Kay: Going Long at the Berkeley Book Festival

Last weekend, our Elizabeth, who lives just down the road from me, and I decided to go hear Catherine Coulter interviewed at the Berkeley Book Festival. This annual event, held in downtown Berkeley, California, attracts thousands of visitors, who can hear famous and not-as-famous writers talk about a wide variety of topics and, between panels, browse the many booths that crowd Berkeley’s Civic Center Park and the surrounding streets. This is the third year I’ve attended, and I’ve always enjoyed it, but this year the weather was cold and blustery, so lingering over intriguing new titles in gale-force winds was not in the cards. Elizabeth and I pretty much steamed our way through the booths in an effort to keep warm.

I was interested in hearing Catherine Coulter speak because she started her career writing shorter, category-length Regency historicals, Continue reading

Nancy: Story at the Speed of Light

We live in the age of speed. Everything needs to be fast, from the cup of coffee we get from the drive-through window, to the loading of our favorite websites, to our response time to every email, text message, and social media ping. As technology accelerates, it drags the microprocessors inside our skulls with it, conditioning us to think faster is always better. It’s no wonder we’ve come to expect our stories to move fast as well.

Don’t want to sit on pins and needles through commercials to find out what will happen next on your favorite show? Record it and fast-forward right through those suckers. Don’t want to wait week after week for a TV series to reach its conclusion? Watch something else while you wait for all the episodes to become available (or are dropped at once on streaming services) and binge-watch to your heart’s content. Our brains adapt very quickly to the rewards of story NOW, as services like Amazon and Netflix well know. It’s no accident that the next episode in a series starts playing on your TV within seconds of the end of the installment you just watched.

Which brings us to the favorite story delivery system of many of us on this blog: books. Continue reading

Justine: The Necessity of Do-Overs

resertI’ve been having a particularly nasty time with a chapter in my book. It’s an early chapter, the first in my heroine’s POV, and I’ve spent way too many hours editing and tweaking it. I’m struggling to get all the info I need to in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of the story without it being 6,000 words long.

There’s a lot of stuff I have to pack into it. Much of it revolves around my heroine’s misbelief…both revealing what it is as well as starting to tear it apart. This involves backstory reveals and confrontations – both character confrontations, as well as emotional ones within my character. Basically, truth versus perception, which upsets my character’s misbelief. (For more on misbelief, check out this post.)

After much consternation and gnashing teeth, I decided it’s time for a do-over. No more tweaking. Time to just rewrite it. And it turns out there may be science to back up my decision. 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

Kay: This Girl Is on Fire

Happiness is a warm fireplace. The new brickwork still needs painting, but you get the idea.

I’m a slow writer. Even when I’m well-rested, well-fed, well-caffeinated, focused, comfortable, with good light, and have an idea I can pursue, I’m unlikely to hit 1,000 words a day. My goal is 500. Usually I hit that. Some days I hit a little more. Some days, I regret to say, I hit less.

Despite the slowness of my pace, despite the “thought” and “care” I can theoretically put into my daily output given the time I put into it, on any given day I’ll delete half of what I wrote the previous day.

And sometimes—fairly often, really—things snarl up anyway. Just two weeks ago, I reported that I’d hit a wall with my WIP. I needed to work out the story question. That question answered, the “wall” that I saw two weeks ago is now just a distant memory, something that turned out to be merely a bump in my writing road, a problem solved quickly and almost painlessly.

In fact, lately I’ve been—for me—streaking along. I’m writing 600 or 700 words a day most days, and I don’t delete that much from day to day. Every day I have an idea. Every day I can express it. Continue reading

Kay: Learning from the Greats

Beverly Jenkins (Credit: HarperCollins/Sandra Vander Schaaf

As most of you know, several of the Ladies will be attending the RWA national conference in a couple of weeks, and we’ve been busy plotting out how we’ll schedule our time. I’ve just started to look at the workshops, and one that looks interesting to me is “Blending Brand and Platform,” which promises to discuss how to integrate “brands” and “platforms” with one’s writing to “develop readership and sales while pushing the boundaries of the romance genre.” Sounds complicated, right? The speakers include Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, Beverly Jenkins, and Alisha Rai.

Okay. I’m not at all sure I could tell you what a brand or a platform is, or how they differ, or how to integrate them with one’s writing. What I do know is that I’ve heard Beverly Jenkins speak before, and she’s terrific, so I’m hoping to have fun there and learn something, too. Also I’ve been feeling that Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, and Alisha Rai should be occupying prominent spaces in my TBR pile, so I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say, too.

All these writers are well-known for developing stories that feature characters of color, and that’s another thing I’m not sure I know enough about. My planned three-book trilogy, of which I’ve just finished book two, has a secondary character who figures prominently in all three books. This character is a person of color, and I’m concerned that he’s sufficiently well-rounded that he doesn’t come across as a stereotype. I’ve recently read a few reviews of books where the reviewers felt this issue was insufficiently addressed, and I want to do the best I can for the people I invent.

Speaking to this issue, Beverly Jenkins recently gave an interview to Salon, where she asked why readers can relate to werewolves and vampires, but not people who are of a different race. Good question. To read the full interview, go here.

What about you? If you’re going to any conferences this summer, what do you want to get from them?

 

Kay: Are You Getting Enough? Sleep, That Is

Lots of times when I have a problem in my story, I can go to bed and wake up the next day with a solution. “Sleeping on it” isn’t just for decision making any more!

As we all know, sleep affects us in many ways, from our energy and moods to our brain development. We’re told we’ll be happier, thinner, and healthier if we get enough regular sleep. (Plus maybe richer and better looking. I can hope.)

I recently ran across a blog post that made a stab at correlating the sleep habits of famous writers to their level of productivity. The blogger makes no claims to causality—data was hard to find and hard to quantify, many factors in a writer’s life affect output, and the analysis is subject to an enormous degree of subjectivity—but the results are fun, if not scientific.

The data set consisted of 37 writers for whom wake-up times were available. Productivity was measured by the number of published works and major awards an author received. The duration and era of an author’s life were acknowledged variables.

Overall, with the exception of outliers such as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, who are both prolific and award-winning, late risers seem to produce more works but win fewer awards than early birds.

Click to see all 37 authors, their wake-up times, and their literary productivity, depicted as colored “auras” for major awards and teeny bars for number of works published. The writers are organized from earliest to latest wake-up times, beginning with Balzac’s 1am and ending with Bukowski’s noon. I’m with most of the crowd in the 8am–9am range.

It’s always fun to see how the greats worked, but it’s good to remember that no specific routine guarantees success. It’s just important to have a routine, to show up and work most days. That’s how the books get written.

Check out the full blog post and graphic. Where do you fit in?