Jeanne: Can You Spot a Fake Smile?

woman holding picture with big smileOddly enough, one of the most useful skills I’ve acquired from becoming a romance writer is an improved ability to read people’s facial expressions and body language.

I’m not suggesting I’ll be taking up a second career as an FBI profiler, but prior to learning to write romance, I had zero skills in that area. Back when I worked in IT, I would often go to meetings. Afterwards my co-workers would dissect the subtle interactions between the power players who ran our world.

“Did you see the look A gave B?” one would ask.

“I did!” another would chortle. “Did you see the expression on C’s face? She totally did not want to be assigned to work with D.”

I saw none of this.

As I’ve struggled to learn how to show emotion rather than telling it, though, I’ve learned a few things. Emotions Revealed by Paul Eckman was a godsend. It describes, with photographs, not only major emotions (fear, surprise, anger, etc.) look but also the subtle micro-expressions that accompany less strongly felt emotions.

How good are you at deciphering what people are feeling simply by looking at them?

Continue reading

Justine: Being Judicious When Reviewing Editor Comments

At the beginning of November, I received comments back from my developmental editor. This was the first time in six years of writing that I’d gotten far enough to 1) finish a book, and 2) submit it to an editor. When I got her comments–which included a letter with general recommendations as well as detailed line edits throughout the MS, plus a 1.5 hour Skype call–I sat back and processed everything she threw at me before making changes, and I’m glad I did.

But once I was done digesting, how did I figure out what to use and what to keep? I listened to my gut.

Just because an editor (or anyone) makes a suggestion, doesn’t mean you make the change. It doesn’t mean you ignore them, either. The rule of thumb I follow is this:

  • If one person makes a suggested change, I think about it, weigh the merits, and listen to my gut.
  • If one person + my gut makes a suggestion, I usually change it.
  • If 2+ people make the same suggestion, my gut is usually quick to follow suit, and I usually change it.

I say “usually” because sometimes (really…rarely) there’s a compelling reason for me not to. If that’s the case, I’ll brainstorm with my critique partners to see if there’s a way to make a different change that remedies the problem or issue they pointed out. In general, though, if more than one person (or my gut and someone else) suggest something or point out a problem, I try to fix it. Continue reading

Jilly–The 10,000-hour rule

Have you heard of the 10,000-hour rule?

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 best-selling non-fiction book, he examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. One idea that recurs throughout the book is the 10,000-hour rule.

In essence, he argues that the key to achieving a world-class expertise in any skill is mostly a matter of practicing in the correct way for a total of at least 10,000 hours.

Personally I think that to become world-class the person doing the practicing must also have a certain level of talent, and getting the right kind of expert help makes a huge difference, but I’m willing to believe that with consistent application the average person can reach a high skill level in many areas.

Told you that to tell you this: I just received my final formatted files for The Seeds of Power, and I’m expecting the paperback covers some time in the next day or two. Which means that after almost eight years of toil, sweat and tears in the writing trenches I should be in the position to publish my debut book before the end of the year, and I’m proud of the way it’s turned out. I honestly don’t think I could have done any better.

More on that next week, and no doubt the week after as well, but as I was contemplating just how long it’s taken me to get here–so much longer than I ever expected–it occurred to me to do a rough guesstimate of how many hours I’ve spent learning my craft. I plucked some numbers out of the air, and guess what? Six hours a day, for five days per week, for forty weeks per year, for eight years, makes 9,600 hours. Huh.

I’m not saying that means the book is good or that I’m a world-class writer, but I’m choosing to take it as a sign that I’ve earned my chops. That the time is right.

How about you? Have you learned a musical instrument, become a pastry chef, a calligrapher, or a dog whisperer? Or do you know somebody who mastered a skill? I know Elizabeth makes quilts, Michaeline plays the ukulele, and one of our commenters, Penny, is an artist. How long did it take you (or them) to become proficient?

Do you believe the 10,000-hour test is a good rule of thumb?

 

 

Michaeline: Pre-suasion, Priming and New Beginnings

A lady gathering green branches in a snowy landscape that still has flowers.

December is a great time to gather your thoughts in the odd moments during your many tasks. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, something odd popped up on my Google Calendar for Saturday. “Huh. I thought this weekend was free.”

It turned out to be a reminder from One-Year-Ago-Me, saying, “I really liked the pre-resolutions. Do it again this year?” Our Justine also talked about early resolutions in 2015.

Now, I know. This time of year is really busy for all of us. I’m preparing for New Year’s guests – cooking, getting the pantry stocked, buying new sheets and trying to un-dig myself out of mountains of clutter from the past year. I feel like this year was a particularly slow slog, although I started getting my mojo back in September. I’ve made a few in-roads on the housekeeping pre-resolutions, but now I’ve got to ask: “What about writing?”

I’m reading a book now called Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday; hope you’re having a great day, whether you’re recovering from Thanksgiving, searching for the perfect Black Friday deal, or just relaxing.

I’ve been off work all week and have spent most of that time relaxing.  That’s worked out so well that I’ll be sticking to the plan for the remainder of the week.

Should I feel a burst of productivity, I may just give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Taking a Moment for Joy and Gratitude

That headlong rush toward the end of the year, which seemed so far away back in January, is well underway.  The turkey hasn’t even been carved yet, but I’ve already seen folks posting that they have finished their Christmas shopping.  My house is still boasting its fall decorations, though I will admit I put the outdoor winter decorations up on Saturday.  Normally, decorations don’t go up until the turkey is in the oven, but this year I made an exception since rain was in the forecast.  I felt very pleased with my decision when I heard rain pelting the windows this afternoon.  Glad I decided to skip washing the car too. 🙂

Whatever you may or may not be celebrating, it’s always nice to take a moment to pause for a bit of gratitude.

  • I’m grateful to be a part of a great community of writers and to have the chance to reach out to other writers via this blog; it’s something that has certainly made me joyful.
  • I’m grateful for my recent day job promotion, which came with a fancy new title and will give me the opportunity to do some truly meaningful work; it’s something that makes me joyful (and maybe a little apprehensive).
  • Mostly, I’m grateful for family and friends who, when they don’t drive me crazy, make me joyful indeed.

So, what’s on your gratitude list?