Jul 8, 2014

Self-Awareness and Writing Emotion

It's kind of funny to me that I'm a writer who actually gets paid to write now. If you'd asked me five years ago if I'd ever be able to do that, I would probably have said no--even though I wanted to. Ten years ago? I would have definitely said no, nothing anyone would read.

My negative outlook wasn't linked to my dyslexia. It wasn't because I didn't think I could write in an entertaining fashion--even ten years ago I was certain I could tell an entertaining story. At least from an external point of view. It was the internal stuff that threw me.

I know why this is now. I am an atypical girl.
  • I hate shoes. I've been known to wear sandals in the snow. Once I forgot to wear shoes to work...(which is another story...)
  • I only carry a handbag so I have somewhere safe to keep my ereader. 
  • I loathe Lifetime/Hallmark Channel Christmas movies(or well, just in general you can't make me watch those channels). 
  • In summer, I will walk in the rain without an umbrella even when I'm not feeling sad(people only walk in the rain in movies when they're sad.)

Also? I don't like examining my feelings about anything. And holy crap, if you make me talk about my feelings? Conversation will go down hill fast--I'm doing good if I can string ten words together. I prefer the most generic words possible to describe my emotional state(I know it's like social camouflage, and I don't care!).

I'm good.
I'm okay. 
I'm bleh... 

If anyone wants to explore these generic words with me, I can probably filter it down another level and give bare details to explain whatever upset me... But if the person I'm speaking with can't work out from this why I'm upset, any further digging will probably make me cry. It doesn't matter what the emotion is, if it's big and personal, I can't talk about it.

This is why therapy would be useless for me.(Which is not to say that I don't need it. I'm pretty sure I'm nuts, I just like to think it's a quirky, fun kind of crazy.)

This was also why I couldn't get deepDEEP inside the emotional state of my characters. I couldn't examine their feelings because I didn't even examine my own feelings. So I didn't have a clear point of comparison for anything. I didn't have better words than the generic ones.

I didn't start digging deeper until I wrote the book that actually sold. It isn't autobiographical by any stretch, but I used a lot of things from my life... Enough that everything felt familiar, I didn't have to stretch to understand the characters. But in the first couple drafts, I didn't stretch hard enough to describe/depict those emotions. Not until my editor made me do it. I resisted. Good lord, I resisted. I love reading romance(especially stories with THE ANGSTS!), but my unsold drafts were full of glancing blows at emotion. Riddled with jokes that kept the characters and ME from having to look too closely at what we were feeling.

Which brings me to the point of this post: I've been judging an unpublished RWA contest, and all my entries have so many good things to say about them: good writing, warm voices, interesting situations... But a couple of them have characters I wanted to love but could not connect with. The writer didn't dig deep enough.

In the past, I've been advised to think of a similar situation in my life to what the character is facing, and relive those emotions while writing a scene. But that never helped me. Invariably, my reliving the past involved me thinking about how at the time I didn't want to think about the bad thing that was happening!

Getting emotion on the page is more about your own Self-Awareness than anything related to writing. You have to understand yourself before you can ever try to understand other people.(Quick Note: Sympathy and Empathy are not interchangeable. They're different. Ask Uncle Google to explain. I know I've banged the Empathy Drum before, but writers need strong Empathy, and that starts with understanding yourself.)

The only way I know to do that is by examining your memories and all the messy bits attached to them.
And I don't mean just think about it, I mean wallow. Open that metaphorical vein and let that sucker bleed. Do NOT apply pressure or try to staunch the flow. If it doesn't hurt,  you haven't cut deeply enough.

The only way you'll ever understand other people(especially imaginary people who spring from your crazybrain) is to understand yourself(and your crazybrain). I know that sounds like New-Agey Woo-Woo talk, but...some professions lend themselves to the Woo-Woo talk.
Because I love craft books, and there are some truly excellent(and even mind-blowing) writing books about emotion out there, please let me recommend:

Jun 26, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway & Announcement

Sporatic girl strikes again! Yep, I've been quiet, or at least quiet HERE. Distracted might be a better word -- I've probably never actually been quiet in my life!

Two Quick Things

  • Goodreads Giveaway widget added above! For my August book -- formerly known as Circus Medicus, it has a proper title now: Return of Dr. Irresistible! 
  • Starting July 21 -- I'll be running a free workshop on the Harlequin forums--which is an ever-free and fantastic resource/support group if you want to write romance, especially category romance. Lots of info, and lots of fantastic opportunities there.
    • Title: Digging for Your Muse: Manufacturing Creativity
    • One Line: Using mindmaps to generate unique stories you(and your readers/editor) can get excited about.
    • Blurb: The workshop will also demonstrate techniques for using mindmaps as a problem-solving tool to get you through the obstacle course you run from Page One to The End.

May 30, 2014

Just Popping In...

I really don't have anything to talk about. I went into my usual blog-coma for the writing of book4, and now I'm doing last revisions on it(I hope) and planning my summer project(A 5/6-part serial that is currently half-written) -- and which I plan on dipping a toe into the world of self publishing with! Exciting, more on that later.

Stealing Rapunzel Cover
Also considering whether to start doing some book cover design on the side... I enjoyed doing the one for my summer project. If anyone is interested, ping me on my contact form or send me a message on Facebook :)

Otherwise, just working working working. Oh, and feeling guilty for neglecting my blog. I'm on Facebook a lot(frequently posting stupid stuff!), if anyone goes looking for me.

Feb 1, 2014

New Release


I discovered something today! At Harlequin.com, they now have books available a month before their release month for purchase. This is how it's been at millsandboon.com for as long as I've paid attention, but North America was still limited to release month.

Now, some lines have all their different versions available right now(Michelle Smart's March Presents is flipping awesome), but Medicals have only ebooks available. They will become available at other retailers in March.

Jan 23, 2014

Tatted Cross Pattern

This pattern is built on this filigree doodad. Obviously, the one in the photo below isn't the copper one(It's the gunmetal one... but the one in the picture floating around Pinterest is the copper one)

I did this a while back for a lady who'd emailed a request, but never put it on the blog. I also never heard if she successfully made the thing based on this mess of instructions, but ... HERE IT IS!

Jan 18, 2014

Tatted Top Hat Pattern

Reposting here what I posted by request on the InTatters forums: How to make the little tatted top hats.

Tatted Top Hat Pattern (Size 10 thread)

Round 1: This will be a 5-petal flower with 4 regular rings and 1 Split Ring: 2 – 2 – 2 – 2

Round 2: [SR: 3 – 3 & 3 – 3, CH: 2 – 2 – 2 – 2], * [R: 4 – 4 – 4 – 4, CH: 2 – 2 – 2 – 2, R: 3 – 3 – 3 – 3, CH: 2 – 2 – 2 – 2]* repeat between *’s around, close and finish round.

Round 3: In this round, the small rings will attach to middle of the chains and the large rounds will straddle the V created where a ring and 2 chains join. *[R: 3 – 2 – 4 – 2 – 3, CH: 3 – 4 – 3, R: 3 – 3 – 3 – 3, CH: 3 – 4 – 3] * Repeat around and close.

Round 4: With my hat form, this is the last row of the top flat of the hat. Attach rounds to the V again: *[R: 3 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 3, CH: 3 – 3 – 3]* Repeat, close.

Rounds 5 – 9: Repeat the same pattern as Round 4. However, work Round 5 at 90 degree angle to the edge of Round 4, and then Rounds 6 thru 9 flat with Round 5 – creating a cylinder.

Round 10: *[R: 4 – 3 – 4 – 3 – 4, CH: 3 – 2 – 2 – 3]* Repeat around and close

Round 11: *[R: 2 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 2, CH: 2 – 2 – 2, R: 2 – 2 – 2 – 2, CH: 2 – 2 – 2]* Repeat around and close

Round 12(final row): *[R: 2 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 2, CH: 2 – 2 – 2 – 2]* Repeat and close

Once lace is finished, fit to form and apply stiffening agent.

Hat Band Pattern(Size 20 thread)

Clover consisting of: [R: 3 – 3 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 3, R: 3 – 3 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 3 – 3, R: 3 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 3 – 3], CH: 3 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 3, R: 3 – 2 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 2 – 3, CH: 3 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 3

Repeat around. End picots of sides of clover and sides of ring join. Last ring should join first clover, so it makes a band.

This is as close as I’ve gotten to a good fit on the outside of the hat. Looks nice when beaded.

Jan 15, 2014

Second/Sophomore/Every Book Syndrome

So this topic has been spoken about at length on some of the boards I frequent, but came up again tonight in email with another Baby-Writer friend. Thought I’d just fling it up on the blog, since I tend to neglect my blog when I’m actively writing a book and it’s all about MASSIVE NUMBERS OF POSTS between books for me!

So… The second book I wrote after selling to Harlequin was epic hard for me(Uncovering Her Secrets). This was before my first book came out, so I didn’t think it actually qualified for Sophomore Book Syndrome—I didn’t have a public image to live up to yet because the public might have hated book1! But it was incredibly hard for me to write.

At the time, I decided the reason that book was so hard was because I was writing a hospital-setting and that was so normal... and I’m not. Then I thought it was because I wrote a sarcastic frequently ass-tastic hero(think Damon on Vampire Diaries) and that it was hard to make him likeable. And finally, I thought it was just because I suck as a writer.

Book3(Circus book – Return of Dr Irresistible) I thought was gonna be a breeze. I was so excited about the story, the setting… the Every Thing. My fabulous editor was letting me run AMOK. It was all gonna be AWESOME. But? It was so freaking hard to write. I decided the reason was that since they were letting me outside the box, do anything I want... that meant IT HAD TO BE PERFECT. Actually, it had to be better than perfect. Because why make the readers take a risk with a circus story when it's no better than a normal everyday setting? If they’re already taking a gamble with the book, that gamble has to pay off. 

Right now? I am working on book4 and I'm at that SUPER EXCITED phase of limitless possibilities and I’m sure it’s going to be easier to write than the others (haha) I haven’t had to put my money where my mouth is—it’s already perfect because it’s all still in my head. I get this way at the start of every book—aside from book2, that book was freaking hard the whole way and I hated it until the last revisions when I suddenly loved it. Every book has been hard to write except book1(Craving Her Rough Diamond Doc) which was insanely hard during that phase where it was rewritten. Twice. 

The difference between the first draft of every other book and the first book? I didn't really know what I was doing when writing book1. I was just painting with my toes to see what would happen! No pressure because no one would want to read it anyway, right? I got to do what I wanted, when I wanted... But now? Now I put pressure on myself to live up to the first book. And then I think things like: Maybe I could only write it vividly because it was set in Appalachia and I know the people and the area so well? Maybe it was because the heroine was a version of me, and I knew her so well. Maybe it was because I based the hero on Joe Manganiello and I was just SUPER MOTIVATED... and really good at picturing Joe Manganiello without his shirt on... Mmmm Joe without a shirt...

I had a point... before Joe distracted me.

OH YEAH. That feeling that comes after you’ve gotten to work on a book and you know it’s all crap, and no one will ever want to publish it, and they will hate you and kill your kitten because HOW ELSE WILL YOU LEARN NOT TO WRITE SUCH CRAP?! That? Everyone feels it. And we all try to rationalize it away because if we can explain why it's happening, then that means we can try and control it. GI Joe told me: Knowing is half the battle! And I believed that crap. 

But really? GI Joe left off one important detail:  
You still have to fight the freaking battle.  
(Go Joe!)

All those reasons I gave myself about why each book was so hard to write were true in part, but mostly they were just my way of giving myself something that I could identify to fight when I was struggling to get through it. And every one since the first draft of book1 have been a struggle... (Book1 was a struggle in the double-rewrite portion of its existence.)

Writing fiction is hard. I might be me deluding myself again, but I think that the first X-number of books are going to keep being really hard. Because every time I write a new book, at least at this phase, I’m learning great gobs of lessons--the kind of lessons that are hard to put into a single HowToWriteAFrigganAwesomeNovel craft book... I’m still behind the curve, but at some point... I’m going to get ahead of it. And it's going to get LESS hard. Not easy, it is never going to be easy... but it's going to make me stop wanting to chew through my own leg to get out of the animal trap(aka: My Contract which I frequently doubt I can ever fulfill).

No matter where you are in your writing career, if it's really hard, keep running to catch up with the curve. You will catch up with it. You will get ahead of it. It's only the first five books that are this hard(I'm fixin to start writing book4, which I'm pretty sure is going to be hard, but book5 will be the sweet spot, PLEASE GOD...)

To sum up: If at the end of writing a book you look like this http://marlenebaer.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/drowned-rat.jpg ? You’re probably doing it right. (I just linked because I don’t own the copyright and I’m all sorts of touchy about that, but I couldn’t find a commons picture that conveyed the same feeling!)