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August 2013

If it’s Not One Excuse, it’s Another!

It’s that time of the year again. School is in session. As much as I bragged at the end of the last school year that I wasn’t going to let my teenager being home for the summer interfere with my word count, it did. Not as bad as the summers in the past, but the word count took a summer time dive, nevertheless.

The . . . Schools out for the summer excuse!

Now that school has started it can even become a little more challenging for some. We may have more time during the day, but once that afternoon bell rings, the hats go on. The team Mom hat, the volunteer at school hat, the bring snack to the game hat.  We carry. We cook. We assist with homework. Sound familiar?

The  . . . Busy Mom excuse!

I haven’t been feeling well lately. I’ve been running back and forth to the doctors. Nothing serious, just time consuming. I haven’t seen my computer in days. I just feel blah and the last thing I feel like doing is writing.

The  . . . I’m sick excuse!

I was shopping the other day and Christmas decorations were everywhere. Really! I love Christmas. It’s my favorite time of the year, but August is a little too early to see Santa. However, let’s face it, in less than three months we will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t know about you, but from Thanksgiving until we ring in the New Year life around the Waters household becomes pretty crazy.

The  . . . It’s the Holidays excuse!

I guess you’ve caught on to the moral of my story. It’s easy to make up excuses about why we aren’t getting our writing done. Why our word counts have suffered, or we haven’t been in-the-mood to write. But we are writers. It’s what we do. We’ve got to stop making excuses and do it.

My family is my life, but writing is who I am. It’s me. It’s what makes me happy. It’s what drives me crazy. It’s what I love to do. Yet I let all the excuses of life get in the way.  If you’ve found yourself in the same boat lately, I challenge you today—get busy. Set goals. We all know that when we’re not writing, we’re not complete. It’s who we are.

So let’s put on our Writer hats.

No more excuses!

So what keeps you from meeting your writing goals?  Let’s talk about it.

Remember to Dream Big!

Lori

14 Comments

Co-Authoring: It Ain’t For Sissies – Part One

two ppl writing

When I tell people half of my writing career/focus is a co-authoring gig with a friend of mine, I get one of two reactions: 

The blank stare, followed by the rapid fire triple blink of dawning horror. “H-How do you do that? Why would you do that? I have a hard enough time writing with myself, never mind someone else.”

OR

The eager, bright eyed look, accompanied by flailing hands. “Oh I’ve wanted to do that! My friend/critique partner and I talk about writing together, but how does that work?”

The answer is it’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

This is the first in a two part post for those interested in (or just curious about) co-authoring. I’ll cover how people end up writing together and how they keep writing together without slowly going insane. Feel free to comment with questions. I’m happy to have my brain picked.

I began writing with my buddy, Brit, simply for fun.  We were mutual fans of a particular series that shall remain unnamed. This particular series took some turns we didn’t enjoy. As a lark, I emailed her the re-write of a scene with how I thought it should progress. I believe her response was something along the lines of: @ )*#$()*LKFJDNF! OMG YES! THIS THIS THIS!!!

A day or two later, I got another reply from her. She’d taken that scene, added a few things, and continued it on into an original follow-up scene that floored me. I remember seeing our voices intermingle and thinking, “D*mn. This is good!”

Keep in mind, at that time, I was also writing my own manuscripts. I was growing as a writer and this was – and continues to be – a part of that growth. One day I blurted out (via text) “Y’know, we should do this for real. We should write an original novella.”  Her response? “I was thinking the same thing! Let’s do it!”

So we did, but it turned into a full length novel.  Then we wrote another one. Now we’re writing our third.

How does this happen without hurting a friendship/critique partnership? Here are the first vital steps to successfully partnering with someone for writing.

1) Make sure your voices are complimentary and you both want to write the same thing for at least the foreseeable future. You can’t write witty or light erotic historicals with a co-author who’s voice is strictly literary historical fiction. On that same note, you can’t produce one erotic historical and then want to switch gears with book two just because you want to pursue that literary historical fiction book after all. That’s breaking the number one rule in creative collaboration. Best selling rock bands have split up over such things! If you want to venture into a new genre, do that on your own time. If you decided, as a duo, to write erotic historicals, then that’s what you write.

2) Write with someone you know and like and have known and liked for a year or more.  It’s similar to the advice you get for marriage. Date for a year, make sure you can stand each other through a few seasons, and then move to something more permanent.  Also, there’s an intrinsic familiarity when going through the creative process with a friend. Think of how your critique partners know you, know your writing, your strengths and weaknesses.  They will understand where you’re coming from and, when times get tough, give you the benefit of the doubt instead of throwing you overboard.

3) Write with someone whose yin compliments your yang. I like to think I’m good at characterization and character arc, dialogue, internal conflict and feels, sex scenes, banter, and some grammar. My co-author is also stellar at motivations and backstory, action, sex scenes, characterization, and nitty gritty police and medical procedure.  My weakness is her strength and vice versa. We remain envious of each other, but both of us have improved because of writing together.

4) Write with someone who has similar goals, drive, and motivation. You cannot be on the path of prolific book churner with a partner who wants to write one book a year. You’ll end up killing each other. If you’re a little more Go, Go, Go! than your partner, work on solo projects to stay productive.

Next Thursday I’ll blog on the operational side of co-authoring and the basic steps of how we write together.  Until then, write on!

6 Comments

The Power of Chris, Cubed

Jeanette kicked off our Man-spiration picspam last month with a fave of mine: a Chris

Let me preface the image bomb I’m about to drop on you with the fact that normally, I’m not into pretty blonde boys with blue eyes. That’s not my “type.” I like dark hair on a rugged or dangerous looking man with a prominent nose, and a European accent of some kind – preferably English or Irish. Think anyone from Richard Armitage to Tom Hardy to Christian Bale to Bear Grylls to Liam Neeson…you get the picture.

However, there is one particular species of blonde men for which I’ve developed an acute appreciation. I call them the Chris Trifecta.

As JG pointed out, there’s the Chris Evans:

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There’s also the Chris Hemsworth:

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Chris Hemsworth shows off his ripped body as he chills by his hotel pool.

(hip dents, what?!)

AND my personal favorite, the Chris Pine (who also happens to be today’s birthday boy):

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(…unf.)

I like him bearded.

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Unbearded.

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With 20 extra pounds of Kirk and Jack Ryan weight.

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Without 20 extra pounds of Kirk and Jack Ryan weight (and dressed like a desert hooker).

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With glasses.

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Without glasses (Srsly, who has eyes like that? Chris Pine. That’s who.)

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But what I appreciate most about this Chris are his hands. His non-stop, ever moving, demonstrative hands. Oh, and the fact that within this Hollywood golden boy type dwells an intelligent, adorable Goof Ball. It makes for good character inspiration. In fact, bits of what make Chris Pine fangirl-worthy have already inspired bits of a character or two of mine and, I’m sure, will inspire a few more. I mean…Look at the mannerisms, the expression, the characterization!

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chrisp nod

cpinehands3  cpinegif

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ks

 

10 Comments

Decoding Form Rejections

Depressed young man

 

So, you’ve completed an awesome manuscript, polished it, and sent it (or its representative, the query) out into the world. You wait, with baited breath, for the first response. Aaaaaaand, it’s a “no.” A no?  They didn’t think it was awesome? Does this mean you suck? Should you quit writing altogether? Send it in again because obviously there was a mistake or something? Did they even read the thing? What does it all mean?

 

Short (and obvious) answer is–they simply aren’t interested in acquiring your work. “Well, duh, Syd. I know that,” you might say. “But why? What can I take from it and use?” Although there’s not real way to absolutely truly know why, there are a few generalizations to help take some of the mystery (if not the sting) out of the process.

 

It may have your name on it to personalize/soften the blow, but a form rejection is short, vague, and the worst of the worst to get for us sensitive souls. It means that our work didn’t even make it past Go, let alone get $200. Hell, we’d be happy with that amount as an advance if the letter had said Yes. But, instead, we’re left channeling Nancy Kerrigan:

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While there is no pat answer for 100% of cases, usually, the reason why can be broken down into three possibilities:

  1. Specificity. Be honest. Did you send out your query and three chapters to every agent and editor you could find with a valid email address? If your answer is even remotely close to yes, then the form rejection might mean that you are submitting to the wrong people. If you have written dark science fiction, and the editor you’ve queried works for a publisher of inspirational fiction, it will be a pass every time, even if you’ve written something fantastic. Sure, the more people you query raises the odds of an acceptance, but I view the shotgun approach to querying like the dude in the bar who hits on every woman there in the hope of hooking up with any one of them. If you query smart by researching each editor or agent’s interests and/or acquisition list, you stand a much better chance of making a love connection.
  2. Hook. You may have a great story, nobody is going to read it if your query doesn’t make it sound interesting. A query should be brief, compelling, and make your story stand out. It’s the Elevator Pitch in written form. There are many resources for crafting a query that will get a bite on the web.
  3. Your actual work. Unfortunately, sometimes it is your story. When we pour everything into a manuscript, neglecting all sorts of other important life responsibilities until we type The End, it’s hard to get the distance needed to really, truly know if your work is ready for the world, or if it would be better off in the safety and comfort of your hard drive for the time being. You’ve meticulously researched agents and editors, sent out a query that resulted in a request, and then waited (sometimes for months), only to get the dreaded two sentence form rejection. If this is the case, some aspect of the writing is not ready for publication. Trust me, I’ve been there. After the initial upset, I went back and read my rejected submission with fresh eyes. Guess what? It wasn’t that great. The opening was slow, the writing was repetitive. I knew the truth: I sucked. Eventually, I realized I didn’t suck. I wasn’t a bad writer–just not ready for the big time, yet. And that’s okay. We’ve all got to start somewhere.

 

Here’s what these hard-learned lessons got me: a new perspective on rejection, and more results that are (slowly) pointing to success. I’ve had some good contest feedback, including a couple of finals, and my rejections have gotten mostly out of the form category and into personalized, positive, show me something else type rejections. These are the ones that show me that while I’m not there yet, I’m on the right track, and I will get there sooner or later. And you know what? The first stepping stone on that path is the crappy form rejection, so chin up and keep on truckin!

 

6 Comments

You can’t do it alone.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing this, how skilled you are as a writer, or how far you’ve gotten down the road to publication. If you’re a writer, you have doubts.

You doubt that you’re good enough. You doubt that people will like your characters, that anyone will ever buy your book, that your prose doesn’t suck. You’re not writing enough, everything you write is crap, you don’t know where this story is going, you hate your hero, everyone else is doing better than you are, you’ve lost your touch, you should just quit, you suck, suck, suck, suck SUCK.

You’re wrong.

And here’s the other place where you’re wrong: You can’t combat the doubt alone.

As writers, we are solitary by nature. We spend hours of our day locked in our own heads with our characters and our drive and our doubts. Many of us prefer it that way. I know I do. But sometimes, we need to get out. We need people to remind us that the doubt cycle is just our own brains trying to defeat us, and that we’re doing our best.

IMG_20130807_150224Truth time: when I write, more often than not, I have my Captain America teddy bear sitting right beside me. (He looks away when I start writing gratuitous smut, but he’s pretty much always there.) When I start to doubt myself, he gives me a hug, and reminds me that I’m doing great, and I just have to keep on keeping on.

And the rest of the time, I have my friends.

Once a month, I go to my local RWA chapter meeting, and I connect with real, live actual writers and get inspired all over again.

When I’m losing my mind, I text my long-time critique partner, and she reminds me that I’m being ridiculous and I need to just keep going.

When I’m feeling alone, I get on Twitter and look at all the other writers out there dealing with the same things I am.

When I go to conferences and am terrified and intimidated, my Bad Girlz are there holding my hand (sometimes literally). They’re standing next to my table at my first book signing telling people walking by that my book is amazing and they need a copy. They’re dancing with me at the RITAs after party and helping me let go of my middle school fears of being the ugly girl in the corner who can’t dance. They’re sharing their struggles and their doubts, and they’re here for me no matter what.

Because no matter how much of a loner I am, I can’t do this alone.

And neither can you.

So if you feel like you’re all by yourself in this, or if the doubts are starting to overwhelm you, STOP IT. Go get a damn teddy bear and hug it tight whenever you’re being mean to yourself. Join RWA or whatever writer’s association is best suited to your genre. Go to local chapter meetings. If you can’t get to chapter meetings, take advantage of their online forums, and go find some other gathering places on the internet where writers talk and gripe and cheer each other on.

Because you’re good enough. You’re doing amazing.

Sometimes, you just need someone to remind you of that.

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Feed Me!

I was recently reminded of how important it is to FEED THE MUSE.  

When your creative gas tank is on Empty and you simply cannot write another word without thinking it’s crap, it’s time to step back (if possible) from the turn and burn of manuscript drafting or editing and take just a wee bit of time to absorb something you love outside of writing. For some people it’s reading, painting, music, drawing. For me it’s movies, television, and action/adventure novels.

It’s obvious when my muse is starving or even a little peckish. He becomes a grumpy cuss that sits on his jean clad ass and won’t lift a finger to help me. He will, however, flip me the bird. He’ll continue to snark and snarl until I give him something he can sink his teeth into. My muse prefers stimulation that contains some, if not all, of the following:

1. Somebody, somewhere goes on a trip or adventure, instigates shenanigans, fights, blows something up, commits espionage, kidnaps, extorts, double crosses, plots, and makes shiz happen.

jason-bourne-lotta-armi

 

2. Good guys may or may not show up and fight/shoot /run around/stab/connive/create havoc/drive fast/blow things up as well.

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BC-US--Film-Review-Star-Tre

 

3. Somebody, somewhere has the hots for someone else. It’s mutual, it’s romantic, and it sizzles between them until I’m yelling “OMG PLEASE HOOK UP ALREADY!” at the screen.

spartacus2spartacus1

 

4. I love it if good conquers evil, but it’s not an absolute must. Even if good gets kicked in the teeth a lot (see Spartacus and Game of Thrones), my muse is happy as long as there’s hope.

game-of-thrones-cast

I have a few regular “Go Tos” – some already repped above, others: The Mechanic, Snatch, The Departed, all Marvel movies, whatever Joss Whedon or Christopher Nolan touch…you get the idea. If I’m low on fuel, I can watch these or those like them and my muse is sated. He stops with the stoic routine, regains his still grumpy-yet-now-willing-to-overshare demeanor, and all is well in the gray matter and playing field of my mind.

What about you? What feeds your muse and creativity when writing wears it down?

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A Little German Inspiration

I have to admit, when my husband first mentioned the possibility of me tagging along on his business trip to Germany, I wasn’t as excited as I should’ve been.  Sure, I was looking forward to the latter part of the trip when we’d get to tour the country together, but the first three days I was going to be all by myself.  I’m an introvert, you see, so the thought of me traveling around a foreign country on my own while he was in meetings all day didn’t exactly thrill me.

Then it occurred to me – I’d be on my own while he was in meetings all day.  No kids to run around, no English speaking television shows to distract me, no roads to design.  I’d be surrounded by absolutely beautiful German country side, with nothing but a cup of delicious coffee and my laptop to keep me company.  Why wouldn’t I go?

But as we drove from Frankfurt toward Tauberbischofsheim doing 190km/hr on the autobahn, two things became increasingly clear to me.  First:  the jet lag was going to kill my word count projections; and second:  it didn’t matter, because I was going to take way more than pages home from Germany.  I was taking a butt load of inspiration.

Rothenburg

How can you not love a town surrounded by a fortress wall, right?  And the cobblestone streets just make you want to relax with a bottle of wine at a little café and read a great book.  From the top of the tower we could see the German countryside for miles and miles.  Perhaps two sisters separated at birth meet each other for the first time at their father’s funeral in Rothenberg?

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Wurzburg

This little town was completely destroyed by British bombers in World War II, despite German hopes that it would be spared because it wasn’t industrial.  There’s a tragic love story just waiting to be told here…I know it.  If I wrote historical, I might give it a shot.

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Neuschwanstein

This was my favorite part of the trip, but not for the reason you might think.  Yes, the castle is absolutely stunning.  Yes, the German Alps were beyond beautiful.  But the coolest part for me was the history.  This castle was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, whom is known to many as the Mad King.  Before the castle was finished, he was arrested and placed in an asylum, where days later he and his doctor were found dead in a lake – in waist high water.  Quite the mystery.  This story SCREAMS Jenna Patrick all over it!

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Munich

Perhaps the most surprising part of our trip.  I saw things in Munich I never thought I’d see in Germany…like surfing in a 40′ wide river in downtown, a reggae music festival at Olympic Stadium, and a few bare ass naked German dudes changing into wetsuits beside a busy street in downtown.  If that’s not inspiring, ladies, what is?  Munich is like no other city I’ve ever been to.  I’m thinking a New Adult would be perfect here.  Two strangers meet on an exchange program in Munich?

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Heidelberg

Every girl needs a shopping day on a European trip.  Heidelberg was the perfect place for me to pick up all those last minute souvenirs.  I might’ve enjoyed it even more had I not been up drinking Cosmos at the hotel until the wee hours the night before.  I could see this being the perfect place for a washed up, thirty-something year old woman to inherit an old clock shop from her great aunt — discovering it’s much more.

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So maybe I didn’t finish my edits or get my next manuscript plotted, but I came home with something even more valuable — a little German inspiration!!!

I hope you enjoyed!  Thanks for letting me share!

Cheers!

Jenna P

8 Comments

Conference Crash!

If you’ve been following our blog, you know we gave a lot of advice before attending the RWA National Conference. I’ve decided to touch on a little about what happens after the conference is over. At least, I’m going to tell you what happened to me after the RWA clock struck midnight and the Ball came to an end.

Let me start by saying the conference…Was… Awesome!  And also extremely draining. When I got back it felt as if I had the world’s worst hangover and I didn’t even drink. (that much :))

Excuse me for a second while I turn into Regis Philbin and do a little name dropping.  I shared an elevator with Jude Deveraux. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with one of my all-time favorite authors, Mary Jo Putney.  I had my picture taken with the famous Nora Roberts. I joked around with Kristen Higgins. I was given advice from Cherry Adair. It was—overwhelming, especially for this small-town Carolina girl.

You would think after this exhilarating trip I’d come home motivated, excited, ready to go and write that next New York Times Best Seller. But I came home and literally crashed on the couch for two days. What happened  to cause every ounce of energy to drain from my being? Let me tell you.

1) I was tired from staying up until wee hours of the morning and getting up at the crack of dawn.

2) My brain felt like mush from absorbing the mounds of knowledge taken away from the workshops.

3) I was having an adrenalin crash from meeting some of my writer idols.

4) Unfortunately, I was also feeling yucky because of this evil little voice asking me over and over, “How in the world are you going to do what they’ve done?“

When you surround yourself with that much talent, it’s easy to fall into the dreaded trap of feeling inapt—not good enough.

So the combination of ALL THAT had this Badgirl running for the covers—and the aspirin bottle.

The first day back—nothing.  I lay comatose on the sofa with an imaginary sign, “Do not disturb.”

The second day wasn’t much better, but by late afternoon I did at least have the energy to pick up one of the many free books I’d collected from the conference. I crawled back on my sofa and started to read. When I was done with that one, I picked up another, and another and then another after that. Slowly, the writing fever started warming my blood once more. I felt myself coming back to life, so I read another.

When I was done with that one, instead of picking up someone else’s book, I opened up my book. The one I’d been working on before I’d left for Atlanta. Words started coming at me from everywhere. My fingers were flying all over that keyboard. I was back! Along with my determination to see this dream through. I heard my muse whisper, “You are good enough. You can do this.” My Conference hangover was gone. Thank God.

So I must know, did this happen to you? Did anyone else experience the dreadful conference crash? If you did, don’t get discouraged. I’m your little voice saying, “You can do this. You are good enough.”

Remember to Dream Big!

Lori

12 Comments

Bad Girl For A Day – Ashantay Peters

Hi, ladies – Ashantay Peters here.  Thanks for making me an honorary Bad Girl today!  I appreciate your invitation.

The heroine of my new release, Death Stretch, is a bad girl too.  Katie Sheridan had run-ins with the Granville Falls, NC, police as a teenager.  Now she’s saving her best friend from a blackmailer, evading a determined murderer and avoiding a sexy cop.  All while defending herself from a murder rap involving the death of the yoga instructor she tried to save. But it’s all in a day’s fun for Katie.

Katie and Cop Sexy–Dirk Johnson—came along (so to speak) with a story excerpt.  Katie relates the exchange:

I watched him inhale, like he held in a rant. Shame on me, but pissing off the man held a certain appeal.

He inhaled through his nose, his gaze lifted for divine inspiration, or perhaps patience. “Break-ins are common these days, so maybe you should use the lock.”

“How do you know I don’t?”

“The lock didn’t tumble before you opened your door.”

“Oh.” It’s hard to be sarcastic to a guy whose job is to “protect and serve.” Speaking of serve, those lips could offer… no, I wouldn’t go there.

“So, Detective Johnson, what does bring you by?”

“I have a few more questions. Mind if I come in?”

My brain stopped at the word come. Silly, but have I mentioned it’s been awhile since I’ve dated?

He grabbed my arm. “Ms. Sheridan? Katie?”

The sizzle of his touch jolted me back to life. “Um, sure. Sorry, I haven’t cleaned yet today.” Or last week, but who’s keeping count? And why apologize?

I closed the woman’s magazine I’d left open to an article on Giving Good Head and shoved it under a pile of papers, hoping Detective Johnson hadn’t noticed my reading preference. His smirk suggested he probably had.

My attention shifted into hostess mode. I might be a slut wanna-be, but my Mama raised me right.

“Something to drink? I have iced tea, bottled water, Pepsi.” I stopped before adding “wine and beer.”

The smirk disappeared and his jaw tightened. “All I want are answers.”

Whoa.  When Dirk is after answers, get ready to blab!  Being a Bad Girl at heart, Katie had more in mind than giving Dirk replies, and so would you if you saw him.  He’s just your normal tall, dark and handsome detective who sports a crooked nose and butchered haircut.  Yep, Katie doesn’t mind clichés, especially when they kiss as well as Dirk.

Dirk’s a smart guy who knows he shouldn’t get involved with a material witness.  His attraction to the reckless Katie means trouble, but his instincts aren’t logical.  Especially when Katie has long hair and more curves than the Blue Ridge Parkway. Dirk’s not sure he can keep up with her, but he’ll go down trying.

Katie appreciates his stamina. Wouldn’t you?

Death Stretch is a Wild Rose Press publication currently available only through Amazon.

Death Stretch

To learn more about Katie, Dirk and their friends, check out www.ashantay.com.  The site is evolving, but you’ll find a yummy iced chocolate recipe on the blog page.  Also, I’m on Facebook under Ashantay Peters.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing my honorary Bad Girl time.  I appreciate your interest and hope I hear from you.

15 Comments

“Write What You Know?” REALLY????

After some massively fun recharging of the old writer spirit at RWA National, I came back to my day-to-day inspired and motivated. My word count has soared from zilch to piss-poor. I’ll get there! But, as we all know, once The End is typed, it’s time to start thinking about the next book. At this point in my life, that’s a challenge, to say the least. Normally, I’m a big believer in the old “write what you know” adage, but these days, I’d better not take that advice TOO literally. If I did, my next work in progress might get a little weird. Keep in mind, this is all still at the brainstorming stage.

If I literally write what I know….

1. My heroine would have throw-upon her leg.

2. Her sidekick would be a toddler whose shriek can be heard from space.

3.  The setting is poolside. The pool is green, but whatev.

4. The romance plot would be an illicit May-December affair. Not too, too out there? Oh. Right. I forgot to mention that the lovers are canine. And it gets graphic.

5. For mystery and suspense, there’s “where is that smell coming from?” Spoiler alert: see idea number one.

6. The villain is Time, and he’s a damn dirty thief!

 

So, let’s take a moment to let the awesomeness of that potential blockbuster sink in… Okay, then. Now, I’m going to thank my lucky stars that while I write what I know whenever I can, it doesn’t have to be quite that literal! So what kind of craziness would your “write what you know” brainstorming session cook up?

 

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