Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kickstarting Your Creativity #1

Your brain is an amazing thing.  It's the motor that drives your body.  It allows you to solve complicated mathematical equations, or appreciate the beauty in a work of art.  And though it isn't a muscle, it acts like one.
It's true: the more you use your brain (and for us writers, the more we use that all-important, creative right brain), the better it will function.
Writing is exercise, and don't let anyone tell you different.  Exercising your brain is just as important as working out your body.  Getting into the habit of exercising its creative side can be beneficial when it's time to crank out that fiction project.
How, you ask?  Well, one of the fastest ways to get your creative gears turning is a writing prompt.  In fact, my book, WATER, started out as a writing prompt.  It began as a one-page workshop, and we were given the task of explaining, in one page, what might happen if someone entered his or her hotel room to find a stranger in their bed.  From that springboard, my story evolved into someone in the hero's closet, caught in the act of rummaging through his things.  From there, it was simply a chain reaction of finding out why my heroine was going through the hero's belongings, what he would do about it, and how she would defend her actions.
A simple prompt can be an excellent jumping-off point for a writing project.  While I would encourage you to aim for making that prompt a part of your overall writing goal (in my case, a romance novel), it isn't absolutely necessary.  A writing prompt is merely a small nudge to get you putting words down.  The more you do it, the more your right brain will get into the habit of having those words ready for you when needed.  Instead of muscle-building, you're brain-building - teaching that gray matter to flex and do some creative heavy lifting.  As with any exercise, the more you do, the easier it will get.
The Internet abounds with writing prompts, but for argument's sake, I will give you one, and challenge you to write one page on the subject.
Your hero is walking his dog on the beach, which he does every night before going home to his big, empty house.  As he and the dog are finishing up their walk, he notices a man and woman having a heated argument.  Inexplicably, the normally-docile dog jerks its leash out of his hand and bounds toward the arguing couple, barking loudly.
There you have it.  Your job is to answer the questions posed by the writing prompt.  What does the hero do?  Why has the dog's behavior changed?  Who are the arguing people?
Questions make the best writing prompts.  Have fun, fellow writers, and write on!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Thousand Miles

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." ~ Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

That Lao-tzu was a pretty smart cookie - as evidenced by the fact that we're still quoting him some 2500 years later. This saying is often batted around by someone who's about to embark on a Herculean task.

Like, for example, writing a novel.

I love writing. Ask anyone who knows me what I did most often as a kid, and they'll tell you my nose was either in a book, or buried in a manuscript of my own making (even if I didn't know that's what they were called, back then). But writing is hard. I have often said that the minute I set myself a concrete "I will ..." sort of writing goal, I would rebel at the obligation and, therefore, not fulfill it.


This year, I took a chance at breaking up my yearly "one book" goal to a page a day, something more concrete than I have done since beginning to write professionally. I have been keeping to my piddling page-a-day goal, and for the past week, have written more in that span than I have in some thirty-day stretches. How? Because a page is one step. It's nothing. I can put one page of words down without worrying about more than one page of words. And trust me, even for a professional procrastinator - er, author - those words add up. I've been keeping track of my efforts with the progress bar to the right, and I'm seeing that bar fill up - a most satisfying visual carrot, and I highly recommend it.

For anyone struggling with that phantom writer's block, or middle-of-the-book syndrome, or crucial turning point in your story, try this method. Just write a page. I'm finding that it's becoming a habit by repetition, the same as brushing my teeth each morning. Moreover, my writing is getting better. The more habitual my daily page is, the less I find myself focusing on the number of words I'm writing. Then it becomes a focus on plot and characterization. The words are coming, but now, spitting them out is intrinsic, and they're almost a side effect of my plotting and character-building. This may be the switch I needed to turn off my internal editor - the one who says "No, don't write that, it's terrible and here's why" - and let the words flow without interference.

Worked for me. Maybe it'll work for you, fellow writers. Take your first step!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

I Resolve To ...

So, here we are with the New Year well underway.  I don't generally make much more specific a resolution than "get a book out the door."  With a "day job" and being a wife and mother included into the bargain, that's pretty hefty.  My set minimum at this point is a page per day.  That may not seem like much, but that's the point.  I can go over as much as I want, but I have to at least spit out one page of words.  Daily.  That, for me, can be a stretch, but it’s not impossible.

The reason people don't keep their resolutions is that they are too big and too amorphous to seem achievable.  For authors, a nebulous "get a book out the door" can be a big old "Kick Me" sign for writer's block.  If, however, we are to chop up that resolution into smaller bits, it becomes something of a daily finish line.  One page isn't much.  This blog post amounts to approximately one page, for example.  One page a day, over the course of thirty days, is an average of 7500 words!

See?  Not so hard, is it?  My personal difficulty is shutting off my internal editor so that I can get the words onto the page in the first place.  As Nora Roberts says, you can fix a bad page, but not a blank one.  If I’m going to get that raw material to work with, I need to learn to spit the words out.  I intend to work on that over the course of the year.  One page at a time.

Good luck with your own resolutions!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy 2014!

Happy New Year! I can't believe it's 2014 already. Seems like we were just putting up the Christmas tree at Greenwood House.
This is going to be an exciting year. I'm looking forward to the release of Book Two in the Gifted Series, FLASHPOINT. I hope you'll have fun following the adventure of gifted archaeologist Faith Markham and her mysteriously familiar tour guide, Hakon Ivarsson. I'll be adding new information and a book trailer for FLASHPOINT as they become available. Until then, have a wonderful New Year, and stay safe!