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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - A Writer's Productivity - What is it?

I just read four very interesting blog articles that I'd like to share with other readers and writers.  First of all, I want to say that there is no wrong or right way to write a story, although I think writers are basically in one of two camps - The Plotters and The Pantzers.  My personal preference is to plot out a story map, so I know where I'm headed.  But as I started to plot out my next couple of books, I ran into a problem.  I began to see and hear the complete scene in my head--like a movie.  My characters were talking to me, so I started to actually write the scene instead of just plot it.  And once I started, I didn't want to stop.

So, here I am, a plotter by nature suddenly writing as a pantzer.  It's liberating and fun, but at the same time I feel like I'm only setting myself up to fail.  But what should I do?  I'm really enjoying the journey as I cruise along at an amazingly fast clip despite the tiny voice in my head saying, "This won't last you know?  You are going to run out of steam soon, and as of right now you have no idea where you're headed.  What if that bridge is out ahead?  What are you going to do to save everyone when you're plummeting head first into a disaster?  Hmm?"  Okay, that hasn't happened yet, but the fear is still there coiled up in my subconscious like a silent serpent waiting for just the right moment to strike.  I hate snakes.  And I'm beginning not to like train rides over bridges, either.

Scrivener - Rachel uses this program and it looks good!
In a nutshell, one of my main concerns is wasted time.  What if I'm fully delineating and polishing a scene that I'm only going to end up trashing?  My writing is already a little non-productive since I tend to polish as I go.  That means I'm spending time editing a scene that may end up sitting forlornly in that little trashcan on my desktop.  So, I started looking for advice.  Did other authors have this problem, or was I unique? 

Still don't have an answer to that question, but I really liked some of Rachel Aaron's suggestions.  She is definitely a plotter, and a very efficient one at that.  So I thought others could possibly benefit from her wisdom.

The first article I read details how Rachel increased her productivity from 2K-10K words a day.  Now she is a full time writer, but her methods work for even the weekend scribbler.  In her article, which you can read yourself by clicking the following URL,
Rachel discusses the triangle of writing metrics.  Below is a graphic that Vicky Teinaki made for Rachel to illustrate her point.  You can also see a much larger and clearer version of this graphic at the above listed link.

The pinnacle of the triangle is KNOWLEDGE "know what you're writing before you write it."  I took that to mean genre and basic plot.  That doesn't mean all the research is done, or the details have been worked out, but you have a beginning, an end, and an idea of where you plan to take your characters through the middle. Rachel starts with the end, which is probably a very good idea.  I always start at the beginning, since that's usually the inciting incident that prompted me to write the story to begin with.

The left angle of the triangle is TIME "track productivity and evaluate."  Rachel actually charts the number of words she writes in a given time slot, and divides it by the number of hours she spent writing to get her average number of words per hour.  In addition she puts down the location where she was writing to help her determine where she was most productive (Is that marathon writing session at Starbucks really as beneficial as you thought it was?).  So, all of this efficiency tracking would need to be done on a computer, of course.  If you still hand-write your stories or use a typewriter, this method won't be of much help to you unless you want to count pages instead of words.  That might work.

Since Rachel embedded this chart in her blog, I can't reproduce it here, so if you wish to see her charting progress on the novel she completed in two weeks, or 12 days, visit: http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2011/08/12-days-of-glory.html

The right angle of the triangle is ENTHUSIASM "get excited about what you're writing."  This is a crucial point.  You have to enjoy the story you're telling, because if you don't it's much more likely no one else will like it either.  While looking over her productivity, Rachel discovered that the days she exceeded 10K were the days she was writing what she calls her "candy bar" scenes.  The scenes she'd "been dying to write" when she first started planning the book.  Those are the scenes that put you into "the zone."

During her low productivity days, she was writing scenes she wasn't all that excited about.  This was her "Duh" moment.  So, she fixed that little problem by doing what she needed to do to get "excited" about every scene she wrote, and she did that by playing the scene through in her head and looking for the bits that get her muse hopping up and down and clapping.  If the scene got no applause and her muse was sighing, she rewrote it.  But no matter what, Rachel insisted that every scene in her book had to do the following three things:
  • Advance the story
  • Reveal new information
  • Pull the reader forward
And it had to do all three, or it wasn't pulling it's weight.  That's a hard lesson to learn, but I think it's an important one.  She writes more about these three points here: http://magicdistrict.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/author-toolbox-the-three-hooks/

So, where does that leave me and my creativity spurt?  Although I've enjoyed my pantzer experience, I think I need to go back and do a quick plot summary.  I already know how many chapters I want, and where I think the book should end, now I need to go back and make sure my chapters are helping me achieve my overall story goal.  That way I am better prepared to provide my readers with what I've promised them at the beginning of my story, and make sure they enjoy every step along the way.  And I can do it with a lot less wasted time.

P.S. - Also check out Rachel's article on "How I plot a novel in 5 steps" by clicking here:

Hope you find this as helpful as I did.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Love, Valentines, and Cupid – the "real" story

Cupid (Roman) or Eros (Greek), the god of desire, affection and erotic love, was not always the cute, playful winged cherub we envision holding a nocked and drawn bow and carrying a quiver full of golden arrows of desire and the emotions of love.  At least not in the beginning.  In the beginning, Cupid, the son of Venus (Roman) or Aphrodite (Greek), worshiped as the goddess of love and beauty, was portrayed as a young athletic youth, who was sent on a mission by his mother to use one of his golden arrows on a beautiful mortal girl named Psyche.  Now Cupid wasn't convinced his mother was being honorable to send him on this task which would mean, after he's touched her with his mighty golden arrow, Psyche will awaken to fall in love with the vile monster Venus plans to place in bed with her.

Venus, a  jealous deity and not a particularly good mother, definitely does not play fair in matters of beauty.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Cupid takes pity on the woman "who was born too beautiful for her own safety," and turns himself invisible as he prepares to scratch Psyche's shoulder with the tip of one of his arrows.  Instead she awakens and looks directly at him, despite the fact he is invisible, and he is so surprised he scratches himself with the arrow when he draws back from her.  Since he is not immune to his own powers, he falls instantly in love with the gorgeous mortal girl.

Of course, mummy isn't at all pleased by this turn of events, since she was already jealous of Psyche, and now Psyche has claimed the heart of her son.  So, Venus makes sure the road of love for this female Cupid has fallen for is rocky indeed, putting many "impossible to scale" boulders in Psyche's path, metaphorically speaking.  True love does eventually win out with a little help from Jupiter, who declares it is his will that Cupid and Psyche marry.  As King of the Gods, Jupiter rules supreme and after her marriage Psyche is made immortal with a drink of ambrosia.  So, they all lived happily ever after, sort of.  Although Psyche and Venus will never be BFFs, they begrudgingly forgive each other, or so the story says.  Talk about impossible to get along with Mother-in-laws.  Cupid and Psyche end up having a daughter, Voluptas (Roman) Hedone (Greek) who becomes the goddess of sensual pleasures.  This is where we get voluptuous and hedonistic.  I guess it all ties together sort of, doesn't it?

For more about Cupid and Psyche's epic trials read the entry in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cupid_and_Psyche

So, Cupid, along with his quiver of golden arrows, has long been associated with love and the pangs of desire.  Today, Cupid and his bow and arrows are practically synonymous with romance, and love is most frequently depicted by two hearts pierced by an arrow.  Yup, that's Cupid's arrow all right.

Valentine's Day, however, is named after Saint Valentine, who is associated with love thanks to Chaucer and some other poets who wrote odes and epic poems extolling the virtues of courtly love.  According to Wikipedia again, "The celebration of Saint Valentine didn't have any romantic connotations until Chaucer's poetry about "Valentines" in the 14th century."  So, why did Chaucer pick on poor Val for this honor?  Valentine was a Christian martyr.  Below is what History.com says about his connection at http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day:

"According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl--possibly his jailor's daughter--who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and--most importantly--romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial--which probably occurred around A.D. 270--others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to "Christianize" the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. 
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage."

Now, if any of that is true it's a little scary to contemplate.  Having your potential future husband blindly draw your name from a big urn is not the best way to start a relationship in my opinion.  Hmm, it does say, however, that the matches often ended in marriage, so I guess wedded bliss was not a foregone conclusion in this ancient dating game.  Probably a good thing, although a girl could become well-used before she was matched with her husband-to-be with that kind of "pig-in-a-poke" process going on.  What happened to virtue and chaste love?  Well, I guess in the times of the Romans only the Vestal Virgins held that particular honor.

Anyway, like several Christian festivals (Easter-Esther, Christmas-Yule) to name a couple, Valentine's Day is celebrated in February to "Christianize" Lupercalia.  Hmm.  I had no idea.  But I also wasn't sure how St. Valentine was connected to the day of love either, other than by giving it his name.

So, now you know, or maybe you don't, because this is only one of many legends surrounding our day of hearts and flowers, love and romance.  Hope you had a very happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Vampires For Valentine's Day February 10-16

Vampires for Valentines Giveaway Hop

Vampires for Valentine's Day?  Why not?

February is the month of love and what do we love more than hot, sexy, dangerous and seductive vampires? Vampires For Valentines Giveaway Hop is all about spreading our love for these supernatural creatures. So sign up your blog below and join us in bringing readers their very own vampire for Valentines!

Vampires For Valentines Giveaway Hop runs from 12:01am February 10th through to 11:59pm February 16th 2012, and is hosted by Felicity Heaton (Paranormal Romance Author) and Bitten by Paranormal Romance.

So, for this giveaway, I am offering reader's choice of an eBook or the paperback version of Mortal Illusions, my sexy vampire romance.

Broadway--New York City. Bright lights and hot nights.

Despite a nightly, on-stage seduction by her sultry, debonair costar, Claire Daniels didn't believe vampires were real. Not at first. But her brother was dying and she was willing to believe in anything that might save him. Armed with only her blood and innocence for barter, Claire enters into the dark, silken web of the vampire with the belief that she can seduce one of its most powerful and elusive leaders into helping her save her brother. Such illusions, however, could end up costing Claire far more than she ever imagined.

Interested in reading the book?  To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post saying why you enjoy reading about the undead denizens of the dark, and I will select a winner.  Make sure you include your e-mail address in your comment so I have a way to contact you.  Otherwise, make sure you follow the comments on this post where I will announce the winner on the 17th.

Then don't forget to hop around and see what the other authors are offering.  Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - Writer's Block (not just a state of mind)

I saw an article on the internet recently that discussed a writer's work space.  In the article, the writer said:

"For a long time I used my environment as an excuse not to write. I wasn’t comfortable. My desk lives in a corner of a room that is dark, noisy and cramped. I was always putting off writing as I just couldn’t think there. I’d do anything to avoid the area and not write. But I needed that space. My books, records and equipment were all there. I had to find an answer that would prompt me to create."

So, if you feel like your creative muse has taken a vacation and left you stranded to fend for yourself, perhaps you should take a good look about you.  Is your writing area conducive for creative output?  How do you feel about just sitting there?  Do you feel like you want to get away as soon as possible?  If so, then maybe it's the way you've got your area set up.

Since writing areas are personal, with some writers comfortable scribbling or typing on their beds while others require a more office-like structure, I hesitate to put down any hard and fast rules, especially because I don't think there are any.  Even so, I think the following points are essential.

1.) Wherever you choose to write, you need to feel comfortable to just sit and think in the space.  A lot of writing is done through the mental plotting out of an idea.  If you aren't comfortable creating in your spot, I think you'll need to pick another spot or make it comfortable.

2.) If possible, try to keep your writing area free of distractions.  That includes husbands and children, if at all possible.  I find it's just too easy for me to find "other" things to do, unless I'm in "the zone."  If I'm there, distractions are momentary and fleeting unless my presence is required elsewhere.  However, I can't get into "the zone" if I'm not writing.

3.) If you are attempting to keep to a writing schedule, you should avoid checking e-mail during your allotted writing time.  For computer users, just keep your browser closed down so you won't be tempted.  Spending time researching is acceptable, of course, but try not to get so caught up in searching the web that you don't get back to what it is you are supposed to be doing--writing.

Some writers need absolute quiet to create, others need noise even if it's just the television or the radio.  So, your area should provide you with whatever it is you need that will help put you into a creative mindset.  And above all, enjoy what you're doing or you won't want to keep at it, and success at anything is 99% persistence, or so I've heard.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Authors on Book Bloggers

During my daily troll through the internet, I came across an article by Chicklit Club Connect on Blog Power. The post is a collection of author interviews asking their opinion on Book Bloggers. Below is the beginning of her article:

How much influence do book bloggers wield from behind their laptops? Leah Eggleston Krygowski talks to authors about how the online critic has influenced the industry.

It seems as if everyone is blogging about something these days. People freely give their opinion on everything from where to have dinner, the best places to vacation, or the latest trends in fashion. Blogging has become the activity du jour for anyone wanting to be heard. And as the number of bloggers increases exponentially, so do the number of unsolicited opinions posted on the internet.

One area in which bloggers are voicing their very strong opinions is in the area of books. More and more bibliophiles are taking to the web with their reviews of the latest books from their favorite authors. While there may be no such thing as bad publicity, just how powerful are the voices of those who blog for a hobby? Can the online critic really drive book sales or are they just writing for their own pontification?

I spoke with several authors in an effort to learn their opinion, both good and bad, of those reviewing their books online. This is what they had to say about book bloggers.

To find out what the authors said, please visit Chicklit Club Connect and read Katherine's very informative article.

After I read each author's opinion, I couldn't help wondering what blog readers find interesting in a review.  As fellow reader, I like a brief synopsis of the plot that outlines the central question without revealing too much of the story, then I want the book blogger's opinion about what she read both stating what she liked as well as what she didn't like.  If I've read the book, I compare the blogger's thoughts with my own, and if I strongly agree, or disagree, I will often leave a message giving my perspective.  If I wrote the book, I try to see the review through the eyes of a reader rather than the author.

Opinions are a valuable resource for me, and I treasure them, even if the reader had issues with my plot or character motivations.  Such feedback can only help me become a better writer in the long run.  At least that is my hope.