Jilly: Hands Off

How do you handle enforced inactivity? Do you have any tips for making the most of it?

I’m more than happy to spend a few days on the sofa with my TBR pile, or working on a puzzle, or soaking in a tub of bubbles, as long as the downtime is my choice. It might be a long-scheduled holiday or a spontaneous mini-break because I’m feeling shattered—either is fine, so long as the break isn’t forced on me. When that happens, I’m not good at making the best of it.

I had a fabulous time in Orlando with Jeanne, Kay, Elizabeth, Michille and Kat. I loved brainstorming, especially playing the Damon Suede game of choosing a verb to describe each of our main characters (see Elizabeth’s post for more about this invaluable trick). I attended a few excellent workshops, heard a brilliant keynote speech from Susan Wiggs, posed for an author photo, made new friends, had a great discussion about Alexis with Jeanne’s editor, listened to a hilarious Q&A from Ilona Andrews, Gordon Andrews and Jeanine Frost, and returned to the UK tired but inspired.

After a couple of good nights’ sleep I was feeling refreshed and raring to get to work—and I couldn’t, because I’ve somehow tweaked my shoulder and it hurts like hell when I write or type. It’s my own stupid fault. Continue reading

Jilly: Incubating Redux

How was your week?

I’m writing this post in advance, as today is the day after RWA Nationals. If all has gone to plan, I’ll have spent a day with Jeanne, Kat, Kay and Elizabeth being dazzled by the Louis Comfort Tiffany exhibits at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Then we’ll have joined Michille to take turns in brainstorming some aspect of our current or planned WIPs.

I’ll have attended workshops on writing craft, writing life and the business of being an author. I’ll have heard presentations by publishing industry experts, glammed up for at least one party and awards ceremony, had my photograph taken, swapped stories with lots of new people, and fueled my body with seafood, ice cream and cocktails 😉 .

If all has gone well, I’ll be fried. I’m sure I’ll have much to report. Later. Today my plan is to sleepwalk to the airport, board the nine-hour flight home, close my eyes and let my mind wander.

While I’m decompressing, here’s a neat piece on the value of allowing time for ideas to incubate. I linked to it after last year’s RWA, but I think the subject is well worth revisiting. Continue reading

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: Retreat, Recharge, and Reclaim Your Writing Mojo

This past weekend, I got to do one of my favorite writing things. I joined good friends (all writers, go figure) and had a writing retreat: two and a half days of working on my own stories, hearing about others’ work, sharing story (books, movies) recommendations, and discussing the ever-evolving publishing industry. Now all we need are house elves to deliver coffee and wine chairside, and we’ll have perfected the art of the writers’ retreat.

In the early days of the 8LW blog, I talked about my writing retreats with this particular group of writing friends. A few years later, I was lucky enough to gather with the other Eight Ladies in Arizona for a retreat of our own, which inspired me to share my top five favorite things about these outings (spoiler alert: number one on my list is bonding with fab friends). Now it’s 2017, time for our bi-annual reminder that writing retreats are an awesome thing, and if you are a writer as well as a joiner of any kind, getting out of your writing cave and spending time around real, live people might just be the thing to kick-start your creativity and reconnect you to the joy of writing.

Continue reading

Nancy: Writing Around the Web

Sometimes when writers are neck-deep in our own ideas and stories, we turn to other fiction for a mental reboot. Other times, it’s non-fiction, perhaps craft books. For the past week, I’ve been thumbing through Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story and Story Genius as I continue developing a novel with her brain science technique. For fun, I’ve been reading Stephon Alexander’s The Jazz of Physics. (Yes, that really is what passes for fun in my world.)

When I need a quicker fix, a quick shot of creative inspiration, or just a boost in the will to go on (because some writing days are just So. Damn. Hard.), I like to visit some familiar haunts on the web. A few posts have really struck a chord with me these past few weeks. If you feel yourself needing a boost, check out these articles for yourself, and poke around these sites – there’s so much good stuff to discover!

Arghink. This is the blog of Jennifer Crusie, mentor of the 8LW crew. Jenny’s blog is always chock full of great information, fun, and community, but recently, she’s also been sharing early drafts and revisions of her WIP. And it is as amazing as it sounds. Ever the teacher, Jenny is also sharing the way she approaches revisions. Continue reading

Nancy: 5 Things I Learned from Krav Maga (That Might or Might Not Apply to Writing)

I might have mentioned a few (hundred) times here on the blog that I love a good physical challenge. A few years ago, I had an idea for one that would not only get me in better shape, but would also train me in self defense. So I started searching for Krav Maga classes. Before I could sign up and start kicking ass, I broke my finger.

Fast forward a year and a half. Did I mention it was a serious break? So yeah, a year and half later, I finally signed up for a 6-week introductory class to the fighting style developed by the Israeli Army. And hey, they developed it so anyone of any age and fitness level could learn defensive fighting quickly and easily! So said one of my instructors while he had us doing brutal sprints and one-arm planks at the end of hour-long, full-out hitting and kicking sessions, when I was pretty sure I was going to die of exhaustion.

After expending so much energy, sweat, and – not gonna lie – a few tears, though thankfully no blood, I feel stronger and maybe a little better prepared to take up a fighting stance and protect myself if it ever becomes necessary. But I like to get a big return on my investment, and I can find writing lessons in almost anything, so behold my Lessons from Krav Maga: Writing Edition.

1) Don’t be surprised; be prepared.  If I had to boil my Krav Maga experience down to one line, this would be it. While the techniques do teach you how to fight (and flee!) effectively, there’s more to surviving a street fight than that. You have to be prepared for the unexpected and ready to fight the unknown.  Continue reading

Nancy: A Year of Change…Checking In

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about it way back in 1971.

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about ch-ch-ch-ch-changes way back in 1971.

A few months ago, after we’d all realized the world had changed and turned our eyes toward the hellfires of Mordor, Michaeline and I got into a discussion about change in the comments section of this post about writing as our superpower. She mentioned she’d put a tarot card app on her phone and ‘change’ cards kept popping up. Around the same time, I’d had a tarot reading (I was in Salem, MA; it seemed appropriate to do something ‘other-worldly’) during which I’d gotten three change cards (which I gathered from the tarot reader was a lot).

The card reader told me so much change so fast would be…unsettling might have been the least disturbing word bandied about, and warned me I wouldn’t be able to control ALL THE CHANGES. I should learn to change and control what I could and learn to adapt to the rest. Which is definitely a life lesson I seem to need to learn over and over again.

Luckily for me (she said sardonically), Continue reading