of water, polar bears and all sorts of marine life. I would like to know if this really comes to pass and bring back the knowledge to our time, and hopefully this knowledge would help us protect the future of our planet.

Thanks so much, Tiffany, for the interview! You have a great blog here. It has been fun!

Thank you, Renee! Loved Going Topless and I can't wait for Courting Trouble (available July 23rd)! You can read an excerpt and reviews as well as purchase your copy of Going Topless here.

Want to win a signed copy of Renee's book, Going Topless? Post a comment and you will be entered into the random drawing which takes place on June 17th!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Business Plan for Writers

So yesterday we talked just a little about having a business plan. *Groan* Yes, I know, we don't really like to think of writing as a business...but *whisper* I am going to let you in on a little secret...it is a business! And with publishers fighting harder for their bottom lines, authors have to fight harder for their books and bottom lines. One of the most effective ways to arm yourself is with a business plan.

In her article "Business Plans for Writers: Taking the Pain Out of Planning", Renee Hagar, who writes romance and women's fiction as Renee Knowles, says "you are the CEO of your business...making all the production, financial and creative decisions". Sounds a bit overwhelming, doesn't it? That is where the business plan comes in.

The business plan is just that - a plan. As a writer it can help you stay motivated by providing a step-by-step plan of action. Your business plan can also give you a focus, help you make choices. There are so many opportunities out there and sometimes, even as an unpublished author, you have to say "no". Your business plan can help you make those hard decisions because it contains the big picture for your writing career.

So, how do you start writing and developing your business plan? Well, like writing itself, there is no one sure-fire way to create your business plan. I would suggest doing some research and reading. You could start with Renee's article. Or surf the net, see what you can find. I started out by developing my mission statement. I felt like that set the tone for my entire writing career and it works best for me to start with a big picture and break that down into smaller, more specific chunks.

In "Business Plans for Writers" the mission statement is defined as "who you are, what your writing is about and what sets you apart". In her book, Make A Name For Yourself, Robin Fisher Roffer says, "The mission statement expresses the company's highest ideals..." (p.51). Ms. Hagar's mission statement reads: "To write fun, fab and entertaining women's fiction, set in exotic locales and told with a chick-lit attitude." Read her book, Going Topless, and you will see her mission statement reflected very clearly. My mission statement has a broader scope right now because I am not completely sure of what I want to write. My mission statement is "to connect with my readers and provide a heart-warming, fun reading escape in the romance genre".

So, there you go. Get a start on your business plan, maybe by writing your mission statement. Writing is a passion, a calling. You owe it to yourself and your career to create a guiding force that will keep you on track, help you stay motivated and help you maintain your longevity as a writer!

Let me know how your business plan planning goes by posting comments below!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Marketing...for me?

So we've been talking about things you can do while giving your WIP a rest...

Last week I posted about reading other blogs to make you a better writer. Here is a great example. Plus it might give you some things to do this week during your "WIP fast".

Over at the Wet Noodle Posse (which, BTW, is a great resource blog to add to your reading list), Trish Milburn is talking about things you can do to make a name for yourself even before you are published. Check it out here.

Like idea #1: website/blog and don't have a website? Check out Template Kingdom. It is chock full of inexpensive templates. Not sure how to add your own content? Do you have a computer geek friend who might be able to help you? Having a website is an excellent way to start marketing yourself as a writer!

Like idea #3: Branding? Check out Robin Fisher Roffer's book Make a Name for Yourself. If you complete the activities in her book, not only will you have a brand for yourself, you will also be well on your way to having a business plan for your writing! And, yes, it is a good idea to have a business plan...writing is a business (even though sometimes we'd like to ignore that fact)!

What are you doing while taking a break from your WIP?

Friday, June 6, 2008

RE: Rest, renew, recharge...retreat

"We withdraw, not only from the concerns of the world and its preoccupations but from the incessant monologue and concerns within ourselves, in order for something else to come into being."

~ Deena Metzger, Writing For Your Life

As writers, many of us work from home while simultaneously wearing other hats (wife, husband, mom, dad, chef, tutor, chauffeur, etc.). We snatch time here and there for our writing and its supporting activities. Because of that we don’t always have well-defined “work time”. We plot our novel while folding the laundry or work out that character inconsistency in chapter 5 while cooking dinner. Then we run like hell for the office as soon as the kids are tucked snug in bed. Work snakes its way into every moment of our lives. Great for a unique and creative approach to “too much to do and too little time to do it” but murder on avoiding burn-out. Even though writing is our passion, the adage "you can have too much of a good thing" still applies.

There are no clear boundaries to our work life and our home life. Quiet time to ourselves…what’s that? But the hard truth of the matter is that we are headed for a heartbreak in the form of a burn-out if we don’t make time for rest and renewal. And since we are taking a breather from the chaotic and twirly energy of the first draft writing frenzy, this is the perfect time to institute “Fall Back Fridays” – Friday posts all about falling back, resting and retreating.

In The Woman’s Retreat Book, Jennifer Louden says:

“Each of us has a personal periodic, an internal tide, an instinctual cyclical rhythm that alternates between an accomplishing, energetic, doing time…and a retreating, reflective, being time.”

Time to embrace “being time”.

Not sure how to start? Grab a piece of paper (if you journal, you can use that), a writing utensil and a timer. Set the timer for ten minutes, push start and scribble, draw, and/or doodle answers to this question:

“I never have time to _______ anymore?”
* See The Woman’s Retreat Book by Jennifer Louden, page 73

No matter what, keep writing. If you repeat two items fifteen times each, keep writing. Don't stop until the timer dings. Then read back through your list (it may take several read-throughs) and see which item resonates. Maybe your stomach flips each time you read “hike” or your skin tingles when your eyes fall on “take a nap”. Listen to your body’s cues and pick one. Then take a break from "doing" and indulge in "being".

BTW, if "Fall Back Fridays" don't work for your schedule, try "Sanctuary Saturdays" or "Sunday Evening Escape". Just pick a time that works for you and do it. Your muse will thank you and so will your family, your body, your children, your friends...

What did you do for "Fall Back Friday"? How did you feel? Refreshed? Renewed? Excited to get back to writing?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Moms As Writers and Building Your Reference Library

Wordplay and Witticisms: "Hell, there are no rules here, we're trying to accomplish something." ~ Thomas Edison

My current writing soundtrack: just the rain pitter-pattering against the driveway

I want to take a moment and veer from our talks on what to do while waiting to return to your rough draft and talk inspiration. I found a new blog this morning, The Writers' Group. The minute it popped up on my screen, I felt warmth, support and community. I know it sounds weird but somehow the energy of these four women zipped along the electronic connections, deposited on my screen and then radiated to me. As I was scrolling through there was a link to a Boston Globe article about moms who were writers. Now, I have a tendency to sit at my computer screen and think bad thoughts...no, not bad thoughts that might be incorporated into my latest romance novel, but the kind of thoughts that proceed to cut me off at the knees. Thoughts that fill my head with doubt and despair.

"I'm just a stay-at-home mom, who do I think I am trying to be a writer?" the voice whines.

I rally my supporter voice and argue back, "You are a stay-at-home mom who acts as chauffeur, accountant, nurse, cheerleader, chef, nutritional consultant, entertainment director, laundress, personal shopper, tutor and personal organizer (all in the span of 24 hours I might add) -- "

The negative voice interrupts, "But you don't know anything about being a writer."

On and on it goes...

But then I read the Boston Globe article. Check out these snippets:

"They bring the heat," Stace Budzko, an instructor at Grub Street and at Emerson College, said of the young mothers in his classes. "When it comes to conflict, they've seen it all. Nothing scares them."

Motherhood can be a powerful formative experience for writers. "All mothers go through this period when they're terrified about what might happen to their child," said Lara JK Wilson, 41, a short-story writer who wrote before and after motherhood, and experienced the difference. "Feeling that can bring you to a place that's sharp as a knife. You feel edginess to your emotional state, and you know what ends you will go to, to protect that child. I can imagine the childhoods of all my adult characters, and it's because I have a multitude of emotional states in my family life."

MacKinnon says writing helps her feel complete and settles her as a mother. Recently she took her children with her for meetings with her New York publishers, so they could see the offices at Random House. "I've shown them that if you work really hard, and if you have a dream, you achieve that dream," she said.

As I sat reading this article validation and inspiration jumped off the screen, moving me to tears. For those of you aspiring writers who are also moms, revisit these words often. Embrace your need to be both, writer and mother (and chauffeur, accountant...) and know that you have a unique gift to give through your writing. A gift that no one else can give in exactly the same way! The same goes for all of you writers, regardless of what other roles you don, no one else can string thoughts, ideas and words together the way you do...

OK, *sniff, nose blowing*, I've had my emotional moment for the day, now on to some business!

We are talking about what you can do while taking a break from your WIP after reaching "the end" (as it currently stands - it will change. I promise!). This is a good time to work on building your library of reference and technique books. Peruse the shelves or online database at your local library. Wander the aisles of your local book store. Make a list or make some purchases of books you can refer to when you are writing (or taking a break, as we are now).

I write historical and contemporary romance. Here are some of the reference books on my shelf, ones I couldn't live without:

The Timetables Of History by Bernard Grun
The Timetables Of American History by Laurence Urdang
Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati
The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing A Novel by Tom Monteleone
No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty
On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels
Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon
The Synonym Finder by J.J. Rodale
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
***this is great for historical writers because it has the dates words came into use

So, start your list or begin your collection.

What books are on your reference shelf? What books do you have that are tattered and torn because you refer to them so often?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blog reading can make you a better writer...

Wordplay and Witticisms: SOMNIFEROUS - (adj) causing or inducing sleep
"He has gone outside the usual channels of stodgy academic journals and somniferous lectures."

My current writing soundtrack: Soundtrack from French Kiss

Need a little pick-me-up? Check out Rachel Gibson's first sell story over at Dear Author. Six years, 25 rejections, a Golden Heart (an award for unpublished romance authors) and still no publisher in sight? Rachel Gibson - author of at least 13 books, a NY Times and USA Today bestseller? Puts things in perspective for me. How about you?

OK - so some of you are still writing and some of us have reached "the end" and been commanded/encouraged to take a break for a couple weeks. So, what's an aspiring author to do? Two weeks is a long time!

Glad you asked. That is precisely what we will be talking about over the next eight to ten posts. Things you can do that will benefit your writing but don't entail directly working on your manuscript. Writing is still the best activity in which to engage in order to improve your writing, but there are a lot of activites that are beneficial but will give you objectivity and space from your recently completed rough draft.

How about picking up a great book, one that you read solely for pleasure? Who knows, maybe that little sponge of a brain of yours will subliminally pick up a tidbit that will inspire you down the road!

On the subject of reading, you could wax your surf board (AKA your computer mouse) and hit the blog waves of the world wide web.

In her blog, The Writing Bug, Kerrie Flanagan (Director of Northern Colorado Writers) highly recommends reading blogs of other writers. In fact, she recommends you make time for it in your daily routine.

Lisa Vella over at "Getting it Write for You" says blog surfing makes her a better writer. She finds inspiration, resources and friends through her blog reading.

So, in your quest to be a better writer and take a break from your WIP (work in progress) read some blogs - learn something new, make new friends and gather resources! If you need a jumpstart, check out the blogroll here at "No Rest...".

P.S. An easier way to read blogs is to use an online RSS reader. I use Bloglines. All of the blogs that I like to read are there in one place. You can create folders for easy access and organization. Check it out!

Already a A+ surfer? What are your favorite writing blogs? Where have you found killer info?

Monday, June 2, 2008

You've reached "the end"...so now what?

Wordplay and Witticisms: If a big gun on a ship came unfastened, it could roll around and cause all kinds of damage...that is where this term meaning "out of control" comes from.

My current writing soundtrack: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra

If your pants are still flaming and your fingers still burning, keep writing!

For those of you who have reached "the end", whether that end sits at 20,000 words or 200,000 words, it is time to step away from the computer. You heard me, back away from the keyboard...

That's right, after laboring intensely on your novel, it is time to take a break. Join the land of the living (AKA the land of non-writers). Leave your new baby for awhile. Don't read it, don't edit it, don't even look at it - for at least two weeks.

You may experience some sadness, a touch of poignant longing or a full-blown depression. That's OK - it is all normal. After all, you have been laboring with this project for an extended amount of time. Most likely, it encompasses joy, sorrow and every emotion in between, not to mention some of your best friends or most loathed villians. But, in order to continue on your quest of becoming a writer, you have to step away and gain some objectivitiy. Get reacquainted with your significant other, children, pets and...if you absolutely have to, the mountains of laundry that reproduced during your writing binge more rapidly than the most prolific rabbit.

Then, as Chris Baty says in No Plot? No Problem!, "when calm has regained, when you've gotten a little objective distance from your manuscript, then you will be ready for the next awesome experience: reading it."

Wordplay and Witticisms answer: Loose cannon
Check out Orijinz for more word play!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pick Your Poison: A Blank Page or A Page of Crap?

So, how's the writing coming along? Have you been putting your butt in the chair and writing?

No??!!! Why not? Staring at a blank screen? Scared that what you type on the virginal white screen will be suckish? Crap? Boring? Total B.S.?

I feel your pain...

And, yes, a portion of it will be suckish, crap, boring and total B.S. - if you are me, a rather large portion. But think about this:

"It's a lot easier to edit a page of crap, than a blank page."

Do you know who said that? Nora Roberts...THE Nora Roberts. Now, whether you like her novels or not, it is difficult to deny that she is an incredibly successful author. In fact, she is one of the most prolific authors out there...and her books sell!

So, plop on down in that writing chair and take a hint from Nora...write your crap and then edit it.

The point is to just get it down. Especially for those of us who are pantsers, getting it down gives our characters a breath of life. They become multi-dimensional and lead us in directions we might never find on our own. Just getting it down gives us the framework, the big picture. As in "Aahh, that is where this is going!". That is why it is called a rough draft. It can be fine-tuned and tweaked later. Just get it down! Did I already say that? Just write!

Give yourself permission to write suckish prose, boring descriptions and unending internal monologue. Do you know where that will take you? The promised land, baby! The land of "I wrote a novel". No one has to know it sucks, because just getting it down is one of the hardest parts. Then you can take a break and return to your manuscript (how cool does it feel to say that?!) with a fresh mind, fresh typing fingers and a delete button that operates at the speed of light. But that is a lesson for another day! Until then...

Yeah, you guessed it: Just get it down!

Don't get it right, get it written!
Ally Carter
Author of: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You

Stop thinking. Start writing!
Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants

Any writer who knows what he's doing isn't doing very much.
Author Nelson Algren

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wordplay and Witticisms: PERSPICACITY - adj. (1640): of acute mental vision or discernment; keen; shrewd

"I understand," I said. "The fact is that you have the money." His face brightened. He seemed pleased at my perspicacity.

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

My current writing soundtrack: Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack

I stayed up late last night finishing Bacherlorette #1 by Jennifer O’Connell and found some uncomfortable parallels between the hens (bachelorettes) and writers.

Sarah Holmes, a freelance magazine writer, leaves her husband and eighteen month old daughter to infiltrate the world of “The Stag” (think “The Bachelor”) and write a scathing exposé. If she does well and makes it through the candle ceremonies, she could be looking at five weeks in the world of TV, twenty-somethings and blatant flirting.

This was a great story, exploring some serious issues in a poignant yet humorous, light-hearted way.

But what made me shift uncomfortably in my seat was the way I easily identified with the hens. These women are good-looking (though not perfect) and intelligent (albeit looking for love on a TV show) with successful careers and promising futures. Yet they all came onto the show hoping to be the coveted chosen one. I feel like that as a writer (not necessarily the good-looking, intelligent, successful career…well you get the picture). I hope to be the lucky winner. When I query agents and editors, I feel a little desperate, hoping, pleading, begging that they will choose me.

But what Sarah realizes as the show goes on is that all of these women made the choice to be on the show – each for their own reasons. And I was hit with a startling revelation: I am not desperate – although I may beg, hope and pray. I have chosen to reach for published status…at any point I have the choice to walk away and either leave writing behind or forget about getting published and just write for pure pleasure (at this point, I am not necessarily writing to make a living – I have a day job for that). The “I get it” bulb in my brain magically lit and the resonating “ding” that echoed through my head reinforced the message: choice, choosing, to choose. That knowledge makes me feel powerful instead of desperate, in control instead of blowing in the winds of chance…and it makes me feel excited about writing once again. I chose to join this world and I love it. Even though I know it will be a road paved with rejection and disappointment, this is where I want to be. The world I want to inhabit: the sphere of the writer. And should it ever become too much or no fun or just a pain in the ass, I have the choice to walk away and pursue other interests…and that is an empowering, heady thought indeed!

Knowledge is power – especially the knowledge of choice.

Keep writing…as long as you choose to do so!

Also, check out this article from PR-Inside for an optimistic kick in the pants!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rejection...ticket to the writer's world

I have been absent for a few days...I have officially entered the world of writers. I received my first rejection letter from an agent!

I took a few days to wallow and fight the "what-the-hell-do-I-think-I-am-doing-trying-to-be-a-writer" demon and now I am refreshed and renewed, ready to solicit that next rejection or (saints preserve us) the one that might just possibly be a "yes".

Actually, my rejection experience was quite pleasant as those tend to go. I pitched to this particular agent at a conference and she requested a partial. After reading my partial she emailed to say that my manuscript was well done (YEEEEE-hah!) but not a good fit for her office ($#!*&.....). She took the time to include a personal note rather than just sending a form rejection letter. It made the rejection less painful and crushing (yeah, yeah, I know I am going to have to get tougher skin...I am new at this, give me some time). Of course, it also made me want to work with her all the more. (Giant sigh)

Since joining the writing world a short time ago, I have been pleasantly surprised by the handfuls of "nice" people and mountains of helpful advice and support I have received. I had always heard that the world of publishing was brutal, cut-throat and positively spirit-crushing. Although, I am sure those experiences are out there, that has not been my experience so far.

So, if you are an aspiring author, find the nice people...they are out there. The best place to start is a conference or writer's group. For romance writers, look no further than Romance Writers of America. There are local chapters in almost every state - frequently more than one. These groups are full of supportive aspiring and published authors willing to offer any help they can to newbies. When you do find this amazing network, be sure to be grateful and respectful! Also check my blogroll and keep reading "No Rest...", support and encouragement are just a click away!

If you are in the Northern Colorado area, my thoughts are with you, fair weather may you see! If you need some distraction and a helping of fun, be sure to stop at the Barnes and Noble at Centerra to visit with local authors Melissa Mayhue, Lynda Hilburn, and Robin D. Owens. They will be signing from 2 - 5 pm. If you can't make it, don't despair. I am hoping to cajole them into signing a plethora of books that I can give away on this blog! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why do we love romance novels?

Wordplay and Witticisms: In 15th and 16th century England, people found guilty of being religious heretics were sentenced to death by burning...this term evolved from those judgments. What is it?

As writers it is important to know our target audience…my guess is that most of us are also members of our target audience…The only thing I like more than writing a romance is reading one!

Supposedly, a large percentage of women who read romance are happily married or in otherwise committed, monogamous relationships. Is that true? I happen to be, but I would be interested to know where that theory came from and if there is any truth to it…

If you fit into that group, why do you love romance novels? Is it because it gives you an escape from your own life for a time? Or do you read romance to become re-energized? Grateful (as in “Thank the stars my life isn’t as complicated as …. – insert name of current heroine here)? Or is it something else? Author Alicia Blade has this to say in her blog, Ali’s Blog, last week:

“…I wonder now if women who are in happy, satisfying relationships don't read the novels not because they're missing something, but rather as a means of reliving those first few weeks or months of passionate excitement that almost inevitably fades. Women often say that they feel more intimate with their mates after reading a romance, and I think that this is possibly because the romance reminds them of those feelings once-experienced—not necessarily lost, but harder to recapture now that the relationship has settled into comfort and security.”

Falling into the category of happily married-romance novel lover, I have to agree with Ali’s musings. I find a stengthened connection physically and emotionally to my husband after reading a good romance. I am reminded of what it was like when I first fell (hard and fast, I might add) for him. We were completely absorbed in each other, constantly thinking about the other and putting the majority of our energy into our blooming romance. Now, ten years, three kids, several houses and numerous jobs later, we can’t do that; but the blossoming relationship between a hero and heroine takes me back to those crazy, giddy times. I think it is more than just fond remembrances, though. It is actually recapturing the feelings that were so strong when our love was new. I felt a graciousness and gratitude toward the whole world as a giddy, love-sick twenty-five year old. My faith in goodness and love was renewed. I get those same feelings from reading a great romance. My love with my husband is renewed but so is my faith in the world…

Sappy? Yeah… Cheesy? Maybe…Do I keep going back for more…and more…and more? You bet I do! And my sincerest hope is that the novels I write leave my readers with the same feel-good fuzzies.

That leaves me with a whole handful of questions…Are you in a relationship? Does that influence whether you read romance or not? Why do you read romance?

W & W Answer: Rake over the coals
Check out the game Orijinz for more fun

Friday, May 16, 2008

Permission to Indulge

Wordplay and Witticisms: OBSEQUIOUS - adjective: fawning, servile (adv. obsequiously)
"...in a manner that oozed obsequious courtesy." page 158, The Eyes of the Virgin by Tom Monteleone

My current writing soundtrack: Spy Kids movie...I am writing at the kitchen table and my kindergartner is watching.

I encourage all of you aspring authors to don your romance reader cap and join Harlequin for their 2008 – 100,000 Book Challenge. Read, read, read (individually or on a team) and Harlequin will donate an equivalent number of books to the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL).

The “NCFL fuels life improvement for the nation’s most disadvantaged children and parents. More than 1 million families throughout the country have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL’s work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers.”

“Family literacy is proven to break down other barriers to success—poverty, unemployment, poor health and inadequate housing. When parents struggle with literacy and life skills, their children have fewer chances for success. Family literacy reverses that cycle by teaching the families of today in order to impact the generations of tomorrow.”

Harlequin asks that fifty percent of your books come from their publishing house. That shouldn’t be difficult as they have over fifteen different lines – from historical romance to westerns to intrigue to medical romance, there is something for every romance novel lover. You have until December 31st to read to your heart’s content. Join Harlequin and make your reading count!

Want to do more? Check out Romance Writers of America website. They are involved in Literacy projects also….

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flush that excuse...

Wordplay and Witticisms: Pigs were put in bags and sold in medieval markets. Unscrupulous sellers would dupe their buyers by replacing the pigs with large cats. A buyer figuring out the ploy inspired this phrase...from the game: Orijinz (answer at the bottom)

My current writing soundtrack: Elevator music...I am babysitting a friend's eight week old baby. He's asleep and I am desperate to keep it that way!

Have you started writing yet? Did you set a time or word count goal, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem? Did you carve out a stretch of time to sit down, ala pantalones flambé, and type furiously?

No time, you say? Think again…

In his book No Plot? No Problem, National Novel Writing Month organizer Chris Baty says “being busy is good for your writing”. Yes, you read correctly – being busy is good for your writing! Here’s why:

Grab an apple and don a Newtonian thinking cap…an object in motion tends to stay in motion. So if you are all ready busy, adding another thing isn’t that big of a deal. You are all ready going at mach 5 - 1,001 to-dos are not that different from 1,002, right?

Yes, I know you would like to slap me right about now, but bear with me...

Baty believes that having to carve writing time out of your myriad of other obligations makes it a “treat”, something exciting and special to do for yourself. Whereas, if you have loads of time to write (at a writer’s retreat for example), suddenly writing is an obligation. Now, don’t get me wrong, writer’s retreats and long stretches of time to work on your novel have their place, but it is not when you are composing your first draft. During first draft craziness, you need to just light your pants and fingers on fire and go like mad, something more easily done when you know you are working on finite writing time, snatching moments here and there.

So, sorry, one excuse decidedly flushed down the toilet…Crazy busy? Running like mad? Going in twelve different directions? Good for you – now get to writing!

Wordplay and Witticisms answer: The cat's out of the bag

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pantalones Flambé!

When it comes to writing, I have found the "pantalones flambé" approach to work best. I am no expert, hence the term "aspiring" author, but I like to just sit down and write, pounding the keyboard with abandon, tying strings of words and phrases together...I like to write as if my pants are on fire. "Pantalones flambé!" is my war whoop.

Other people prefer to plan: character sketches, plots, sub-plots, etc. I am a perfectionist and a neurotic planner - not a good combination. I become paralyzed with research and planning. When I am writing, brackets are my best friends. If I am missing information or need to do research, I throw in a set of brackets and keep right on typing. That way, I can obsess and lose absurdly long stretches of time researching AFTER my first draft is complete.

Find what works for you and don't be afraid to think outside the established "rules". The most important thing is to just get that first draft down...whether you do that by following an outline, a rough sketch or by the seat of your pantalones flambé, just do it!

Monday, May 12, 2008

To be or not to be...was never the question.

How did I decide to be a writer?

I never really sat down with a plan to be an author…it was more of a stumble, followed by a headfirst plunge into a crazy, wild, vibrant, new subculture.

Last fall, when my "baby" started kindergarten, I found myself with a serious case of PMS, acne and angst…I suddenly felt like I was back in high school, pondering the age old question, “What am I going to do with my life?". And like the proverbial seeker who can’t see the forest for the trees, I was in a quandary.

I panicked. I cried. I got depressed. I threw myself into projects that didn't feel quite right. I journaled, did my fair share of soul searching, then decided to do as my recent read, Life Organizing, by Jennifer Louden, suggested: hop on the inner tube of life and float…to go where the current would take me.

Yeah, easy for her to say...I am what you might call a die-hard, goal-writing, objective-making planner. To sit and go with the flow was, needless to say, not only completely foreign to me but frightening: nail-biting, sick-to-my-stomach, can't-sleep-at-night frightening...it scared the royal you-know-what out of me…

But, I digress.

So, there I was in a premature, pseudo-midlife crisis when I stumbled upon the NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. I can’t remember now how I found it. I wish I could. I decided to give writing a novel in thirty days a go. I wrote, read articles from the website and faithfully digested the "pump up" emails. By day 27, I had a sloppy, painfully rough 56,00 word first draft. Hmm, I thought, interesting experience. I promptly put it away, and resumed my primary duties: cleaning house, doing laundry and chauffeuring our three children here, there and everywhere… then something strange and wonderful happened. I woke in the middle of the night longing for the companionship of my characters. I missed my heroine’s sassy repartee and romantic yearnings. I pined for my hero’s charming, debonair, arrogant presence. So I went back to my novel and read it for the first time. Groaning an "ugh" of disgust in various places, then raising my brows in a, "Holy s@&* did that really come out of my brain? It isn’t half bad!" in others, I started editing and adding. I now have a new baby: a 95,000 word historical romance!

If you are floating along but think you might like to give writing a whirl or if yours is a deep-seated, heart-tugging longing, my advice is to just plant your keister and write. Bring your inner tube if you like…

Nike had it right when they said, “Just do it!”.