Sunday, September 23, 2012

10 Ways to Stay Motivated While You Write

Writing is difficult. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. My stories start in my head. I hear dialogue, I see scenery, I even hear the exposition. Getting it down on paper and keeping my tushy in the chair is another thing entirely. It can be downright challenging. Here are some ways that may help you to stay motivated.

1. Take a short time to organize. I’m a ‘plotzer’ – cross between a planner and pantzer I use a basic story outline to know my story’s direction. For me, detailed planning prevents my characters telling me where things are going. I know that sounds strange, but detailed planning for me (and I stress for me), interferes with some of my creativity. So, I use a basic outline and character study (index cards or notes). It’s the character study I find most valuable and where I spend my time. I get close with my characters.  Once I know them well writing flows easier and easier writing keeps me motivated. If I get stumped, I go back to my outline, character study, or do some ‘what if’ scenarios. It recharges me and keeps me writing.

2. Set Deadlines. Deadlines work for some people. For me, they definitely are part of my day job and I had aggressive ones with my editor. I know the punishment for missing these deadlines but what would really happen if I missed a self-imposed writing deadline? Move the date? Besides, I’m a real softy. Ask my kids. So to quote Nathan Bransford “The trick is setting a deadline with teeth. If you secretly know that the deadline you’re setting for yourself is a soft one, it’s not going to have its hair-raising, stress-inducing maximum effect. So either you have to learn to be scared of yourself and your own punishments or you may need a partner in crime who can help you keep to them.”

3. Daydream a Little. Picture what it will be like when you book is completed and you ship it off for query to an agent/editor. Dream about the possibilities of a successful novel, keynote at RWA, Pulitzer (when they have a romance category), and movie option. It all depends on completing what you write. Tuck the daydream in a nice cozy place and come back to the present and make it happen.

4. Journalize. Writers usually keep a journal or pad handy for jotting down story and character ideas. Use your journal to clarify your obstacles, then think of ways around writing problems, like plot difficulties or difficult decisions about how to organization your story. Perhaps solving these difficulties will motivate you to keep on going.

5. Just start typing. Momentum can be invaluable in making progress. Even 10 minutes of uninterrupted writing can be helpful. Find time during the day to write, at lunch, commuting, waiting in line at the grocer, at soccer game practice, you see what I mean.

6. Skip ahead. I tell you this technique but admit I do not follow it myself. I am a linear writer. I find it very difficult to write ‘out of order.’ However, just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. So, if you’re stuck about writing the next thing, skip it for now and try jumping ahead to the next piece you’re excited about. You can come back to the part you skipped later.

7. Talk with your critique partner or someone who supports your writing. For me, talking about my work in progress gets me excited. Sometimes that is all I need to stay motivated. I was stuck on a fight scene and spoke to my son (he’s grown) and Rayna Vause (a writer who is also a martial arts expert). Both gave me the support I needed and valuable insight. And while it’s not true of everyone, a lot of people—both writers and readers—are flattered to be asked to talk with a writer about a work in progress.

8. Move Around. Sometimes you need to move out of your space, physically, to reset your mind. I get up and go downstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water or cup of tea. (Sometimes even chocolate.) I come back to my desk renewed.

9. Write what You Love. Don’t try to catch a fad. It may be tempting, but most times it doesn’t work. You need to love your novel unconditionally if you’re going to finish it.

10. Chocolate. Need I say more?

Your turn. What about you? What motivates you?    

Sunday, September 9, 2012

5 Quick Fixes to Make Reader Love Your Villains

I read a great blog by RITA nominee Shannon Donnelly5 Quick Fixes to Make Readers Love Your Villains. Shannon made it sound so simple. When I took a close look at her post I realized all her suggestions demonstrate the hero’s humanity.
  1. What does the character’s mother love about him?
  2. What does this character love?
  3. Why does this character do bad things?
  4. What would make this character a hero?
  5. Give the villain a trait you’d love to have.

I get it! 
I'm working through my edits on my new story, working title Mine Forever, with Denise, my editor. Throughout the story I've portrayed my villain as a totally bad guy- Snidely Whiplash. However, the more I thought about some of Denise's comments and Shannon's post I clearly see if I give him some humanity even a streak of goodness it will create more conflict and a more powerful character.
Bravo to Shannon Donnelly for putting into words what I was struggling to achieve and for giving me one more outstanding tool for my author tool kit. Her workable questions produced answers that moved my villain from cliche to credible.
Who is your favorite villain? What tools do you use to write your villain?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Say It With Feeling

Savvy Author Lynn Johnson had a great post this week about editing for emotion. Her first paragraph spoke to me. You imagine the scene in your head then write it but somehow the emotion gets lost. Ms Johnson says that’s because we feel our character’s emotion and it’s hard to articulate-put it into words. I get it! She goes on to tell us there are four ways to get that emotion to your reader.
1. Dialogue
The content and word choices we choose should convey the characters emotion. What the character says and doesn’t say, how they react to one another, even when they are silent all lend to the emotional impact of the scene. It’s one of the primary ways we get to know the character.
2. Action
This includes both voluntary and involuntary actions. A tilt of the head, a shaky hand, raking his hand through his hair (my favorite), etc. can add to the drama or even provide comic relief.  
3. Body Language
Body language adds expression to the character’s words. Arms thrown wide or crossed over the chest convey meanings with saying anything. Used with the right words they can support and drive how the emotion you’re trying to convey. People don’t stand or sit still when they talk to each other. Stabbing his finger at the paper, listening to him with her hands on her hips, or throwing his hands in the air, all give an emotional perspective.
A great source is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist. They also have a website, The Bookshelf Muse with their fantastic lists of character traits for just about every situation.
4. Thoughts and Feelings
These are what we use most, narration, interior monologue, and description of instinctive feelings. These are wonderful tools but they should not be the only ones we use.
Putting It All Together
Using these four tools for emotion creatively make your story. Use these tools together to demonstrate conflict, enhance the drama, and keep your readers engrossed.
What do you do to write with emotion?