Writing Romance – the Alpha Hero

The most obvious starting place to discuss the types of romance heroes is with the Alpha male - Alpha hero.

Alpha Male:  a domineering man; the dominant member in a group of males, especially animals.

They say that the term was coined mainly to distinguish between boring heroes and exciting heroes.  Really?  I’ve seen some very un-boring heroes who were Beta or Delta Heroes - we’ll get to those later.  And it’s the plotting that makes the story exciting, don’t you think?

Here’s a fun conversation between Booth and Brennan from tv’s Bones.

Booth: Ok, what is so funny?

Brennan: I just never figured you being in a relationship.

Booth: Why? Do you think something's wrong with me?

Brennan: Not wrong. You just have alpha male attributes usually associated with a solitary existence.

Booth: What me? You're solitary.

Brennan: No no, I'm private, it's different and we weren't talking about me.

Booth: I was.

Brennan: I wasn't. Look, I'm happy for you. Relationships have anthropological meaning. No society can survive if sexual bonds aren't forged between -

Booth: What the hell are you talking about?

Booth is most definitely an Alpha hero.

When we look back at the history of the romance genre, we see a time when the heroes of these novels had their way with the heroines, whether she wanted to or not.  The biggest writers in the genre in the early ‘70s - Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers - both wrote these type of “heroes.”  These types of heroes might not fly today - I mean, taking her without her permission - um, that’s rape.

It’s entirely possible that I’m out of touch here.  When Googling romance books with Alpha Heroes, I found a list that started with Fifty Shades of Grey and continued with erotic romance heroes.  I’ve not read Shades and erotic isn’t my thing.  So, forgive me if I don’t include your favorite if that’s your genre.  What I’m trying to say - and not very well, I might add - is that “dominant” or “domineering” heroes may be Alpha males or may just be jerks.  So maybe the Alpha hero has himself evolved.  Or maybe he hasn’t.  I guess it depends on the genre.

At the most basic level, the Alpha hero is a leader. Or so says Alicia Rasley. “The Alpha hero is above all else a leader. He's someone who takes charge. He's just about bound to end up as the boss of whatever group he's joined.  That is, whatever wounds he's suffered in the past don't keep him from accepting his ultimate role of leading. He is not an outlaw (or if he is, he's the leader of the outlaw band). He is part of a group, not an outsider. And no, he's not dark and dangerous. A truly dark and dangerous Alpha would very likely be a tyrant. The Alpha male is a social creature, not a loner.”

Your Alpha hero is the guy that takes charge.  He’s in control of the situation and in control of himself.  He’s not touchy-feely and holds his cards close to his chest.

He’s John Wayne in almost every movie he was ever in.  He’s William Wallace, Jetro Gibbs, Raymond Reddington.

Some of the conflicts for an Alpha hero include:

Loyalty vs Truth

Ambition vs Friendship

Power vs Abuse

Confidence vs Insecurity

Last month I sent you away with homework.  Your homework is to think about your favorite romance hero.  What makes him heroic?  Why do you love him?  Did anyone do it?

This month I’d love to hear who your favorite Alpha Heroes are.

Next month, we’ll talk about the other types of romance heroes - the Beta, the Delta, the Theta.

Remember, all heroes have a bit of each of these types inside.  These are just jumping off points.  Feel free to digress.

Have a great month, Campers.  Remember BICHOK - Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard.

Asking for Advice: A How-To…Avoid Letting Advice Drive You Mad

RFortune Cookieecently, I posted two possible covers for an upcoming endeavor on Facebook, asking for, yes, you guessed it, the dreaded ADVICE.

You see, I love hearing thoughts on cover art, on manuscripts, on marketing as well as how to live a better, more productive writerly life.

Advice can be the best thing EVER.

And then again, it can make you want to rip your hair out, piece by dyed-poorly piece.

The problem for me, comes in picking through the feedback. For example, when one person chooses one cover, and the other the second one, how am I to know who’s right? Aren’t both opinions valid?

Yes, everyone’s feedback is valued and valid.

But not everyone’s advice is right for me, and my work.

Therefore, to save myself from crying (mostly because it gives me raccoon-eyes), I’ve developed some advice for advice.

Aren’t I the clever one?

* Stop sneering. I do know how lame I am.

My advice for advice is as follows:

  • Ask specific questions to get what you need
  • If you don’t understand the feedback or need more, ask
  • You don’t have to accept every bit of advice
  • Just because someone says something doesn’t make it right for you
  • Weigh the advisor’s knowledge on the content in your final decision
  • Accept the very real fact that you cannot please everyone
  • Ask for advice in the right places – know your advising audience
  • Take risks – Don’t get locked inside your worldview

Being open to advice greatly affected my cover design. I had specific advice that has transformed my thinking about the cover. I plan to use my writerly tribe next to determine the best cover blurb.

The one thing I didn’t add above, and perhaps the most important albeit intuitive advice is, be grateful for every single word. Thank you, tribe. If I don’t say it often enough, thanks to each of you. Thanks to those who helped me last week. Thanks to those who continue to beta read and critique, just not me, but our community.

RMFW writers are amazingly supportive and I appreciate all of you more than I can say.

In that vein, please tell us in the comments the best bit of writing advice you’ve received. How did it affect your work? What advice would you give a beginner or even a professional?

Covers Matter…A Lot

All day long at my job at the library I watch people pick out books. Step one: the cover or the author’s name (if they’ve read them previously or heard something about them) catches their eye. Step two: they pick up the book and read the cover blurb to find out what the book is about.

The cover blurb process is for another blog or even a workshop, but I have a few observations about book covers. With the exception of literary fiction, which always seems to have very bland covers, covers can absolutely make or break a book. And I’m observing people choosing print books, where they can pick up the book and examine it closely. When you’re talking about the thumbnail-sized e-book cover, the science/art of book covers becomes even more crucial.

The first thing a good cover does is catch the eye. It shouldn’t have too many elements because that makes it look cluttered. Colors are important, as some colors are more striking/appealing than others. Also, certain colors subconsciously signal certain moods, and having the mood match the mood of the book is essential.

We have several shelves of paperbacks that are organized by narrower genre classifications than our general fiction collection. A lot of the time I’ll order a book that could fit into any number of these genres. For example, we have thriller-type books shelved in suspense, in romance, in mystery, in adventure and in general fiction. So, how do I decide?

If I’m familiar with the author and what they usually write, that makes it easy. Otherwise I start with the blurb: Is the focus on the romance? Is there a lot of action? Is there a clear puzzle/mystery at the core? Is the focus on nail-biting suspense, but not necessarily a lot of action? Is the book about an apocalyptic battle/struggle to save the world, or a more sedate courtroom drama?

When I can’t decide for sure where a book belongs, or it could fit into two or more categories, I often go by the cover. Is it dark and moody? Probably fits better in suspense. Does it show a couple? It will probably check out better in romance. Does it show a hot, half-naked, tattooed man on the cover? We’ll call it paranormal romance and put it on the romance rack. Does it show a hot, half-naked, tattooed woman on the cover? That signals urban fantasy, so I'll put it in the sci fi/fantasy section.

Colors are almost as important as the cover content. You don’t want dark/muddy colors on a romance, unless it’s a edgy romantic suspense. You don’t want pastels on an action-oriented book, a western or even a legal thriller. For mysteries, the covers should clearly signal whether they are cozies (with lighter, brighter colors like green, yellow and pastel blue), while darker stories use dark blues, blacks, grays and maybe a touch of red.

I said earlier that the cover shouldn’t be cluttered, and one of the most common mistakes I see is that the author will try to have the cover accurately reflect the plot, and hence include a lot of elements. They want to show it’s a romance and a time travel and so they show the couple and the elements that make the setting in the past clear. Or they show too many characters and images. Sometimes it works, but usually not. Simpler and subtler is almost always better.

Ultimately, you should rely on the experts. Which is the art department of your publisher, or your cover artist, if you are indie-publishing. And most important, remember that your vision of the book cover may be all wrong. I loved the cover of my first book designed by my current small publisher. It had all the elements I thought should be in my story: handsome, bare-chested barbarian type hero with a modern skyline in the background, perfectly capturing the time travel/fantasy romance plot.

But the book sold dismally, and I’m sure a lot of it was because of the cover. It didn’t reduce down well to a thumbnail, and it was too dark, much darker than mood of the story. And the bare-chested guy who I thought captured the look of the dark-age Irish prince didn’t seem to do anything for readers. He looked more scary than hot, and that’s the opposite of his persona in the book. There were other things wrong with the book and they way it was marketed, but I’m still pretty certain the cover was in large share to blame for the poor sales.

The final thing is the cover should not look amateurish. Which is to say that the art isn’t interesting, or of good quality and/or the elements don’t flow well together. I meet a lot of indie-published authors who want me to add their book to the library's collection. (And we’re talking free here, not books I’m spending library funds on.) If the cover looks amateurish, I’m probably going to say no right away. Because even if I put that book on the new book shelf, which gets a lot of traffic, no one’s going to pick it up. It might be a great novel, but it’s never going to have a chance with a bad cover.

There are lots of blogs and articles on the internet regarding the "science" of book covers. It’s probably worth your time to do some research. Maybe a lot of research. After all, this is your baby, and if nobody notices it, your baby is never going to get the love it deserves.

Perspective Lost and Found

Sometimes, if you take a break from your current WIP for an extended period of time, you lose focus on it. The next time you sit down it becomes hard to recapture the tone, the pace, the perspective on the work that you had when you started it. This can sometimes be especially true for those who write series, between books. This is what I'm struggling with now.

The first book in the series was so much fun to write, and I had all the time in the world to play with it, make it fun and exciting and frankly just wing it. That one was a phenomenal success. Now, faced with the daunting task of writing the second, having taken a few months off to write two other books (one a part of another series, the other a stand alone) I find myself struggling to make this one meet and, to some degree, exceed the first.

The problem is tone and perspective. There is a particular mix of chaos and complexity to the first thriller that made it so popular, the sense of not knowing what was going to happen next. But also a sort of Romancing The Stone pseudorealism to the action, things a little too fantastical or whimsical to ever happen in real life, but still fun to read. That's what I want to recapture in the sequel, while upping the stakes.

Here is how I got past the block.

First, I reread the first book, taking notes on things that I might revisit in the second book. Not just big things but little things that might make the reader chuckle to see reprised. Then I outlined the second book. While I've sometimes done this in the past, I usually just wing it. In this case it was absolutely essential that I outline the book, to help me with pacing. Lastly I watched several of my favorite pseudorealist action movies; the aforementioned Romancing The Stone, The Man With One Red Shoe, Knight and Day, the Indiana Jones flicks, etc.

When it's time to write, I set my Pandora to music conducive to the mood I want to cultivate, certainly not brooding or mellow, but not hard and driving rock either. Something strong, but also quick and exciting. For me, often, soundtracks to other movies help.

Lastly, I sit and before I touch the keyboard, I take a brief moment of meditation, wiping my mind of any ancillary concerns or stresses, concentrate on the feelings I want to put on paper. Then I write. I don't stop, I don't take breaks, I don't go back and edit myself. I write. I push away any other thoughts that may stray in, and I keep writing, building a momentum that will hopefully stay with me when I do walk away from it for a meal or whatever.

I know I'm doing it right if I find it hard to walk away, if even when eating or running errands or watching TV, I keep thinking about my book and feeling excited about what I'm writing, eager to get back to it.

So that's what works for me. Let me know if this helps you, too.

Speaking of Podcasts…

Mark Stevens, RMFW's podcast guru, published a post yesterday that mentioned his broken podcast microphone, and that reminded me we haven't mentioned those podcasts here on the blog for quite a while.

You do listen to the podcasts, right?

I mean, you are aware that RMFW has a series of excellent podcasts for your education and amusement, right? Seventy-eight of them so far!

Ahem!

Number #78 is a must-listen for any member who wants to submit to the new short story anthology:  Angie Hodapp & Warren Hammond - New RMFW Anthology False Faces

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is getting ready to publish a new short story anthology in 2018: False Faces: Tales of Fakes, Frauds, and Facades.

This time on the podcast co-editors Angie Hodapp and Warren Hammond walk us through the process they have developed for selecting and editing stories between now and the anticipated publication in September of 2018.

Angie Hodapp holds a BA in English and secondary education and an MA in English and communication development, and she is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. She has worked in publishing and professional writing and editing, in one form or another, for sixteen years. She currently works at Nelson Literary Agency as the Director of Literary Development.

Warren Hammond is known for his gritty, futuristic KOP series. The third book in the series, KOP Killer, won the Colorado Book Award. Warren's latest novel, Tides of Maritinia, is a spy novel set in a science-fictional world.

First up on this episode is another episode of Writer’s Rehab from Natasha Watts. Natasha goes after what she calls an issue of attitude. If your writing role model is Harper Lee or if you are treating your first novel like a passion project, these few minutes of commentary are for you.

Head on over to the podcast page to scroll through the whole list and read the descriptions.

Everything Is Broken

I hate it when things aren’t working right.

Last week was a doozy.

First, it was the microphone I use to record podcasts. (Yes, RMFW, the microphone you purchased to help start the podcasts– all $50 worth. It worked for two years & 77 podcasts and then pfffft.)

It looked the same as always. Nothing rattled. But, busted. Gone.

I spent 3.5 hours online with a tech service trying to see what was wrong with my computer.

Turns out, it was the microphone.

Then, our refrigerator started making an annoying rattle.

$850 later, we had a new compressor.  (I can’t show it to you; it’s tucked inside the refrigerator now, doing its job).

These guys came to my house twice in one week!

The next day, one of the flaps in the dryer’s tumbler thing came loose. Whump-whump-whump.

The credit card took another $208 hit.

No joke.

(Bob Dylan was ringing in my ear …. Broken lines, broken strings, Broken threads, broken springs…)

What else breaks?

Sometimes, it’s our words.

A word. A sentence. A paragraph.

George Saunders (Lincoln in The Bardo; many, many killer short stories) has a terrific piece in The Guardian about writing. It's called 'What writers really do when they write.'

He talks about evaluating the words he has written “without hope and without despair.”

George Saunders says he imagines a meter mounted on his forehead as he reads his own stuff, with “P” on one side for positive and “N” on the other for negative.

“Accept the result without whining,” he suggests.

Then edit, he writes, “so as to move the needle into the ‘P’ zone.”

There’s a lot of good stuff in this piece.

It’s long but entirely worth absorbing.

I won’t come right out and say a sentence is “broken” or a paragraph is “broken."

I mean, you’ve got something work with--that's a huge accomplishment.

Those words on the page. You can’t edit thin air.

But there might be a way to make those words work better.

To make them, well, work.

There’s P, there’s N.

Fix them!

No whining.

Final thought from George Saunders: “Any work of art quickly reveals itself to be a linked system of problems.”

Five Reasons to Submit Your Work to Anthologies

I'm sure by now you've heard that Found: Short Stories by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, is a finalist in the 2017 Colorado Book Awards from Colorado Humanities.

And hopefully  you've also heard that I have an essay in a new anthology called Still Me ... After All These Years: 24 Writers Reflect on Aging.

Those two facts triggered this blog post designed to encourage all writers to think seriously about submitting your work to every legitimate anthology opportunity that comes your way. I came up with five good reasons to take on these extra projects even if you generally write only novel-length fiction.

1. Increases name recognition

The more often readers see your name, the more likely they are to remember and recognize it when they're browsing bookstores, online, and at the library

2. More people see your bio

That bio can include your most recent publications, the urls for your website and social media, and some tidbit of information to remember you by. For ebooks, the links are often clickable for speedy friending and following.

3. Many anthologies are entered into book award competitions

Found is a good example. Submissions were solicited from RMFW members only.

A second anthology on the finalist list, Sunrise Summits: A Poetry Anthology, was edited by Dean K. Miller and contains poetry by member of Northern Colorado Writers. The call for submissions went out to NCW members via the website, newsletter, and Facebook page.

4. Submitting to anthologies is good practice

If you have any hope of getting your work accepted for publication, it's important to learn to follow all submission rules and requirements. That includes tie-in to theme or topic, sticking to the correct genre, quality writing with no grammar errors or typos, proper formatting and style according to instructions, submitting only if you qualify (for member-only publications, submit only if you're a member).

5. New individual or group promotion opportunities lead back to that number one reason: increase name recognition.

With the release of anthologies, you may participate in book signings, blog book tours, social media promotions on Facebook or Twitter, book giveaways as part of the tours or separately on Goodreads.

Examples include the signing and book sale at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Writers Conference in Denver in September for the authors of the RMFW anthology Found; the book sale and signing opportunities at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference May 5-6 for the poets in Sunrise Summits.

MC Book Tours handled the blog book tour for Still Me ... After All These Years which included this post on my own blog: "What? Me Aging?" And I'm giving away three copies of this anthology of personal essays on Goodreads as part of the promotion. The giveaway ends April 5th, so if you're interested, click here to get to the widget on my blog.

Anthologies That Want Your Submissions

Rocky Mountain Fictions Writers is seeking submissions from RMFW members only for the 2018 anthology: False Faces: Tales of Fakes, Frauds, and Facades. Find more information and the guidelines on the RMFW website. Submissions are open now and close on June 30th, 2017.

Tulip Tree Publishing has issued a call for submissions for the next Stories That Need to be Told. The 2016 issue of this anthology series is also a finalist in the anthology category of the Colorado Book Awards. The submission guidelines and award information are available on the Tulip Tree Publishing website. The deadline is September 6, 2017.

The top publisher of personal essays is, of course, Chicken Soup for the Soul. That publisher always has a list of potential and planned projects so periodically checking their list is a great idea. Here's that link.

And one more for good measure: Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest recognizes work by an emerging writer (no published work, traditional or indie) in each of three genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. One winner in each genre per year will receive $1,000 and publication in the literary journal. More information can be found at the Ploughshares at Emerson College site. This competition closes on May 15, 2017.

Pay attention to the bloggers you follow, the writerly folks on Facebook and Twitter, and the organizations you've joined. Any of those places can be a source of information for anthology editors seeking submission.

Now it's up to you. Will you polish a short story and submit to False Faces, find the perfect topic at Chicken Soup for the Soul, or perhaps submit  a story to the Tulip Tree anthology? Do you know of another great anthology that is open to submissions? Have you recently had a piece published in an anthology? Let us know in the comments below.

Moving from Fear to Courage in Diversity Writing … by Rebecca Hopkins

The very first novel I ever started writing took place in a small town in Texas. The outsider newspaper reporter main character was on her way to solving some town mystery.

It was quite similar to my own life at the time. I worked as a small town Texas newspaper reporter from up north. And I was doing the one thing I knew about novel writing at that point, following the old adage—Write what you know.

But then I moved to Indonesia and I never finished the book.

Rebecca with Yuli's younger sister Erni at a Ramadan feast

I met a young Indonesian Muslim woman named Yuli. Yuli introduced me to her ancient Tidung tribal culture, took me to dance festivals where flicks of the wrist tell stories of war and love. She welcomed me into her family’s home for the end-of-Ramadan feasting, not caring that I’m neither Muslim nor had fasted for a month. And she shared her fears of evil spirits and of practicing her English with me, while I shared my own fears of cobras and of speaking Indonesian with her.

At the beginning, I understood very little of her world. But as I asked more questions, drank more tea with her mom, and then attended Yuli’s funeral after she tragically died from a motorbike accident, I fell in love with her people.

I also feel deeper in love with something I’ve always liked—the joy of not just “always knowing” something, but discovering something new.

I met many more “Yulis” over the years. The Indonesian language has an expression: “The guest is the king.” Even outsiders and strangers are embraced in the most welcoming of ways—abundance of food provided to mere acquaintances even on the most meager of salaries. Friends have invited me into some of their most intimate cultural and family events, opening their hearts about their beliefs, fears, struggles, stories, values. I feel like I get to take a look at their hidden treasure troves—at their urging. And that’s just the start. They insist my children call them “grandma” and have referred to me as their “daughter.” For a foreigner who sometimes still longs for my own family on the other side of the world, this is therapy.

I’m a writer who is passionate about sharing a good story. So of course, I wrote a novel about the things I was learning. (After five years of research.)

Indonesian Woman

I confess, I still can’t sleep on the hot Indonesian nights when the electricity goes out and I can never remember the name of the evil spirit that likes to steal babies out of pregnant women and I sometimes forget to offer tea to my drop-in guests. I’ve learned so much by being here, year after year, raising my three kids in this culture. But let me be clear, the longer I live here (finishing my twelfth year this spring), the more I realize how much I don’t yet understand about the home of most of my adult life. Though very welcome here, I am still a bit of an outsider, peering in, trying to figure out if there’s room for me here.

After I’d rewritten the twentieth draft of my first novel, the Diverse Books and Own Voices movements got under way. I’m cheering for insider voices from marginalized, underrepresented groups in the most personal way. My husband is a relief pilot into some of Borneo’s remote jungle interior villages, providing safe, reliable air transport for med-evacs and supply runs for some of the world’s most isolated and marginalized people groups. I live among these unknown (to westerners) tribes. They’re my neighbors, friends, my kids’ friends. I’d love to see the names of some of my Indonesian writer friends on a book someday in the libraries of American schools. I can’t wait to see what words and expressions and characters they use to tell their own stories in all the nuanced, deeply personal ways that only they can do.

But these well-needed movements left me feeling scared of what I’m doing—writing cross culturally. What right do I have to tell stories based in a culture that isn’t fully my own? What if I get it wrong? Am I stealing their stories?

Between the Army brat childhood in which I moved constantly (and interacted with and tried to fit into different subcultures), and my adulthood in which this Indonesian home of mine has grown and shaped me, I’ve seen many cross cultural interactions that look like crashes and ones that look like embraces. The “crashes” usually are caused by some amount of either arrogance or ignorance, and they leave behind bruises, cuts, scars, bitterness. If there’s a lot of force to it, a cultural crash creates a repulsion that knocks people far away from each other.

Indonesian Woman and Girl

Then there are the cross cultural “embraces.” They come out of the humility to know one’s limitations, the desire to learn, the listening ear, the value of another’s dignity, and of course, the welcoming that comes from the “other” culture. The embraces have a way of somehow recognizing and validating the unique differences between us while blurring those differences as we come close enough to change each other in little, but meaningful ways. We learn to feel at home in our shared humanity.

The more globalized our local circles become and the more cultures get close enough for the next crash or embrace, the more all of our stories will need an element of diversity in order to ring true. With this, the standard grows higher to treat these interactions with care and respect. The whole world is watching (and hopefully, reading).

I believe we, as storytellers, were born for this challenge. To some extent, we’re all doing these things as writers. Sometimes we’re researching people from past times. Sometimes we’re creating brand new worlds completely different than ours. And often times, we’re writing from jobs, genders, and other perspectives unlike ours. We have this drive in us to not just write what we’ve always known, but to love the discovery of something new to us, and somehow, timeless.

Unless we’re writing an autobiography (as my first novel was veering toward), we’re already, instinctually, drawn toward little d “diversity” writing. As we write, we are already asking questions for which we don’t yet know the answer, inviting our characters into a journey of figuring them out. We’re recording the unique, little-known elements of life that somehow, when written in touching prose—is so familiar to all of us. We’re creating characters who are entering journeys we’ve never had to enter…and yet somehow end up looking like places we’ve been ourselves.

I must be honest. I still have questions and struggles about the nitty-gritty of representing a story’s truth well, of figuring out which stories I was “made” to tell, and which, perhaps, I shouldn’t. But I’m learning how to welcome that process with courage, humility, understanding and a recognition that while I may not be able to achieve a completely “accent-free” rendition of the world I’m discovering, there is room for my stories—and all the mixes of cultures that continue to grow within me—on the page.

I love the Indonesian Proverb: “I am you, you are me.” It shows, exactly, the hope I find as a writer, a reader, and a resident of Indonesia. Stories of all shapes and mixes have the power to connect us. All of us. Hopefully… in the most warm of embraces.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Hopkins writes novels about a world of ancient jungle tribes, sea-dwelling gypsies and isolated Balinese hand signing villages. It’s a world she’s trying to make her own—Indonesia. She’s lived in Indonesia with her relief pilot husband and three kids for eleven years.

Read more about her writing and life in Indonesia at www.rebeccahopkins.org. Rebecca can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some interesting posts about this debate, looking at it from various perspectives.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/01/novelists-cultural-appropriation-literature-lionel-shriver
http://writeoncon.org/2017/02/02/roundtable-writers-on-writing-diversely/
http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/articles/voiceappropriation.html
http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10087
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/09/michael_chabon_s_telegraph_avenue_can_a_white_guy_write_about_black_characters_.html
http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2016/06/20/how-to-write-protagonists-of-colour-when-youre-white/
http://readdiversebooks.com/white-authors-fill-your-stories-with-people-of-color-but-dont-make-them-your-protagonists/

Spring Cleaning: Give Your Writing Space a Makeover

I have several writing spaces, including the couch, the library, and (weather permitting) the patio. But when I really need to focus, I have a designated, distraction-free place I can retreat to. I call it my “cave,” but it’s more like a hobbit hole: cozy, comfortable, and colorful. Here’s how I did itcomplete with photos!and what to consider when creating or reviving your own writing space.

Location

For most people, a writing space needs to be quiet, isolated, and close-able—meaning you can shut the door when needed and not be disturbed by noisy children, spouses, televisions, etc.

I chose a nook in my spare bedroom, partly because it was one of the few unused areas in my 800-square-foot apartment, and partly because it has a window. (I’m not sure why, but I’ve always believed there’s a special creative energy that comes from placing a desk under a window. Or maybe I just like looking up from my writing and being reminded that there is, in fact, a world outside the one on the page.)

Workspace

This is how much flat space your desk or table offers. More is usually better—personally, I like to have room for my laptop, a notebook, and a mug of cocoa at the very least. I would have loved a nice big L-shaped desk, but since space is at a premium in my apartment, I had to settle for something relatively small. I found a cute little desk at a thrift store for $20, then spent a weekend repainting it and replacing the hardware.

And don’t forget your desk’s necessary sidekicks: a comfortable chair and good lighting. Seriously. If you’re going to do most of your writing here, you need a place to sit that won’t give you chronic back pain. And if your room doesn’t have an overhead light, you’ll need to add a desk lamp or floor lamp. Otherwise, as my mother would say, you’ll ruin your eyes trying to write in the dark.

Storage

It’s important to have additional storage so your workspace doesn’t disappear under a pile of clutter (trust me, it happens faster than you’d think). Wall shelves, a hutch, desk drawers, and desktop organizers will put everything you need within easy reach while leaving plenty of room to write.

Although my writing desk doesn’t provide as much workspace as I’d like, it makes up for it with four spacious drawers. I’ve put them to good use, storing things like pens, paper, binders, staplers, writing resource books, lip balm, and emergency chocolate bars.

Décor

This is your space; spruce it up in whatever way speaks to you. For me that means bright colors, cute knickknacks, inspirational quotes, photos of my family, and any potted plants I can manage to keep alive. Many of these have some kind of meaning or positive memory attached—the owl statue I rescued from the dumpster, the glass bird my in-laws bought for me in Ireland, the inspirational quotes given to me by my mother. Obviously, you don’t want anything that will trigger negative emotions. Think rainbows and unicorns (or Hufflepuffs and hippogriffs—whatever floats your writerly boat).

Inspiration

Last but not least, my writing space wouldn’t be complete without my Wall of Encouragement. This is where I frame my successes—stories I’ve gotten published in magazines, the cover of an anthology I was featured in, an award I got in a novel contest. Any time I’m reeling from a rejection, struggling to write a tough scene, or just feeling discouraged, looking at this wall boosts my confidence and helps me get back on the horse.

Instead of a wall of encouragement, you could do an inspiration board where you tack up photos, magazine clippings, and quotes that help you visualize your work-in-progress. Or you could have a vanity shelf, filled with the books you’ve published or magazines you’ve appeared in—even if it’s empty, it’ll remind you of where you’re headed. Or you could hang up meaningful things like the first story you wrote as a child, the brochure from your last conference, a photo of you shaking hands with Neil Gaiman…whatever works to boost your writerly mentality.

Now, let’s see how I’ve incorporated these elements into my writing space…

What does your writing space look like?

Is your writing moving along like you hoped for in 2017?

I don’t know about you, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get my writing life better organized which included writing more often, mucking out my office-cum-storage room, getting a business plan done, and deciding if I was going to go ahead and self-publish the first three completed historical romances in the series I had been working on before I started the Bad Carma mystery series.

So, how am I doing? Well. Umm. You see, it’s like this….

Guess it’s not hard to tell that I haven’t kept that resolution very well. HOWEVER, I do have NovelRama  on my calendar, I am attending Pub-Con  the end of April to find out more about both traditional and self-publishing, and I am almost finished with my WIP, which I have an agent interested in from an earlier version (requested at 2016 Gold - so needless to say, I want to go to Gold in September as well). I also submitted a workshop proposal to Gold as part of my platform building and professional development plan (you, too, can submit through the end of March!), and plan to enter the Colorado Gold writing contest again this year.

I haven’t started on my much-needed business plan even though as a coach at a Business Incubator it’s a major part of my job to help small business owners put their plans together. And I am a small business. I charge money for my writing and I intend to continue to make money from my novel(s). So as a small business owner I need to know my target market(s), my budget (revenue, expense, and cash flows), timelines for completion of work, if I intend to continue to write/sell/publish articles and short stories and to whom, and the different lines of business (books/series) that I intend to complete during the plan’s life. And since a business plan is a living document I also need to make myself go back to it on a regular basis to see how I’m doing and what modifications I might need to make.

We’re a quarter of the way through the year. Are you on track with your plans? Do you HAVE a plan? Remember, Fail to Plan/Plan to Fail.

My recommendation: Get your s**t together and Write On!

Do you have any other recommendations to kick the 2017 writing year into gear?