Make the Reader Feel Emotion

The other night, over a writer’s dinner, my friend Angie mentioned a writing tidbit she’d received from a class she’d taken with James N. Frey, of How to Write a Damn Good Novel fame. (Not the James Frey of A Million Little Pieces fame.)

It was this: make your reader feel the emotion, not just your character.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Simple piece of advice, and yet it was halfway mind-blowing, mostly because I could see in many books I’d read lately where the reverse of this applied.  In other words, just because you, or any other author, feel the emotion, doesn’t mean readers do. I thought of so many novels that had fallen flat for me and realized that this was the diagnosis.

The remedy for this is manifold, and encompasses many of the old familiar writing recommendations. However, as with so many things, viewing these old tenets through a new lens can make them more meaningful.

So how do you ensure that your reader as well as your writer feel emotion? Here are some suggestions.

–Show don’t tell. Yes, I know you’ve heard this one before, probably a million times. But it is so often repeated because showing brings a story to life and makes us relate to the character. Showing makes it much easy to be certain your reader is feeling the same emotion you do. Most often, this means writing in scene.  Narrative summary most definitely has its place, but the bulk of your writing should be in scene.

–Use character types.  Make your character sympathetic, or conversely, unsympathetic. Either extreme will arouse emotion in the reader. Classic ways to make a character sympathetic include making them unjustly accused of something, making them good at something, making them physically attractive, make them actively trying to achieve their goal, make them sacrifice for another, make them courageous.

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

–Rely on the power of character wants, needs, and fears.  This technique has to do with motivating your character from the get-go. What motivates her? What does he want? What keeps her awake at night? Answer those questions–and then put your character in action to deal with her wants and needs and fears.  A passive character will arouse very little emotion in the reader, just as a  passive person often arouses very little interest in real life.

–Remember style. Word choice is important! And so is sentence structure and grammar. Don’t use gentle, serene words to describe a character’s anger and don’t indulge in long, flowery sentences to evoke it, either.  Neither will get your reader actually feeling the anger. Instead ,you’ll probably get him to close the book and wander away

–Ladle on the conflict.  Always easier said than done. We fall in love with our characters and hate to torture them. But torture them we must. Because, there is no story without conflict. And whether you realize it or not, the books that keep you turning pages are the ones that create tons of conflict–whether it is emotional or otherwise.

Again, none of this is probably terribly new for you, right? But think about each point specifically in terms of how you can ensure the reader is feeling the emotion.  Question yourself: is it just thinking this is a good idea for your character? Is it possible it is just you who is feeling the emotion? Are you going deep enough to make the reader feel  it, too?

I know this is something I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to in the future. Let me know if it resonates for you.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Changing Things Up (A Love Letter)

If there’s one thing I know about writing, it’s that not all techniques work for every writer. Not only that, but what works for one writer one time may not work the next time.  The system you use to write your novel the first time out just doesn’t fit the next time out. The way you wrote your article, following a template you thought you’d always use, suddenly doesn’t work. Or any of a million variations on those themes.

And yet, if you’re anything like me, you might keep trying to do things the old, tried and true way. Because it worked once, so why shouldn’t it work again? (Because the muse is a mysterious and fickle creature, that’s why, but we forget this.) And you may also be as resistant to change as I am. But recently I’ve had an experience that is earth-shattering in its importance.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Ready for it?

I’m no longer exclusively writing my novel chronologically.

Let’s back up a bit. I’ve called myself a plotter (one who plans ahead) for years, but I’ve come to realize that I’m really more of a pantser (a writer who flies by the seat of her pants). I like a loose outline so I have an idea where I’m going, but if I get too technical, I’ll get bored. Be that as it may, I’ve been a strict chronological writer with every novel I’ve written. I tell myself it’s because one scene has to flow naturally from another. I need to know what’s come before so I can figure out what to write in the future. Right?

But two classes I’ve taken are changing that.  The first class I took last spring, and it was called Write Better Faster  by R.L.Syme  (highly recommended). The class takes the approach that we are all different (duh) so accordingly, different writing processes will work differently for each of us. I learned a lot from that class but my two biggest takeaways are that A. I am an external processor (which is why I like to talk out loud to myself) and B. I learn and create from the middle. Pantsers, unite! I really am one of you! And I can finally say goodbye to slavishly trying to fit my scenes into a precise order dictated by some structure expert who has probably never written a novel in his life.

Class #2 I’m in the middle of, and it is called the Devoted Writer, taught by Cynthia Morris. Cynthia emphasizes fun things like free writing (set a timer, and write without stopping) and mind mapping (a right-brained style of outlining), both of which I’ve used to varying degrees of success. But, I’m telling you, I have now drunk the Kool-aid big time. I’m a convert. I’m using mind mapping and free writing for everything I write, including this newsletter.

As I was working on my novel the other day, an idea for a new scene popped into my head. I duly made notes about it, as I do, but the feeling I needed to work on it would not go away.  “But it’s not in order,” I cried. “Tough,” I answered back. “Do it anyway.” And so, I did. You might have felt the thunder rumbling and the earth shaking, so big a departure this was for me. It feels very freeing, and also a little scary. Lighting out for new territory!

Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

So I’m starting to take a look at all the ways I do things, and try to keep myself open to new techniques and styles.  And, by the way, doing the free writing is fast becoming a foundational practice for me. It feels like a way to keep me connected to myself and my writing in 15 simple minutes a day. And make no mistake about it, most of what I write in my free writes is crap, plain and simple. It’s the process that is so mind blowing and illuminating.

(I wrote a blog post that tells more about free writing at the start of the week. Check it out here.)

So please do tell—have you made any changes in the way you approach your writing lately? Leave a comment and tell me. I’d love to hear about it. I’m open to more new ideas!

On Leaving..And Coming Home (A Love Letter)

As you might have guessed, I am home from France. Jet lag has not been terrible this time. We got home Tuesday evening and as I write this on Friday, I’m feeling pretty good. Which gives me time to dig into all the things that got put on hold while I was gone.  And, boy, do things pile up.

Some views of Collioure

I’ve got a ton of recommendations this month because I had a lot of time to read and also many confined hours on long flights in which to watch movies (which I’m usually bad at). But I did want to write a brief recap of the trip and encourage you to think about coming with next year. So here goes.

We landed in Paris on the last day of the month and spent an afternoon wandering about the neighborhood near the Gare De Lyon, which was surprisingly appealing.  Also, getting a good dose of daylight helps with jet lag. After a pretty good night’s sleep, it was on to Perpignan via the fast train, which is comfy and relaxing.  Dali called the Perpignan train station the center of the world, and while that seems a bit excessive, the city is growing on me. We stayed in the historic center, full of twisty streets and fun shops and a divine place to eat, Restaurant Le St. Jean.   (In case you ever find yourself there, it is right next to the Cathedral St. Jean and you actually eat in a courtyard right next to the church.)

The next day it was on to Collioure, our location for the next three weeks. That included two weeks of writing workshops and one week of leisure in between. There is something so special about sinking into one place for an extended period of time. Even though I was working two weeks out of three, it is infinitely relaxing. On workshop weeks, we meet every morning from 9:30 to 12:30 (except on Sundays and Wednesdays, which are market days, so we meet at 10 in order to give everyone time to wander the stalls). Our teaching is a combination of mini-lectures on writing, discussion of assigned books (see below), writing exercises and prompts, and discussion of the assignments everyone has completed the night before. You may think that people don’t make much progress on their writing when billeted in paradise, but the opposite is actually true. Every year we see writers make huge leaps in their works in progress, get re-inspired, and write more than they thought they would—all while enjoying the hiking, shopping, eating and drinking of the region.

But three weeks does fly by—and last Saturday it was back to Paris, this time to stay in a lovely Airbnb in Montparnasse , my favorite neighborhood in the city. It rained like a mofo on Sunday afternoon but once the rain cleared, everyone emerged, and we were able to celebrate the hub’s birthday at a fun restaurant. The next day we played tourist and went to the top of the Arch de Triomphe (there was an elevator, thank god—my poor hip couldn’t have done the stairs).  And then, sadly, the next day it was time to leave.

But leaving is made easier by knowing I’ll be back next year. And even more than that, by knowing that my family awaited me back home. Along with good friends, my own comfy bed, my crazy fat cats, the even crazier family dog, and good plans for the fall—not to mention crisp autumn days. (Temps in Collioure were in the mid-80s, but the humidity was very, very high and the mosquitos were killer.)

So that’s my story about leaving and coming home. Oh, while there, I read over my novel one last time and fixed a couple inconsistencies. My agent is submitting it even as we speak I write. And I made some good progress on my next book. So, there was that, too.

We should now be back to regular weekly programming here. So, I’ll see you next week—but please do leave a comment and tell me what you’ve been up to.  And see below for the links to September reading and watching, as well as a new feature, a weekly prompt or two!

A Prompt

We had such fun using prompts at the writing workshops in France, I thought I’d start a new series and give you a prompt thematically linked to the love letter’s topic each week. Here is this week’s effort:

Write about a time you hated leaving. Now write about a time you couldn’t wait to leave.

September Round-up 

Reading

An American Marriage  by Tayari Jones.  This was one of the books we assigned in our France workshops (the other being Educated, by Tara Westover, which I highly recommend). I had decidedly mixed feelings about this novel and can’t help but feel it is over-rated. We did have lively discussions about it, though!

Pardonable Lies, the third Maisie Dobbs mystery, by Jacqueline Winspear.  I picked up #10 or #11, not sure which, of this series and liked it so much I’m reading them from the beginning.

The French Exit,  by Patrick DeWitt. I hate to speak ill of a fellow Portland writer, so I won’t. But I will say this book was just not my cup of tea.

Two books by J.A. Jance, both in the Ali Reynolds series. A friend finished Deadly Stakes in Collioure and gave it to me to read. I enjoyed it, so I downloaded the first in the series, Edge of Evil.  I’ll definitely read more.

Slain in Schiaparelli, the third Joanna Hayworth vintage clothing mystery, by my friend Angela Sanders. I love everything she writes, her capers and her kite mysteries written under the name Clover Tate, as well.

Watching

 A Wrinkle in Time. This was my favorite book growing up—my sister and I read it a million times. But the movie was terrible, awful, wretched. I hated it.

The Post. Conversely, I loved this one. It tells the story of the Washington Post publishing the Pentagon Papers, and how that turned the paper into the national publication it is today, as well as changing Katharine Graham from a D.C. socialite into a powerhouse publisher. Highly recommended.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? The Mr. Rogers documentary. Proof that Fred really was as nice as he appeared on TV. Wonderful.

Book Club. Pure fun. Loved it. Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, and Diane Keaton.  So good.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1910275502543679/

 

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter. It  contains affiliate links.

 

 

 

 

The Mysteries of Story (A Love Letter)

In a phone call with one of my beloved clients this week, we discussed stories and how sometimes you have to grab the while they are white hot in your mind, and how sometimes you have to let them rest. I firmly believe that every story has its own time to be told. If a story isn’t ready to go out into the world, it’ll block you. And fight you until you either wrestle it to submission or set it aside.

Don’t feel guilty about the stories you set aside. (I have many of them.) They’ll come back around again when the time is right, either in your brain, or the world. Or maybe their essence will turn up in your novel, or the short story that just popped into your brain.

One of my favorite characters of all time is a sixty-year-old self-help writer named Earl Wilson. He started out in one of the stories that lies moldering on my computer but then leapt into being as I wrote The Bonne Chance Bakery. His books make an appearance in the novel I just sent to my agent. And I have an idea for a short story featuring him. That first story he appeared in wasn’t his, apparently. And sometimes you just have to go with weird stuff like this. No matter how hard we study them, stories are mysterious creatures.

So, don’t stress if your story isn’t quite working out. Maybe it is time to set it aside and trust that its time will come. And don’t ever, ever, throw anything away. Nothing is wasted in writing. You never know where that bit you deleted out of your WIP will appear again.  Treat every element of your stories with respect and they’ll show you were they belong.  Don’t take it all so seriously. Stories lie deep within you and sometimes it takes a while for them to wriggle their way out.

I have new stories coming to me, I’m quite sure, as I embark on a month in France next week.  A scheduling note: while I won’t be posting my usual love letters every week in September, I will be sending out a newsletter. I’m assembled writing exercises and story starters each week, so you can get a ton of writing done while I’m gone.

Things to note:

— My dear friend Terry Price  and I are offering the second part of our Spark to Story workshop. Don’t worry if you missed the first one, this one will work fine for you! They are related, but separate. The workshop is November 2nd and 3rd. Please check out more here . Registration is open!

–Join the Facebook group.  Participating in groups is the only way I like to be on Facebook and this one is good. It goes quiet periodically, but then it perks up again. I try to post something of interest every day (or at least every few days). Do join us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set Your Brain and Your Creativity Free

Being a writer is a tough gig, as previously noted. Hugely satisfying, and the only thing you can do if you are called to it, but it is a demanding task mistress and at all but the highest levels, the pay is low.

So you might as well have fun while you are doing it.  I’ve been pondering how, exactly, we creatives might have success setting the brain free. And below are some tips. Some of these may be familiar to you, but often it takes reading something several times before it really lodges in the mind. And some might be new to you.  Consider them all and think about how you can put them to use in your writing life.

Write hard and fast for the discovery draft. Throwing words at the page with abandon, when time passes, and you don’t even know it, and afterward you’re in love with the world—this is why, I believe, most writers start writing. It is wonderful experience. It gets harder to achieve this state when you are writing professionally, but….you need to. This is when the magic happens.

Don’t confuse writing with rewriting.  Don’t labor over every word as you write. Let the words rip. And also, don’t labor over the first chapters of the book, going back over it and over it. This is a sure way to get blocked. Write your discovery draft from start to finish and then you can begin revising. You’ll know much more about the book when you get to the end, trust me.

Write bad. If you are well and truly blocked, this is an exercise that will help set your brain free. Write one bad page. Force yourself to write the worst crap you can think of. Here’s the thing: you won’t. Because you are basically a good writer, so writing bad doesn’t come naturally. But once you allow yourself to write bad, that takes the pressure off.

How do you keep your brain and creativity free?

A (much) longer version of this was first published on Medium, which is a site that encourages longer reads.  You can read that version here. I’ve got other posts on writing up there, too!

 

Depending on Your Point of View (A Love Letter)

You live for adventure and global travel. Or you love to stay home by the cozy fire. You can’t stay still—you have to be doing something. Or everything you love to do involves sitting. You love gardening. Or you hate getting your hands dirty. You agree with everything our president says, or you take to the streets to protest him. You love kale. Or hate all vegetables. You love summer. Or you hate being hot.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

My point is this: there are many points of view in this big, wide, wonderful world of ours (and now more than ever, it seems).

And, as I like to remind you incessantly often, as in life, so in writing. (Or vice-versa.)

We writers talk a lot about point of view (or viewpoint, if you prefer) and it has been much on my mind recently because of a book I’m reading. The book is Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes, and man oh man does she do strange things with viewpoint.

The story has a lot of characters, but the main ones are Kit, a woman who lives in a small town in Italy, and Julia, Camille, and Susan, all of whom have had recent upsets in their lives. They decide to move for a year to the same town where Kit lives.

Kit’s viewpoint is in first person and all the rest in third. But Mayes head-hops between them. Constantly. All the time. Sometimes it is impossible to tell which character is narrating.  At one point, Kit related something that happened to one of the other characters when she wasn’t there. It is massively confusing.

Despite all this, I’m absorbed in the book and I am almost finished with it. (I will confess to skimming a lot of her excessive descriptions. But if you love Italy cuisine and travelogue, you’ll likely read every word.) I decided to check the Amazon reviews to see if others had similar reactions to mine. And, yup, readers range from lukewarm to ecstatic about it. But one thing that struck me was how many mentioned their confusion over who was speaking when. (Doesn’t help that all the characters sound alike, and talk in long speeches.) Some had a hard time keeping the characters straight.

And, here’s the deal, people: when it comes to viewpoint, your average reader doesn’t know if you’re doing a point of view violation. But they do know when they get confused. And a confused reader is a bored reader. And a bored reader is a reader who puts the book down.

So, a couple of simple viewpoint reminders:

–Omniscient is really hard to pull off. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

–To maintain viewpoint sanctity, just remember to be in your character’s head. What she can see and hear and touch and smell you can report. Nothing else!

–It doesn’t matter what viewpoint you choose. Some people love first, some hate it. Some like single viewpoints, others prefer multiple. Doesn’t matter! Just stay consistent. And stay in whatever character’s head you’ve chosen at the moment you are writing.

Have you ever read a book whose viewpoint turned you off? Hit reply and tell me. Also—might you need help with viewpoint? Need a supportive coach to help you with your writing? Hit me up. I’ve got room for one client this summer.

This post contains affiliate links.

There’s So Much More to Writing Than Just Writing

There’s more to writing than just the writing.

Like, staring off into space.  Taking a nap to refresh your brain after all its hard toil. Going to the kitchen to look for a snack. Deciding what you really need is to take a walk. Or drink a glass of wine.

Okay, maybe those aren’t the best examples, though they are things we all do when the writing gets the better of us. But the topic of this post is all the productive things besides putting words into the actual manuscript that we writers have to do. (Maybe productive isn’t the right word. Because sometimes a glass of wine is just what the writer needs. Right?)

Such as (in no particular order):

–Figure out plot

–Organize word or Scrivener documents

–Rearrange scenes

–Delve into character backstory

–Make notes

–Freewrite about aspects of the story

–The internet research rabbit hole

–Interview people for research

–Freewrite to warm up

–Reread your work

–Ponder how to incorporate comments from readers

(What am I forgetting? I know there is more!)

And that doesn’t even take us into the social media and marketing realm, which is a whole other thing. But my point is this: all these other things are necessary to support your writing. You’ve got to take time for all of them, because otherwise your novel or memoir or story won’t exist. And sometimes it is hard to remember that.  Some of that work can feel like busy work. But it is really not.

I think sometimes I writers skimp on some of the other things for that very reason. Because we don’t feel like we are writing unless we are really writing. Or we are so eager to get to the actual writing that we gloss over the importance of prep work (spoken by a writer who has come to accept her pantsing ways)

It often seems as if the entire online writing community is obsessed with word counts. And if everyone and their uncle is posting theirs, you can get a bit over-eager to get to your writing so that you can post yours as well. But word counts can set up a self-destructive cycle.  A writer I know sometimes pads her sentences just to reach her word count. (Talking about a friend. Really.)

In the class I recently finished, Becca explained that writing to a word count isn’t the best option for most people, especially NFPs, who often work in a, shall we say, circular fashion. (Instead, she recommends tracking hours. Or minutes.)

But however you are tracking it, just remember: all those other things are important, too. Don’t be so eager to get to the writing, peeps.

Do you ever fall into this trap?

Do you want to finish a book? Are you stuck? Maybe you just need to get started. I’ve got space for one more client this summer. Is it you? Email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com and let’s chat.

Hip Surgery + Writing + Character Insight

“Everything I learned about human nature I learned from me.” Anton Chekhov

So, in November, I’m going to have surgery on my left hip. I’ve never had surgery on anything before, never  been checked into a hospital (not even for birthing my babies). So this is a bit daunting for me–but I’m ready, because I’m tired of this pain.

Funnily enough, for years I’ve been battling knee pain. Like, severe knee pain. I’ve been to two chiropractors, an acupuncturist, two physical therapists (one rather loony), a naturopath, a nurse-practitioner, a specialized knee clinic (charlatans, it turns out) where I paid lots of money for injections that didn’t work, and gotten two cortisone shots in my knee. Finally, I made the decision to go the surgery route and made an appointment with the knee surgeon my primary care doctor recommended. Who promptly sent me back to the x-ray lab to confirm his suspicion it wasn’t a knee but hip problem.

He was right. I’m down to bone-on-bone in my left hip, which explains the pain. Ya think? I’d get surgery tomorrow, despite my dislike of hospitals and general fear of doctors, but I’ve got teaching trips to France and Nashville lined up. And I couldn’t talk the surgeon into doing it before I left for Europe–international travel is not recommended immediately after surgery. Funny thing, that. Not.

Talk about mind blown. All these years I’ve thought it was my knee? All these years doctors and healers have tried to heal my knee? And really it was my hip all time? It was hard to wrap my brain around for a couple of days.

Coincidentally, yesterday I took Debbie to get her second cataract surgery done and sat in the spacious waiting area for several hours reading The Art of Character.  I LOVE this book and highly recommend it. (It’s where I got the above quote.) Author David Corbett writes about how in theater, the term “personalization” is used to describe the act of bringing the actor’s own emotional and sense memory to a portrayal. Which is what he advises doing, at least as a starting point. He has a whole chapter about mining characters from your past for inspiration, and also makes the point that you must know yourself before you can fully understand your characters. He provides  lots of great exercises and prompts to help.

As I read, I pondered  my hip surgery story–how the pain I thought was in my knee for years is actually coming from my hip. How it totally changed the way I think about my body. And that got me thinking about giving my changed view about something of importance  to a fictional characters.

I was also influenced in this line of thinking by the novel I’m currently reading, No One You Know.  Author Michelle Redmond does something similar with the main character–she has spent the past 20 years believing something about a seminal event in her life and suddenly finds out it is not true.

And it is not just a changing world view that might be utilized in fiction. I started thinking about all the ways  my hip experience might play out in a character:

–A character afraid of doctors (that’s me, even though my grandfather was an M.D.)

–A character in denial

–A character not dealing with reality

–A character whose world view is shaken to the core

–A character who has a rigid belief system

–Or, conversely, a character who is so loosey-goosey about things that she just trusts all will work out.

I probably should be embarrassed to admit that all of these scenarios fit me, at least to some degree. And this, my friends, is why being a writer is so great–you can funnel all your neuroses and weirdnesses into your work. I should also add that the ways of the subconscious are mysterious and any of these might combine with something completely unrelated to create a scene in your novel–or become a cornerstone of your theme.

So the point of all this is to look at your own life story for your characters and plot. You don’t have to write a memoir–you can transmute your everyday dilemmas into story gold.  Your missteps become fodder for the conflict in your next story. An added bonus is that writing about things that happen to you through the lens of a fictional character will help you to understand your own self better.

Have you used personal experiences in your fiction? Do tell, please.

And also, I have room for one client this summer.  I can coach you to finish your novel or start it, help you figure out a plan for your career, crack the whip so you send things out, or whatever help you might need. Email me and let’s set up a time to talk!

This post contains affiliate links.

How Long Should It Take to Write a Novel?

In the class I’m currently taking (and loving), there’s been a thread lamenting how hard it is to write fast enough for the current voracious market.  Since the class is called Write Better Faster, that’s no surprise.  (I highly recommend the class–it is about figuring out how your brain works so you can write and produce at an optimal level for you.)

The gist of the conversation is this: some students are trying to get their writing to a point where they are making money at it, specifically from writing fiction. Two options present themselves: get thee a bestseller, or jump on the releasing several books a year bandwagon. Both are difficult to accomplish.

I won’t discuss the bestseller bit in this post, though it does deserve a post of its own some time. I do want to explore how long it “should” take to write a novel. I put should in quotes because, of course, there are no shoulds and it will take as long as it takes.

However. Current common wisdom among some self-publishing people is that to be successful, authors must pump out three to four books a year.  So, yeah, that means you’ll be writing fast and writing a lot. Because besides all the writing, you still have to worry about getting your book for publishing and, oh yeah, marketing as well. So that means you will be finishing a novel in two to three months.

It’s doable, for sure. Because, duh, people are doing it right and left. I can’t speak to the quality of their efforts.  I also know writers who’ve gotten an inspired idea and felt so in the flow of it that they completed a book in a very short time. So that whole writing fast thing is nothing to sneeze at.

And I think we all know the writer who’s been slaving over the same story for years and years and years. Who is either writing a word a day or just working and reworking the story to death. That doesn’t seem sustainable at all.

Those are two extremes to how long it will take. You probably fall somewhere in the middle, as I do. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I aspire to write better drafts in order to reduce the time it takes me to complete a novel. I’m good at writing fast and I love it, but I often sacrifice a coherent plot and end up rewriting multiple times. My solution to this problem is to prep more, specifically with story structure and character, so that I have a framework within which to write fast.  Once I master this, I’d be happy if I could write two novels a year.

But that might be way too fast for you. You might love to linger over every word, or slowly build the world of the novel. You may love the process of going back over your book again and again.

And that’s the key here–you need to figure out what works for you. And only you. If you want to try producing multiple novels a year, go for it. And if you are content to meander down the novel-writing path, that’s okay, too.

Here’s a link I found that details how to write a novel in a year. You might find some good tips on it. And, please, do comment on your thoughts. Are you in the write fast school of thought?

Finishing A Big Writing Project (+Monthly Round-up)

Okay, I did it. I finished my rewrite and sent it off to my agent. And now let us all have a silent moment of prayer that this is the final version. Or at least close. If not, I’ll be hanging my head and reporting back to you.

Finishing is a funny thing for me. When I near the end of a big writing project, I focus so much energy on it that I do barely anything else. Sometime during these periods I think longingly of things I want to do when I’m done. Like take the afternoon off to read or knit. Binge-watch TV. Clean my office. Something, anything, other than writing. But then when I’m done none of those things appeal. I’m witless and rootless as I wander around, trying to find something to capture my interest.

But then, of course, life rushes in to fill the vacuum. Yesterday, I went to pick up groceries I’d ordered because it was my night to cook. Part way home I got a panicked text from my daughter-in-law—could I pick up my granddaughter from school? So I turned the car around and grabbed her adorable five-year-old self. And then there was dinner to cook. And exercise to do. And pretty soon it was just like every other day, with all the life things pressing in on me.

And then as I was riding the stationary bike I had a moment of horror in which I knew, absolutely knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the manuscript I’d just submitted was bad. Really bad. Ridiculously bad. That my agent will now release me and I’ll cry and be sad and have to be shamed in front of my whole writing community. But a moment later that feeling passed. It is what it is. I was too close to it for too long to be able to make any judgments about it.

I swore I wasn’t going to start anything new for a while, like, oh, a few days. But already I’m itching to get the ideas I had for new projects into some kind of form. I have a full-length novel and a loooong novella finished on my computer, both of which need substantial rewriting. While I was ensconced in the rewrite, I had good ideas for them both. And I’d love it if they each saw the light of day soon. (One of my goals for the rest of the year is to finish things.)

Oh, and it is June! When did that happen? Geez, the year is going too fast. Yeah, I know you know that. So, anyway, happy June, and check out what I’ve been doing below (a bit light because of the rewrite).

Monthly Round-up

Reading

 Winter Stroll by Elin Hildebrand.  I picked this up at the grocery store last year and never read it, finally decided it was time. She’s a very popular author. I’m lukewarm. Apparently, it is book two of a trilogy and at the end, she doesn’t wrap things up, so you have to read the next one. I mean, I know people do this, but it was so blatant. I was lukewarm-ish about this book, but damned if I didn’t go order a used copy of the next one.

The Abundance Project, by Derek  I have this terrible habit of being enticed by books like this—cheesy self-help tomes ones that promise a more abundant life or increased productivity or instant karma. Seriously, I’m a fool for them. And they rarely pan out.  So I get bored and don’t read them. So far, I’m not that thrilled with this one, but I’m not that far into it, either.

–We took a day trip over the weekend and visited a favorite bookstore where I found a novel about, gasp women of a certain age.  Being one myself, I can’t remember the name of it and it’s downstairs. I’ve only just read the first page so I’ll report next month.

I’ve also ordered or downloaded or have in my queue:

The Café by The Sea, by Jenny Colgan. This author has written five million books and I want to see how she does it.

Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work, by Dan Blank. My friend Angie recommended this and I can’t wait to dive in.

The First Rule of Ten, by Hendricks and Lindsay. A friend/student recommended this to me last year when we were in France. I downloaded it then and promptly forgot about it. She mentioned it again this week and I pulled it up again.

I’ve got my reading work cut out for me.

 Watching

 We’ve not been watching much TV lately and while going to movies is one of my favorite things to do, ever, I don’t do it much. (Go figure.) But we are almost done with Wild, Wild Country, the documentary about the Rajneeshies taking over a town in eastern Oregon. It’s fascinating, especially because I lived through it.

And, late to the party as usual we just started watching Frankie and Grace. Really fun. Lily Tomlin is hysterical.

Loving

 Momentum. As in the momentum you get when you are regularly working on a writing project. When you’re half in one world and half in another all the time because even when you’re living your normal (so-called) life you’re thinking about your book. When all you want to do is get back to it. When you finish a writing session and you’re in love with the world because you feel so good. It’s the best feeling. I had it during the rewrite and I look forward to getting it again. It sometimes takes some work to get into the momentum flow (like committing to writing every day), but it is so, so worth it.

 Excited About

 I had the great pleasure of spending a whole month devoted to writing in Ceret, France in March of this year. Ceret is a town in my favorite French region, the Lanquedoc which is in the south, near Spain.  Leaving was hard, except for the fact that I was eager to see my family, but made easier by knowing that I’d be back to the area soon. Like in September. To teach.

When first I started going to France to teach six years ago, I had half a mind that I wanted to travel all over Europe. But my teaching partner, Debbie, preached the wonders of staying in one place and sinking into it. And now I have to say I agree with her. You get to skip the hassles of travel, for one thing. But for another, you get to really know a place, to have a favorite restaurant, to understand the best spot to get a glace or an espresso, to sink into the rhythms of the place. And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.

All this and writing, too? It’s the best thing ever. Want to come this year?

 And Also

Join the Facebook group.  Participating in groups is the only way I like to be on Facebook and this one is good. It goes quiet periodically, but then it perks up again. I try to post something of interest every day (or at least every few days). Do join us!

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