Blog Archives

Back to Blue Stars

I’m a bit tired today. I did not get much sleep last night. Monday’s interview went well and today I had a skills test that I passed. My next interview is scheduled for this coming Monday. So, there is much more prep and practice to come over the next few days. I really want this job. That is where my focus is right now.

Yesterday, I finally took a day off from writing. It was a little bittersweet to end my streak. I was running errands and by the time I got back, I just didn’t want to write. So, I let it go. It felt good to make the choice though. Today starts a new run. I don’t know if it will last as long as the last one but we’ll see.  For every day that I write, I get a blue star. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing blue stars on my calendar. The blank spot on yesterday’s date looks a little lonely.

Today, I got back to novel analyzing. I started working on Jennifer Estep’s Karma Girl. I just read that book last week I think. So, the scenes are still very fresh in my mind and therefore easier to analyze quickly. I am hoping it doesn’t take very long to get through. I’m actually excited to be working on this goal again.

As for reading, I’m finishing up the last book in Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage series today. I really like the series. I am a little sad that I don’t have more of them to read. I did see talk of another one on her website. Fingers crossed. No reading in the craft department. That’s cool for now.

Catch you guys Sunday. Happy ROWing!



A Case of the Shoulds

I am just bubbling over with excitement. I have a job interview tomorrow with a company that I’ve applied to a number of times. So, I’ve been in prep mode for a few days now. There is more company research to be done. And then there’s practicing the answers to likely questions . Busy, busy, busy in a good way. I’ve thrown a roast in the slow cooker so that I can just put my head down and work.

As for my goals, I am consistently moving forward. I’ve finished another Faith Hunter novel and started the last one available in the series. I came down with a case of the shoulds yesterday. I haven’t read any of the current craft book of choice for probably a week. I’ve been so caught up in good fiction, the kind that’s like candy. I started to feel guilty for enjoying myself too much. I decided that I should read something more substantial and get back to the craft book and blah blah blah.

Truth is, I don’t care about any of that. I put the heavier stuff to side. I went back to what I WANT to read right now. I’m calling this episode a momentary relapse. I suspect there will be more. But every time I manage to refocus on my priorities instead of the shoulds floating around in my head, I breathe a bit easier. I feel a bit stronger. I feel more myself.

I’m finding that the more I write. The quicker it gets. I’m able to hit my mark in shorter and shorter stints of time. I exceed my goal more often than not. That’s a good place to be for now. This is where I’d normally insert some new goal, but I’m not going to do that. I like the feeling of consistency. Gonna ride it out.

I hope that all is well with you guys. Have a great week ROW buddies.


Finding a Groove

At the start of this round, I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to participate. I was deep in the midst of a holiday hangover. It felt like round one was just starting too soon. I went back and forth about it. I didn’t want to start late or skip the whole round, but I had no clue what I really wanted to work on during this time. Ultimately, I joined. I pieced together some goals that seemed appropriate and I kept it moving.

As the weeks go on, I find that some goals have just died. Some have been tweaked. Some have popped up out nowhere and remain kind of unofficial. I have found myself a little groove. Once I decided that I wasn’t adding new craft books to my to-be-read list, I hit my own bookshelves. There are plenty of books already in my personal library that are untouched.

I’m content with my daily writing and getting lots of reading done. Since Wednesday, I’ve finished June Casagrande’s It was the best of sentences, It was the worst of sentences. I liked her approach to grammar enough to look into her other books. Ha, but since I don’t already own them, they’ll stay on the back burner for a while. I’ve started John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story.  On the fiction side of things, I picked a couple of Jennifer Estep’s novels from the library, Hot Mama and Karma Girl.

So, that’s where I am. Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Eat, sleep, and the usual stuff.

Hope all is well with you guys. Happy ROWing. Until Wednesday.

And a Cup of Honeyed Tea–ROW 80 Check-in

I woke up too  early this morning unable to get back to sleep. My throat felt scratchy and my body achy. With all the time I’ve spent sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office in the last month, I wouldn’t be shocked if I’ve picked up something. (One of the nurses suggested that I should be on the payroll. :P) I am just not ready to accept such a fate. So, I’m going to drink some tea with honey and find my happy place.

In the meantime, I’ve finished reading Story Engineering this morning. It was well worth the effort. I found the sections on structure and character to be the most useful to me. I’m sure I’ll reread them both a few times. Brooks comes at the subject of writing with specifics that I’ve been hard-pressed to find in other craft books. This one came highly recommended by Kristen Lamb and so many other folks that I had to pick it up. Glad I did.

Now that I’m done with that, I’m on to the next book. I started June Casagrande’s It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences. I think a little change of pace on the craft front will do me good.

I haven’t chosen my next book to analyze yet. Now that I’m a few books into the plot drill, my initial list looks less appealing. I am deviating from it for sure. I just have to figure out what’s next. I have some free time this afternoon. I’ll likely make my pick and get started then.

The daily writing continues. Onward ho!

Until Sunday my friends!

Success and Surrender–ROW 80 Check-in

By next check-in, it will be February. This first month of 2012 has blown by so quickly. I feel like round one just got started a few days ago, but that is not the case. Instead we’re twenty-eight days into this eighty day journey. I’m totally excited about the progress in some areas and less than impressed with others.  A mixed bag.

Reading– I finished Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. In the end, I’d say I’m more than luke warm about it, but I won’t be having any fangirl meltdowns about it either.  This book was extremely slow moving in too many places for me. I’m invested enough in the main character, Kvothe, to read the next installment. I hope it picks up.

I went back to Story Engineering as well. Knocked out  a few more chapters of that this last week. Got some pages in today.

Novel Analyzing– Haven’t worked on that at all in the last few days. And when I’m truly honest with myself, I realize that I’m just  being stubborn. I asked myself a question: Would I rather sacrifice the drill for the sake of finishing the book or sacrifice the book for the sake of finishing the drill?  When I look at it that way, the answer is clear. 

I’ve been trying to prove to myself that I can finish this book and slowing my overall progress in this area down to a snail’s pace. I hate quitting things, but sometimes that is the best option. Forcing myself to stick with it is not an efficient use of time in this situation. There is a big difference between activity and productivity, and I’d much rather be productive than merely active. I’m starting a new book this week with the option never to return to the book that shall not named. Waving the white flag and moving on.

Writing- I am most pleased with the happenings on this front. My 250 word test mile has been the most successful thing I’ve implemented so far this year. I have written every day this month. I haven’t written this consistently in  a while. I’m going to start participating in some sprints again. Those are always fun and productive for me.

How are you feeling after your first month of the new year?

Hope you guys are having fun and hitting your marks. Catch ya Wednesday!

Last Week’s Lesson–Row 80 Check-in

Last week was kind of hectic for me. I’m a bit rebellious by nature. And while I love the structure that comes with setting goals, I have to be flexible in the way I pursue them. I read a lot of books on self-discipline and productivity last summer.  They were helpful in many ways, but they also drilled into me this rigid way of doing things. Being rigid, I’ve learned, leaves me railing against guidelines that were put in place to help me. The week’s theatrics have left me with this lesson–

This is my path; I get to make the decisions.

With all the writing advice out there, sometimes it’s hard not to wobble to and fro trying to keep up with it all. It is absolutely exhausting trying to read every blog or book that’s recommended. Or trying to match my way of doing things up with some successful author validated routine. I have been making myself crazy.

I found myself on Amazon the other day looking through books that were recommended to me and discovered that I was completely unmotivated to read them let alone buy them. They’d just become more shoulds on a list that I’m already working to shorten. I’m choosing to spend more time doing the activities that I want to do and the ones that I feel will benefit my writing the most. I am officially in charge.

On to goals:

The writing is still going well. I haven’t missed a day. I’m thinking that 250 will probably become my permanent test mile number. It seems that I can bang out that number no matter what. I’ve tried 500 words before and found that I tend to miss a few days. I used to write 250 word articles for a website. I think that I’m so used to that word count that it is second nature at this point.

I haven’t done any novel analyzing work since Wednesday, and I’m okay with that. Of all the goals I’ve set for myself, it is the one that gives me the most grief. And to cut down on that angst, I’m letting go of the time frame I set for myself. I’m not adjusting it. I’m scrapping it altogether. The funny thing is I’ll probably get it done faster because I’ve stopped pressuring myself.

Story Engineering is getting it’s due. I’m not a fast reader in general, but craft books, especially the good ones, tend to be slower reading for me. Still loving it though.

And I’ve picked up Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind which is another hulking fantasy book. I’d been putting off reading it trying not to take too much time from (you guessed it) novel analyzing. I start to get weird when I’m not reading fiction, weirder when it’s because of some self-inflicted torture. Sooo…

I hope all is well with you guys. Happy ROWing! Until Wednesday.

Time Flies–ROW 80 Check-in

ROW week one has come and gone quickly. I’m sitting here on this rainy Sunday afternoon looking back over the last week. I can honestly say that I am pleased with my results. I guess time flies when you’re actually getting things done.

Writing-I’ve hit and surpassed my writing mark every day. I have two short pieces that I’m working on. It has been cool having them to alternate between. It keeps me from getting stuck. If I’m not feeling one on a particular day, I work on the other one. I’m confident that I’ll have a finished story by the end of the round.

Novel Analyzing- Progress here has been slow and steady. The further I get into the novel, the fewer the scenes. I like that aspect. Planning to pick up the pace a little bit.

Reading Story Engineering- I started rereading from the beginning and found myself bored (simply because I’ve read that part twice already). So, I decided to skip ahead to new territory. Smart move. The section on story structure is proving very helpful. I’m glad I invested in my own copy of the book.

Blog post- Didn’t get that in this past week. I had to make some decisions about what I’d blog about and when. I could have just made a random post to hit the goal, but the purpose of the goal is to add a regular day of posting about a specific topic. So, I decided to wait until I had it figured out. I should get that started this week most likely, next week at the latest.

What’s happening with you guys? Hope you’re hitting your marks. Until Wednesday my friends!

I’m grateful–Row 80 check-in

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and while I make it a habit to be grateful, this holiday makes it especially poignant. When things aren’t going quite as you hoped, it is easy to lose sight of what’s going well. Here’s a list of things I’m grateful for today and every day.

The Encouragers- These are the people who support you when things look good and when they don’t. They are the people who help you clean your wounds when you fall on your face. Then they tell you to get your ass back out there. These people focus on your strengths, and handle your weaknesses with firm, but gentle care. They tell you the truth even when it hurts.

The Inspirations- The inspirations are all geniuses in some form or another. They have things that they do so well that you can’t help but take notice. They make you want to do something. They make you want to be better. They make you challenge yourself. I’ve lost a few of my inspirations this year, but I am glad they were here. A moment of silence for my grandfather, David Early,Sr., Steve Jobs, Anne McCaffrey, and Heavy D.

The Laughter- No matter what’s happening, I’ve never gone a day without laughing. It keeps me sane.

The Do-overs, Fresh Starts, and Continuations- Sunday, I forgot to write. I was preoccupied with all the upheaval happening in my life right now and I just forgot. Then, I got mad because my streak was over. There was no check-in either. I was back to writing on Monday, and as you can see, back to checking in today.

My gusto for NaNo has completely died. Not the project itself, just the urge do a writing blitz. I am actually very surprised at how well the actual novel seems to be coming along. It’s just not happening at the pace set by the NaNo gods or the one I set for myself. That’s okay too. Slow pace is better than no pace.

I wonder what’s going to happen next year this time. Right now, I can honestly say I hope to ignore the NaNo glitz and keep to whatever I’m doing. But then, I tend to aim big and fail big. LOL…I’ll probably be set on diving, head first, into the madness again.

The Stretch- There is no real downside to taking risks. Yeah, I know–pain, failure, embarrassment, blah blah blah. All real, but fleeting. Whenever you do something that is beyond your comfort zone, you win regardless of the actual outcome. Even if you fail miserably, you end up in a better position than you were when you started. Yes, it sucks. It may be painful, but you learn. You move forward. You do better next time.

Happy Thanksgiving every one. Until Sunday.

The Big Plot Drill

Been slacking in the post department lately. So, I decided to just post about what I’m doing right now. I recently read Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell which is easily the best book on  plot that I’ve read thus far. I love creating characters and cultures, writing dialogue, and setting up conflict. Plotting isn’t my favorite part of writing and books on the subject usually make my eyes glaze over.

James Scott Bell’s approach to the subject is different. The book reads less like a college text and more like the transcript of a lecture from your favorite teacher. You know the one who made you feel smart and capable. She/he broke everything down into manageable chunks that you easily understood. The teacher gave you tips and systems that you still use. And somehow, she/he did it all while keeping you entertained. Priceless, right? I borrowed the book from the library, but it’s one that I’ll purchase for my reference shelf.

To get a deeper understanding of plotting, James Scott Bell recommends a plot drill. It involves reading six books,of the style you like to write, then analyzing the plots scene by scene. Bell admits that it’s hella work, but swears its worth it. *Folds arms and raises an eyebrow.* I’m choosing to take his word for it. I’m sure this drill will be highly beneficial. If not, I can always twitter-stalk him with my complaints.

Since, I write both fantasy and paranormal romance, I’m taking three books from each category to analyze.

For paranormal romance-

  • A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson
  • Edge of Hunger by Rhyannon Byrd
For fantasy-
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
  • Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

I chose two of my favorite authors (Hamilton and Sanderson), three that I really respect (Butcher,Davidson,McKillip) and one that I’ve never read before (Byrd). Half the reading is done. Enjoying the focus this drill requires. Looking forward to what I’ll learn from it.

What’s your experience? Have you done this drill or some other that really helped your writing?

Best Writing Advice Ever

I had a discussion with a writer friend of mine. We tend to be polar opposites in many ways and the pursuit of writing is no different. We both have the big dream, publishing regularly and successfully enough to kick the dreaded day job to the curb. But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.

Our main point of contention is whether or not reading books on craft is really worth the effort. My answer is an enthusiastic yes. Hers is a skeptical not so much. She gave me the side eye when I told her that I read craft books so that I know what I’m doing. She argued that those same books hinder creativity.

 I can see her point. There are so many writing rules that one can become overwhelmed. And then there is that tendency to accept all those rules as absolutes (which they aren’t). Or the desire to adopt some expert’s writing process because it worked for them. They made x amount of dollars doing it that way. It should work for me too. Right? Right?

Pitfalls, yes, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. How much creativity does one need to suck at writing? Or to be mediocre? Creativity cannot be short-circuited by studying actual technique.  It can only be enhanced by it. All the imagination and creativity in the world is useless without the skill to effectively tell a story.

When I was pursuing an MFA, one of my professors told me to “stop resting on talent, and study your craft.” I hated her for it at the time. I felt picked on, but now I know better. It was the most sincere and most useful writing advice I’ve gotten to date. It’s not enough to be talented. It’s not enough to be creative.  It’s a publishing jungle out there!

Talent+ Creativity-Skill= A Short-lived writing career (if it ever gets off the ground)

Sure, there are other ways to learn craft. However, there are few that are so readily available , fewer as cheap (break out your library card), and none so adaptable to your own pace. I’m lazy. I don’t want to spend hours toiling away, trying to figure out on my own what I could have learned easily from picking up a book or two. I’m grateful for the kick in pants that  professor gave me. Otherwise, I’d still be clinging to my delusions of grandeur.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?