Writing

Welcome, 2014!

It’s crazy that my first posting of 2014 is about writing and creativity recovery, and not about book reviews as I really wanted. I suppose they are kind of intertwined a bit, which is why when I think of one, the other also crosses my mind.

You see, I resolved to read 4 books a month FOR PLEASURE. That’s huge increase for me, as I read maybe 10 all of last year. I’m coming off an incredible dry spell, you see, of not being able to finish a book, regardless of how good it was.

Has a dry spell like that ever happened to you?

It’s kind of a freaky thing. I’d pick up a book I’d been looking forward to reading with every intention of savoring every word. In the end I’d relent and throw in the towel, not being able to get past chapter 3 or 4. It wasn’t the author, or the writing.

It was me.

I found this disinterest was part of the creative block that has paralyzed me for several years. More years than I care to admit.

This time last year, I was working through a 3-month Artist’s Way class offered through Savvy Authors and hosted by the ever fabulous Kat Duncan. Taking that class was like holding a mirror to my face. I was finally able to see what was going on with my inner artist.

Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever registered for a class that interested you and discovered that along with the information you were expecting to learn, you also experienced an extra special something so profound, it wasn’t an Aha! moment but rather an AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAA hour? Day? Week? Month?

I did.

First, I discovered there were reasons why I wasn’t able to read and write successfully. I was blocked creatively. Happens all the time to writers and other creative people. I found that it could happen to me again, and probably would at some time. I also found that I have tools and exercises that did – and will again – help me to work through the block and reclaim my creative self. The Artist’s Way helped me to see what was happening, and it also gave me a game plan on how to get back into the writing fray.

I have had a lot of benefits from that reclamation. I have a business where I design swag and promotional items – romance trading cards, books marks, etc. for many of my sister authors. How fun is that? I also create beautiful jewelry, weaving magic from seed beads, crystals, stones, and metal. That’s also a blast, and a completely different creative outlet. It’s more immediate, and definitely tactile, and allows me to exercise different creative muscles.

My creative self is having a blast. The best part of all this is that I am also able to write. Anytime I have a spare minute, and definitely at least once a day for a minimum of 1/2 hour, I’ll sit down and write a minimum of 250 words. Through this new discipline, I have added 30K to my WIP this past month. Now that may not seem like much, but to me – a recovering blocked writer – that is HUGE.

I’ve always said water dripping on stone works…every time.

It’s that consistent, every day practice that chips away at something until, before you know it, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do!

It’s the same with writing. Consistently putting your writing first some time during your day will also work, every time. It’s now day 31, and I’m off to write my 250 words…or more.

So tell me – have you ever been blocked? What did you do to help get back on track? Looking forward to hearing all about it!   “: )

Did You Seriously Just Use Your Bra For A Purse?

Wouldn’t that be a great line to add to your book?

In fact, isn’t that a great idea, period? Seems like I’m not the only one that thinks so. Someone’s already thought of that, created one, named it a Joey Bra, and is selling it on their website. Check it out here.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyclay/2012/04/27/dont-know-where-to-put-your-iphone-theres-a-bra-for-that/

Hmmm…it’s really too bad I didn’t think of that.

Anyhoo, since I’m a writer and not an inventor, I’m always searching for bits of words that string together beautifully, especially for dialogue. Sometimes I find exactly what I’m searching for and my fingers fly over the keyboard in a staccato symphony of keeper verbiage. Other times, I hunt and peck and use the backspace and delete buttons way too often. Most times, my writing time is spent in a complicated marriage of the two.

By the way, speaking of dialogue did you watch the 2013 rock and roll hall of fame (totally LOVE Heart, BTW) inductees ceremony Saturday on HBO? Lots of great words there, and great music too. But what was it with the Rush guy and his “Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah. Blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blahblahblahblah blah blaaaah blah” speech?

Blech.

Anyhoo, back to real words.

Words are very important to a writer. Just ask someone that pens tales about dialogue and word count and you’ll see myriad reactions. A startled stare and a panicked, “I gotta go.” A thoughtful twisting of the lips accompanied by the requisite “Humpf.” You could even see a full rolling of the eyes and hear them utter a heavy, and rather soulful, sigh.

Very rarely will you see a beaming smile and a quick nod. When you do, you’ll know that the writer you’re talking to has mastered their dialogue, and have even layered in sufficient emotion, power words, action verbs, and rich, earthy modifiers and descriptors that don’t all end in ‘ly. That’s right. They’ve likely just finished the final edits to their newest “baby” and has made the requisite word count their dream publisher has demanded.

That’s writer Nirvana.

So where do we writers come up with these words?

Everywhere.

You see that person, over there in the corner of the coffee shop, madly typing then stopping for a moment before starting up again? Very likely you’re seeing a writer. If they’re wearing a shirt that says, Be careful or you’ll wind up in my novel you can be sure of it.

careful

Think about it. We write about people. What better way to research what to write about than be out among people? It’s amazing what you can pick up just by being quiet and listening to those around you. A good friend of mine has texted me some some real zingers. Take this one for instance:

“My wife is totally unreasonable. She won’t let me move my girlfriend into our basement apartment.”

Poor guy. Kinda makes you wanna smack him in the face, doesn’t it? See, those words sparked a great emotional outburst that I can now use for the next time my heroine is frustrated.

So, next time really listen when you’re riding on the bus, or are in the lunchroom at work. Restaurants are famous for awesome chitchat. Don’t forget to listen while waiting to get your license renewed at the DMV. That’s a perfect place for both drama and word research.

Another great place is in line at the grocery store, which just happens to be one of my favorites! Family gatherings and company picnics/Christmas parties also net a treasure trove of words, but be careful to revise carefully to keep your undercover status intact!

I love humor and oftentimes add a dash of witty (I hope!) banter to my writing. So if I liked and/or smiled/laughed at something that I’ve heard, I’m more than likely going to write it down for use in one project or another. In fact, I’ve got tons of bits of paper and post-it notes with one-liners written on them (total fodder for another blog).

These bits of paper are just about everywhere and I use them all the time. Sometimes to get some inspiration. Sometimes to get myself into the mood for what I need to write. Sometimes just to have a laugh.

Speaking of laughing, I have to tell you that I have used my bra as a purse. Many times. Recently in fact. And I don’t put my valuables in the band ala the Joey Bra. Nope – I store my items high up in the cup for easy access. That way you don’t have to worry about digging around for what you need.

So what was the valuable cargo I stored? Well, long story short, I have a new phone. I finally admitted that my old Razor flip phone has seen better days, especially since it cheeps and chirps a lot and makes my cats crazy. So, I bit the bullet and now have a “smart” phone.

So this past Friday, me and my shiny, clean, and scratch free communicator were at the Denver Center for Performing Arts to see Sense and Sensibility – The Musical (fabulous show, by the way!)  and we got the “please turn off your cell phones for the duration of the performance” reminder. Being the dutiful patron of the arts that I am, I pulled my new baby from it’s nest in my pocket and turned it off. Just as I was returning it, I had a horrifying thought,

“Oh no. What if it falls out of my pocket?”

This horrific thought was quickly followed by,

“And what if the ‘protective case’ that I purchased doesn’t work, and it breaks when it falls out of my pocket?”

That second scenario was enough to get me to pull that phone back out of my pocket and stuff it in the safest place I know – in my bra. My actions totally cracked up my best girlfriend, who looked at me first like I was crazy then, once she thought about it, understood the extreme intelligence of my move.

As soon as the shiny bit of technology was tucked away, I could see my mom and grandma both smiling and nodding in approval. They knew all about, and actively utilized that “safe” place where a smart women can easily place extremely high value items. They taught me that trick. I’ve even carried $1,500.00 cash in there once, so I knew my expensive brand new communication device was safe until I decided to retrieve it.

So have you ever used your bra as a purse? Tell me your story! I’d love to hear about it!

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P.S. If you haven’t checked out Kristen Lamb’s blog yet – do so! She’s kinda my hero, especially after I saw her at a writing conference held in Denver and hosted by Heart of Denver Romance Writers and Colorado Romance Writers. She’s got lots of great writing tips plus a great and entertaining story to go with them! Check out her book, “We Are Not Alone” for great ideas on blogging and social media. Next month, she will be releasing “Rise of the Machines” her brand new book on social media and blogging. Both are gems for those that want to learn more about social media and how you can use the different sites to effectively increase your discoverability. Totally worth it!

Checklists

Checklists. We all have them. We use them to keep things that need to be done someplace other than in our minds, where we can oftentimes forget to check things off, or ever add new items in. I have checklists all over the place. Checklists for grocery shopping, for cleaning the house (because I’m such an awesome housekeeper — NOT!!!), for projects I’d like to do, and more.

Why?

I love the satisfaction I get when I can look at a list and check items off as being done. Yeah, it may be weird, but it’s just my thing.

I use checklists in my day job as a tech writer all the time. That helps me keep track of what needs to be done, and also what needs to be checked before I can call a project complete. There are so many items such as logo placement, company name use, copyright issues, marketing terms, software names, etc. that all need to be checked before a document or help file can be released into the wild. That’s one of the big things about tech writing — once you’ve written it and released it, it’s true — whether it really is true or not. So you have to check everything before you can call it done.

IMHO, the same should be done with any literary piece, especially when you’re just starting out and making your way in the world of the fiction author. There are so many things to check before your baby should be let out of the crib. Is there backstory in the first 5 pages? Are you in the right POV? Are you using too many ‘ing words at the beginning of a sentence? Are you introducing every single character you have in the first chapter? Do you hero and heroine meet soon after the story starts? How’s your grammar doin’?

On and on these checks go. There are so many, and each one should be looked into. Many times you do this as you write. The best authors can tell when things are not quite “right” and can fix them right away. Others, for example newbie authors like me, may sense there is something amiss, but we have to have something we can use to run through things and make sure we’re not straying too far from the “tools for successful writing” path. That’s when a checklist like this can sure come in handy.

I’m making up a checklist as we speak. It’s based on one I used as a tech writer, and it does contain some similar items. However the differences between creative and technical writing has never been more clear to me than looking at the items on each list that must be checked off before a work can be called “complete.”

So tell me, do you use a checklist? Does it help?

Check back next week for more Manuscript Monday musings when I’ll be most likely talking about working on my never ending short novel, Destiny’s Awakening.

Until then, Ciao and good writing!

Manic Manuscript Monday – Welcome!

Hi and welcome to my new interactive blog thread! From now until my writing journey on my current projects end, I’ll be blogging about my triumphs and tribulations with getting these manuscripts from start to finish. I’ll be telling my story, but I also want to have you comment about your writing experiences! And Readers, if you have questions, feel free to ask! :)

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So where to start. Hmmm… Well, the first thing an experienced blogger will tell you is to  pick a day and blog about things important to you. They’ll also say you must be consistent!

I’ve already selected to blog on Monday, Wednesday, and/or Friday. Wednesdays are already booked with Writers (Wicked Writer Wednesday!), and Friday’s are for favorite things (Favorite Friday). I think all authors can agree that manuscripts are not always a FAVORITE thing, so that leaves Monday. Manuscript Monday.

Enough of the formalities. Let’s talk about those manuscripts.

Now, we authors deal with manuscripts every day. They are set in an interesting mixture of reality and fantasy. They contain little pieces of us, and of people we’ve met throughout our lives. They relive events we’ve personally had, or heard about, or someday want to experience. They’re the best and worst of what is and would could be, all ending with a HEA (happily ever after). Some are hand written. Some are created using a keyboard and monitor.

All come from the author’s heart.

So, you can see that if there’s one thing in a writer’s life that’s important, and VERY consistent, it’s their manuscripts. I say manuscripts in the plural, because most writers have more than one project going at a time. We have to. That’s the only way to survive in this business!

Oh it’s not like we start two new books every six months. It’s not quite that extreme (though some authors could, and maybe even do!) Instead, we always have something in the hopper. You may have one book in the outlining stages, and another out to beta readers. If you’re a published author, you likely have edits for a completed novel coming back from your publisher. I’m not too experienced with that scenario (yet!), but I’m thinking those types of edits trumps all other projects and tasks!

For me, right now, I’ve got two projects on my plate. The first is a paranormal manuscript I’m polishing to go out on a request. It’s the first book in a planned paranormaI romance trilogy. I’m really excited for that project to really get off the ground. I’ve got the second book plotted out and am itching to get started on it. I’ve also got the third in the planning/outlining stages. See what I mean about having multiple projects going? :)

The second is a contemporary romance with some romantic suspense elements. It’s a real fast and loose story, with some humor and drama as well. It’s completed, but it needs some tlc and extra help to make it be the best book it can be! I’m going through and tightening the story, shifting focus where it needs to be (on the hero and heroine!) and layering in content to 1. add tension, romance, and conflict and 2. bring up the word count.

Meh. Word Count. Those two words should BOTH be four lettered. Thinking about word count is about the same as wishing I were locked in a room with a hungry panther, who’s housed in a luxurious cage that may or may not have a working lock.

Yeah. I’m serious. Word Count just freaks me out.

Anyhoo, so I’m working on creating a new starting place for my story. It’s proving to be exceptionally challenging, but I’m determined to tackle it head-on and get it going again this next week. I have to remember that I am the boss of this manuscript. I really am!

In the meantime, authors, what is your relationship with your manuscripts, and how do you feel about word count? And readers, feel free to ask questions!

Ciao!

Lori Corsentino

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Join me next week when I’ll be talking about starting points in a little blurb I’ll call “False Starts.”

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