Michaeline: Cold Starts for February Fun

I’ve got to say, I just love a cold start on a fresh story. It’s almost a miracle the way ideas bump together and a structure starts to build up where before there was just random litter. I feel like a caveman, bumping rocks together and watching pretty sparks come out . . . and light my campfire.

I found the video clip we’ve been showing this week of Diana Gabaldon’s process to be very natural. The thing that amazes me is that she relies on only one external input – that crystal goblet from a Sotheby’s catalog. For me, I like to have at least two things bump together.

Those things can be words (like in Elizabeth’s writing sprints on Fridays) or images (all praise to Google Image search). My own experiences are like the logs on the fire – the sparks I get (if I’m lucky) fall on some dry memory ready to burst into flames and story.

For example, my Bunny Blavatsky stories started out when I was googling women photographers. Google led me to Bunny Yeager (image from The Atlantic.com). What an exciting name for a character! Full of cuteness and jet planes and all sorts of resonances. But Continue reading

Elizabeth: Cold Starts and Fresh Starts

Stories waiting to be told

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting that first sentence on the page.  There is nothing quite as demoralizing as staring at a blank screen, fingers poised over the keys, with a mind completely devoid of any creative thought.  Diana Gabaldon refers to her approach to combating this common writing problem as her cold start process, which she discusses here.

This week on the blog we’ve been discussing our own cold start processes.  In their own posts Justine, Nancy, and Jeanne each focused on their cold start processes for existing stories.  Many of their steps, like re-reading what was previously written, making sure to have a story-plan in place before even starting to write (spreadsheets and planers and outlines, oh my!), and working up a scene skeleton (with characters, beats, goals, etc.) echo some of methods I’ve used in the past, with varying degrees of success, depending upon the story in question and the amount of effort I’ve been willing to expend (day jobs can put a real crimp in one’s creative inclinations).

There are, however, two things I’ve consistently found helpful when I’m really focusing on writing. Continue reading

Nancy: The Over-Planner’s Approach to Cold Starts

When all else fails, you could try warming up the process with ‘a wee dram’.

Creativity is fleeting. Stories are ornery. Words are elusive. Writing is just damn hard.

Or so it seems on those days when the writing mojo is nowhere to be found. Diana Gabaldon refers to her approach to combatting this common writing problem as her cold start process, which she discusses in this clip. This week, we ladies are discussing our own cold start processes. So here’s Nancy’s guide to unsticking when stuck, in 4 simple steps.

Avoidance. When it comes to  bad writing days, I’m a firm believer in an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. In other, words, I try to avoid them. At least, I do my best to avoid one of the leading causes of these creativity blocks: not knowing where to go next.

One of the things I found fascinating about the Gabaldon clip is that at the end, she announces that she realizes where her character is physically for the next scene. If I didn’t know where my characters were going to be for each scene of the next act, let alone the very next scene, I would spend most writing days crying in a corner. The joy that some creators find in writing in the dark and tunneling their way to their story would break my brain. It simply Is. Not. My. Process. Continue reading

Justine: Cold-Starting the Writing Process

A few weeks ago, fellow Eight Lady Jeanne shared with us a video of Diana Gabaldon’s cold start process…in other words, how she turns on her writing mojo when she’s stuck. Turns out, in this example, she used a Sotheby’s catalog to simulate her creativity.

Diana’s cold start process is vastly different from Jeanne’s, which gave her to think it would be interesting (and perhaps helpful) if all the Eight Ladies shared how we get going when the words just won’t come. So, starting today, for the next week, we’ll share the processes we use when we need to get writing. (No writer’s block for us!) Continue reading

Jilly: Good Book Squee – Historical Romance

27431042_sWhere do you stand on intelligent, well-written historical romance?

By the time you read this, Justine’s UK research trip should be well under way. If things go to plan, we’ll have spent Friday in Brighton exploring the Royal Pavilion and other Regency landmarks with 8LW friend Rachel Beecroft, and Saturday investigating the narrow streets and smugglers’ haunts of the ancient Cinque Port of Rye. Today? If it’s Sunday, it must be Dover!

Justine will be following in the footsteps of a generation of US historical romance authors, walking the terrain of Kent and Sussex to soak in a million tiny details that she’ll use to give her stories an authentic and unique feel. There’s a strong tradition of quality historical romance writing in the US, and I’m constantly impressed by the way the authors skillfully mix historical accuracy and characters with agency to create novels that feel credible but appeal to a 21st-century reader. I especially love stories that go beyond Dukes and governesses and gowns – some of my favorite historicals may have Almack’s and corsets, but they also have spies, soldiers, suspense, mysteries, politics, business-people, dancers, actresses, and social change.

I’m really looking forward to reading the 8 Ladies’ contribution to this excellent tradition – Justine’s Three Proposals, Elizabeth’s The Traitor, and Nancy’s new series – but while they write, edit, polish and pick new titles, I’d like to celebrate some of my favorite US historical romance writers and (if I’m lucky) collect some new recommendations.

Off the top of my head, how about: Continue reading

Kat: Outlander: A Hero is a Hero…Except When He’s Not

Outlander 2014

“Outlander” (c) 2014 Starz Entertainment, LLC

After four episodes, Outlander is finally heating up. Problem is, the heat is coming from someone other than hero, Jamie Fraser.

Watching the producers adapt Outlander to the small screen, condensing the 800+ book while staying true to the story, has been an education in writing and editing.  Thus far the series writers have done a good job of figuring out what to show vs. tell, but they’ve been slightly less succesful in handling the extensive backstory that’s necessary to the story. The first two episodes have been “a wee bit” slow. Continue reading

Kat: Outlander – The Series

Outlander, Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies

“Outlander” (c) 2014 Starz Entertainment, LLC

One of my favorite book series is now a television show on the Starz network. Outlander is the story of Claire Randall, a married British World War II nurse who is transported back in time to eighteenth century Scotland where she finds her soul mate, Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser.

For those of you unfamiliar with this fabulous series, the first book (Outlander) is a huge departure from the traditional romance novel in structure (tops out at over 1000 page) and tone (realism is the norm). It breaks other “rules” too (lots of backstory, lots of trouble, among other things). So I was interested to see exactly how the series would be adapted to the small screen. Too many times, I’ve found that television or movie adaptions fall short of the original novels and are disappointing. I was familiar with the casting (and hardily approved!), so in my mind it was a matter of whether the adaption would stick close to the book, and if it did, how the producers would cram 1000+ pages into sixteen hours. Continue reading