Monday, February 8, 2016

What Keeps You from Writing? Is It Writer's Block? Or Is It Something Else?

In my most recent class with James Patterson, he addressed writer's block and the things keeping those who want to write from writing. I find I don't get writer's block, and even Patterson made the comment he is immune to it. Those who tend to get writer's block in my opinion (which isn't too far from Patterson's) focus on getting one thing completed and, therefore, find themselves stressing about what isn't happening instead of moving on to something else. For example: focusing on writing an individual chapter, scene, character sketch, blog post, book blurb.

The problem is most writers don't move on and come back to whatever it was holding them up. Instead, they stare at the black screen, page or whatever hoping the words will come. If you can't relax the mind, how can your muse honestly come forward? It can't. So move on. Write something else, go for a walk, get some chores done around the house, call a friend, get something to eat or drink. The point is you need to get your mind off what you are stressing over, so it is able to relax and free itself to be creative. Patterson almost said the same thing, and he should know.

After the lesson, Patterson challenged us to spend no more than 30 minutes writing everything we did the day before and then look it over to see what was keeping us from writing. I found this exercise interesting because as I said...I don't get writer's block, but I do get distracted...a lot.

Here is my list I wrote out. I'll let you decided why finding time to write isn't always easy in my daily life and why it lead to me writing not only this blog post but starting this blog to begin with.

1. Woke at 7am, started a load of laundry
2. Woke kids up to get ready for school, made breakfast
3. Helped get the kids ready and out the door for school, read the news
4. Get 5-year-old daughter breakfast and social media posting for WOI (8am)
5. Spend an hour doing school review with 5-year-old and work (9am)
6. Read take home book with 5-year-old daughter
7. Get daughter in bath and help get her get ready for kindergarten (10am)
8. Have lunch before school (11am)
9. check emails and reply
10. Get showered to take daughter to school (11:30am)
11. Walk daughter to kindergarten (12 noon)
12. Put laundry away and return calls
13. Post media release for WOI and clients (1pm)
14. Review DSU writing class presentation (2pm)
15. Eat something for lunch
16. Social media posts for WOI
17. check emails and reply
18. fill out paperwork for Foreign Links Around the Globe (student exchange support)
19. Pick up kids from school (3:15 - 3:30pm)
20. Spend time with kids
21. write (4pm)
22. Exercise (5pm)
23. eat dinner with family (6pm)
24. Finish workout cool down, shower
25. spend time with family (7pm)
26. Finish up work for clients (8pm)
27. Put kids to bed (9pm)
28. read
29. plan next day To Do list
30. spend time with hubby (10pm)
31. go to bed (11pm)

I'm sure there were some little things I forgot or didn't add like using the restroom.

When I looked this list over, I thought was how can I really get more writing time in. Sure, I could let the housework go, but then I'd just stress about a messy house and get nothing done. I know that sounds funny, but my mood is dependent on how clean my house is. I'm nuts I know. I can't actually cut out time with my kids, family and hubby. I need to eat and workout to burn the calories from sitting and writing or whatever else I do while sitting at my desk. I have to work on my commitments so there you go; my day is full of busy work with little time for writing.

Patterson talked about waking up at 5am to get in those two hours to write every day before he was able to be home all day and write. And that my friends are the realities of being a writer. Until you can support yourself off your writing or your kids are in school full time, you have to learn how to carve out time to write. I use a timer for each thing I do so I make sure I get at least an hour a day to write.

Next year, I'll have more time as all my kids will be in school full time giving me six glorious hours to balance my writing with my life.

Okay, now it's your turn!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Week 4 - Finshed my 1st book on the list

I'm happy to say that I finally finished the one book holding me up from starting this challenge and "Honeymoon" by James Patterson as my first book from the list (suggested book to read by friends, spouse, etc).

Okay, so I guess I should give some feedback on the book I just finished reading...right? Well, this was an easy read, and if I had carved out some time one weekend, I might have been able to finish this novel in one day. It's a fast moving storyline and one I enjoyed reading not only as a reader but also with an author ear.

What do I mean by this? "Honeymoon" breaks the POV rule we are heard when it comes to writing as a first-time or even as a seasoned author. I was surprised to find both 1st person and 3rd person point of view alternately throughout the book. Kid you not. It was well done, and the transition between the two different POV's was smoothly done. A true master.

What I liked about the book was getting into the both the protagonist and antagonist's head. You felt for both characters and honestly felt they traded spots on who was evil and who was good throughout the story.

As always, Patterson delivers some twists and when you think you know how the book is going to end, he, of course, reverses direction and WHAM you get hit from the side with a totally different outcome.

Now, to pick my next book from the list. I'm going to choose a book I can read in one day. Not sure which one that will be yet, but I guess it will be in the middle grade or YA genre.

Leave a  comment and let me know how you are doing with your reading challenge.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Is Research Really Important in Fiction Writing?

In a lot of the writing groups and conferences I've been to the topic of research has come up from time to time. There are many different opinions on the subject, and many will tell you research is only necessary when you are writing about something you know very little to nothing about. But is this really the case and if it is, does your writing suffer from not doing research all the time?

After writing many short stories and picture books for young readers, my opinion on doing research might be very different from yours. I have always felt research is critical no matter how much I know or don't know about a certain subject. There is always something I learn each time, even on topics I know a lot about as things are always changing, and changing fast sometimes these days. However, I thought I was just one of the weird writers out there feeling this way until I took a research workshop with James Patterson, who had this to say about research.

"Research really helps your confidence." —James Patterson

He also talked about how it can enhance your writing, even on subjects you may know a lot about. I was surprised to find out Mr. Patterson never writes any of his books without doing research, long before sitting down to write, on everything from locations to types of characters (i.e. Police Officer, School Teacher, etc.)

I tend to do a lot of job shadows, character interviews and even have gone to high schools, shadowing the students and getting ideas of how my teen characters will behave. I find my characters are more authentic because I take the extra time to do this every time I set out to write a new story. Just doing research once with a police officer for one book doesn't mean you shouldn't interview an officer, sergeant or captain of a police department the next time. You should because interviewing a different person or someone who holds a different title will give you more insight to what you are writing about the second time around. Unless, you're writing book two of your series. In this case, you would want to interview the same perons again or get their feed back on what you are writing.

Research should also be done for locations as well. I"m working on a book currently based in my old hometown of AppleValley. I lived there for a number of years, but there are things I may not remember or may have changed since living there I might want to know about now for my book. Also, walking the streets and visiting old hang outs brings back memories and ideas I can use in my book, too.

The point is research is important no matter what you are writing about and should always be done before you start working on drafts of your manuscript if you want top notch writing. After leaving Jame Patterson's workshop I felt good about the path I was on as a writer and even better about now hving more imput and focus on how to keep moving in a postive way with my writing. Even though I was doing much of what he talked about, I also learned new ways or reevlauated how I was doing things. I feel my writing will benefit from his adavace and I find myself looking forward to sitting down and working on my book ideas with a better attitude and as he said with more confendance.

Still not sure you need to to research before you set out to write..then read this article