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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Elizabeth Gilbert Talks About Creative Genius

I first listened to this talk just a few weeks into November. Still grieving for my grandmother, taking care of sick children, and trying to finish my book for a NaNoWriMo had all come to a head. I felt like an empty well, with little to offer to my story. When another writer posted the link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s discussion about creative genius, I decided my genius and I needed to have a talk. If I was going to sacrifice my sleep to write and put my “butt in chair” everyday, no matter the circumstances of my life, my genius needed to do her part. This video will make you laugh, and open your mind to the possibilities of your genius, and its part in your creative process. Have a wonderful Friday. As of now, I’ve finished the first book and started another story. I have 7,905 words to complete my NaNoWriMo word count. I’ll see you on the flip side. Enjoy the video, and be inspired. Ole!

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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Chance Encounters

Pink Sherbet Photography

*A few years ago I’d been sitting at a really arty coffee shop waiting for a friend. It was the kind of coffee shop that had worn couches along the walls, bookshelves with new and second-hand books for sale, art supplies in one corner, and a real eclectic mix of patrons. It was one of those places that made people-watching a real treat.

So while I waited for my friend, I sort of spied on the middle-aged man at a table near me. He was a sketch artist, and the table he occupied was littered with pencils of various sized, crumpled pages, and eraser shavings. I think when I chose that table, he’d already been there a good half an hour, just drawing. The artistic mess in front of him might have been what made me choose that table, because my friend was notorious for being late. Most of the time very late.

But it was when I combined that mess with the business suit he wore that I chose a table that allowed me to watch him without him being aware of it. Not that he would have noticed, he was too engrossed in sketching the bus stop across the road along the lady waiting there.

In truth it was a really inspiring sight, this man in his business suit, sketching. Just by the look of him I could tell he probably worked as a manager or an accountant, something along those lines. It might have been his lunch hour, and he spent it doing something he loved. Something he was exceptionally good at, if what my spying had shown me was anything to go by. I had been an inspiring thing to see. Somebody with a day job still finding time to do something he loved. I’m sure had I asked him, he would have told me he’d much rather devote more time to his art, but he had a family to support and he loved them more than he did his art. He’d looked like he kind of guy who would have a wife who tried giving him as much time to devote to his passion as possible. Sometimes you could just tell these things about certain people.

My timing couldn’t have been more perfect if somebody had sent me there on purpose. A couple of student had walked into the coffee shop, and after they’d all placed their orders, gathered around a table and started talking about all kinds of random student things.

One of them, a guy I guessed could have been twenty or so, had leaned back on the two hind legs of his chair and looked at the man drawing. He’d complimented the man on his skill, and the man had accepted it graciously. The student then went on to tell the suited man how he used to draw until some personal issues got in the way. The man had asked the student if those personal issues were still in the way, and the student had said no, they weren’t. ‘Then why aren’t you doing it again if you love it so much?’ the suited man had asked him.

You have to understand, this conversation fascinated me. I’d once asked myself the same question, right before I’d started writing again. It had changed my life, that question. Why aren’t you doing it if you love it so much? Good question, right?

The student had replied that the man had made a good point, and the man had agreed. He’d said that there would always be things that get in the way of doing what you really wanted to. The trick was finding ways around it or making those things work for you. Bad things are only bad things until you decided to do something about or with them.

It had been a strangely wonderful thing to see, the light of comprehension in the student’s eyes as he assimilated what the man had said to him. He’d returned to chatting with his friends, but I’d seen the change in him. Good change, and maybe the change had gotten to me too. I like to think it had.

Fifteen minutes after the encounter, the artist had gathered his pencils and pages and placed them all inside his briefcase. Before he’d left, he’d touched the student’s shoulder and had pointed to the corner where all the art supplies were on sale, then left.

I have no idea if the student went to buy any of the supplies, but I like to think that he had.

* Please ignore my tense issues. I blame it on almost being the end of November and my brain not functioning properly. Any of the H&C ladies are welcome to correct anything they want. I take no responsibility 😛

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Inspiration, Just For Fun, luck, Motivation, Uncategorized

 

Why I Heart Scrivener for Outlining

As I prepared for National Novel Writing Month and completing the rewrite of my novel, I finally had to force myself to organize my thoughts. I had ideas littered throughout two drafts, three outlines, four notebooks, on a white board, in a couple of Scrivener files, and in emails I’d sent to myself…as well as the other random thoughts swimming in my head that I hadn’t yet had a chance to write down. Clearly this novel has changed (and hopefully grown) many times since I first started it. As much as I enjoy a good outline, my biggest challenge is formatting it in the best way to satisfy my overactive, visual mind. So, thank goodness I have Scrivener.

Enter Scrivener

I first came across Scrivener when I participated in National Novel Writing Month, back when it was only for Mac OS and I couldn’t have it. I downloaded the beta version for Windows as soon as it was available and have been in love ever since, though I admit, I haven’t been using it to its full potential until recently. And even now, probably only 60%. In order to keep track of my notes most efficiently and create an outline I could follow, I put Scrivener to the task. Scrivener is useful for so many things so I’m only going to scratch the surface here but I’ll tell you a little bit about how I used it to outline.

Outlining With Scrivener

My absolute favorite feature in Scrivener is its three modes. Writing mode, of course, but also, cork board mode. What writer doesn’t love a cork board? Ever time a new text file is added, it is also creates an index card on the cork board, listing the title as well as a summary. You can switch back and forth between writing mode and cork board mode and the summary is always available to keep you on track. You can reorganize the index cards at any time, which is ideal for me because I often come up with new scenes while I’m writing. Much easier than doing this on a real cork board where I have to move every single index card down one spot each time I add a scene. There is also a traditional Outline mode for those of you who prefer things in a more linear fashion.

Each scene also has a Label and a Status. Scrivener’s default Labels are Chapter and Concept. You could expand from there or change them completely as I have. My story goes back and forth between past and present so I’ve used the labels to indicate which scene is which. This way, I am able to scan through my index cards and easily see that they are evenly spaced and well-proportioned. Default Statuses are “To Do,” “First Draft,” “Revised Draft,” etc. but I’ve also changed those to reflect the season in which the scene takes place to work as a rough time line. There is a lot flexibility to use these in any way that suits your story such as POV, plots and subplots, locations, etc. Then, in cork board mode, it’s so easy to get an overall snapshot of the story’s progression.

Once you switch to Writing mode, there is one more section for Notes, References and Keywords (you’ll also find Snapshots there but that is a completely different post.) For things that don’t fit in the quick summary of the scene–the details that remind me of my vision for that scene–I add notes. I’ve used the keywords for my characters and the month of the year but again, use your imagination.

Earn a Discount

There are so many other ways Scrivener is useful so if you’re having a hard time with outlining or you’re a more visual person like me, check it out and see if it suits you. To find out more about Scrivener, or to download it, visit the Literature and Latte website. And, as an added bonus, since you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, you get a coupon code for a 20% discount. 50% off when you win! (Yes, I said when.) How’s that for motivation?

How do you outline and keep track of your notes?

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Writing Software

 

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Thank You!

I’m keeping it short today. I know this is a crazy day for shopping, family, relaxing, and hopefully resting.  Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I want to just take a second to thank all of you for being amazing. I am so blessed and fortunate to have such a fabulous and supportive group of writers who are there to encourage me, hold me accountable, and listen.

May your weekend be full of writing, words, food, friends, family, turkey, pie, books, inspiration, and as much positivity as I can wish upon you. Know I am thankful for each and every one of you, and I can’t wait to ring in another new year with you all.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Thank You!

I know most of you in the middle of making pies, basting turkeys, and making sure you have enough chairs to accommodate Uncle Stu and great aunt Edna, so I won’t keep you long. Tomorrow is the day Americans stop to give thanks for all the wonderful things in their lives. And although I’m not in America right now and tomorrow is just another day here in Scotland, I want to take a moment to thank each and everyone in the Hugs and Chocolate community. I’m so grateful for all of my fellow chocolatiers. Jamie, Jani, Rebecca, Courtney, Tonia, you are all such beautiful souls and I am truly privileged to know you. I’m inspired by the incredible wisdom, talent, and insight this community shows, not just from the founders and co-founders, but from all our followers. You make it all worthwhile. Your support and interaction teach me what a community is meant to be. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families. (Even if you’re not celebrating Turkey Day) 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

A Goal

I had a goal. Okay, I still have a goal – to finish my story this month. Not as a part of NaNo, I want this to be good – not something I have to try and decipher later. I’m so close. Two chapters to finish. And I’m stuck. I know what happens. I know how it happens. I know the last line. I know this story. So why can’t I write it? This may come as a surprise. but I have several theories about this.

The first one is feedback. I know, kind of weird, isn’t it? We all need feedback on our writing. It’s how we get better and find our mistakes. But, from personal experience, I’ve found that letting someone read my work before I’m done is a huge distraction. I always say I won’t let anyone read it until I’m done, but I always cave. Once I do, my writing stalls. I ask people to read because I want to know if my writing and storytelling is any good. In my head, this is the greatest story ever, but all writers think that about their work. I just want to know if it’s interesting, readable, etc. I crave the feedback. However, it doesn’t matter whether the feedback is positive or negative, it stalls me. In this case, I had both positive and some not so positive – which leads me to my next theory.

Critique partners. Ergh. Except for one, I’ve lost contact with my old critique partners and a lot of them have either stopped writing or changed directions. So. I have to start at the beginning. Once I got some feedback, I started panicking about critiques. I joined several writing sites, posted my first chapter, chatted with a few people and exchanged first chapters privately for critique purposes. One word: disaster. Have you ever received a chapter for critique and you know it’s not going to work as soon as you open the document? That’s happened to me twice in the past few weeks. In looking for a critique partner, you want someone who’s at about the same level as you or above. I’ll gladly help anyone as much as I can, but I won’t write someone’s book for them or let someone try to intimidate me to cover their lack of experience. In any case, I got so wrapped up in finding a perfect critique partner, that I got distracted from my story. Finding a critique partner is difficult. You have to get to know the other person’s writing and build a relationship of trust, based on honesty.

My final theory is a result of the other two theories. My confidence in my story and writing has been shaken. Not shattered, just shaken. As much as I wanted feedback, I wasn’t ready to address all the other issues it brought with it. I will finish this story, but I’ve learned this lesson again – I can’t share my work before it’s done. I was on such a roll there for about three weeks. I wrote almost sixty thousand words during that time. I love the story and wanted to share it, to see if it was as good as I thought and hoped. Don’t worry, I didn’t send out the full story to anyone. I’m not that green. Just the first chapter which has been revised many times and polished. The majority of the feedback was good, really good, but it didn’t matter. I broke my roll because I wanted to jump ahead. Now I have to find my way back to the story… after I go check the writing sites to see if anyone has commented on my chapter.

 

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The Line Between Epic Love and Epic Failure

This is what epic love looks like.

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” 
Thomas MannEssays of Three Decades

It’s that insidious moment when you entertain the thought of giving up. It would be easy, possibly the easiest thing you’ve ever done. The stroke of a few keys would erase the struggle, loneliness, the fight for just the right word, and scratching for the time to write.

Does the very thought sadden you?

I hope so. It breaks my heart. When a writer I know gives up, says that’s it, I’m not this story-telling, creative being anymore, I ache for them. I ache because I understand.

After a late night of pulling words like splinters from my head and the grief of revising a story about death after the loss of my grandmother, I woke up to another sick kid, a mess to clean, and a toddler that won’t quit. I wondered if I had room in my head for a creative thought. Writing is many things. But most often, it’s hard.

I also ache because though its hard, when I imagine not writing, it scares the hell out of me. I’m many things beyond a writer, but it is essential to who I am when I look in the mirror. I tell the stories, pen the poems, not only for a connection with readers, but to connect with myself under the various “hats” I wear.

When I was young and silly, I believed that real love meant you didn’t have to work at it. Okay, you can stop snorting now. It’s a fable, a fabulous fairy tale that takes more than it gives. Real love requires you to get up at three a.m. and clean up after the sick kid, reach a compromise with your partner, or write through the pain and words that unwind before you can commit them to paper.

Let me be blunt: Writing is hard and it takes more than passion and talent. It requires epic love. Epic love often necessitates epic failure.

Do you love what you’re doing enough to fail for it?

I’ve written a lot about fear. It’s something I know about. Fear of failure too often held me back. Now, when I haven’t opened up my document for a while, or find myself utilizing every avenue of procrastination, I take a moment to reevaluate. Sometimes, the beast requires me to saddle up and go for a ride. I’ve done some of my best writing while strapped down, chasing the clouds. Don’t quit because you’re afraid to fail. Ride it out, or change your perspective.

Change your perspective by making a change in your lifestyle. Be kind to yourself- go for a walk or savor the texture and taste of a piece of fresh fruit. When you do it, acknowledge that it’s something your doing for yourself.

Tell the truth. Let someone know- other writers or anyone supportive of your goals- and accept the reasons they give you for not quitting.

Ask yourself: Why do I write?

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” 
~Joss Whedon

I mentioned two of the reasons I write- connection with readers, connection with myself. I have other reasons. I write to teach my children what it requires to achieve a dream. I write because I can live, for brief moments, inside any world of my choosing. I write to show the people who’ve hurt me in the past that they have no power over me. I do it because the good writing days are better than sex, chocolate, and wine.

Yes, I’m struggling right now. It’s taken me five hours to write this post because life keeps interfering. For NaNo, I’ve only produced 10,931 words. I’ve had four hours sleep and I long for a nap or hot bath, but I have chicken noodle soup to make and a story to finish.

I refuse to quit.

If you’re walking the line between epic love and epic failure, don’t give up. I’m right here with you. Keep writing. We’ve got this.

Related links:

http://writerunboxed.com/2012/11/16/commitments/

http://krissymediaink.com/create-a-writing-manifesto/

http://goinswriter.com/

 
 

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Hunting for Writing Drive

Yey for short posts!

NaNoWriMo aside, sometimes I think November is the longest month ever. I’m tired. Are you tired? I thought so. It’s been an exceptionally long year, and I can’t wait for my vacation to start in *checks calendar* 29 days and counting.

When I get tired, especially at this time of the year, I lose a bit of what I like to call my ‘writing drive’. As much as I absolutely adore writing, it feels just that bit more painful in November, like I’m truly bleeding onto the page. Every. Single. Word.

The need to go home, fall onto my bed, and stare at the ceiling for a good hour and just skip the day’s writing, is especially prominent in what’s come to be known at work as ‘hell hour’. It’s that hour before I go home, and my motivation to do anything is less than 0. Or rather, my motivation is hiding in a pitch black drainpipe somewhere, and the only way to get it back is to stick my hand in there with the hope that nothing tries to eat me.

We all know one of the true signs of being a writer is to write even when you don’t feel like it. Having a muse is all well and good, but once you have deadlines you can’t miss, your muse isn’t going to do anything for you. He/she might even laugh a bit as you struggle to get those words out, but out they have to go.

So in an effort to get rid of the day’s reluctance to write, I do a few things that scrape together all the motivation scattered around me.

  • Half an hour before my workday is done, I stop working. Maybe stop is too direct. I pretend to work. This is something that will definitely not work for everybody, but for those who can, try it out.
  • You’ll be surprised how invigorating/recharging a silly conversation can be. I had one yesterday about alligators and yo mama jokes. After that I managed a solid 1k +. Twitter is great for this.
  • For those of you driving to and from work, I want to seriously suggest maybe skipping the radio station you listen to, and instead listen to your WIPs playlist or music that chills you out/inspires/motivates you. I do this every afternoon, and by the time I get home, I’m almost ready to get things one. If you don’t drive or use public transport, maybe take a half an hour or so and listen to something that works for you before you start writing.
  • Don’t underestimate procrastination. Let your mind wander, you might be surprised by what you pick up along the way. Tumblr is a great place for that. Pinterest and DeviantArt too.

Four small things when you’ve lost some of your writing drive. It’s been such a quiet week, and now that we’re entering the third week of NaNo, we need all the drive we can get.

Check in, won’t you? How’ve you all been doing? How has November been treating you?

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Inspiration, Just For Fun, NaNoWriMo, Social Media

 

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How to NaNoWriMo During Thanksgiving

Here in the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated on November 22nd this year–right as National Novel Writing Month participants are rounding the corner to the finish line. Thanksgiving may very well be one of the most demanding holidays of the year between the cooking, visiting families (many times, more than one!), turkey comas, and festivities that can last an entire four day weekend. For some “Wrimos” this is the point where they give up the goal and resolve to do better next year. But it doesn’t have to be.

In general, NaNoWriMo is easier done in small chunks rather than sitting down and trying to write it all at once, and this is a good thing for fitting it in during the holiday weekend. It helps if you start by knowing how much writing you can accomplish in 15 or 20 minutes. On average, I can write about 500 words in that time frame, though if I’m in the groove, I can write as much as 750 (or as low as 250 if I’m struggling). But if I use 500 as my average, I know I can accomplish my daily word count in 3 or 4 short writing sessions. With that in mind, here are some ways to fit those short sessions into even the busiest days.

  1. If you’re hosting. This is probably the most difficult of all situations–being in charge of all, if not most, cooking, entertaining all your crazy relatives, and waiting on them hand and foot. Try to get as much writing done before and after they come over. Something I’ve really enjoyed doing lately is taking my laptop into the kitchen with me. If you have your novel file open while you’re working, you can brainstorm while you cook and then write for ten minutes or so after you finish cooking each dish. Be sure to plan for a little extra time in the kitchen for this and use your microwave timer to time your sprints.
  2. If you’re visiting family. Take advantage of travel time! This year I am going to my husband’s aunt’s house who lives 1 1/2 hours away. That’s three hours total of driving time and plenty of time to get some serious words in. If you’re traveling by plane, even better! If possible, go to the airport a little earlier and use the time while you wait to board the plane.
  3. If you will have or will be an overnight guest. Create a quiet, comfortable place in your bedroom (either at your house or theirs) to escape to every couple of hours for fifteen or twenty minutes. Head to bed a little early or wake up a little early to get some words in while no one is even missing you.
  4. If you watch football. Easy–commercial breaks and half time. You can even create a game out of it using the score.
  5. If you shop on Black Friday. Take your laptop with you and write for ten minutes in your car before each new store.
  6. If you can make it to write-ins. Even though it’s a holiday weekend, there will very likely still be write-ins to attend in your area. Get in touch with your region on the NaNoWriMo website and make plans to escape the madness for 2 or 3 hours. Sprints with other Wrimos are an easy way to rack up large word counts in short periods of time.

No, my dearest Chris Baty clearly wasn’t worried about cooking and shopping when he chose November to host NaNoWriMo, but it is what it is. And even so, thousands of people still win every year. As long as you don’t give up, you can be one of them. I hope these suggestions help you through the busy weekend and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by Vision Freak

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Deadlines, NaNoWriMo, Writing

 

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Confessions of a Craft Book Junkie

Some of my loot!

I have a confession…I’m a craft book junkie. Maybe it’s the editor in me, but I can’t stop buying them. I’ve recently acquired about six or seven new ones. Some of them I haven’t read yet, but I’ve browsed through many of them.

My favorite so far, and yes, this is because I write young adult fiction, is Writing Irresistible Kid Lit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers by literary agent, Mary Kole. I’ve been devouring this book. If you haven’t checked out her website, then you’re missing out. She talks about the ins and outs of publishing, how to improve your craft, and writing query letters. It’s amazing, and her book is fantastic. A must buy if you’re looking for a YA and MG craft book.

My second favorite (so far) is The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby. On a side note, I’m not sure what the deal is with Amazon’s pricing for this book, but I bough the Kindle version. So far, I’m loving this. John Truby really takes you into how to craft a scene, work on transitions, and hook your reader.

I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about it: The Plot Whisper by Martha Alderson.  I can’t wait to dive in.

The next book isn’t really a craft book as much as it is an inspirational book. My husband got me If: Questions for the Game of Life by Evelyn McFarlane and James Saywell. We sat on the couch for hours asking each other these questions. Some of them are a bit weird, but they definitely get your creative juices flowing.

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a must have. Just get it. Don’t ask questions. It’s fabulous.

Okay. I think that’s a good start to my confessions as a craft junkie. What are some of your favorite books?

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Uncategorized