Monday, December 30, 2013

Lisa has a new series!

The Family Stone Romantic Suspense novellas are here! Okay, well, two of the four are here. Others will be arriving soon....

Stone Cold Heart is available for $ 0.99 and Carved in Stone is $1.99. Only from Amazon, but coming soon to Kobo, BN and All Romance eBooks. Hope you all enjoy!!

Stone Cold Heart:
Jess Stone, former FBI sniper, always felt like the kid who looks in the candy store window but could never afford to go in. But on a humanitarian mission to aid an earthquake ravaged country, finally she finds a place where she fits, in Colin Davies' arms, and working for Global Humanitarian Relief, her big brother's company. But can the former SAS thaw Jess's stone cold heart?

Available on Amazon!

Carved in Stone:
Connor Stone has always been odd man out in his family. Not the oldest, not the most charming, he'd had a lock on the youngest until another half-sibling came to live with them, so he raised hell in his youth. Con knows now the only way to redeem himself is with deeds, not words and sets out to prove once and for all he is worthy of the Stone family. When his older brother asks him to take care of business, Con finally will have redemption he craves. Except when Ava Sanchez, his brother's assistant, is threatened, he must choose between saving the girl or protecting his family. Will his choice bring him love or break his heart?

Available on Amazon!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Post-holiday, post-finishing blues

Christmas was lovely, truly lovely. My husband and I kept it super simple--he got the new Zatoichi collection, I got the Community DVDs. Why Community? Because the story arcs, character arcs, and rat-a-tat dialog are things of beauty, things that will make me a better writer.

Then we took the M Line in San Francisco, which runs right in front of our redwood-box of a house, down to the Embarcadero. We walked the length of it in the sunshine, smiling at all the tourists and enjoying the mellow feel of early Christmas day.

We had to stop at the Musee Mechanique, of course, and visit the seals at Pier 39, and debate whether to get curbside crab or not (not, this year).

Mysti playing Rosie at the USS Pampanito, a submarine of WWII vintage

The finale of our simple day was a ride on the cable car back to Powell Street, where we picked up the M Line to head back home. No matter how many times I ride it, I always see a new vision of the City from the cable car. And we always meet interesting people from all over the world as we wait in line. This year the sun beat down as if we were in Los Angeles. I miss the fog, but it made for a lovely day.

We keep it low key and drama free, plus, we can't bear to leave the city during the holidays--she empties out and cheers up and is generally a fabulous place to be, whether you live here or are only visiting. I've been in love with San Francisco since I was sixteen. Some crushes you just never get over.

Christmas is well and truly done.  With a twinge of regret, I have dived back into the business and art of writing today. My first batch of dream agents passed on my first crime novel By The Numbers, so it's back to identifying other brilliant agents who might be interested in a fraud investigator with a troubled past and a very dark future.  I know such people exist, I just have to find them. 

If I can't find them, then it's likely that something about my story is putting them off. I'll have to decide whether to keep writing #2, fix #1 (again!), or choose any of the many other options available to people who want to share their writing in this lovely age of instant gratification. 

Some friends had an easy time finding their first agent, but no writing friend has ever had a trouble-free journey to publication. So it's back to work, mateys. I can do it. And some days, I even like it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I have a new book out TODAY!  4th in the Haunted Home Renovation series...I hope you'll check it out, leave a review, tell your friends...and enjoy! 
--Juliet Blackwell

No good deed goes unpunished.

San Francisco contractor Mel Turner is leading a volunteer home renovation project, and while she expects lots of questions from her inexperienced crew, she can’t help asking a few of her own—especially about the haunted house next door…the place local kids call the Murder House.

But when volunteers discover a body while cleaning out a shed, questions pile up faster than discarded lumber. Mel notices signs of ghostly activity next door and she wonders: Are the Murder House ghosts reaching out to her for help, or has the house claimed another victim?

Now, surprised to find herself as the SFPD’s unofficial “ghost consultant,” Mel must investigate murders both past and present before a spooky killer finishes another job.

Buy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or at an Indie near you!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Good enough, done, and the magic of fiction

At work in the software factory, I never worry about whether my technical documentation is "good enough" or "done." It's done when the deadline arrives, and everything I can possibly do to make life better for our customers is poured into that bucket of a fixed size.

A group of programmers hard at work

Our help site serves hundreds of thousands of pages a month, and we know which content is good from ratings, comments, and other statistics. We fix what might not be working for our customers. Of course we try to get it right the first time, but we all know that perfection by deadline is impossible. So we do quality control, and we update, and there's really no such thing as writer's block or missing deadlines at work.

As Gigi mentioned, with fiction, the buckets of time given to any one work in progress are not fixed. I don't know any fiction writer* who sits down at the blank word processing file and says, "Okay, I've got 40 hours to outline, 160 hours to get the rough draft, 20 hours to up the stakes, 10 hours to fill in emotional color, 24 hours for sensory detail, and 1,000 hours to make it brilliant."

Because fiction doesn't work that way. It comes from both sides of a writer's brain. You can spend four, six, or eight hours a day writing, but one 45 minute session might net you three pages of your most brilliant work, while eight hours on a bad day might net you negative 600 words! And you can't just wait for the good days, you have to writer through the bad ones.

Hm, writers don't look so different from programmers on the outside!

Fiction is annoyingly non-modular. The basic building blocks of character, action, setting, theme, and premise are all wickedly intertwined and reinforcing. Character is action, or action is character, setting can become a character, and conflict can be revealed through dialog. White space, what you don't say, can illuminate what you are saying.

In software documentation, white space exists only to give our customers' eyes a rest, or a way to find the headlines. There's very little subtext in documentation.

As I struggle to really stop writing crime novel #1, and start #2 with full focus and concentration, I realize that some of my hesitation is simply that it doesn't ever feel done until a deadline is imposed. Or until you realize, as a wise friend once said, that you are simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I'm ready for a new ship. Goodbye, crime novel #1, it's been fun! But the horizon is calling me, and I'm really tired of those damn deck chairs.

* I do know one writer who may do this, but it's a hangover from her technical writing days, if she does.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 28 of Being a Full-Time Writer

Exactly four weeks ago, I started my sabbatical. For 100 days, I'm a full-time writer.

It's thought of as being "the dream," right? Spending your days writing. Following nobody's schedule except your own. Sitting around in your pajamas while playing with plotting and prose.

But I'm finding it's not that easy.

Writing full time really means writing full time. Instead, I find myself spending a lot of time "doing research" (often a euphemism for "playing on the internet") or doing completely unrelated tasks when I should be writing.

The problem, I'm finding, is that there's a big difference in kick-starting productivity when you know you have to be at work in a few hours (my usual schedule) and when you know you don't have to be back in the office for three months (I go back in February, after turning in a book).

Four weeks in, I'm still finding my groove. So far, to stay productive I'm making writing dates and joining other writers at work spaces such as cafes where students and freelancers hang out. When someone else is expecting me, I have no excuses. The laundry can wait. I'm heading out the door to a few minutes of conversation and a few hours of writing.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013 that Captain Kirk?

Not long ago, I was invited to be Guest of Honor at the TusCon Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror convention.

Um, okay. Gulp.

*Guest of Honor*.  At a science fiction convention.

First off, I don't write science fiction.  However, although I came to this whole writing gig from the mystery genre, apparently my Witchcraft Mysteries and Haunted Home Renovation series are paranormal enough to have garnered a certain amount of fantasy cred.

Either that, or they were desperate for someone who happened to be free that weekend.

But seriously, the TusCon gang treated me like royalty.  I was wined and dined and provided with a big suite with a jacuzzi in the bedroom and a big pool right outside the door.  I held forth on topics like: "Sympathize with the creature: what makes good monsters"; "21st Century Witches: Never trust a Blonde Named Galinda"; and "Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury: what is their legacy?"

As usual, when I don't know what I'm talking about I try my best to fake it.  But the folks in the TusCon audience -- often dressed up as various Star Trek, Dr. Who, and Anime characters -- usually knew much more than I did about any given subject, and our panels quickly transformed into group discussions with the well-read and knowledgable audiences.  I learned much more than they did from our interactions, I'm sure.

I mingled with monsters and aliens and cyborgs and drew on pathetically outdated references to shows like Night Gallery and Star Trek, which --to my delight-- are now considered "classics" in the field. In preparation for the literature panel, I revisited the amazing Fahrenheit 451and A Stranger in a Strange Land, two novels that blew my mind when I was fourteen, and were well worth rereading.  I also took another look a Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which I firmly believe is worth reading at least once a decade.

Also, while there I jotted down titles of a dozen or so influential films that have come out since the original Star Wars Trilogy, which was about the last time I spent much time watching science fiction movies -- though, as I learned at TusCon, there is some debate as to whether Star Wars actually qualifies as science fiction or if it's simply a story set in space.

Big difference.  I could try to explain why, but I would be faking it. Instead, consider attending next year's TusCon, and find out from the experts.  It's a blast.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Landing in the Pens Pot

Since this is my first post as a member of the PensFatales, I thought I would share a little bit about what it means to me to have writing friends. It’s not just the opportunity to take part in projects like LOVE ON MAIN STREET: A SNOW CREEK CHRISTMAS - although it was a blast to create characters who interact with the fictional world we all created, like a virtual playgroup.

For a long time I wrote in a vacuum. I attended meetings of a writers’ organization, but I was too unsure of myself to get to know anyone well. I would pretend to take notes in my notebook rather than push myself to join in conversations, and while I learned a lot from the speakers who visited our group, I wasn’t really building a community.

Then I moved from the Midwest to California, rolled up my sleeves, and got a little braver. Now, I enjoy the friendship of other writers for so many reasons:

1. Someone to tell you that you don’t suck - I’ll never forget the first time I heard a friend say that it’s okay if my first draft isn’t any good. “None of them are,” she said casually. “You’re breaking a rule if it is good.”

This isn’t the same thing as propping each other up. In the end, confidence has to come from within. But it sure is nice to have those occasional reminders that just because I had a bad sentence or scene or day, it’s not the end of the world and all I have to do is keep trying.

2. Someone to brainstorm with - I used to think that I didn’t have anything to offer writers who weren’t working in exactly the same genre as me. Imagine my surprise when an author of BDSM romance identified exactly the change I needed to make to my sweet romantic hero to make the story arc work.

I love brainstorming. I often don’t have the answer for someone else’s story quandary - but I might have a part of the answer. It’s wonderful when we get a group together, and there’s talking and laughing and lots of coffee, and suddenly a light bulb goes off over our heads.

3. Someone to celebrate with - One of the Pens just got a new-to-her car. I was quick to ooh and ah over the pictures, since I got a new car a year ago and I still remember how thrilling it was to drive it for the first time. A fun night out? A child’s accomplishment? A tax refund? No matter what, it’s more fun when there are lots of us to cheer.

Of course we celebrate publishing successes as well. First manuscript completed? Check. First novel available to purchase? Yes! The Pens have so many flavors of success between them: everything from trying new genres to figuring out how to e-publish to hitting bestseller lists. A book signing? We’re there to support each other. A good review? We’re there to praise the good taste of the reviewer!

4. Someone who “gets it” - You know that little melancholy feeling you get, about a day after you celebrate typing “the end”? Because the story is over, and the characters you love are going back to the shelf, and you have to say goodbye?

If you’re a writer, you totally know what I’m talking about! I cherish my non-writing friends, but there is something lovely about someone completely understanding when your friend misses her dentist appointment because she’s too wrapped up in her story and lost track of time, or spent more on research books than groceries in a week.

I could go on, but you get the picture: it was a lucky day indeed when I got rolled up in the awesome that is the PensFatales and sprinkled with their can-do magic. So happy to be here!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hey again, folks!

It's so nice to be back blogging with the pens!

For those of you who don't know me, I write the Jane True series for Orbit Books. It's urban fantasy and it's super fun.

Writing the books has also changed my life. I wrote Tempest Rising sort of out of the blue after I finished my PhD. I hadn't planned on becoming a popular fiction writer (I was a literary critic, who studied modernism and post modernism) and I'd even gotten my first job as a full time professor teaching modernism.

That first job was at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, and I loved it. I loved teaching my field, Shreveport turned out to be super fun, and I eventually made a really good home here. Unfortunately, I was also writing these books that were getting published, and yet they didn't count as publications toward my getting promotions at work. So when a job came up teaching in an MFA for popular fiction, I eventually realized I had to jump on it. Luckily, I got that job, and it definitely suits my new life as a writer/professor better.

But it was also in Pennsylvania, way far away from Louisiana and the life I'd made here.

So writing the books really has changed my life, in pretty substantive ways. Becoming a writer changed my goals, my job, where I live. But it's also allowed me so much more freedom and opportunity. Which is why I'm delighted to find myself back in Shreveport as a writer, invited to give a talk to LSUS's honor's program.

For that's been the best thing about writing. I'm blogging with Pens Fatales because I was lucky enough to meet three of the Pens, initially, at a convention. I met most everybody else later, when I would visit my initial Pens Friends in the Bay area. Writing has created for me so many opportunities for friendship, for travel, and for adventure. Who knew I'd love Kansas City so much? Who knew I'd have friends all over the country after five years? When I was stuck in Houston yesterday for a bit, and it looked like there was a chance my flight would be canceled, it was no big whoop--I've got good friends in Houston these days, after all.

So it's great to be back in Shreveport, where my career as a writer really began. It feels like coming full circle and it's a reminder to me that things don't have to end. They do have to change, but they don't have to end.

If you're in the Shreveport area and would like to come see me, here's a link to the public signing. There'll be punch!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Killing the Punisher

Does writing ever feel like this?
Does writing ever not feel like this?

My current theory, based on working with two completely different types of writers, is that the pursuit of perfection is the enemy of flow, that state from which our best, most creative writing comes.

What? My inner critic recoils at the thought. She is sure that if I don't flog myself with effort, check my own hubris every minute, I shall become a cliche-flinging hack not worthy of the paper we are no longer printed on. You can ignore me for parts of each first draft, but that's it, sister, or you're going straight to the dung-heap of history!

To take control back from my punishing, angry, fault-finding inner editor for just a minute. I am sure that she is wrong. The pursuit of perfection can be the source of problems just as much as it may be the thing that polishes my manuscript like Branson's silverware in Downton Abbey.

Follow me for a minute, and see if you agree.

I work at a fast-paced cloud computing company. We have a wide range of customers, from guys in the field who don't want to spend one second longer on the computer than they have to, to CIOs who do feats of astonishing magic with reports. Our team of talented writers work every day to make life better for our customers. For every new hire, I give a talk on how we attain quality in our technical documentation.

This lecture starts with a brief visit to physics and medicine, where the best minds of those pursuits noticed that: 1. Mistakes are inevitable and 2. It's usually a process, not a person, at fault.

Physicists and doctors can't prevent all mistakes. With all that money, all those machines that go "boop," and all those particle parsers, they acknowledge that they can never be free of error.

Whoa. My inner editor is a little nervous. You see, she has had me frightened of exposing mistakes to the public for a mighty long time. She asks, chin trembling, if we are doomed to make mistakes, should we just give up trying to avoid them?

Well, no. In my quality training, I suggest that instead of focusing all our efforts in trying not to make mistakes, we put some systematic energy into catching them before we publish. Stick with me, as this isn't just a semantic game.

If I know I will make mistakes, then my inner editor's job is no longer to prevent them, and in process cripple my voice or willingness to experiment. Her job becomes to notice the pattern in my mistakes, and develop a system for scrubbing them out before publication.

Self-monitoring, instead of self-excoriation, is a much more pleasant experience. 

What's it look like in practice? Lists, usually, both for technical writers and fiction writers, and many reading passes through my own content. Trust me, the seventh time through my own prose, a certain objectivity settles in. 

My lists, which I don't look at until the very end of the writing process, include:

  • Search for "ly" and evaluate every adverb.
  • Search for my crutch words and softeners: very, a lot, slightly, began to, and many others.
  • Make a chart of every chapter. Where is the protagonist at in the beginning and the end? Did she change emotional temperature? Did the story move forward? Was character revealed and challenged? (This is what my outline did before I wrote a word, but you know how what you plan to write and what you end up writing can diverge!).
  • Search on "eye" and "hair" for color, texture continuity.
  • Search for and replace cliches (unless it's dialog, used on purpose).
  • Search for and test metaphors and similes (sometimes I get into a "like a hot potato" rut).
  • Read and note every plot thread--address the threads that were dropped
  • Check the time between violent acts--are characters recovering realistically?

You simply can't do this and write original, strong-voiced material at the same time. Trying to do so leaves me feeling like the Munch painting. Knowing, trusting myself to do this cleanup at the end, after the important things have been created, lifts an incredible burden off my shoulders. I hope it does the same for anyone else who has been struggling to let their writing into the public sphere. Because right now we need those diverse voices, every single one of them!

I've noticed that, statistically speaking, women are far more likely to be of the excoriating variety, and men more likely to think everything they do rocks. (I have plenty of friends and acquaintances, men who excoriate and women who ride self-confidence like a Mavericks curl, just noting the statistical trend). Sheryl Sandburg and a host of psych studies have found the same thing. It makes me wonder if this sad state of affairs contributes to, say, how seldom women are reviewed in the New York Times review of books or nominated for screenwriting Oscars. Sure, there are many other factors at play. But is it possible that we have to let go of the scourge of perfectionism? Somehow we have to grow the confidence to know that making a mistake isn't a problem, unless we don't learn how to correct it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trying Out Life as a Full-Time Writer

by Gigi Pandian

I've had a pretty amazing year. Right at the top of the list: there's no evidence of cancer in my body. Second on the list: I signed two three-book deals. Exactly what I wished for. Only...

Should I have been careful what I wished for?

When I was going through cancer treatments in 2011 and 2012, I very much embraced the "seize the day" mantra, throwing myself into writing and publishing while savoring the small things in life. But once life got back to normal, it was easy to let minor annoyances get in the way. I even found myself anxious about the amount of writing I'd agreed to take on by certain deadlines. Two of the six books I sold were complete, two more in draft form, and two completely unwritten.

Where's the fun in being stressed out about writing? The whole point of wanting to have a writing career is that it's something I love to do. So I took a step back and looked at my life. With the funky schedule of my graphic designer day job, I get several hours of writing done three mornings a week: two weekday mornings plus Sunday mornings -- and yes, it was a big sacrifice to give up leisurely Sunday mornings with the New York Times! Making tough choices like that is a given, if you're serious about fitting writing into your life. So even though I sometimes grumble when the alarm goes off on Sunday morning, I don't really mind. However, what I did mind was that with my new book deadlines I was starting to feel rushed.

There's a big difference between writing a competent book that has a decent plot, decent characters, and decent writing, and writing a truly engaging book that's exciting for the author to write and for the reader to devour. We all strive for the latter. Without sufficient time, I felt like I might only succeed at the former. I love each of these books, so I didn't wish I could back out of writing any of them. I wanted to find a way to fit them into my life.

If you read the title of this blog post, you already know where this is heading. I've decided to take a three-month sabbatical from my day job. For 100 days, I'm going to be a full-time writer!

My sabbatical begins this coming Saturday and I don't go back to work until February. During my time as a full-time writer, I'm going to finish writing/revising one novel and write a draft of another.

This is a grand experiment for me. I'm not someone who fantasizes about being a full-time writer. I'm definitely lucky that I love my day job. But more than that, I love how it gives me structure. If I know I have to be at work at 12:30, damn straight I'm getting up and getting my writing done with no excuses. I'm hoping three months is a long enough time for me to do everything I want to do, but a short enough time that it provides that same procrastination-killing fire under me that I'm used to. Wish me luck!

p.s. I'll be doing NaNoWriMo to kick off my writing this November. Anyone else?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Liberation from Shame

Rebecca Lyndon is a special friend to the PensFatales. She wrote an amazing piece on this interesting week in publishing, and I begged her to let me post it here. (On a personal note, I love her work, and I think it's seriously awesomely hot.) Please welcome her. - Rachael

It’s been an interesting week. Last Saturday, an email from Amazon popped up in my inbox, telling me that they were taking down one of my books for violating their content guidelines.

This book, a collection of erotic stories told from the point of view of a young woman who has decided to break away from her family’s history rushing into bad relationships by exploring her sexual fantasies before she settles down, is probably the most vanilla of my books. That’s not to say it isn’t hot. It is. At least, I like to think it is, but the floggers and the whips are kept to a minimum.

At first, I laughed at the takedown notice. Humor is my primary defense. I wrote some emails to a few close friends and joked about how I was able to violate content guidelines that were ridiculously vague.

“What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.”

Well, no. I guess it’s not what I would expect.

But after a little while, my humor began to fade, and something else took its place. It started out as a vague dissatisfaction that took root in my belly and slowly grew outward. After a few days, I realized that I was well and truly pissed, and that I had every right to be.

This book was special to me. It was a departure from my usual stuff. I’m an erotic romance writer, you see. Kinky stuff. People discovering their love of BDSM as they fall in love with each other. The book that Amazon took down was my first foray into pure erotica. Sex for the pure joy of it without the promise of a happily ever after.

Writing it was liberating. For just a little while, to break from the conventions of my chosen genre, to not have to worry about deep internal conflicts, or who was saving who, to focus on the needs, desires and sensations of one character--it was fun. Really fun.

Writing from Amber’s point of view taught me important lessons about writing all characters. When you write romance it’s easy to think of your heroine and hero as one unit, always moving together throughout the story, and not as complex separate beings who have no idea that their happily ever after endings are assured. Desires, not just sexual ones,--though I think those pack an emotional punch that is both powerful and universally relatable--and how we act on them are the ultimate show of character.

But it’s what I learned after Amazon took the story down that has left the most lasting impact.

I never received, nor have I seen any statement from Amazon that explains why they went on a banning spree, but it isn’t hard to come up with a solid guess. With the shocking news breaking last week that erotica exists and that different people have different kinks, the actual disturbing fact surfaced that erotica was coming up in searches for children’s books.

Let me be clear that I don’t think this is acceptable. Not even a little bit. But let me be equally clear that I believe to my core that the onus is on retailers to restrict access to adult material and not on the artist to restrict content.

So why don’t booksellers just refuse to sell all erotica, and skip the controversy altogether? They can. It’s their right. Just like it’s mine to write whatever I like, at least here in America. Check your local listings in other countries.

But here’s the thing. If that’s your gut reaction, and you’re in the business of selling books, then allow me to humbly suggest that you look into another profession. Because historically, being in the book business is subversive as shit. It’s for the tough and courageous. Those willing to stand up to the book burners, not jump on their bandwagon first chance they get. Those who refuse to be shamed into submission.

Which is another important thing I learned this week. I am not ashamed to say that I am a fan of erotica, no matter how many times I read that I should be. I am not ashamed that I read it, and I’m sure as hell not ashamed that I write it.

Why? Because, deep down, I believe that erotica is the liberation from shame. It’s pointing a spot light straight on those dark desires that the rest of the world says you must keep hidden. It allows you to realize that those terrible fancies that occasionally play at the back of your mind don’t make you a monster. Other people have them too. Regular people. People who have families, and houses and pay their taxes. They’ve all got a kink of their very own.

And that’s why I think people go after erotica. It’s not about the sex. It’s a fear of a group of people who reject the notion that shame, not innate human decency, is the glue that holds society together.

I understand this fear. I believed it for a long time. Maybe that’s why I have no animosity for those who still do. Fear of your own insides is a terrible thing.

But I did say that this has been an interesting week, not a bad one. In the end, cooler heads prevailed. A couple of days ago, I received an email from Amazon saying that upon further review my book did not violate their content guidelines, and I could republish it.

I can only hope that everyone else who was affected by the mass takedown received the same email. Because if not, then that would be the real shame.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Let go. Embrace. Write!

by Juliet Blackwell

Recently I’ve had several people ask me what they should read in order to learn to write. 

I’m going to say something close to blasphemy. 

The truth is, I don’t believe in reading books about writing.  Reading is not writing.   

Writing is writing.  In fact, most successful authors I know “learned” to write by writing their first book, or their first several tomes. 

So if you want to write, then write.  How?  Learn to let go, and embrace.

Let go of the results of that first book.  Just finish it: prove to yourself that you can write 80k words of narrative.  It doesn’t have to be poetry; it just has to be DONE.

Let go of “worthy”: no writing out there is “worthy” in everyone’s estimation, and yet it’s all worthy.  Let go of the concept --it's not useful.

Embrace the “vomit draft”:  I hate the graphic nature of that term, but it’s the only word that truly encapsulates the feel of that first, fast draft.  Some people call it the sh*t draft, but to me it’s more like pulling things up, painfully, and spewing them out on the page.  Again, I apologize for the imagery, but the process of writing –like most art-- isn’t pretty. Embrace the messiness, let go of the worthy, and get it on the page! 

Embrace dogged determination: just DO it (insert Nike swish here).  If it’s twenty minutes a day, make those minutes count.  If you’ve got all day, go for it. Don’t think about it, just do it.

Let go/ignore frenemies.  Stick your fingers in your ears and hum.  Practice the friendly, “No, sorry, I have to write.” (this gets easier with practice!) Before you’re officially published it’s hard to convince people (and yourself) that you’re actually doing something important, so be clear on this for yourself before sharing with others:  This is my work.  It is worthy. No one else can tell my story.

Let go the monkey mind.  The monkey mind jumps all over the place.  Force yourself to enter your own story and ignore the laundry, the phone, the internet, the sunny day outside your window.  Want to write?  You have to give up something.  Maybe many somethings. It’s a sacrifice.  But as those of us who write know, it’s well worth it.

Try NaNoWriMo – 2k words (8-10 pages) a day is nothing for a lot of us working authors, but if you’ve never written a book it can feel daunting (as it can if you have, for example, a full time job and children and a spouse and and and…)  NaNoWriMo can help you get past that hump: you have to write, whether it’s good or not, whether it’s worthy or not.  (At 2k a day, you have a 60k rough draft in one month.  That leaves you 11 months to tinker on it, correct plot problems, craft language, reach for the magic…and then you’ve written a clean, lovely manuscript in one year!)

Embrace other creative people:  Throw yourself into the creative world.  Find a writing group such as Sisters in Crime, or Romance Writers of America, or NaNoWriMo, or a local group.  Find a fellow author who will sit with you in a cafĂ© and write for hours while ignoring the crowd, and each other. 

Embrace yourself as an artist: an artist doesn’t do what other people do.  Perhaps that means you have no idea who won American Idol, or the World Series, or the Oscars.  Perhaps that means you had to skip the beach trip or that last delicious hour of sleep.  Perhaps it means you don’t shower for days and you live with the voices in your head…it’s all good, you’re a quirky *artist*!!!

And finally…if any of the above is helpful, embrace it…if it doesn’t apply to you, let it go.  We all have different ways of getting our stories written, so feel free to call bullsh*t on me!

(This has nothing to do with anything...but check out my great house at California Home Design. Happy Halloween!!!)