Incentives For Writers

The Challenge

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

This was my first year attempting NaNoWriMo. I didn’t officially register since I hadn’t decided to participate until November had started. Surrounded and inspired by participants in my online writing group, W.A.N.A. Tribe, I thought I’d give it a try and bumped Word Count up to the top of my priority list.

The Unexpected Challenge

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Everything was going well until the last ten days. I was having a terrible writing day. Zero ideas, zero inspiration. When I had decided to join in the fun, I had an outline and half the story had been plotted. It was easy to write since I always knew what came next. I had done the thinking and the planning ahead of time. But I had stopped to focus on that 50,000 words word count.

The Muse

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As the days went by, it seemed to me like the words flowed less and less until the day nothing flowed. I realized that I only had ten days left when at the end of one day I had written something absurd like 163 words. That’s barely a paragraph! I was so discouraged. I announced to my online writing group that I was giving up on NaNo. There were only a couple of people in the chat room at that time but one of them was Kristen Lamb, W.A.N.A. founder.  She challenged me to write 500 words in 40 minutes. If I met the challenge, she would give me a free class. I won that challenge by writing 518 words. That made me feel so much better about my abilities. I would go to bed that night knowing that I had made a splash in the bucket instead of a drop.

How did I end up writing so much in so little time without a jumping point? Two things:

  1. I’d been offered an incentive – the class with Kristen Lamb
  2. Kristen told me to get out of my own way and just write: follow the muse

I want to elaborate on the latter. Her words really struck me because I was trying so hard to stay within the frame that I’d made it too narrow in my mind. When in fact, any kind of art is always in mutation. Until the paint is dried, until the song is recorded, until the poem is read to an audience, until the clay has hardened, the artist always has the ability to add, remove, or change with their own imagination being the only restriction.

I’ve always scene my outlines as guides through the story. I never felt that I had to write a scene exactly like I had planned it. I always felt like I could add scenes, change the plot direction, do whatever I wanted as long as the story made sense. For whatever reason, I thought I was stuck and I needed someone to point out that I wasn’t actually stuck.

I, more or less, pantsered my way through the second half of the story. I did get lost once as I wrote some scenes out of sequence and had to update my outline but I didn’t let it get me down because I needed to hit that 50,000 words word count. And why? Because there was another incentive.

The Incentive

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While I felt better about myself after completing Kristen’s initial challenge, I doubt I would have hit the NaNoWriMo word count on November 30 without more motivation. I suspect Kristen knew it too. After I wrote the 518 words in 40 minutes, she offered me a second incentive: a free consultation with her on my story if I hit the magic number. I wrote like a maniac for ten days and by 6 pm last Friday, I was done. 50,086 words! I sent her my story and relaxed for the entire weekend. I didn’t want to do, read, hear about writing for 48 hours.

The Result

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It is a first draft and I would say an unfinished first draft. While the beginning, middle and end are all there, I want to add another 10,000 words. I have some ideas for a few more scenes that I didn’t have time to write. This week, I’ve happily been reviewing my work, pleased with its current state and updating my outline. So it’s not finished, but it will be done soon. The incentive this time: being able to hand off a completed novel to an editor so I can get it to my readers early next year.

P.S.

 

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In passing, if you become a True Hearts Insider by subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you’ll receive monthly updates, go behind the scenes, and automatically be entered to win prizes exclusive to True Hearts Insiders (This month: One pair of super cozy faux fur trimmed reading socks). Subscribe to my True Hearts Insider Newsletter. Fill out the form at the top of sidebar on this page!

What incentives have motivated you? Or how do you motivate others? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.

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RHCP Carpool Karaoke

As I mentioned earlier this month, NaNoWriMo has got me busy so I’m keeping my posts short and funny. Hope you have a good time with this one.

My ten year old daughter introduced me to James Corden last week. I’m really behind some of the cultural media evolution. Please forgive me if this is redundant. For those of you who might not have discovered Carpool Karaoke yet, I want to share this episode of Corden and, one of my favorite bands, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What did you think? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.

Challenge: Writing Romance In Fiction

Yesterday, my critique partner and I had a chat about a romantic scene I wrote in Covers, the next book in the True Hearts series, and we concluded that it needs to change.

About My Critique Partner

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First, let me say that I use the term critique partner loosely. She critics my work, I do nothing for her except acknowledge her in my publications. Let me tell you that she deserves more than that because her comments take my work to another level. Having said that, Christmas might be a good time to show more gratitude.

My Comfort Zone

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Secondly, while the scenes in Covers are not the first romantic scenes I have ever written or published, they are the most intense and explicit. I decided to include this type of scene a little more because I’m more comfortable writing it now and the genre, which is New Adult, can totally handle it. Time to stretch that comfort zone.

The Right Fit

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Back to the chat with my critique partner. The tone of the romantic scene was wrong. It suddenly switched like it was written a different author or it was a different story. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but I was not surprised either. I felt it when I was writing it. So how do I fix it? I’m not sure but I’ve started reading a few articles which might be of interest to you too:

Back To Drafting

 

Now that I’ve done some research, I need to mash up what is comparable to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Suck My Kiss” with something along the lines of Kings Of Leon’s “Sex On Fire”. A little humor, a little heat, and a whole lot of intimacy. Wish me luck!

What are some romantic movie or novel scenes that you love? What are some songs that  would convey the right mood? I love to hear from you. Leave me a comment.

Cat Herding

 

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

I’m 18,000 words into National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. By the end of the month, I should have the first draft of Covers, a story of love and acceptance, ready for editing. Since this work in progress is my priority right now, I’m going to keep the blog posts short and funny.

Newsletter

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Before we go down the funny road, I want to let you know that I have a new offering: a monthly newsletter containing updates and behind the scenes on Masks, Secrets, Covers or any other work as well as any contests and freebies. To sign up, enter your name and email address in the Subscribe To My Newsletter section in the sidebar on this page.

Cowboys Of A Different Breed

What did you think of the video? I love hearing from you. Leave me a comment.

Happy Halloween

What Halloween costumes would the characters of Secrets wear? Let me show you.

Diana and Ron

The Leprechaun and the Hot Dog

Mathieu

The Bull

bull

Genevieve

The Oven and her Bun

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Arianne

The Faerie

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Hercules and Elli

The Voodoo Dolls

 

Have fun and stay safe everyone.

What’s your favorite Halloween song? What’s your favorite Halloween costume? What’s your favorite Halloween candy? I love to hear from you. Leave comment.

6 Writing Lessons From A Series Reader

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Earlier this month, I read a young adult dystopian series. In the end, I felt cheated and foolish. I kept wondering why an author would want to do that to her readers and I can’t come up with an answer. I don’t think she did it on purpose. However, I did realize there were some lessons for me to learn as a writer.

Make each voice distinct

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The first two novels of the series were told by one first person narrator, but the last book had two first person narrators. I couldn’t tell whose point of view I was reading in the last book because the characters spoke the same way. I need to make sure I discover my characters as deeply as possible so that I can switch back and forth between multiple voices and/or POVs without confusing myself or my readers.

Write characters that are relatable

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The main characters and their friends were easy to understand and care about. That’s why I kept reading. I wanted to see their development. Some of the antagonists were a little more difficult to understand because they lacked background. I struggle with this as a writer. How much do I want readers to understand where the antagonist is coming from? How much do I want them to empathize with him? My way around this is to make sure he acts destructively and hurts the protagonist.

Check the facts

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In the information age, we all know a lot, but we can’t all be experts. So use that search button and double check the facts, especially if the plot hinges on those facts. I don’t want to start ranting about the major science blunders in the series, so I’ll move on to the lesson that can be extrapolated from this lesson.

Build a writing team

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Build a writing team with a critic partner, a developmental editor, a proofreader, and a beta reader! Each of these roles should probably be held by a different person and each person should probably have a different background. So, hopefully, one of them will notice if my plot falls apart because it’s illogical, unsupported, the absolute opposite of reality, etc.

Take worldbuilding seriously

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I majored in Comparative Religions and noticed something interesting about creation stories. They answer the questions of how the world was created, where it was created, who created it, what came before it. They also reveal the view and philosophy that the folks living in a shared religious and cultural tradition believe. Rarely, did they leave me with a question. Approaching worldbuilding as if it were a sacred revelation might be the way to avoid leaving readers with unanswered questions about the setting and the worldview that the characters are operating within.

Each book in a series needs to stand alone

A series can be linked by characters with each book being more like an episode within the series such as Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Series. Or it can be linked by an overarching plot like Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles. The Saxon Chronicles span ten novels, each with a different plot, and the overarching plot begins in the first novel and always becomes a secondary priority until the final novel.

I’m going to keep these things in mind because the last thing I want to do is upset my readers with poorly written novels.

What is your favorite series? What do you like about it most? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.

A Lesson From Motherhood

By now, you’ve probably heard that Meghan Markle is pregnant. While I distinctly heard someone in my vicinity exclaim, “Ugh, that woman!”, I smiled at the news. Becoming a mother has been the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.

Some people look at having children as evidence of their love. Others as an expectation or obligation. Some a curse. Others as a life invent. And some as an opportunity to “make things right” which could mean anything from giving their children what they weren’t given as children, living through their children vicariously, or being the parent their parents weren’t. There are probably other reasons I can’t think of right now.

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There are also as many ways of parenting as there are parents. I decided that what I needed to do as a parent was teach my child to be the best human being she could be. And to do that, I had to set the example. So it follows that I strive to become the best human being that I can be. (I’m aware that this is a lifelong pursuit.) I learned to accept that I am not perfect, to forgive myself for my mistakes, and to love myself in spite of my flaws. I try to remember that when a driver cuts me off, he might be a nice person having a bad day. I know that while I have a right to be angry, I don’t have the right to humiliate someone. Mostly, I’ve learned that we are all human. If I approach each person including myself with compassion and empathy, I become a better person and I make their lives better too.

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Meghan Markle and all the expectant women out there have a lot to look forward to that has nothing to do with baby showers, epidurals, and the eventual pitter patter of tiny feet.

What’s the greatest thing you’ve learned since becoming a parent? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.