Jeanne: Enneagrams

On Sunday, Jilly talked about the class we’re taking, Inside Out: Crafting Your Character’s Emotional Conflict, with award-winning author Linnea Sinclair.*

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Linnea Sinclair

One of the things that makes me such a slow writer is because it generally takes me 100 or more painfully typed pages to know my characters well enough to understand what they’ll do in any given situation. Up to that point (and sometimes, as with my current WIP, even longer) I head off in wrong directions and follow blind alleys and generally wander in the wilderness while I get to know them.

It’s not an efficient process.

Now Ms. Sinclair has given me a tool to (I really hope) shortcut that painful process–the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram). According to the Integrative 9 website, the Enneagram is an archetypal framework that offers in-depth insight to individuals, groups and collectives.  Put more simply, it’s a psychological test that categorizes people into 9 different groups based on personality/character factors. Continue reading

Michaeline: April, Empty Nests, and Cats Amongst Pigeons

Three birds, empty nest

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I was tempted to post a cat picture today and call it good – maybe even do it for the whole month. See, the thing is, I am now officially an empty nester.

I spent a lot of the last six weeks getting my youngest to entrance exams and then helping her settle into her apartment just outside of Tokyo. I’m exhausted. Tokyo is a city for walkers. And for stairclimbers. And for uphill shufflers. It’s a regular Olympics for the pedestrian, and I participated in the triathlon (at least until I did a bit of orienteering, and learned to find the hidden elevators in the city).

I didn’t write. I barely even thought about writing, and for the last week, I didn’t even study kanji characters. (Commitment: 10 minutes a day. Reward: Much satisfaction.) And I played the ukulele once . . . in a crappy little music store in an outlet mall, about five kilometers (or miles, if it makes you feel more comfortable) away. I pretended I was going to buy an instrument, even though I have no room for another uke, just jonesing for a little strumming fix. Stealing sound and rhythm. They needed to change their strings, so I didn’t steal much.

By last Tuesday, though, things had settled down. The entrance ceremony was held on Monday, and so I was left in the apartment to my own lazy devices. We’d built IKEA Kallax monuments to books and makeup, and a clever shelf/hanging rack for over the washing machine. We’d hauled at least 10 tons (if you want metric, you can consider it 15 tonnes, if you like – I’m too tired to Google it, but it’s rhetorical metric, which doesn’t have an accurate counterpart in the real world, anyway) through the train and subway systems, and up to the third floor (no elevator, no magical portals, nor any sprouting wings).

Tuesday, I cracked open a book about self-publishing that I’ll talk about this month, and started making some plans to feather my empty nest with activity. I started thinking about two of my abandoned books, and idly toyed with how I could re-start them as projects. I thought about blogs and blogging. I thought about how much I loved short stories, and how I need to start sending them to magazines and let other people see them. And I began to dream about schedules – I have a dayjob from eight to four every day, but if I organize myself, surely I can find two hours each weekday for writing. Surely more on the weekends.

But for now, I’m awash in emotions. It’s really, really nice to have two daughters launched and on their own. (Oh, Mrs. Bennet, I can feel your foolish joy.) The reduction in laundry alone is a satisfying side-benefit. But on the other hand, it’s worrisome. Are they happy? Are they fine? There’s really very little I can do to contribute to their happiness at this point. Last month, it was enough to feed her some chicken, or drive her to the really far clothing store. This month, it’s out of my hands, and if things follow their natural course, it’ll never really be in my hands ever again.

It’s overwhelming to lose that role; maybe I can channel my over-abundance of helpfulness into other causes. Or maybe I can post cat pictures for the month of April, and get back into the swing of things in May. We’ll see.

Justine: Tricks to Help You Focus

Depressed man with worried desperate stressed expression and brain melting into linesI have attention deficit disorder. I’ve had it my entire life, and because of a heart condition, I can’t take medication for it. ADD makes staying focused one any one task for a long period of time very difficult (unless I’m really excited about the task — like reading a book from my favorite author).

In the past, I’ve tried setting goals in order for me to get my writing done. But word count goals didn’t work for me, especially when I was editing. Did I really write 1,000 words? No idea…too much cutting/pasting/adding. Plus, there were some days Continue reading

Elizabeth: Just a Reminder

While searching for something else on my computer earlier today I came  across these quotes from Anne Lamott and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I figured we could probably all use the reminder; I know I certainly can.  These days I alternate between procrastination and deleting more words than I write.

So go put some words on the page.

Even if they are crap.

You can buff and polish them later.

Besides, if you write enough, there is bound to be a diamond in there somewhere.  Right?

Michille: Write Your Novel in a Year

wendig

As so many people say, or in this case after I googled ‘write your novel in a year’, so many web pages say it. I’ve discussed Writers Write and Anthony Ehlers series called Write Your Novel in a Year. The blog very kindly consolidated all 52 posts here. I have Chuck Wendig’s infographic on my bulletin board (if you don’t like foul language, skip this one). And I’ve tried the NaNo method (although I knew I wouldn’t write an entire novel in a month). I don’t read these because I think any one of them will be the magic bullet, but I do regularly find motivation to keep writing. Here are some of the new ones I found: Continue reading

Nancy: Liar, Liar, Page on Fire

Characters lie. They do it all the time. They lie to themselves when they convince themselves they’re after an external McGuffin when they’re really searching for love, or acceptance, or loss of everything so they can start over fresh. They lie to other characters in conversations, and give away the truth in their interior monologues and actions. Sometimes they even lie to readers, especially in the cases of the recently-popular, unreliable narrators in books like Hawkins’s Girl on the Train and Flynn’s Gone Girl.

But what happens when one of the leads in a romance story lies to the other lead? Will readers root for someone lying to our girl/our guy and still want the liar to get the HEA? How long can a character lie and still be considered redeemable? Are there circumstances that make this character choice more palatable?

These are the questions I pondered as I worked on the discovery phase of the next novel in my Harrow’s Finest Five series. This is Percy’s story, for those who have read the novella. And the story kicks off with our heroine (Finola) telling one whopper of a lie to get Percy’s attention and, ultimately, help.

I ran multiple scenarios about when, where, and how my heroine would come clean. I talked to readers. I reread stories I remembered with some level of deception between the characters. After all that, I have lots of thoughts, but my main take-away is that whether the lie is tolerable and forgivable all comes down to “why”. Continue reading

Michaeline: Anti-Procrastination Pep Talk

Baby New Year with sunshine and roses and a midnight clock

Sweet baby New Year also carries a stinging, harsh whip during the final days of the old year. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My procrastinating ways always come back to bite me in the butt in December. I think it’s true for most of the world on the Gregorian calendar, but especially in Japan, there’s a very firm cultural deadline on December 31. By about 8 p.m. that evening, you should have taken care of all your social obligations (including any gift-giving and your New Year’s cards), paid off all your debts, finished your work, prepared a feast for New Year’s snacking, and your house should be clean and tidy so that the Gods of Luck who come to visit on New Year’s Day feel inclined to stick around.

Every year, I fail miserably. However, the panicked weeks (or days, if I’ve had a rough year) of cleaning and finishing stuff up means I do start the new year in a better place. Never the ideal place, but still, noticeably cleaner and noticeably freer of looming projects and deadlines.

I started early on the New Year’s cleaning this year – I think I’ve got two things going for me. First of all, it’s about reached the “I can’t stand living in this pigsty anymore” point. (This does happen frequently throughout the year, but if I lie down for a little while in a dark room, the feeling usually goes away.) Second, I’ve been exercising regularly since the end of October, so I actually have some more energy to tackle the tasks.

I’m often on the edge of despair. “I should be so much further along than I am!” But so far, I’ve been able to pull myself back. “Look, it’s better. Don’t go into a blue funk, because even tiny baby steps are better than hibernating and doing nothing.”

Anyway, things have hit hard this week, so I have gone into a blue funk (just a little bijou, powder-blue funk), and have been self-medicating with the internet. I found two articles of interest. Continue reading