The writing pit bull …

Many moons ago, during a work performance appraisal, a former manager of mine referred to me as a “pit bull with a bone.”

Of course, my first reaction was one of disbelief.  And then I wanted to punch her. 🙂  Good thing she explained rather quickly why she made such a reference, because I probably would have been out of a job.

She described me as a person who never gave up.  She went on to say that when I had a project to do, I’d take the assignment and run with it.  And no matter what, I refused to let it go until it was completed.

I thought about her comment and although I was still relatively pissed, I took what she had to say as a compliment.

And then I took what she had to say as fact.  And then the truth.

I don’t like leaving things undone, especially my writing.

It’s been a little over a year, since I’ve looked at my WIP. Except for my critiquing group, I did nothing remotely literary, including reading. And that pained me.  But life became overwhelming and my writing took a back seat.  Dare I mention my previous surroundings (home/office) weren’t conducive to writing or reading?

However, I’m happy to say that that sorry book is closed and for the first time in many months, I’m grabbing on to that bone and not letting go. I’ve been able to REALLY look at my WIP with interest. It’s fantastic to be able focus on a manuscript I started years ago.

I even managedstop-writing to finish a book by one of my favorite authors, Maya Banks. It felt so good to read again!

I’ve said it before; no man (or writer) is not an island. As writers, we need feedback, encouragement and collaboration, which is why I’m so thankful for my critiquing group—three fabulous writers, Leigh Raffaele, Beth-Ann Gutsick Kerber and Kathleen Pacheco. They allowed me to vent when necessary and the time to get over a major hurdle.

I’m also thankful for my critiquing partner, writer Jaye Gavin Allan, for checking in on me every once and awhile to make sure I was still breathing!

Writing is my best friend and I couldn’t go another day without it.  To do what we love doing, requires a place that is conducive to writing and one that nurtures to our creativity.

This pit bull is lucky to have found it again because I refuse to fail.

As an artist, how do you get back/stay on track?

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How deep is your research bench?

I’m in the process of selling my house.

After one open house, my realtor was in the process of shutting off all the lights and locking up when she entered my office library.  A couple of days later, she asked my daughter, “Why does your mom have all those books about poisons, forensics and the criminal stuff on her shelf?”

I knew my daughter did everything she could not to laugh out loud. She calmly told her, “She’s a writer.”

My realtor was probably relieved to know that I wasn’t plotting to kill anyone–not in the non-fiction world anyway. It also might explain why she never accepted my offer to make her a cup of coffee.

The point of my story is twofold.

A novelist or author is like a journalist and like any investigative reporter worth their salt, their main objective is to answer the questions “who, what, when, where and how,” with concrete, factual answers.  As authors, we have a little more flexibility when it comes to telling the story, but we still need to do our homework and research.

1) Although we’re encouraged “to write what you know,” I flip it around a bit and I make sure “that I know about what I’m writing.”

I believe in having a book that covers every subject. Though most of my books are packed away, a few still remain within arms reach. One of my books is about a pediatric nurse, hence the “Code Blue” book. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what went on in the emergency room from a nurse’s perspective. So, I bought a book for research and reference.

2) make sure your research bench is deep, on and off the shelf.  

With my nurse story, I took it a step further and made an appointment to visit a couple of nurses at a nearby hospital in my town. There, I was able to get firsthand, what it was like in the emergency room during a crisis, what triage really meant and how they juggled their personal lives and saving the lives of others.

One of my heroes is a real estate mogul. Thank goodness my daughter is a real estate and mortgage subject matter expert!   I was able to pick her brain on eminent domain and house flipping laws. With my real estate 101 course, I believe my story could withstand scrutiny from the most knowledgeable real estate professional (someone like my realtor, maybe?). 🙂

Ensuring that your research bench is deep both on the shelf and in the real world, will make your stories that more believable.  And don’t be afraid to talk to people.  Ask those burning questions! All they can do is think you’re crazy for asking. But once you explain it’s research for your book, it’s amazing how quickly they offer information.

And maybe they’ll even accept your offer for a cup of coffee.

Taking the first step toward normal …

Another year has passed.  Birthday wise that is.

It’s been another year filled with accomplishments and let downs; defeats and triumphs. And while I’ve gone through it all, there’s one thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind. WRITING.

I’ve doodled a sentence here and there.  Concocted two or three new ideas for upcoming stories. Revised a WIP. And even (much to my dismay) received a good tongue lashing from one or two of my characters who I have neglected tremendously.

Another year has passed, yet a constant theme drummed in my head.  I LOVE TO WRITE. I WAS BORN TO WRITE. I’M NOT REALLY HAPPY UNLESS I’M WRITING.

So, my new year starts today–with my birthday. Not on Jan 1.  My resolutions can’t wait until then. My life as a writer is urgent, critical and I have to take steps to secure my future. I have to get back into the swing of things.

Apparently, my characters are making bold statements in reminding me of who they are.  I’ve seen their names on the backs of trucks, street signs and even storefronts.

One thing about life is that we all go through stuff–king-size mounds of stuff that seem too overwhelming to move, or small droplets of stuff that are still annoying as hell to remove. The good thing is that we can learn from each other’s stuff. You know, share best practices for overcoming stuff.

If you’ve experienced a period of inaction or piles of stuff, but are doing better now, how did you get over it? What was your first step toward normal?

In the nick of time …

James Scott Bell has been very influential in my writing life. His series of craft books, “Plot and Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, and “The Art of War for Writers,” are my collective bibles. I refer to them whenever I get stuck on a scene or think about giving up.

It’s only right that I share his insight from his latest blog: The Most Important Characteristic Every Writer Needs.

James said what I needed to hear, and did so in the nick of time!

The Craft: Always Learning

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I’ve been writing professionally for over twenty years. I’ve learned prose, grammar, how to dissect a sentence (noun, verb, object …etc.) and how to write a lead that grabs the audience.

Now, I’m adding to my writing portfolio, and taking another path–to romance writing.

And yes, I’m still learning.

I’m learning what makes a reader pick up a book and hold on to every word until the wee hours of the morning. As a reader, I know what keeps me turning the pages. As a writer, I have to learn how to do it.

I’m learning that writing romance and in particular, erotic romance, is no joke. It’s tough. It’s intense. It’s rewarding.

  • If you want your characters to stay with a reader long after the book has been read–it’s tough.
  • If you don’t want your plot to flop midway through the book, but stay fresh until the very last page–it’s tough.

    I’ve discovered some great resources that many writers already use. One of my favorite resources has been the Writer’s Digest Writers Online Workshops.
    They offer workshops for whatever stage you’re in as a writer: beginner, intermediate and advanced. The length and prices of the sessions vary to fit individual needs and timeframes.

    The instructors are wonderful and for the most part, writers and authors. They understand the concept (and struggle) of making your work shine.

    I took the Essentials of Romance Writing workshop and it was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. The instructor provided constructive criticism and suggestions that made my writing better. I’m indebted to her for all her help and insight. (Thanks, Alice!)

    In any writing, learning and perfecting the craft is important. I’m excited about the upcoming the Romance Writers of America conference, because I’ll have another opportunity to learn. I’ll have the opportunity to be immersed in four days of creativity.

    I’m lovin’ this learning thing.