Jeanne: Bloody, but Unbowed

Sailboat

On Sunday, Justine posted about her decision to publish independently.  One of the factors, she said, was watching me win the 2015 Golden Heart® for Paranormal Romance, only to fall short on getting a publishing contract.

Just for the record, I have to confess that I sent out a grand total of 12 queries. That included two requests for full manuscripts that I received via contests I entered in preparation for entering the Golden Heart®. From conversations with other GH finalists, I gather 12 queries constitutes a pretty lame effort. One of the 2015 group told me she made over 400 queries and/or pitches before she secured a contract.

Four. Hundred. Attempts.

By that standard, I gave up without a struggle. Continue reading

Jilly: Cold Start Case Study

This week the Ladies have been discussing cold starts, sharing their tips and tricks for finding their way into a scene or story when inspiration is nowhere to be found. As you’d expect, their recommendations are as different as their personalities and writing processes.

Michaeline talked yesterday about the excitement of bashing two or three different ideas together to generate story sparks, and then using her own memories and experiences as kindling for those sparks.

That sounds like fun, but I’m not usually looking for story starters. When I commit to a character, I like to spend lots of time in their world. I’m like the worst kind of nosy neighbor: I want to know everything about everyone in the whole community. For Alexis’s epic I have at least five major areas to explore and a tentative series end date of some time in 2020.

I’m not a detailed planner like Nancy. I know roughly where I’m headed and who will join me on the journey, but until I start to write I don’t know the details. I have to cold start the beginning of each book, and I usually hit more icy patches as I’m writing.

I find that my writing troubles usually stem from my characters. If the story goes cold, it’s because I haven’t challenged them, or I don’t know them well enough to figure out how they’d react, and why.

Momentum helps me. If I spend quality time with my characters on a regular basis, they’re top of my mind and I learn a little more about them every day. If I take a break from them, I lose that proximity and have to spend time getting to know them all over again. Just like real people—if you don’t see someone for a month, or a year, it takes a while to get back into the swing of the relationship.

Right now, I’m the poster child for cold starts. Since my mum died in mid-January I’ve had neither the time nor the inclination to write. Add in some family downtime over Christmas and New Year, and I reckon it must be two months since I really got to grips with Alexis. I want to get back to work, but my story brain is feeling sluggish and unresponsive.

I decided to try Continue reading

Kay: Getting There!

From homeofservice.com

The Ladies have been writing this blog for five or so years, and we’ve all made significant progress in our writing and publishing careers. Despite life changes, major events, illnesses, accidents, day jobs, volunteer work, writers block, and the demands of family, many of us are nearing the goals we set for ourselves when we embarked on this path. Just in the last few days we’ve heard from Jilly, Jeanne, Justine, and Nancy about major milestones. Reading their thoughts on edit reports, blurb writing, and revisions is a good reminder that it takes a lot to put out a book.

I thought of our collective efforts recently when I listened to a podcast by Mark Coker of Smashwords. He talked about best practices of booksellers—and he meant people like us, people who write books and publish them independently. I enjoyed it particularly because he discussed the things we’re doing, and he put them in context, and he included data that Smashwords has gleaned from analyzing the sales of the half-million or so books that authors have published on that platform. There’s a transcript as well as the link to the podcast here. But these are his major points. Continue reading

Jeanne: Writing at the Speed of Snail

Back during World War I, a British man named C. Northcote Parkinson did some research into work and bureaucracy. From the research, he created Parkinson’s Law, which states “Work expands so as to fill the amount of time available to complete it.”
I’m running into that exact same problem with my writing.

When I was still working, I wrote 10-20 hours a week. Now it’s more like 20-25 (no, not 40, because other tasks also expand to fill the amount of time available for them). But with twice as much time, I’m not getting twice as much written. Continue reading

Michille: The Uses of Enchantment

Uses of EnchantmentThe Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim has been on my to-be-read list for ages. I’m finally getting to it. Bettelheim was a psychologist who, as far as I can tell, was a student of Freud’s brand of psychology. I prefer Jungian psychology but I can get behind Bettelheim’s arguments all the same. My motivation for reading it is to understand the universal-archetype/only-story-ever-told concept in more depth by combining the psychology of that with the purpose of fairy tales. Continue reading

Kay: On the Road with Journey Novels

A view of Highgate Cemetery

Today I’m in London, visiting Jilly, and we will go (or have gone) to Highgate Cemetery, a place I’ve always wanted to see. George Eliot is buried here, as well as Christina Rossetti, Radclyffe Hall, Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Karl Marx, George Michael, and 170,000 other famous and not-so-famous people.

I’ll be gone for more than three weeks—after I leave here, I go to Italy where I’ll meet up with another friend in Bologna and then take a bus trip around the country. I’m looking forward to it all—brainstorming with Jilly in addition to doing fun stuff—and then seeing the high spots of Italy, a country I’ve never been to.

I think travel is good for people. Continue reading

Michille: My Spirit Animal and Creativity

Great_Blue_Heron_LandingMy creativity has been ramping up lately. And it hit me while at RWA why that is. My Spirit Animal has been crossing my path almost daily. I’ve been walking/jogging in a park with nice walking trails near my house and I see a Great Blue Heron nearly every time I’m there. I live on a farm with several water sources nearby so we have herons in our neck of the woods as well. And while at RWA in Orlando, I jogged every morning and saw two every morning. Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, Michille has gone off the rails.” And if someone had seriously uttered the words My Spirit Animal to me before I took a Jungian psychology course for my master’s degree, I would have said the same about them. But that was before . . . Continue reading