Author Outburst Syndrome

Y’all. I have a problem.

Okay, so I really have lots of problems, but I’m going to focus on only one today. I have Author Outburst Syndrome (AOS) thus I randomly shout things about my characters when I’m supposed to be attending to daily life.

When I was younger, I used to keep all of the information about my fictional characters locked away deep in my subconscious. Then, one day, I had what I like to call the Carpool Epiphany. I had written The Happy Hour Choir, and I had just found an agent. We were revising and getting ready to shop when it hit me. I slammed on the brakes and almost got rear-ended while shouting, “Hooooo-ly shit!”

Why would I do such a thing? Because I had been gathering wool, as writers are wont to do, and had realized that a certain character in Anderson’s Funeral Home also played a part in the The Happy Hour Choir. Then I realized that my characters in Bittersweet Creek made a habit of frequenting the bar in The Happy Hour Choir.  In other words, I had been writing a series the whole time, but I hadn’t realized it because I wrote Happy Hour in 2009. I had written the first draft of what would become Better Get to Livin’ back in 2006, and I wrote the first complete draft of what would become Bittersweet Creek back in 2007.* Blessedly, the person behind me did not hit me, and the children had already left the vehicle.

Just a year or so ago, The Mister and I were sitting at the breakfast room table enjoying a leisurely breakfast when I blurted, “Wallace Dandridge is a veternarian!” My husband replied, “Good for him?” At that point I realized that I must’ve been suffering from AOS for a very long time because he wasn’t even shaken in the least. As to Wallace? He’s been around since 2001. It took me 14 years to figure out his actual profession.

Something similar happened with the protagonist of Wallace’s story, Persephone Willis. I thought I had totally given up on that novel when something funny happened on the way to publishing Better Get To Livin’. I’ll be darned if Persephone didn’t walk into the Holy Roller and ask Presley to cut her hair. I actively fought it. I said, “No, I don’t want to tell your story! You were a problem child while I was trying to finish my thesis! Go away, Persephone Willis!” Alas, she’s in there, and she’s arguing her case to be a part of the book that will be out in 2018.

Sadly, I find my AOS is getting worse as I write, probably because I keep writing stories that are set in the same town and thus characters keep reappearing. When I was writing Bittersweet Creek, I was having a devil of a time trying to figure out what to do with the pit bulls. You see, I don’t personally believe all pit bulls are evil, but I knew the breed would appeal to my villain, Curtis. I also know he would make them mean. I needed to get the dogs away from my heroine without actually harming them. I fretted over what to do with those poor dogs for ages. Finally, I had one of my AOS moments, “Pete Gates is the local Turtleman!” 

See, that’s the sort of exclamation that could get the nice young men in the clean white coats to come take me away. Maybe, just maybe, you’re familiar with the reality show Call of the Wildman which is a show in which Ernie Brown, Jr. aka Turtleman will come to remove animals that are bothering you. I’d had a soft spot for the Gates brothers since The Happy Hour Choir, and it only made sense that Pete was the kind of guy who got along better with animals than humans. He took care of those pit bulls for me–totally reformed them if you’re wondering–and I anticipate he’ll be back to help Persephone. Even if I don’t want to tell her story. She’s being awfully pushy about the whole thing.

I tell you all of this in the hopes that I am not alone. If just one of you feels better for crazy outbursts about people who don’t exist, then my work here is done. For your amusement, I leave you with a few more of my favorite author outbursts:

“OMG, Mrs. Morris is a Baptist elder!”

“His name is Goat Cheese because he wants to raise goats!”

“[Redacted] is sleeping with [redacted]?! No, no, no, no!”

“Ginger Belmont went off and bought a big-A box of condoms?” (I blushed while writing that. I still can’t believe the woman did that.)

“Caroline Anderson is not [redacted]!” (If you’ve read Better Get to Livin’ then you know she’s up to something. I plan to tell you in a special free read.)

“She’s going to give that cat to Persephone!”

“There’s going to be a llama in the drive-through Nativity!”

So there you go. On the off-chance you thought I was normal, I have proven you wrong. I suffer from AOS, which is kinda like iOS but without all of the updates. What about you? Writers, how do you communicate with your imaginary friends? Readers, do you have these revelations about characters after you’ve read a book?

*The idea and some rough drafts for Bittersweet Creek came earlier. Not as early as 2002 but before I actually saw Sweet Home Alabama. Imagine my chagrin when a movie stole my thunder about a secret country marriage. *sigh*

 

 

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What’s in a name?

I have many weaknesses in my writing. Some I’ve identified and am working on, and some I’ve not yet discovered. But, that’s true for all us! No matter how long we’ve been writing there’s something else to learn. Which is awesome, and also why I’m afraid to go back and read any of my books. I’d probably nit-pick them to death with what I’ve learned since.

One of my weakness is picking names. Not that I pick *bad* names per se, but I tend to get hyper-focused on one or two letters in the alphabet. For example, my character list for Slow and Steady Rush:

Darcy (heroine)

Robbie Dalton (hero-often called Dalt)

Reed (cousin and hero of Book 2)

Dave (football player)

Rick aka Rick the Dick (policeman)

Dylan (football player)

Ada (grandmother, not technically a ‘D’, but strong ‘D’ sound)

I realized my issue when I was editing a scene with Robbie and Reed. What stinks is when you become attached to names, or the names have already imprinted onto your character. There was no way I was changing my hero or heroine, but I caved and changed Reed to Logan. I had already written his book, so this was heart-wrenching. I had to keep Rick the Dick (for obvious reasons, amiright?), so I changed Dave to Tyler and Dylan to Jamal.

Another of my weakness is keeping (or not keeping) a series bible. This has bitten me on the butt more than a few times, yet I feel like I’m too busy to go back and reconstruct a detailed one. So while I recognize this as a weakness, I still didn’t do one at the start of my new series. But I was introduced to a copy-editor trick that helps me avoid name repetition and also helps me keep track of main character highlights, like hair and eye color and any distinguishing characteristics or titles. It’s the Cliff Notes version of a series bible.

Pardon my handwriting and lack-of-OCD straight lines…this could be set up in Excel, no doubt, but I like keeping it next to me while I’m starting a book so I can jot things down or scratch things out. To me that’s easier than the screen. Plus, I use a spiral bound notebook for each manuscript to long-hand scenes and jot down ideas, so this works for me. I’ve found it super simple, and extremely useful…

You can divvy up grid2your quadrants however you like, and if you do it on the computer, you could expand into as many as you want. But, the point is to write every name (first, last, nicknames) and proper nouns on the grid. From a glance you can tell where you have too many names of the same letter.

 

 

It also helps narrow the search for new names. In my case, I’d probably go to the ‘H’s or ‘P’s in my big book of baby names for a first name and the ‘A’s or ‘Y’s in my telephone directory for last names. (Don’t throw those antiquated books away… They are very handy for surnames!)

I hope this helps some writer out there avoid my missteps. I would be very interested in how you guys keep track of names or other shortcuts you use to keep track of your series…

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Top Tips for Tricking Yourself Into Writing

I love to write. That said, more often than not, I will take any excuse to procrastinate or avoid it. But the only way to get that book written is to plant yourself at that keyboard or in front of that notebook and just do it already. To that end, I’ve cultivated a series of ways to trick myself into getting some freaking words on the page.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Make progress tangible. One of the problems with writing is that at the end of even the most productive day, what do you really have to show for it? A slightly longer Word file? So unsatisfying.

    My trick: graphs. If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo, you know what I mean. Part of their motivational program is to have you input your word count at the end of every day, and it makes this little climbing bar graph that shows exactly how close you are to your goal. But what’s a girl to do any month of the year except November? You can set up the same basic thing in Excel, or you can get an app to do it for you. Personally, I’m a fan of Write-o-meter for Android. See how pretty my graph is?writeometergraph
  • Set low standards. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but let me explain. For me, the hardest part is getting started. Realistically, to stay on track for my deadlines, I usually need to write 1-2k words per day, but that can be daunting. So if I find myself endlessly scrolling the internet, putting off getting started, I tell myself I only need to write 300. Even on a bad day, I can usually manage that. And you know what? About 80% of the time, once I get those first 300 down, I’m in the groove again and I end up rocketing along to my goal for the day.
  • Set a timer. Then block the clock. I swear I heard the advice about setting a timer a million times, and it never really helped me. Then I figured out the secret: make sure you can’t see how much time is passing. For me, this means writing in Scrivener in full screen mode, which blocks the clock in the corner of the screen. It means putting my phone on silent and then turning it face down on the table beside me. My timer is usually set for only 25 minutes, and even I can ignore the internet for that long. My text messages and Facebook alerts and Twitter stream can all wait. Making it impossible to see how much time is passing keeps me focused for the duration. It keeps me from getting distracted. And most importantly, it keeps me from sitting there like a kid in the last hour of a road trip asking “Are we there yet are we there yet ARE WE THERE YET????”
  • Peer pressure. This can come in so many forms. Some people like to stalk the #1k1hr tag on twitter where everyone agrees to write for an hour and then reports back on their progress. Others find a small group of fellow writers and text their word count for the day to each other every night. Personally, I find all of that too stressful, but I adore this app called Habitica. It turns your life into a role playing game. You pick the tasks you need to accomplish every day. Then you find some friends and start a questing party. Everyone who accomplishes their tasks for the day does damage to the bad guy. Any unfinished tasks hurt you and your friends. No one knows what you did or didn’t do, but there are (admittedly silly) consequences for not getting shit done. I feel weirdly honor-bound not to lie about what I’ve accomplished for the day, and knowing that my slacking hurts my friends is just this little bit of extra motivation to keep me productive on a consistent basis.
  • Reward yourself. It doesn’t matter what you promise yourself. It can be a snack or another cup of coffee or some free time to scroll your favorite fansite or a chance to read whatever juicy bit of fiction you’ve been dying to lose yourself in. Just don’t let yourself do it until you’ve accomplished what you need to. Then indulge guilt-free once you do.

Have you tried any of these tricks? What sort of luck have you had? What other tricks help you keep the words flowing?

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A Space to Create

It’s just a little nook at the top of the stairs, but it’s mine, all mine. Some time ago, I wrote a post about my goal to have a writing space of my own. At the time, it was only a frustrating wish, as we had recently gotten our floors refinished, and all the random boxed stuff that hadn’t been put away yet was stacked all over my area, which had never really been set up properly in the first place. Fast forward a year or so, and I’m happy to finally update. I have a space to create! It’s a little more cluttered than I’d like, mainly because it doubles as a sewing studio due to our square footage constraints. While it’s no pæan to sleek modernism, it’s functional and decorated with love and inspiring bits of this and that. Allow me to give you a tour!

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Pending projects, fabric stash, happy art, including some my grandmother painted… and most importantly, my writing buddy.

 

All the necessities, including the giant glass of iced tea!

Antique motel postcards, and vintage patterns help put me in the creative mode for both writing and sewing. There are also the obvious necessities, especially the giant glass of iced tea!

My knockoff Hans Wegner Rope chair, the perfect place to sit and ponder.

My knockoff Hans Wegner Rope chair, the perfect place to sit and ponder.

Hello, who's this? The vintage gown I hope to wear to the Rita/Golden Heart Awards banquet at RWA Nationals in San Diego! She's still in rehab, but I have every reason to hope for a glorious recovery.

Hello, who’s this? The vintage gown I hope to wear to the Rita/Golden Heart Awards banquet at RWA Nationals in San Diego! She’s still in rehab, but I have every reason to hope for a glorious recovery.

 

Well, that’s the grand tour of a tiny, happy place! What’s your space like? Are you lucky enough to be all Virginia Woolf with a room of your own, or do you have to make do with a corner somewhere? Does it make you happy? How have you made it yours? I’d love to see or hear about it!

 

Happy Writing,

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Different is Good

Today marks one week since INTERFERENCE, Book 3 in the Pilots Hockey world released. I’m gonna tell you a (not very well kept) secret about my series. I want to be different. I’m trying to be different. I’m writing what I want to read. I’m writing the books I want to write. I might not fit into a box.

AND I LIKE IT!

Example #1: INTERFERENCE (Okay, technically this is Example 3, since all of my books are a little different, but work with me)…

INTERFERENCE Cover

In INTERFERENCE, the hero is the brother of a player on the Detroit Pilots minor league hockey team. He’s a police officer.

Sophia! Shame! Shame! How can you call this a hockey series when the hero of your book isn’t even a hockey player?

Because IT’S MY WORLD.

OH THE POWER! THE POWER!  *taps fingers together and laughs maniacally* hahahahahahahhahaha

Sorry about that. Sometimes being a writer goes to my head, because seriously, how often so we get to have control of the world?

Never.

And it’s pretty darn cool to be able to do what I want. Because–IT’S MY WORLD.

There’s a point to this post – I swear

  1. Write what YOU want. You don’t have to justify it to anyone (except maybe your editor, but I hope they are on your side if they signed you).
  2. Don’t worry about what people think.  My books all take place in the Pilots Hockey World. (MY WORLD). They are all connected by the characters in that world. I’m not pulling people out of dumpsters in San Antonio, they are all related to the Detroit Pilots hockey team. (Unless it’s your editor, of course)
  3. If you’re different, be different. Don’t try to fit into a mold you don’t fit in. Be you. Twist it. Throw a kink in the “expectation” of what people think they are going to get when they open your book. I don’t want to read the same story over and over. I want little twists. If that means calling a book about the brother of a hockey player part of my world, then Turbo Twist me up, baby!

If someone can’t get over minor things that you did–as the author who created YOUR WORLD–to mix it up and be different in your own way, that’s not your reader. And there are readers out there for everyone.

Don’t worry. You’ll find yours.

If you want to check out INTERFERENCE, I’d love that! It’s available major e-book retailers for $2.99. It’s also available on Audiobook! 🙂

And Happy TATAR Tuesday from my family to yours! (This is what we do in MY WORLD) 😉
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Sophia Henry writes Heartfelt Flirty Fiction featuring hot, hockey-playing heroes. DELAYED PENALTY and POWER PLAY, the first two books in the Pilots Hockey series from Random House Flirt, are available now at all major e-book retailers.

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What To Do If You’re. . . Stuck

I knew I should’ve made that left turn at Albuquerque. . .

Effects creepy theater announcer voice: Today the part of Lori Waters will be played by Sally Kilpatrick.

In all seriousness Lori can’t be with us today so spare a happy thought for her, will ya?

I thought I’d blog about shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. . . .no, wait. That’s not it. No Walrus and Carpenter for us today. Elizabeth spoke of scenes, and I started thinking about what to do when your scene just won’t behave.

Then I thought about all of those times my novel just wouldn’t behave.

Ever found yourself stuck in a story? It’s just not wanting to be written. After many years of trying to muscle through, I’ve finally come to the realization that often the story doesn’t want to be written because you, like Bugs Bunny, took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. For me, at least, being stuck means I’ve made a mistake and I need to back up to the last place the story felt right and start over from there.

“But, no!” You say.

“I can’t kill my hard won words,” you add.

“Don’t make me rewrite,” you cry.

Allow me to pull you close and hug you in consolation. The silver lining to this approach is that once you fix the problem, the words tend to flow again. It’s okay. You’ll make more words. Better words. If you’re really afraid of losing all of that hard work, then start a file for all of the passages you’ll end up cutting. You can place your words there and know they haven’t really left the building.*

Here’s the scary part, and I almost hesitate to share this with you for fear of traumatizing any new writers in our midst: sometimes I have to start over.

When I was in grad school, my professor asked me which draft I was on, and I was confused. What did he mean drafts? He meant how many different versions of the manuscript did I have, and I only had one version that I had been tinkering with over and over again until the story was the equivalent of mush. So, I bravely printed out the original and stacked it beside my computer and opened up a blank document and started to type.

Yes, sometimes you have to start over.

I’m on my fourth novel written for publication (probably my eighth manuscript, all told) and I’m finally

The words will flow again. Promise.

embracing this part of my process. At this point, I know I’m going to write about a third of a manuscript, realize I took that blasted wrong turn at Albuquerque, and then have to start over. This is the greatest lesson I learned from grad school. Often when writing genre fiction, the focus is on speed and that focus means you don’t even think about scrapping something written. Literary writers, on the other hand, may toil over the same manuscript for YEARS and thus may start over a bajillion times. As in all things, I think a middle of the road approach is the best one so that is what I do.

Sometimes I wonder if life isn’t a lot like writing that manuscript. I get myself into things and then have a hard time getting out of them. I ought to be more ruthless in scrapping activities and habits and going back to the beginning. I mean, Albuquerque is actually quite lovely, but I don’t want to keep making wrong turns there.

How about you? What do you do when you get stuck?

 

*Caveat: If you’re one of those writers who start over again and again and again without actually finishing your story, this post is NOT for you. Finish your DAMN book. You will never learn all of the lessons you need to learn until you write your story from start to finish. And that’s your tough love from Sally portion of the post.

 

**I’m also maritally obligated to tell you that I employed this strategy on my newest book, Better Get To Livin’, now available wherever fine books are sold. I have to tell you this because my husband would like to retire early and my son is looking at Duke and Stanford. No pressure, right?

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The Happy Little Trees of Writing a Scene

When you sit down to write a new story, do the words flow out in perfect order from chapter 1 to The End? Maybe that’s the way it happens for some people, but I’m not one of them.

The longer I’ve been in this crazy business of writing books, the more I realize that everyone has a different way of tackling a manuscript. Beyond the division among writers of plotters and pantsers, there are fast drafters, 1k/1Hr people, those who chart characters in a multitude of ways, those who use software systems to track the plot, linear and nonlinear writers, those who gather in cafes and at retreats to bang out words, and those who prefer to work alone…the list goes on. There is no right or wrong, there is only what works for you.

I find it interesting to learn what other writers do, not because I’m going to change what I do, but because there might be some element in their plan of attack that changes the way I see my own process. I recently broke the rule that I’ve heard over and over from countless authors—I went back and started reading through the document before I got the last few scenes written. But guess what, I needed to go back. Personally, I’m a nonlinear plotter, meaning that I storyboard the entire book, then draft out of order. So I got down to the last 8 scenes that were scattered through the story and became stuck. I had to go back to the beginning to find my place. It wasn’t wrong in the way that everyone claims, for me, it was necessary.

My point is this: there is no wrong in writing. I thought today I would tell you a little bit about how I write each scene within a story. I hope you take away something helpful, but at the end of the day just keep writing—that’s the important part.

When I look at each scene in a book, I see every one as

a painting on canvas.

Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Bob Ross painting on TV, but it just makes sense to me. I noticed when watching these instructional TV shows about painting that they never start at the left or the top and just paint the thing. A painting isn’t like a piece of paper feeding out of the printer, instead it’s steadily built upon and constructed in layers. To me, scenes in a story are the same. Therefore I write my scenes in 4 steps or passes through the document.

4 Steps to writing a scene as learned from a lack of cable TV when I was a kid.

Step 1: The blue sky background- Framework. When I begin a new scene I start with the setting, where the characters are in the beginning and where they go, who is there, etc. This blocking of the basic concept is like the pale blue sky that the artist always starts with on the canvas. Everything is added from there.

Step 2: The happy little trees that make up the horizon- Dialogue. Once I know who is present and where they are, I write out the dialogue between the characters. This is the bulk of the scene, just like the forest and stream are the bulk of the painting.

Step 3: The white movement of the water in the stream- Action. Every scene needs a little action. Usually this is accomplished through action tags for the dialogue I placed in the story in the last step. But when I’m writing action scenes or sex scenes, I make notes of all action in red font as it happens and then go back and lace in the actual action as it will appear in the story. This keeps awkward sequences from happening like the heroine feeling up the hero’s rippling muscles when he never took off his shirt. This method helps me keep my sanity the most when writing action-heavy scenes. Separating all of these layers out, allows me to focus on the details when there’s a lot going on.

Step 4: The light and shadow- Deep POV. Maybe it’s my background in art, but to me light and shadow are what make something feel real. In books, this is the character’s interpretation of the scene at hand. We’re seeing the scene through that character’s eyes and everything is colored by their perception of events. I always add this step last since it finishes everything and makes it feel like a finished product.

After these 4 steps, when I move on to the next scene, I’ve already cleaned each scene as I go. So this makes me a plotter, nonlinear writer, a writer who dislikes weeks of edits, and a painter…well, maybe not. I think I’ll stick with painting with words for now.

How do you write your scenes? However you do it, keep going!

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Conference Badges Galore

To Conference or Not To Conference…

Conference Badges Galore

Whoa, that’s a lot of badges you have there.

As we’re in the midst of conference season, I’ve been seeing a lot of opinions on the pros and cons of going to them. It seems people are as passionate about this as they are about either traditional or self-publishing. But here’s the thing—it doesn’t have to be all or nothing (with publishing or conferences!). Since I just came back from Spring Fling, a mid-size writing conference held in Chicago, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks on how to decide if going to one is the best for you and your career, how to choose which one(s) to go to, and how to get the most out of them while you’re there.

Do I have to go to a conference to get ahead in this business?

I’d say that’s an unequivocal nope. Sometimes it helps, especially if you’re a fairly new writer who is interested in pitching an agent or editor. In person pitching, while terrifying and vomit inducing, is a great way to stand out in the slush pile. So, yes, it could help you get ahead, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Is a conference the best use of my time?

So this seems to be the hot-button issue that I’m seeing discussed everywhere. Some people believe it’s never the best use of your time and you should instead be writing. I’m not one of those people. While, yes, writing the next book will always be the single most important step you can take for your career, going to conferences can give you a boost in many other ways. Liiiiiiike:

It connects you to people who are in the same boat as you. Sometimes these connections will lead to long-lasting friendships, CPs, betas, or bitch partners (every writer needs at least one). Cling to them, because you’ve found your tribe.

It also connects you to people who aren’t in the same boat as you, who are much smarter than you, and who know what the hell they’re doing in this business. Sometimes these connections will also lead to long-lasting friendships, or they might lead to a mentor, or a person with which to bounce ideas off. At the very least, it leads to a new Twitter or Facebook friend, and you’ve soaked up some real life knowledge you could never, ever find on the Internet.

You can also learn a shitton at conferences, if you go with that goal in mind. If you go in knowing you’re not going to get anything out of it, you’re probably not. And, depending on where you are in your career, that might be fine for you! If your goal is only to hang with your tribe, that’s a totally plausible use of a conference. I always go with the hope I will learn new things, but I’m also cool with walking away having only had casual conversations with fellow authors. Me now is very different than me circa 2013, when I attended my first conference and went to ALL THE THINGS! My goal at that conference was to learn every.single.thing I possibly could, and my body and mind felt it. Since then, I’ve learned to tailor my conference experience a bit.

Depending on the conference(s) you attend, it could also be when you meet your agent/editor/publicist for the first (or fifth) time. Getting that face-to-face time with any of those people, while unnecessary, is nice. If that’s the only reason you’re going, though, I’d maybe rethink.

Bad Girlz Laura, Elizabeth, Jeanette, and moi at RWA 2014.

Bad Girlz Laura, Elizabeth, Jeanette, and moi at RWA 2014.

And finally, for those rare few of you who are fellow extroverts, conferences are like brain, body, and soul fuel for this ENFJ. I get revitalized being around all those people. I get pumped up to work, to discuss, to plan with others. There is absolutely nothing else that I’ve found that gives me this sort of juice straight into my writer veins. And I need it. Just like the introverts who crave silence and solitude in order to function/work/live, I crave the energy that comes from a conference. Plus, yay for getting time with your tribe!

How do I get the most out of a conference?

This is a tricky question to answer, because it will vary for each writer at each stage of their career. Maybe your strength is character building and your weakness is plotting. Obviously going to a workshop on character building isn’t going to be the best use of your time. My advice? Take a gander at the listings of the workshops that are being offered. Have a tentative plan on which ones would benefit you most where you are right now. (<—— That’s important, folks. That workshop on military men might be great, but not if that military series plot bunny you have isn’t going to be in your writing queue for three years.) Then talk with your conference buddy. Probably, there will be at least one session where you’d like to attend two or more workshops. Split up, cover more ground, and share your notes (speaking of which, AJ, I need to get you some notes!). If, alternately, there are sessions when none of the workshops look good, use that time, too! Hang out in the lobby/main area of the conference venue. Find new people to talk to, or find friendly faces. Maybe there’s a plot point you’ve been stuck on, or a question you had about Facebook ads or a particular publicist. Use this “down time” too. Oftentimes, these down times are when I get the most out of a conference.

Should I give a workshop?

If you have a topic on which you’re qualified to speak, this is a great way to get a bit of your conference fees knocked off. It’s also a great way to spend the days leading up to it terrified you’re going to lose every meal you put in your mouth. No? Just me? Honestly, this is just as much of a personal choice as all the others. If you’re good with public speaking, put your thinking cap on and figure out what topics you could talk about. Or grab some friends and put together a workshop with multiple people. Best case scenario, people hear your workshop and get something out of it, and they buy your book(s). Worst case scenario, you got some fees knocked off and lost your lunch prior to the workshop. Kidding.

How do I know what conference is best for me?

Again, this depends on where you are in your career, where you live, and what your financial and family/life situation is like. Maybe you can’t take off a week to go to a conference, which means the big ones are probably a no-go for you. Maybe you hate flying, so traveling from Florida to Seattle for the Emerald City conference is going to be out. You just have to do a bit of research here. Talk to other writer friends, look at blog posts, take a peek at previous years’ schedules if they’re still listed, and see what would be a good fit for you, this year. It may change from year to year, and it probably will. In fact, I’ve not once gone to the same conferences every year since I started. Shake things up a bit and see what sticks. But also, don’t write a conference off after only going to it once. It might have been an off year—for you or for them.

Bottom line? Take a look at your circumstances, where you are in your career, and what you want to get out of it, then set forth and pick and choose the perfect conference(s) for you!

Are you a conference goer? Do you love/hate them? What do you get out of them the most? And what’s your favorite one to attend?

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Deadline Doubt & Doom

When you’re on a deadline, you doubt everything.

I cannot write. I won’t finish this book. If I do finish this book, it’s going to be utter crap. I am crap. These characters are crap. Is there no logic left in the universe? What is life? What even time is it?!?!

But – plot twist – all of these doubts are horse hooey.

These are lies your brain tells you because you’re under a lot of pressure. The truth is, you can write and you will finish, and the book will be wonderful. You’re just a teeeeeeeeeensy bit freaking out at the moment.

How do I know? Because I’m on deadline right now. O_O (Omg, how did you guess that? You’re so smart!)

It’s not just me though. Over the past, idk, three or four years (HOW HAVE FOUR YEARS GONE BY?!?!), I’ve watched and listened as my best writer friends continue to take this journey. Inevitably, as the book due dates close in, panic ensues.

The book will never be done! ‘Tis rubbish! All is Lost!!!

I’m not smirking at my friends; I’m smirking with them, because I said these exact words this past weekend.

WE ALL PANIC. I’ve come to think of it as a writer rite of passage. Don’t feel like you’re the only head-case around. Come on and join the Panic Parade. We have cookies and Cheetos, a whole spread of unhealthy stress and comfort food, and wine. Like, lots and lots of wine. We will look into your crazy eyes with our crazy eyes, and you will know you’ve found home. Come, commiserate with us over our imminent doom.

I’m kidding. There’s no imminent doom (it just feels imminent), but we do have crazy eyes.

Take a deep breath and repeat after me:

I can finish this book. I will finish this book. I’m a bad a$$ author who has done this before. And, when I do it again, I’ll take a moment to pat myself on the back and celebrate another successful THE END…right before I dive into the next book and repeat this whole process again.

See? Feel better? Awesome! Me too.

Now, I gotta run. I have to finish this damn book! 😀

6 Comments

Binge, Baby, Binge

When not writing or editing, one of my favorite things to do is watch the creative efforts of TV writers. Like, I really, seriously love TV. When we lowered our cable package last year, losing networks such as BBC America and SyFy, two of my faves, it was a sacrifice on my part. I told myself I could get the seasons of the shows I watched on those networks later on from Netflix. Then when we sold our house, I thought maybe we’d move somewhere with a great cable company (LOLOLOL! Yes, I know, I can hear all of your laughter now) and I could get those networks back. But when we saw how much the cable was going to be and knowing what a pain in the behind the last company was, we made the decision to not get cable at all. Horrors!

Copyright STARZ

Copyright STARZ

Instead, we signed up for streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sling (just during the time period for The Walking Dead since that’s the only way you can get it live without cable). I later added the Starz add-on to Amazon to watch Outlander and HBO Now to get Game of Thrones. And you know what? I don’t miss cable! Why I am now seriously in love with streaming:

  1. No cable bill and I don’t have to deal with price hikes and the madness that is trying to talk to a live person at the cable company!
  2. If I want to cancel one of the streaming services, it’s easy. No endlessly being transferred from one person to another in hopes that I’ll give up and just keep the cable and the accompanying bill.
  3. Black Sails, copyright STARZ

    Binge watching! Anyone who really knows me know that I’m a big binge watcher when I find something I really like. Most recently it was Black Sails. I watched all three seasons in less than a week. Loved it! Pirates! Sailing ships! History! Hot men! What’s not to love?

  4. Being able to go back and watch things I missed — either seasons I simply hadn’t seen yet (like I just finished last season’s The Last Ship; hmm, ships and hot men, I’m sensing a pattern) or shows I’ve not seen at all but can now totally binge (Grimm, Merlin and Call the Midwife are on my list).
  5. No commercials! I don’t even have to fast forward through ones on a DVR.
last-ship

Copyright TNT

Are you a binge watcher? If so, what is the last thing you binged? And help me with my to-watch list — what should I add?

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