Nancy: July Accountability Thread

It’s the first Monday of July, and you know what that means! It’s time to set up our July accountability thread.

The first Monday of each month, we’ll invite you to share your plans and goals for the upcoming month. As this is a writing blog, of course there will be lots of focus on creative and writing goals, but feel free to share other important life goals as well. Training for a 5k, learning to crochet, reading a book a day? Tell us about whatever it is you hope to achieve by July 31st, 2017.

Be sure to come back the first Monday in August to report your progress! And now, it’s time to ‘fess up about how it went in June. I had very mixed results. Continue reading

Nancy: Selling Your Book in 150 Words

There’s been a lot of buzz here on the blog lately about upcoming book releases from several of us here at 8LW, This includes my own Victorian Romance series, with the opening novella tentatively slated for a late October release. One of the realities of publishing these days, whether via the traditional route or self-publishing, is the requirement for authors to market their own books. With that in mind, expect to hear a lot about book marketing here on the blog over the next several months to a year.

Today, I’d like to look at one of the basic marketing building blocks every writer needs that has dominated my brain-space for the last several days: the pitch. You’ve probably heard of it. But what is a pitch? How do you use it? And is it really necessary?

That last question is the easiest to answer: YES!

I’m going to glom together the answers to the other two questions because, in reality, there are different types of pitches, and they’re used for different purposes. Continue reading

Nancy: First Monday Accountability Thread

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” ~ Henry Ford

Welcome to the First Monday Accountability Thread, a new feature here on the 8LW blog. The first Monday of each month, we’ll invite you to share your plans and goals for the upcoming month. As this is a writing blog, of course there will be lots of focus on creative and writing goals, but feel free to share other important life goals as well. Training for a 5k, learning to crochet, reading a book a day? Tell us about whatever it is you hope to achieve by June 30, 2017.

You can pop into the comments on this post any time throughout the month to share your progress or ask for encouragement. And be sure to come back the first Monday in July to report your progress!

To get the ball rolling, here are my top goals for the month.

1) Submit Act I of Take the Money and Run to my writing coach, address her feedback, and prepare to write Act II (in July).

2) Finish the second ginormous revision (yes, that’s a technical term) of my Victorian Romance novella (which got a major overhaul based on excellent critique feedback as well as lessons learned in my Story Genius master class) and submit to final beta readers.

3) Read two books per week, every week.

4) Sign up for ongoing Krav Maga classes to work toward my yellow belt.

See how easy that was? Now it’s your turn. Tell us your plans for June 2017. How will you keep your eyes on your goals and avoid those pesky obstacles this month?

Nancy: Is It Time to Kick Some Habits?

Humans are creatures of habit, and for good reason. Habits lead to predictability, which lends itself well to things like safety and survival. And as brain science and writing gurus have told us, engaging in habits surrounding creativity can boost our productivity. We’ve talked about writing habits, rituals, and routines a lot on this very blog.

But what happens when those habits become necessities, when we can’t write or create or function without them? Is it possible for writing habits to become too precious?

Sometimes life throws us out of our routines. Family emergencies, summer vacations, or business travel intrude on our plans for long hours of solitary writing time. Sure, we can abandon our writing until things go back to normal. But what if there’s a looming deadline, or the break will throw you out of your story at a critical creative juncture? Or, horror of horrors, what if things never go back to ‘normal’?

When it comes to attachment to habits, I know whereof I speak. I love my morning rituals, my writing routines, my writing spot, my editing desk, and schedules and timers to keep it all moving along. But I’m going to have some routine-shattering events coming up this summer, along with deadlines on multiple stories, which means it’s time to get over myself and my ‘must-have’ habits. 

I’ve decided to approach this like an athletic challenge. First, I’ll set up the end goal. Then I’ll set up a training schedule to meet it, and start working up to the challenge day by day, week by week. In case you need to train for a similar event, please to enjoy my training approach and adapt for your own nefarious purposes.

The Challenge: Write outside my comfort zone, achieving 5000+ words and multiple chapter edits weekly while traveling with family and friends Continue reading

Nancy: Can Creativity Be Scheduled?

Week 1 of My 12-Week Year Creativity Schedule. I might have gotten a little carried away…Note that I did not schedule transition time between major activities. Or  lunch time.

There many, many schools of thought regarding creativity, grasshopper. Looking specifically at writing, there are pantsers and plotters, planners and wingers, outline enthusiasts, outline eschewers, thumbnail sketch makers, muse-seeking free spirits, spreadsheet weirdos (raises hand). It seems creativity refuses to be contained. You can’t put creativity in a corner!

But can you put creativity in a time block on a calendar?

Ever willing to be a cautionary tale, I threw myself on the sword of research with an intense productivity system, called the 12-Week Year, so I can report my findings. For more information about this system and how to implement it, there are books, courses, and seminars. Boiling it down for you, the idea is based on data that suggest companies (and individual employees), when aligning to their annual plans, see a burst of productivity and forward progress during the last three months of their fiscal years. Why? Continue reading

Nancy: How Story Shapes Our Brains

How long did the last fiction book you finished stick with you? What about the romance or mystery or classic you read over and over again as a teen? How about the books your parents read to you before you were old enough to read on your own? Turns out, the fiction we read might just be making us more engaged, empathetic humans according to researchers studying the brain through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We’ve known this for a while now.

In a New York Times article published more than five years ago, Annie Murphy Paul reported: “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated…Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.” Wow, heady stuff, you authors out there.

I’ve been pondering the power of story a lot lately as I’ve realized just how many of my foundational beliefs have their roots in Dr. Seuss stories. Continue reading

Nancy: The Most Important Question You’ll Ask Your Characters

We writers ask our characters a lot of questions. Who are you? What do you want? How will you get it? What are you willing to suffer, sacrifice, and change to reach your goal? If and when you reach it, are you sure that’s the thing you really want, after all?

These are all important questions. They are fundamental to building believable characters. But they aren’t enough to get to the heart of your story. To do that, you have to ask your characters why? Not just once or twice or even three times, but over and over again. Ask it until there is nothing more to uncover, until it seems your characters have nothing left to say. And then ask it one more time.

The importance of the question ‘why’ is a core concept of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius approach to writing. It makes sense. Of course we want to know why our characters do what they do. One way to learn why our characters want and do and react the way they do is to add whys throughout our development process. So what do you want? is followed by why do you want that?. How will you get it? is followed by why is that the path you’ll take?. Etc., etc. Ad infinitum.

And when should you stop asking why? Continue reading