Distractions: Writing, Wait, Cleaning. No! Writing! New Computer! No! Writing. Promotion…

I should be preparing for a trip I'm leaving for later this morning, but I'm running late on the blog, and, let's face it, will I want to finish it up in California? No.

Wait . . . the airport. I could do it on the plane or at the airport (I intend to arrive two hours early, as usual). I could do it then. Face it, ramblings about the writing life, which I usually do here on the blog, are not research intensive, and are, in fact internals, which is the easiest writing for me. Well, in addition to having an intelligent Familiar Companion animal saunter, stroll, or zoom onto the page. Those scenes tend to write themselves, too.

As you must have figured out from the above, distractions are, for me, a terrible thing. Even cleaning can be a distraction, even (whispering), washing silverware (which I always leave for last).

The moment I got my first computer, I took the games off it, the solitaire, whatever. (We won't go into online gaming right now). This was to keep myself focused on writing.

Naturally, I had a day job, so I wrote in the evenings. I lost years of popular television shows, because, like most traditionally published people, it took between 8-9 years for my first manuscript to sell. Those bad old days.

I had to focus, or I wouldn't work on my writing after my regular eight hours of work, and that was the most disciplined time in my life (except the 3 jobs in grad school).

But now that I'm a professional writer. . . my focus is usually fragmented at best, even when I'm at retreats where all I'm supposed to do is write. "I can make my wordcount in two hours today, I'll do it later." I tell myself almost every day. This is a blatant lie. I can make a minimum wordcount in two hours with the great blessing of steady inspiration from the muse. I believe my lie anyway.

Laundry is important. Cleaning is important. Definitely loading up a new computer for my travels with all the right software is important.

Exercise, for me right now, is hugely important.

Most important is promotion of my novella, especially that which is self-published. I can really get side-railed by that, because it, too, can bring money in.

But writing should be the number one priority. It is the way I support myself and my two cats (they do not lift a PAW).

Still, distractions abide. So, I turn to the tried and true to help me through:

1) War room. I belong to a chat room where writers meet and do writing sprints. Sometimes it's too chatty, sometimes I'm the only one there. At those times, I have to shore up my own focus.

2) Timer. This is good. Butt in chair for 30 minutes, set the timer, write. Do NOT go back and re-read that previous scene for the 20th time. JUST. WRITE. This can get me (you?) through the "thinking" time.

3) Setting Goals With Other Writers. I belong to such a group, we post goals and results every week.

But, most of all, is just RECOGNIZING MY PROBLEM WITH DISTRACTIONS, AND PUTTING MY BUT IN THE CHAIR AND WRITING.

Easy to understand, easy to say, but hard to execute. But I WILL do that. Because that's what professionals do.

Wait, doesn't the fireplace need brushing out? (Just joking, I don't have a working fireplace).

May the muse be with you and your writing and your worlds push all distractions from your minds.

Robin

Newsletter Conclusions – Worldbuilding!

I know that various RMFW writers have talked about newsletters, but this is my personal, particular (and perhaps peculiar – sorry, I'm having fun with the alliteration!) take on the business and pleasures of newsletters.

I started (after many years, and AGAIN), a monthly newsletter last July, soon after I epublished my first novella (Lost Heart).

Publishing a newsletter is a love/hate relationship:
I hate taking the time from writing.
I love writing something creative for the newsletter instead of struggling with my current manuscript.
I hate formatting the sucker with pictures and text. It takes ALL DAY.
I love finding pictures (mostly my own due to copyright restrictions) for the newsletter . . . and I can use an old graphic I still love from my first website as a header.

And so it goes. Since it's a monthly newsletter, it usually goes out in the last days of the month, because that's how I am, I procrastinate.

Though I have two current series going, the reader favorite is my Celta HeartMate series. Unless I have a book out in the Ghost series (contemporary paranormal featuring ghosts of the Old West, mostly Colorado), I spend most of my time on Celta.

I have done: maps of the world, maps of portions of the world, pictures of the Residences (intelligent houses, mostly castles or manor houses), timeline of the books (from the colonists leaving Earth and the generational starships in outer space, to the current year of a short story due at the end of the month – 425 years after colonization).

Most recently I did an article from one of the news sheets, the Druida City Times, announcing the building of a new village, Multiplicity. Included were pictures of a model mansion, the community center, and a home designed by the architect planning the community. I wanted to do this as a teaser for my work in progress and the next full book.

I predated this "article" two and a half months before the day of the erection of the community (magic, folks), which is the next scene I'm writing in the manuscript, so comments about the newsletter HELPED WITH MY OWN MOTIVATION TO WRITE.

That is another way a newsletter can help you:

You know from feedback that you aren't alone, no matter how dark and cold is the early winter night. People like your work, and will support your writing, again, motivation to write, other writers as well as readers.

You can clarify the story in your own mind if you talk about a work in progress.
You can remind yourself why you like the story, and why you're writing it.

If you're promoting a recently released story/novella/book, you can reconnect with that story and get re-energized about it. (I don't know about you, but the piece I like best is the one I've just finished and is being released). You can be excited about sharing another story, a brand new story to your readers.

YOU are in control of the newsletter, what goes in, photos or character interviews or fake news articles or maps. You can be creative with this in a totally different manner than you have when writing.

Be free, and experiment with your newsletter, and have fun. That will show in your newsletter (like it does in your stories).

Have wonderful holidays and I'll talk to you in the new year.

Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.
Robin

Audio Books

I love audio books.

One of the reasons is that I live alone and I like someone to read a story to me before (or while) I fall asleep. For these, I choose books I've already read/heard before (and I DO reread and re-listen to books in my library).

Like many people, I enjoy listening to books while driving, particularly on long trips.

And I also use new books and/or new audio books as a reward for doing good work, or making wordcount.

Last night I gave myself a guilty pleasure and listened to an audio book, Sweep In Peace, by Ilona Andrews.

Advice first, then ramblings. Audio books are GREAT for getting the feel of the language, of different accents and rhythms of speech from Jane Austin's upper class British to an east Texan twang.

When I first started listening to audio books, I listened to old favorites of Jayne Ann Krentz. To my surprise, the reader put the emPHAsis on different words and phrases than I did. It was both disconcerting and illuminating. There's old common wisdom that you should read your work aloud (I don't have time with the schedule my publisher wants), and we do this at my critique group. It can help immensely, particularly if you have a run-on sentence or one of the made up words (like chwisge – whiskey) to see what works and doesn't. Sometimes I won't change a very alliterative sentence or an awkward one, but most of the time I do.

The best audio books I've ever listened to are the Elizabeth Peters historical mysteries read by Barbara Rosenblat. They are just incredible, particularly the ones that have the boy Ramses growing up, Ms. Rosenblat ages his voice...(and one of the best titles ever is The Last Camel Died At Noon). The Harry Potter audio books are exceptional, too.

I won't say the worst I've listened to – mostly because of the books themselves, not the authors' best works – but sometimes the actor screws it up. I listened to one where the actor made the hero's voce sort-of upper crust nasal, this was a ROMANCE and the hero didn't sound acceptable.

My absolute favorite audio books are romances where a husband-wife team read the hero/heroine's point of view, such as Smoke and Mirrors by Jayne Ann Krentz, and Linda Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep. When Dick Hill makes the car noises, it had me rolling...

And since I love audio books, I am more aware of dialogue in my books, providing enough tags or movement so that my narrators have the cues they need to change their voices for different characters.

Define Yourself As A Writer

Are you a writer?

First, are you SURE you want to be a writer? It's a tough business. Even in these wide-open days of self-publishing you need to write a good story and hope it strikes a chord with (many) readers.

If you want to go the traditional route, your fate is in other hands, accept it.

If you want to self-publish, you're going to have to become an excellent promoter and put money behind your dream.

So, if you're continuing to read this, you have an inner fire that needs to be released. Or maybe you just need to silence those imaginary voices whispering in your head.

One of the first things you can do to become a writer is DEFINE YOURSELF AS A WRITER. That is now your self-image. And as we all know, a character will fight to the death to keep his/her self image intact (and, of course, they have a new one by the end of the story, that's character arc).

I am a writer.

I am also a daughter, sister, owner (or owned by) cats, a dozen other things, but my basic core identity is as a writer. This is even more solid for me than others because I have no spouse or children to dilute this solidity of identification as a . . . profession.

I celebrate being a writer and creativity, I surround myself with people of the same ilk, and I absolutely look at the world through the filter of being a writer. I would not know who I was if you took this identity away from me.

And to be a writer, by definition, you have to write. So you will find me at my computer every day (or, occasionally, outside on the patio with pen and paper), writing. Writing snippets, writing plot points, writing ideas that will go nowhere or get revised out of existence.

Writing one of my 100K word novels – because you don't get to 50K or 100K or 135K words by not putting one after the other.

Back to defining yourself as a writer, talk the talk, walk the walk (write), and it will creep up on you. When you first start out, you might say, "I am a paralegal and I write on the side." Then, of course, you get all those comments – Are you published? Who published you? Where can I buy your books? Can I get them at the library? Are they on audio?

I wrote for 8-9 years before I got published traditionally, I know those questions as an unpublished writer and I know the answers. "I've finished my first book, and I'm writing my second." (Huge accomplishment, folks, finishing a first book!) "I'm looking for an agent." "I have an agent submitting my work." "I've finished three books and two are sitting on editors' desks." Find out a graceful way to answer those questions, but come out of the closet and accept your writing identity. Defining yourself as a writer will get you through the hard times of writing, will help you relate to other writers so you know you've come home to your tribe and they have embraced you (like being at the Colorado Gold Conference) and will simply keep you going when you want to quit.

Do you want to quit? If you can, do. There are many other creative ways to spend your time.

I am a writer. Are you?

Let's talk.

Sooo . . . Rocky Mountain Gold Conference! Inner and Outer Validation. Friends.

I had a great conference, I hope you did, too! And I hope you got what you needed to progress with your work.

As one of the Honored Guiding Members, I was especially touched by the people who wrote something in my book, (I only reminded one, or maybe twenty, to do so). I speak for Chris Jorgensen and Sharon Mignerey in thanking the organization for making this particular conference so special for us.

I know that I will treasure the memory book. I'll be able to look at that wonderful volume and think that I have made friends, contributed to my writing community, and perhaps I've helped one or two writers along the way. That makes me proud.

No doubt I'll also take it out during the long, dark teatimes of my soul to help keep me going .

And since I mentioned outer validation, I have to repeat something I know, and that is: Outer validation is a drug, you need more of it, more often if you depend on it to keep you motivated.

Inner validation is what will continue to support you. My particular motivational saying is: I am doing the best I can with the resources I have. That works in past tense, too. I did the best I could with that writing, that book, with the resources I had.

Because all you, and I, can do is our best, right?

But that memory book will remind me, too, that I have friends who will stand me in good stead. During those dark moments when I need encouragement, I will remember that I can talk to my friends who will listen and help me.

And that's really what this community of writers, the conference is all about. Networking, yes; hoping to take another step up the ladder of a writing career, yes; but, for me, the bottom line is that I see people I may only see once a year. People I still consider my friends.

The conference, to me, is a place to reconnect with my friends who are no longer geographically close. To renew offers of support, to accept offers of support when I'm down.

That's really what we need each other for, to keep us going day-to-day, to talk to, to listen. About writing and about life.

And about our writing life. You need to brainstorm a plot? Sure, I'll help you. You're having a problem with this scene, whose point of view should it be in? I'll listen, I'll read.

That's what this Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization is for, support.

Thanks again, may your day go well, and may all your writing dreams come true,
Robin

RMFW and me . . . and you.

RMFW's Colorado Gold conference is in a few weeks, and, of course, I'm going.

In fact, this year I am an "Honored Guiding Member" which means I've been in RMFW for a **mumbledy mumble** years. Okay, we'll just leave it at decades.

And, yes, RMFW has given me some awesome awards (I've been Writer of the Year twice and received the Jasmine service award). And, yes, I've been a member of a few . . . several . . . many committees and boards.

But that's not what's important to me. What's important is that Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers taught me how to write.

That is the simple truth. My critique group taught me how to write.

And my critique group continues to help me with my writing. They are my closest friends.

So that's the basis of my relationship with RMFW. It gave me friends and it taught me to write, and when a volunteer organization does that, a person feels like they have to give back, so I did and I have.

The basic unit for me of RMFW is my critique group.

After the critique group are the larger classes, the get-togethers. When I joined there were monthly in-person business meetings followed by seminars or presentations. I attended most of those, soaking up technique and different points of view and processes of writing...and information on publishing. Now, I attend the presentations when a topic applies to my work (private detectives), or when I'm asked to help out (earlier this year).

So, basic unit the critique group, next level up is the monthly presentations and gatherings, then come semi-annual Writer of the Year revelation and panels and the winter holiday party. I rarely miss those.

Another level is the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, more often than not, I judge contest entries, though I have had busy years with deadlines that I haven't been able to be a judge. I swung back into that stream this year and am pleased to see a couple of the entries I judged have made the finals, as well as one by a critique buddy.

Yes, I'm pleased to help beginning writers, and I enjoy reading good work that is completely different than my genre and world view (I write fantasy and fantasy romance).

Finally, there is the one and only Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' annual Colorado Gold conference. I can't recall the last time I missed one. In fact, I don't think I have missed one in . . . decades. This year I changed the dates of a family trip because I wouldn't miss the Colorado Gold – and I gave up my dibs on the family Bronco tickets to the Broncos-Panthers game because it is the Thursday before conference which is the meet-and-greet with our out of town guests (for volunteers).

Yes, I try to present a workshop myself at the conference, mostly on self-motivation or on characters. This year, as an Honored Guiding Member, my topic is on writing series (on Sunday, one of the last sessions). I'm in the midst of two series now, and have written another two.

But most of all at the conference I enjoy meeting with other writers, no matter what genre or level of writing they're at. If brainstorming is needed, that's fine. Or character motivation or development. Or finding your own writing process.

There's nothing like talking to other writers and knowing that their eyes won't glaze over in two minutes.

So, at whatever level you are in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, WELCOME! I hope you find a home here like I have.

And may all your writing dreams come true.
Robin

Rereading and Rereaders

First, a note, reading is my primary entertainment, I don't have cable television (I have two network channels, that's it) and I don't download and watch films.

I reread my library (not my own work) all the time. I always thought everyone did, but I was having a talk with a writer friend and found out she never rereads a book.

This got me thinking.

I know that my fans DO reread my books, and my series, and I asked them why on Facebook. I got 128 main comments and comments on the comments...

And they reread for the same reasons I do.

1) Sometimes I read a book fast, just zoom through it, and I go back and re-read to savor, pick up details I miss. This is particularly true if there's a mystery or suspense plot and I missed a clue.

2) The book is part of a series and I reread one or more previous books to recall what's going on in that particular world at that particular time.

3) I know a book explores a particular emotion/topic/character that I want to think more about and I reread for that.

4) I know I'll see something new in the plot or the characters, in the STORY when I reread.

5) I am deep in deadline or my mind is tired and I don't want to plunge into the intellectual stimulation of a new world or story question but want some entertainment.

6) And, as far as I'm concerned, the best: Comfort. I like the world, I like the characters, I like the story and I want to settle in and visit them again. There are good lines I want to savor, there are laughs I want to recall and laugh with again. Or I want to be on that spaceflight and look out the portal at the stars, or journey with the drovers in nineteenth century England, or see, once more, how love unfolds between these two very disparate people.

One that doesn't apply to me:

My favorite authors don't write fast enough and I read fast and I'd rather reread a good story than try new authors.

One that applies to writers more than rereaders:

I want to see how that writer pulled a certain technique off. One of my favorite books is Northern Lights by Nora Roberts. I think it is a fabulous example of how to have a deeply depressed hero in the beginning and keep the reader not-depressed, interested, and reading.

So, as a writer, there are several ways to consider readers who do and don't reread.

First, from the point of view of voracious readers who don't reread. They will try and will buy a lot of books, probably zoom through backlists if they find something they like. Yay!

Rereaders will be loyal fans, they'll wait and anticipate your next book. They'll know what you're talking about when you reference the Hawthorn-Holly Feud, the intelligent Turquoise House, when the flying horses (volarans) deserted the Marshall's Castle, the size of Brownies... etc. If you're on social media, you can interact with your readers, and build more of a following. Since they reread your books, they're interested in your characters and stories.

I'll talk about how readers and fans can help you out (non-promotional-wise) in some other blog, but now I think I'll head back to that werewolf challenge scene I particularly liked....

 

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Play and Explore

Last month, when I finally overcame my fears and reached a big goal, I felt giddy the next day . . . I tried to write, but instead I pretty much explored the net . . . I saw an interesting article and followed a link, then another and another. The next thing I knew I'd crossed the world – from underwater treasure hunting in the South Seas, to listening to a piece of music composed to play for a thousand years – with no notes repeating.

I looked at skeletons and read ghost stories, admired castles and art deco townhouses. I searched for a tearoom that looked "just right" inside for one of my settings (still haven't found one). I explored islands with volcanoes, outer space and a fly's eye.

Obviously, my mind needed to rest, and the inner child who I think of as my most creative self, needed to play.

Pretty pictures (pre-Raphaelites), kitties and puppies and foxes (well, I write about telepathic animal companions too). How some dogs have problems with stairs. How scary animals look without fur.

How people danced through the ages, set to "Uptown Funk." Historical film heroes, set to "Sharp Dressed Man."

I absorbed all these – ideas and visualizations and places and items that will lie in my subconscious and might, someday, spark an idea when melded with another idea that I might write a line or two about.

That didn't matter. What mattered was getting a sense of exploring STUFF that I never knew about, some scientific theories that I will never understand (yes, particles or waves...). And maybe I won't use this or that or t'other, but it took my mind down pathways I don't often go (English gardens, Zen tearooms, castle ramparts, meteorite craters, birds sitting on telephone lines as notes of music).

Yes, it made me giddy, but it was also extremely fun, and reminded me of an important truth, which is, let yourself go sometimes – DO explore the internet for hours see the wonder that is our world and human imagination and ideas.

Or get away from that computer and take a trip to the mountains and look at a meadow, hike a trail, find a waterfall. Explore a ghost town or a mesa or a cliff dwelling or a graveyard. (I've been in a lot of graveyards these last few years, ask me about my favorites). Experience something different than is in your usual route. Step outside your bounds.

Or take a look at the town around you and places you wouldn't ever go (like, for me, a hockey game), or roller derby, or ballet (yes, ballet, men, you know those male dancers are strong and sexy, don't you?). When was the last time you were in the Art Museum? How about at Buffalo Bill's grave? Ruby Hill? Canoeing down the Platte? At a stand up comedy show?

What about meditation at a Buddhist center? Or drumming? Or Universal dance? Or attending a Society for Creative Anachronism heavy fighting practice (being a spectator is free).

On and on and on and on. Be open to wonder. Connect with new people.

The Panic

Do you get panicked about your writing or your writing career? Do you think you're the only one?

Most of us feel the panic from newbies to old veterans of the publishing business.

The panic particularly hits me and my friends when we're behind deadline, of course. Or at the end of a contract where the books haven't done particularly well and you know that series (or your career with the house) will be dropped.

Or if you're in the self-publishing business, when you lay out a large sum for advertising and wonder if you'll get any kind of return. Or on the release of your first piece of work. Or crafting your next story. Or behind on YOUR deadlines.

And, yeah, this includes me. I'm only slightly behind my schedule for Ghost Maker (due April 30), but I'm nervous. I'm also working on releasing my first self-published novella, and that seems like a climb up Long's Peak, complete with mis-steps, long drops and fatal falls. Recently a situation came up with Berkley that had me so scared and angry that I had disturbing dreams.

Now, I've given workshops on overcoming the panic, and at the Colorado Gold Conference. I HAVE the tools to work through it. Many tools.

But I delay in putting them to use because I'm locked into trying to pretend I can write like normal.

Yesterday, I finally got out of the house and took my travel computer elsewhere to work. And, yes, I got my daily wordcount done, a good amount of research stuck in my head, and a cup of good French onion soup. It helped.

Like I said, I have tools. So here are some of them for you, in no particular order:

If you don't know where the panic is coming from you might want to journal (handwritten!) Or freewrite until it spills out. Freewriting is pencil/pen to the page and write. Don't think, write, no going back, erasing, fixing spelling, nothing. Mind and emotion dump. If you're using standard 8 x 11 paper, a new freewriting person should get to the point about 1.5 pages in.

Or write down all your fears about the current work: the hero is wimpy, the heroine is unsympathetic, the writing is trite and full of cliches. Drain all that negativity out of yourself. Then destroy that paper. Rip it up (do not burn it on your desk full of papers).

Or, while we're on this topic, write out all the things you love about this story. Why you wanted to write it. (And YOU are ALWAYS the only one who can write this particular story). Reaffirm that it's an important-to-you piece of work.

Look at your office, is it too neat (ha, ha) or messy (bingo!). Remedy that.

Take a shower and linger. Or a bath, even, I've had friends say that submerging the whole body (yes, the HEAD that has the BRAIN) under water.

Exercise, get out and get walking and thinking.

Go further, get out of the house to write. Go to a coffee shop or other place where you know others will be working on computers, minimize distractions. Or, if you're writing about a local place (for me, Manitou Springs) and feeling flush, go spend a night there with your computer and write, write, write.

Can't face the blank white screen? Change the color of your document if you can on your PC, or if you use Scrivener, or pull out a piece of paper and start writing by hand.

Subliminals and sound waves. These work for me (or I've convinced myself they work for me). Apps and "music" that come over earphones at a certain frequency to change your brainwaves – some I have are labeled "Morning Espresso," "Concentration," "Creative Thinking," "Lateral Thinking."

Just Write. Put your butt in a chair, set a timer for a certain amount of time (I prefer a half hour) and write. Jot down phrases that come to you about the scene that you can work with, a bit of dialogue.

So those are ten techniques to take you out of your mind/emotion panic and act, but, really, if you know that going and sitting in a salt light cave will help, do that.

We can all do this. And if the panic seems to bad, call a friend, we've pretty much all been there. When I talk to my friends and we expose our panic, we always end the call or the chat session with, "YOU CAN DO IT!"

Yes, you can.

May all your writing dreams come true.

Writing Space

It's January and goal-making time, and most of us have determined what we want to accomplish this year with regard to our writing. It might also be time to take a look at our office or writing work space to see that it's set up right.

By that, I mean that it is right for you. I know what I need for my office, and some things might apply to all of us, but make sure you have your space set up the way you prefer and need it. Anything that keeps you from writing should be corrected.

First, consider lighting. It's also winter. I suffer on gray days, so I've put full-spectrum light bulbs in both my desk lamp and the overhead fixture. My office faces south so I usually get sunlight during some of the day, too, which keeps me working. That said, the sunlight can hit shiny materials that set up a glare when I look beyond my monitor, so my blinds are angled to minimize this. Lighting can also be a subconscious cue. When the overhead lights are on, I'm usually looking for something, or checking out my bookcases. When the desk lamp is on, it's time to write, and my brain (and fingers) know this.

Currently I have a full office set up, including separate keyboard, large monitor, computer stand and a u-shaped desk with bookcases on two sides. Computers being so small and portable now, also consider where you'd like to work and what peripherals will help you most. You may prefer a notebook on a table in a sunroom rather than an actual office.

But do think about those peripherals. My separate keyboard has a numeric keypad which I find useful and is more ergonomic than a laptop keyboard, and with larger keys. It also on a pole that can be raised, lowered and angled. That works for me. Are you happy with your keyboard?

My monitor is a full 22 inches and excellent to compare documents side to side, particularly during the copy edit and galley stage. Or for two versions of a document. I do have a tiny 11 inch travel computer and have found comparing documents on that difficult. Are you happy with your monitor?

I have my most used research books in hard copy and within reach, since if I look on the internet for a quick answer I can be distracted. I also have an engagement calendar where I write down my progress at my elbow. At a glance I can see how much I've written during the week and if I've made my daily goals. These help me.

What are you sitting in? I recently met with a friend who has a reclining chair with a tray that I lusted after, one that cradles her bad back. I tend to use a covered exercise ball. And make sure you have the room to stop and stretch in between (I hope) bouts of inspiration.

Consider the tidiness of your office. Do you look in and cringe at how sterile the place is? Or shudder at the stacks of stuff on your desk that you think you should take care of before you write? You are the best judge of the ambiance of clutter you like, but make sure it isn't keeping you away from your workspace. And, I admit, that's why I wanted to write this article. I do have a stack of papers – okay, two stacks – that are bothering me right now. Time to clean them up and get going on meeting my deadlines.

May you create your perfect space for writing and find pleasure in your craft every day.

Robin