*** Over the weekend I cleaned out an old writing folder from the beginning of the year and came across this article written for a Writer's Group news letter. I found it very timely given the 14 day novel challenge I just finished. ***
I could scream every time someone shells out a half-hearted note of admiration for my writing, then back-slaps me with the must be nice to have the time comment. Hello, have you met me? I’m a working mother of a special needs child. Hubby works twelve hours shifts four days a week and whatever hours are available the other three. We pass in the pre-dawn hours, barely saying hello before changing shift over the little one who when not asleep it tattooed to my leg. Time? There is no such animal.
Most writers, even some of the bigger names one, have day jobs. They don’t have more time to write, they simply know how to make the most of what they have. They master carving a notch of space before breakfast, carry small pads and pens in the car, voice recorders during soccer games, read research during lunch breaks and doctor’s appointments, and write during the hours between bedtime and dawn.
As I speak (or type) I am in the therapist’s office, waiting for my son to finish with his occupational therapist. I use this hour each week as built in writing time. Once the appointment is over, I’m done and ready to spend the evening with my son. Family time is family time, and with the same respect, writing time is writing time.
Over the years I have developed an arsenal of tools to help make the most of my writing time. I’ve listed a few of my tried and true favorites, but the options are endless. Experiment a little and find what revs your creative juices and kicks you muse into high gear.
* Use snippets of time to plot and plan. Plotting can be done peace-mill, so use smaller chunks of free time such as standing in line at the bank, carpool, grocery store, or pumping gas to plot. Save the bigger chunks for serious writing.
*Schedule larger chunks of ‘writing’ time each day/week. Make it known to family and friends this time is for writing. For me, this is an hour after work most weekdays and weekend evenings after my son has gone to bed. This is your time, be assertive about it and don’t waist the opportunities that arise.
*Create a Muse box. The muse can be tricky, always there when life is handing out curve balls hand over fist, void of existence when time reins supreme. A muse box will help you focus faster and get you back into the feel of the story. Inside an old shoe box include:
-pictures of characters, setting, props, ect. Story boards also work well
-Story Playlist, either a burned CD, Ipod, or create a playlist at playlist.com. When in a hurry, pick a radio station from Pandora.com that matches the mood of your story.
-candles scented to match the mood of the story (lately for a YA I’m musing about I’ve burned incense.)
*Story boards. I use corkboard squares affixed to my office wall. Load them with pictures of anything that invokes your imagination. While writing one book, I tagged up paint samples in colors that reminded me of the beach. Fabric scraps, concert tickets, accessories your character might favor. The options here are endless and you can always add to or take away as the story changes.
*Curb the social media. Notice I didn’t say cut out completely. Some social media is healthy. Keeping tags on prospective agents, and publishers, keeping up with trends in the market, getting your name out there to the masses—these are all good uses of your time, just keep time spent surfing to a minimum. I’d go so far as to suggest a timer.
* READ- Reading is the most important tool a writer has. Make sure to set aside some time each day to read.
Pick a suggestion or two and run with it. Find what works for you. No matter what just keep chiseling away at your story, after all Rome wasn’t built in a day, but is 2763 years old and still standing.
Ann Bartle Stewart is the author of two contemporary romance novels, Awenasa Island, now available through Bluewood Publishing, and Brigadoon’s Guarded Hearts, coming soon. She is currently working on her first Young Adult romance. www.annbartlestewart.blogspot.com
Yes, I feel stupid having to actually research a first kiss, but mine came 28 years ago with a boy whose name escapes me while sitting on top of the monkey bars in kindergarten. He leaned over, pecked me on the cheek, smiled, and took off down the bars and across the playground.
My first kiss with my husband was much more memorable. We’d been on a date that started as just a friendly get together. On the front porch of my sorority house, I leaded against his shoulder, it was about three in the morning at the time, and he crocked his finger under my chin, and pulled my lips up to his. He stared softly into my eyes for a few seconds (while my brain was screaming, no! You can’t kiss him or the friendship will be over), then he came in for the kill. He was so soft, and warm, and loving, I melted. Within a second, friendship and the ex I had been telling him all about that night, vanished from my mind and he had me hooked. That was eleven year ago, and I still remember clearly.
So, what makes that first kiss, or any kiss, curl your toes, send butterfly dancing in your tummy, or give you the super warm and fuzzies? I don’t know, but the research sure is fun.
Here’s a man’s take on the first kiss scenario. So, they may seem funny, but I kinda liked #5. May have printed it out and left in Hubs sock drawer. May not have. You’ll never know.
Checking in from draftingland. Today marks the halfway point in my #14daynovel challenge and I’m a little more than half way through the rough draft at 125 pages. I tend up underwrite the first draft. 7 more days and 125 more pages to go!
While I’m here, procrastinating as usual, I thought I’d drop a Top Ten Things I’ve Learned list on you, so here it is. . .
Top Ten Things I’ve Learned so far from the #14daynovel Challenge
10) There are 50 episodes of The Backyardigans on Netflix, just enough to get you a day and a half of uninterrupted writing from the kidlits.
9) According to this http://www.thegoddessblogs.com/ my bad writing habits land me in good company.
8) Sleepplotting is a real thing.
7) It is possible to go more than three days without a shower as long as you’re not planning to leave the house.
6) Write or Die software. Need I say more?
5) lines like. . .
And then he said “…”. And then she said “…” And then they walked away.
are fully acceptable in the first draft. (Only the first draft.)
4) Crafting workshops in the middle of rough drafts are killer on the brain.
3) Peanut Butter M&M’s double as a well rounded meal when paired with a glass of Mountain Dew.
2) Sleep is a privilege, not a requirement
1) I can write a shitload of crap real fast. The good stuff takes time.
Last month a writing friend entered a contest on live pitching. She was embarrassed to post the pitches on twitter (even though she made it into he top 10!!) so I decided to create a live pitch and post so she wouldn’t feel alone. Needless to say, she whipped my booty.
I’m knee deep in a rough draft for a YA at the moment, averaging 5,000 words a day, but I couldn’t leave the blog empty, so I decide to fill the white space with my bloopered pitch. Enjoy.
****Oh, and if you happen to be an agent or editor and enjoyed the pitch, it was totally serious. ** **wink, wink.**
Eight years ago, Chelsea Bradley gave up a promising career in equine management to marry Chase Montgomery, a struggling real estate developer with a roving eye.
Now with their divorce settled, she’s turning to a past she’d long thought gone. The ad in the local paper for a seasoned riding instructor at Brigadoon Farms couldn’t have come at a better time. Chelsea sees the position as her ticket back into the career she loved. She has nothing to lose and everything to gain until she meets the man who could make her put everything on the line.
Will she be able to forgive his past to share in his future?
All Steven Bradshaw has left of his once glowing reputation is the family he’s acquired at Brigadoon. They took him in after the horse drugging sandal that tarnished his name and gave him the chance to rebuild his life. Now he aims to repay them by protecting the farm from the threat he sees in Chelsea. She walked out on a career at a horse farm before, leaving a farm high and dry during show season.
He won’t let that happen to Brigadoon, no matter how much he is falling for her.
“Wrong again.” Brent was wearing his gloating smile, and his eyes sparkled in the moonlight from above the porch’s overhang. “I told you he was all wrong for you. One day, my little Padawan, you’ll listen.”
“You mean one day you won’t be around to torture me.”
His hand rested on my shoulder. “You don’t want that.” His sheepish grin held a spark of uncertainty and I couldn’t help but to take advantage.
“Someday--” I trailed off, rolling my eyes for the effect. “Having your guardian angel play matchmaker isn’t exactly in the realm of normalcy”
My cell buzzed in my hand. Thank God. Jacob had thought over his last text and was now sending an apology. “See”—I held my blackberry up in Brent’s perfectly angler face. “He just needed to think it through. He’s not ready to break up with me. Jitters. That’s all. Who would blame him after the stunt you pulled?”
Brent laughed. “What?” His voice sounded like the bells from a church tower, smooth and melodious. Intoxicating if you let it be. “His hair will grow back.”
“You torched his car, Brent, while I was still in it. Not. Cool.”
Worry pulled at the corners of his eyes and his mouth tightened. “Mol.” He pulled me closer until my face rested on his chest. “You know I would never put you in any real danger.”
I did, but watching him on edge did something to me. Something thrilling. “You set a car on fire, with me in it. That’s not exactly rational behavior for a GA.”
“Watching you lose yourself to a pathological liar isn’t either.” His arms closed in tighter and his smell, mint and earth, filled my breath. Why couldn’t human boys be like this; rock hard and steady, yet vulnerable.
Brent lifted my phone from my hands and I heard the buttons click before he roared with laughter. When I pushed away the exposed look in his eyes gave way to triumph. “He’s not texting you for forgiveness. He wants his Zac Brown Band CD back.”
“You can’t be serious.” I palmed the phone and began rolling back through the messages. Damn it!
“What’d I tell ya? Not the guy for you.” Of course he wasn’t. I’d known that all along, but when you have someone as perfect at Brent in your life, what mundane human boy would be. “But there is still hope.”
I shook my head. “Oh no there isn’t. Not if you’re talking about that guy we saw in the mall.”
Brent laughed again. “I swear those were not girl jeans.” His eyes smiled and I brimmed with uncontrollable laughter.
“They said juicy on the pocket. Give it up Brent. The guy would be far more interested in you then me.”
“That’s not true.” He pulled me close again. The bells in his voice stopped.
All I could do was stare at him. This perfect celestial creature who could gleam a smile from the Devil himself and he was all mine in a way, but not mine at all in the way that counted. The thought pulled on me, like swimming against a current and not being able to catch your breath. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I wanted him, I would never be allowed the one thing that could make me happy.
Brent put his thumb under my chin, catching my face before I could drop my gaze. “Don’t do that.”
“I can’t help it.” Tears burned behind my eyes, but I defied them, blinking hard. Years of fighting my feelings had burned a hole in my resolve. I don’t know how much more of this cruel game I can take. “The Archangels will never let us be together.”
He looked away, but I’d seen the glaring contempt in his eyes. “No.” He swallowed hard and I watched as his throat reverberated. When he looked back down to me he’d found the strength to hide his resentment. His eyes danced in the silver moonlight and he curled a strand of my hair around his finger, looking at me like some fragile trinket of his that would break if he held on too hard. “But I do have an option.” His eyes darkened. “I could fall.”
I pushed away. “No.” I poked him in the chest hard against his solid wall of muscle. My finger throbbed but I ignored it. “You can’t. I won’t let you. Think of what you’d be giving up.”
“I am thinking of what I’d be giving up.” He took my injured finger in his hands and stroked it with the pad of his thumb. “I’d die for you, you know that.”
“But you don’t have too. I don’t want you to.” I felt my body quake with adrenaline, but I couldn’t stop it. “You’d be giving up everything . . . for me.”
“No.” He caressed my face with his hand, cupping my cheek and tilting my head up to meet his gaze. “I would finally be able to have what I have always wanted. I would be giving up a life without love to be with you. I’m not losing anything.”
I fell back into him. God how I wanted this, but now that the possibility was right there in front of me I couldn’t let him do it. Not for me.
He pulled me tighter, my head rested on his chest and he lowered his mouth to my ear. “You’re worth it, Mol. You’re worth Heaven and Earth and I’d die a thousand mortal deaths to not have to live an eternity without you.”
I rested my chin on his chest, angling my eyes up to his. How can I say no? I can’t. Nothing I can say will stop him because my heart isn’t in it. I want him too badly. And I know I have to make him hate me. I have to be the one to save both our souls because he can’t anymore.
T-minus 5 days and counting until I board the plane, New York bound for my first RWA conference. I have packing lists, workshop lists, meetings not to miss lists, things to do/not do lists, places to eat lists, people to stalk . . . um, I mean to meet lists. Lists, lists, lists! I’m drowning in lists, and I’m loving it.
I’ll be twitting and facebooking from the conference, so if you’re going and want to find me, or not going but want a ring side seat, follow or friend me for the details.
Facebook user: Ann Bartle Stewart (The only one listed so far, hurray for me!)
Twitter user: Annbstewart
Feel free to tweet or message questions or comments and I’ll respond as I can.
Okay, so I’m totally stealing this idea from Heather Molloy but I’m almost positive she’ll forgive me. When I get totally stuck writing, I enter a contest called the Writer’s Cramp. Every day there is a new prompt and I write my entry in an hour. No re-reads. No edits. Just write and go. Thanks to Heather ingenious idea to post her flash fiction on her blog I figured why now, nothing else is happening on my blog. So here it is. The first of many.
Prompt. Losing someone you care about on a cruise ship.
Purgatory and the Ocean
Nicole leaned over the back of the captain’s white leather chair in the ship’s control room. “I don’t know where he is. That’s what I keep trying to tell you!” The towel on her shoulders slipped again and she tugged it closer. Sea brine from her raven black hair dripped down her back. “You’re not listening to me.”
The crew looked away, busing themselves with blinking knobs and dinging buttons on the control dash. The first mate scanned the open water of the Atlantic with a pair of binoculars. He angled his pointy chin in the air and his right ear in her direction. The captain adjusted his white hat. His eyes narrowed into slits. “We’ve been over the log.” He scratched at a full gray beard. “No one by that name boarded this ship in Southaven.”
“But he was here. Ask our waiter. Our Steward. They all saw him.”
“Then they ‘re lying.”
“Why would they have reason to lie?”
Nicole bit her trembling lip. “I’m telling you, I met Brendan on this ship three days ago and today he’s gone. Into thin air.” Tears trailed down her pale face, mixing with the sea water. “I’m not crazy. He was here.”
The captain shook his head. He tossed a glace back to the first mate. “We need to find her dry clothes.” He eyed a crew member. “Call the ship’s doctor. Her delusions could be a sign of hypothermia.”
Neither of the men left their posts. They passed a knowing glance at each other and went back to work.
“I’m not delusional.” Her towel slipped again, but she didn’t reach for it. Ice cold droplets of water from her hair chilled her neck and shoulders. She didn’t flinch. “And I’m not crazy! Brendan was here. Alive. Breathing. Here!”
“Then where is he now?” The captain crossed thick arms over his chest.
“I don’t know. He went out to walk the desk after dinner and never came back.”
“How did you get so wet?” He nodded at her.
“Looking for him in the rain.”
“Look outside. What do you see?”
Nicole flashed a determined stare. “Darkness. Rain. What should I see? What does this have to do with finding Brendan?”
“It’s not raining outside.” He opened the cabin door. “Clearest night of the voyage. Not a drop of rain in three days.”
Nicole shivered. “But it poured before. The clouds covered the moon and I couldn’t see anything until he”—she pointed to the first mate—“showed up with a flashlight.”
“Monty?” The captain turned to face the young man concentrating on searching the ocean instead of the young girl. “Did you go out on duty tonight?”
Monty’s unsteady hands propped the binoculars on the dash. “No Sir.” His voice cracked. “Not tonight.”
“But it was him. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into this room,” she insisted.
“That he did,” the captain spoke. “Five years ago.”
Nicole shook her head. “You’re making no sense. Why are you not looking for Brendan? He could be drowning? He could be dying?”
They all lowered the heads but the captain. He frowned, but his eyes never left hers. “Brendan is probably home, safe in his bad asleep at this hour. He’s not dead. He’s no dying. ”
Nicole lowered her brows. “No. He was here.—“
“Five years ago he was. Five years ago he came on his ship with his parents and you met. Five years ago he went for a walk on the decks and thought he’d play a trick on you.”
Her forehead creased. “No. Tonight. He went missing tonight.”
“Five years ago, when you couldn’t find him you thought he’d downed.”
She gasp. “That’s not true.”
The Captain kept going. “You saw a bird bobbing on the water in the dark, and then the rains came. You leaned over the edge to see if Brendan was in the water. You slipped.”
“No.” Nicole’s hands shot up over here face. Her body shook. “That isn’t true. He was here today. I was. . .”
“It always takes a minute for it to sink in.” The captain reached a hand to her shoulder but stopped short of touching her. “Sometimes I forget myself you aren’t real. I wish I could go back to that night. I wanted to find you. I wanted to save you.”
“I’m here. Brendan is the one missing. I keep telling you.” Nicole voice started to fade. Her body went pale and as the seconds ticked by turned white.
“We’re leaving the area,” One of the crew members said.
“I know.” The captain watched as Nicole vanished, still pleading her case. Fear filling her eyes. “We can never save her.
“Then why do we always take this route, captain? A few miles in either direction and we’d miss her completely.”
The captain went to his seat in the chair, now dry from Nicole drippings. “We didn’t save her before. This is our punishment. She’s in purgatory for an eternity; the least we can do is remember her. The girl we couldn’t pull from the ocean fast enough.”
Just to give a little background, I’ve dedicated this year to learning the craft of writing. I left all the pressures of deadlines, word counts, and Nanos behind to focus more on style, and voice, and technique. The writing is slow going, but clean and powerful and I’ve even surprised myself by the abilities I posses when I apply myself. Progression is tedious, but worthwhile. So why in the world did I feel the need to add pressure by signing up for a first chapter contest?
I don’t know, but I did. Coupled with a few critiques from both my writering group and last week’s retreat, I’m in that place where you think failure is the only option, but success seems so close. See the conundrum?
I’ve spent the past week polishing my first two chapters until they glimmer brighter then Edward Cullen’s skin on a sunny afternoon. I’ve cut beloved scenes, reprimanded disobedient characters, and changed entire plot lines. I’ve slaved over this story! You think it’s easy being a man, making hard moral choices that go against everything you want and desire in life? Try being the woman who created that man. Not. Easy!
After reveling in the greatness that is my new beginning, I pulled up old contest and agent critiques just to be sure I had covered everything possible in this rewrite and could finally wash my hands of the dreaded first chapters.
It was at this point, while rereading critiques I’ve read several times before, that I realized I’d missed their points completely. I’d just spent a week polishing POOP! Wonderfully written poop, but poop just the same.
My hero and heroine stare at each other longingly across a room, but does that really count as a “cute meet”? And would Mr. Alpha Male spy a woman in need and turn the other cheek? Not my kind of hero! Queue the hero song.
So now, after a week of polishing, I’m back to the drawing board. Who knows, one day I might actually finish the book.
I’ve turned my blog blue in honor of the strongest kid I know, my son Jeffrey, and the millions of others who suffer from an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
When Jeffrey was two, after six months of fighting for someone to hear our concerns and give us answers, he was diagnosed with Classical Autism. The tears I shed that day were from both the relief of finally having an answer, and the fear of his future.
Would he attend normal school, go to college, hold down a job, get married, be able to care for children, a family? Would he make friends, be invited to sleepovers, get into mischief like typical little boys? Would he ever be able to feel pure happiness, and not be afraid of all the things his father and I couldn’t understand?
Sure he doesn’t have a life threatening disorder, and believe me, I thank God for that daily, but ASD is a debilitating disorder that not only impedes the sufferer, but all those who love and care for them. Until Jeffrey, I don’t think my heart had ever truly been broken, but in those first few years, I don’t think it was ever whole.
Three years later, with the help of several earth bound angels, we are all doing great. Jeffrey starts Kindergarten in a typical classroom in the fall and dad and I have a great deal more understanding and support then we ever thought possible. Our road is still long, and I know there will be bumps along the way, but because of Jeffrey’s determination and willingness to overcome his fears he will be a shining star on this earth despite his limitations.
Our story is one of great success, but much of that success is due to an early diagnosis. This year, one in every one hundred and ten children will be diagnosed with autism thanks to early intervention screenings and government funded programs. That means one in every hundred and ten children will receive a diagnoses and hopefully assistance, but my heart goes out to those who don’t have the recourses or the know how to find help.
For those people, and people like Jeffrey, I hope you’ll wear blue on April 2nd. The more awareness we bring to this issue, the fewer people will suffer in silence.
Helpful Links for information on Autism and Diagnosis
I know I haven’t been around much this month and I don’t expect to be any time soon, but my absence is for good reason. I’ve been mentoring a friend who wants to write and her fascination with the whole processes has renewed my passion. I’m in the processes of dusting off an old MS for edits while writing a new story. Both projects, along with work and family, are taking every spare moment I have. As I told my new protégé, writers write! So, I must follow my own advice and write.
Here is a hint for my new project. I wonder if anyone remembers this song.
Awenasa Island is up for best cover in the January Author’s Meeting Place Cover Contest. I thought it was going to be in the February contest, but just found it up today. Oh well, roll with the punches!
To vote scroll down the page to the covers to pick your favorite, (yes, I’ll forgive you for voting for someone else, although I do think Awenasa is one of the best on the page, hehe!). Scroll back to the top to type in the cover name and your email address. Your address is only used to make voting fair and insure no one gets to vote twice.
It's a new year and time for a change! Please pardon my dust as I change things up around the blog. I'm cleaning out the clutter and getting back to the basics of what's important and helpful. Feel free to let me know what you like and what you don't!
As of yesterday, 49 states in the US, including mine, have snow on the ground. We’ve been snowed in for three days now and as much as I enjoy all the extra time with my little man, writing has taken a backseat to cooking, entertaining, and random snowball wars with the neighborhood kids. Oh, and there is the small matter of first edits for Guarded Hearts I’m trying to finish when everyone’s asleep.
So, in lue of a post this week, please enjoy some pictures of southern snow!
My New Years writing resolution was to write everyday, but maybe it should have been to stop spinning my wheels. I can't seem to pick just one project and stick to it long enough to make any headway.
For 10 months straight I worked on my first book. Every spare moment I had went into writing, editing, studying the craft, editing more, and submitting. The second book was much the same way. For a time I even worked on both at the same time in different stages. Both ended up being successful projects and I applauded myself for not falling into the second book blues.
I started 2010 off with a new story which took 8 months to write (rough draft only). While writing I kept thinking of other stories that might be better, or projects I could get done when my muse wasn't happy with the current WIP. The result was countless folders of unfinished work on my PC and a feeling of almost helplessness for the future of my writing. Did I just say that aloud? I did. Good. You needed to hear it. I'm afraid I'll never write anything worth publishing again. I jump from one project to the next thinking if I don't get this done I'll never make it as a writer.
So, I've taken the first step, I've admitted defeat. ***not defeat, maybe conundrum***.
What's step 2? Take a breath? Prioritize? Scrap everything I've worked on for the last year and start fresh? I don't know. Wish I did. Then I could write a self help book for getting your life back on track after publication. If I find an answer, I'll pass it along. Until then I'll just keep trying.