Friday, October 7, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's Soul Friday- Don't Settle for Anything Less Than Love


Can you imagine your life today without the Mac, ipod, Pixar, iphones? Steve Jobs was an amazing visionary, a man who stuck to his vision, even through adversity.
I have to be honest here. I didn’t know anything about him until this week when many friends posted about him on their facebook pages, especially words from a speech he gave at the graduation ceremony at Stanford in 2005.
So, at the advisement of my seventeen year old son, I looked it up on youtube and made my children listen to it. We sat at the kitchen table together. My son, who is almost ready to venture into the world and make his own path, sat in rapture, a knowing smile on his face. My fifteen year old daughter, however, sighed and asked several times why we were listening to some guy talk. When I told her who he was and what had happened this week, she shrugged. I could tell that nothing he was saying was leaving any lasting insight.
But it touched my heart and by the end, I was almost in tears. What he had to say was so insightful-and deep to the core honest. But that wasn’t the only thing that touched me. Looking around at the college students, my heart just ached. He had so much to say, so much to give and they didn’t seem to be listening, just as my daughter wasn’t listening. They laughed and talked while he was spilling his heart out, telling him of his life, offering them advice from someone who had gone before.
Thankfully, the world has the internet and youtube so that we can listen to it any time we want, as many times as we want.
Since then, I’ve thought about it and have come to two conclusions:
1) Youth really is wasted on the young.
2) Sometimes I think that the only way you can truly listen to and learn from history, is to have lived long enough to have a history of your own.
Steve Jobs went through so much, and still kept going, kept thinking, kept trying new things. He didn’t give up, even when his world came crashing down, first when he was ousted from Apple, a company he helped to create, and then when he was diagnosed with cancer. He is truly inspiration to all of us, young and old, educated or workforce.
I’m closing with words from that speech that we all need to remember and hold close to our hearts, no matter what goal we go after in life, whether it be writing or nursing or engineering.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

– Steve Jobs, Stanford speech 2005
So I leave you with this. Love what you do. If you don't love what you do any more than find a way to love it again or do something else. Fight to find your passion, what makes you happy and gives you peace with the world. And whatever you do, don't settle.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Finding Your Voice



I’m hoping y’all can get something out of my disjointed notes. This was a workshop that I went to at Nationals. In the middle of this discussion, the presenters popped up a few pictures of hotties for us. Since I don’t know how to post picts to blogspot yet, I’ll give you names and you can do your own search…Chris Evans, Nathan Fillion, and Kellan Lutz. 

Finding Your Voice-From a workshop entitled Speak Up! Seven Steps to Finding Your Voice
**Nothing you write lacks meaning because meaning is in you. ~Anne Marie O’Connor

What is Voice? It’s you on the page.
Voice is shaped by:
1) Your background
2) Genetics
3) Choices
             -friends
            -lovers
             -kids
             -education goals
            -travel
             -spiritual beliefs
4) Self-image-so it’s important to get to know yourself!

Find an editor/agent who fits YOUR voice.

Sit down and define your writing strengths and weaknesses.

How do you find your voice? 7 Steps:
1) WRITE-as much and as often as you can
            -be organic
            -don’t self edit during the creative process-do that in revisions
            -Read your own work-identify your strengths and weaknesses (see above)
2) Listen:
            -to what your instincts tell you
            -when you leave out voice the writing is flat-you want your work to be SPECIAL
            -give them something new-your voice is UNIQUE
3) Ask:
            -people you trust!
            -ask yourself what you like about your own writing
            -poll your crit partners, beta readers, any readers and ask them to give you 3 words that describe your writing
            Ie: “comical, intelligent, deep”
4) Blog or Journal
            -find topics that interest you
            -pay attention to your tone to see how you handle topics
            -look at your vocabulary
            -look at rhythm-how you break up sentences
5) Let Go
            -give permission to write what you want to write, not what you think you should write
            -let your character be free to say and do the first thing that comes to mind
            -when someone read your work and tells you they can “hear” it, that’s voice
6) Explore/Experiment
            -make the most of your writing
            -push the boundaries and try something new
            -work at your strengths and HONE them-make them sharp and shiny
            -shine first-THEN focus on your weaknesses
7) WRITE some more
            -once you establish what it is that makes your voice unique, hone it
            -write, write and write some more
            -plot stories that will showcase your voice
            -FINISH YOUR STORY


Chris Evans
Nathan Fillion
Kellan Lutz

Friday, August 5, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 2


Last Friday I shared the first half of my notes from Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure. This week I finish it off.

Stage 3-PROGRESS-from 25% to 50% of movie/story. This is where whatever the H/H outer goal is, they make a plan to accomplish their goal. Whatever the plan is, there are obstacles. The character is emotionally involved and the problem or conflict is what the emotions come from. They pursue their goal and there MUST be obstacles. In movies the emphasis is often on the inner conflict not the romance. You need a second outer motivation other than love and you need obstacles to another goal.

The stage ends with Turning Point #3 POINT OF NO RETURN (PONR) at about 50% of movie/story. The PONR is where the H/H make a commitment to the goal. This is where they burn the bridge and can’t go back. They have to option to quit but they go on until that spot. Example: typically this is where they make love. Have a first date. Declaration with words or actions “I love you.” Shows commitment. Typically once you pass PONR the universe will bring problems or obstacles. The outside world closes in. Ie: forces of nature, other character causes increase in obstacles, someone tries to kill one or both, the ex shows up. This all leads to stage 4.

Stage 4-This stage is called COMPLICATIONS & HIGHER STAKES. It runs about 50%-75% of your story. In this stage it is harder to achieve the goal. There is more at stake. It is progressively more and more difficult. At the end-H/H have a major setback and it seems to the reader that all is lost. Often as a result, the H/H will try to go back to their old life. But it will NOT work. They will make one last push to achieve their goal or die trying. They give all they have. This ends with Turning Point #4 Major Setback.

Stage 5-This stage is called FINAL PUSH and runs about 75%-90-99%. It is where the H/H give all they have to achieve their goal. It ends with Turning Point #5-Climax.
CLIMAX-is the point in which the outer motivation is resolved but the story isn’t over yet. Happens about 90-99%.

Stage 6-This stage is called the AFTER MATH. It runs about 1-10%. This stage is the opposite of the set up. Every day is a NEW Life. The H/H completed the journey. They have a transformed existence. Readers/viewers can see the reward for competing the journey. We get some sense of a new life.

I hope these notes are of some assistance.
Have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful weekend!
~Michelle

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 1



   Hi everyone! I am posting this Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday Blog one day early because we are leaving to New Orleans tomorrow. My son made it into the Junior Olympics for Taekwondo...and I am nervous as heck!!! So, if you think about it, please send up a quick prayer for safety for my son. Full head kicks are completely legal-even KO's. (Urgh! I don't think I can watch...)

Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 1
For articles, upcoming events, and information on consultation, visit www.StoryMastery.com

Michael Hauge is a very engaging speaker. He has worked with many writers and filmmakers as a script consultant. This was a 2 hour lecture on Plot Structure given by Mr. Hauge at RWA Nationals. Please keep in mind that these are just MY notes. And my notes ended up being pretty long (and a bit cryptic-sorry), so I've decided to do this in two parts. I believe this lecture was recorded, so those of you who bought them can use this as a rough outline. If it wasn't recorded...sorry about that. Anyway, I hope that you find this somewhat helpful. He had a great handout that explained this better in diagram than I can do with the written word, but I tried. :)

***The GOAL of a writer must be to elicit EMOTION.***

All stories are based on 3 basic elements-
1) Character
2) Desire
3) Conflict

In Hollywood calls them:
1) Hero-protagonist
2)Outer motivation
3)Outer conflict

Outer motivation—is the desire for something that’s visible, can immediately picture what it looks like ie: win love of another character, stop something, escape something, retrieve something.

Outer conflict— is what’s visible that’s getting in the way-whatever the H/H are pursuing that creates VISIBLE obstacles in order to over come them.

Often the inner journey is heavier than the outer journey. The story is stronger if there are obstacles in place that the audience/readers can see.

In the outer journey the H/H can pursue 2 different goals ie: break up a wedding and win love.

The inner journey creates the outer journey because it leads the characters actions-that are outwardly visible.

H/H outer journey defines the plot. The plot is the sequence of events that cause the maximum emotional element.

H/H inner journey is not visible, it’s their individual goal. It’s the inner journey that causes the TRANSFORMATION=the change on the inside. The H/H becomes different person from the beginning of the story to the end. For example, living in fear to living courageously.

For readers to understand the inner journey they must understand the outer journey --because the inner journey comes from the outer journey. SO-a stronger outer journey leads to a stronger inner journey. Basically, a character's outer journey is the visible choices a character makes to satisfy or obtain their inner desire.

There are 6 Basic Stages of a story-that are defined by 5 key turning points. These steps are always the same and occur in the same sequence. They occur at exactly the same place in the story and in every story.

Stage 1-SETUP-takes about 0%-10% of the movie/book. This section is all about setting the stage and giving the readers/viewers a connection with the story’s character’s full identity.

1) It introduces the H/H separately. 
2)It creates empathy with character so the audience connects. You do this by
      a) creating sympathy-feel sorry for them if you make them a victim.
      b) Put the character in jeopardy or danger. It can be physical jeopardy or danger that      person will lose something-job, competition, anything.
      c) Make the character likable-generous. Or show as well liked by other people.
3) Shows characters living their every day life before the journey begins because a story is before and after the journey. We must see how start out to see how it finishes. The over all change.
It ends with Turning Point=OPPORTUNITY at about 10% of the movie/story. This is where something happens to H/H that has never happened before. Something will create a desire (goal) but is not the story goal. It’s the goal to move to stage 2 and a new situation. The character is either forced to move-often times to a new location at OPPORTUNITY but not always.

Stage 2-NEW SITUATION-takes about 10%-25% of movie/book. This is the stage when character finds out what’s going on and finds out the rules. Something new occurs that has never happened before. The H/H now has a NEW DESIRE-New outer motivation. Whatever route the H/H do take-they do not pursue to fill. Pursue the VISIBLE GOAL. **Build up to pursuit. Circumstance brings things together.
This ends with Turning Point #2 CHANGE OF PLANS @ 25% of the move/story.

Tune in next week for Part 2...
Until next time,
~Michelle

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- How to Mend A Broken Scene


The Basics of How to Mend a Broken Scene
From a workshop presented by Roxanne St. Claire at RWA Nationals 2011

            This workshop was one of the most beneficial workshops I had the privilege of taking  at Nationals this year. If this had been the only workshop I had taken, it would have been worth the price of admission. Not only was Ms. St. Claire gracious enough to share with us several examples of her first draft MS to her finished product, she also provided some invaluable information and check lists to go over when mending your raw work. This workshop was not recorded because she didn’t want examples of her early work floating around, so I can’t share those with you. I have been given permission to share with you a summary of her lists.

What makes an effective healthy scene?
*The character goal is clear.
*There is tension regarding THAT goal (and others)
* An arc is completed: beginning, middle, and end
*Story is furthered and complicated
*Reader has more information than they had before

How to recognize your broken scene
* Character goal is not clear
* Scene is full of action, but nothing happens
* Characters are flat, untrue, clich├ęd, uninvolved, distant
* No identifiable plot point
* Massive amounts of backstory
* Forced, unnatural dialogue
* Huge, unbroken paragraphs of description
* Noticeable lack of emotion, humor, sexual tension or conflict
* Emotion is kept in check when it shouldn’t be
* Scene starts too early or ends too soon
                               
ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
* What does the character want when the scene starts & how are things getting worse?
* Is there a much stronger reason/plot point for a scene?
* Can I make it unforgettable?
* How can the plot be turned on its head to SHOCK the reader or character?
* Can I show the character’s true nature…and the conflict?
* Is the scene as “ier” as it can be (funnier, sexier, scarier, wrenching-ier)?

TEN WAYS TO FIX ANY SCENE:
1)      Replace internal monologue to dialogue-if they can say it, it’s stronger
2)      Be sure characters are true-stay IN the character’s head
3)      Know your character’s goal-both story goal and scene goal
4)      Add sexual tension
5)      Increase conflict
6)      Ass senses and imagery-draw out emotion
7)      Don’t back away too soon-dig deep to get the scene completed
8)      Draw out emotion
9)      Gracefully drop in backstory and description-no dumping
10)  Strengthen the hook-at beginning/end of both story and chapter

Miscellaneous notes from Q & A:
- Sometimes fixing a scene means fixing the book.
- Don’t fear rewrites.
- Convey conflict on the scene level.
- Don’t imply sexual tension-SHOW it.
- Dig into the emotional quality of the setting.

Roxanne St. Claire is a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-seven novels of suspense and romance from multiple publishers.  Her books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, the National Reader's Choice Award, Booksellers Best, Book Buyers Best, and many others. She can be reached via her website, www.roxannestclaire.com or through her fan page at www.facebook.com/roxannestclaire.  You can follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roxannestclaire
           

Friday, July 15, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Worth the Work


Feed-the-Writer’s Soul Friday: Worth the Work
Swimming is in my blood. I learned to swim when I was young and haven’t stopped since. For me, the feel of floating, of being weightless is a powerful feeling. It’s one of my most favorite things about summer. If we had to swim everywhere instead of walk, I would be in heaven.

Because I love swimming so much, I took my kids to the pool from the time they were both very young. As a result, both of them spent time on competitive swim teams-and both did well. (But that’s neither here, nor there.)

For the past three summers I have given swim lessons, mostly to my friend’s kids. What I now take for granted, they have to learn, one small step at a time. There is so much to keep in mind when you swim. The most important, and initially the hardest thing to teach, is holding your breath under water. Once that is mastered, the real works begins. You have to learn how to get your body to float and to keep your body parallel to the water, to keep your legs moving in the water with just the right amount of bending, arm rotation just right, hip rotation, then the big one comes--breathing to the side during the stroke. And this is just freestyle! There are three other swim strokes.

I have kids that are at all spectrums of development. Some are learning to hold their breath and to not be afraid to put their heads under water, others can go under water but when they try to “swim” they don’t go anywhere, and others are moving and are now ready to learn to breath to the side (which is an advanced skill and not an easy one to learn-or teach, I’m finding out:).

There are a lot of correlations between swimming and writing. Just like in swimming, there is so much for a beginner to keep in mind as we move through our story: keeping the dialogue fresh, developing conflict, figuring out the POV the scene is going to be in, writing actively and not passively, show vs. tell, and the list goes on. As a new writer, all of this can be overwhelming, and it seems the more we learn, the more we have to learn.

But learning is part of any process. Just like in everything we have learned to do along our lifetime-walking, reading, riding a bike, driving- it takes time and lots and lots of practice. In the end though, it’s always been worth the work. I’m glad I struggled through learning to walk, talk, read, write, swim, drive. Without these abilities, my life would be so empty. 

So, the moral of it all is-keep working and improving yourself, whatever your passion is. We are all better because of it.
~Till next time!
Michelle

PS-At the end of last month through early this month I went to RWA Nationals in NYC. I went to many workshops and learned SO much. Over the course of the next several Fridays I hope to share with you some of my notes from those workshops.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday-Neverisms


Awhile back, on Facebook, I saw something on my home page that made me do a double take, stop and click on it. It was a post from Amazon Kindle.

The title of the page said “10 Things You Should Never Do”. Well, I ask, who can pass that up? Turns out they were promoting a book called Neverisms: A Quotation Lovers Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say or Never Forget. As writers we tend to like the spoken word, especially if someone took the time to write them down.

This list turned out to be quotes that begin with the word ‘never’. Some were funny and some were beautiful and profound. I would never have guessed that Tyra Banks had anything profound to say, but I do like what she said. I like several of them actually. I think I’m going to write a couple of them and post them on my wall because they are relevant to writing. At least to my writing, and hopefully to yours at well. But the best thing about the few minutes I took to look at this entry is that I have another book I really REALLY want to read now. 

Below is what the post says are the top 10 things not to do.
(Taken from their site: http://www.kindlepost.com/2011/05/10-things-you-should-never-do.html?ref=tsm_1_fb_kin_kb_20110524)

10 Things You Should Never Do:

Some are ancient, but with modern relevance.
1) "Never dare to judge until you have heard the other side." --Euripides, 5th century  B.C.
2) "Never promise more than you can perform." --Publilius Syrus, 1st century B.C.

Some come from modern, and even slightly unexpected, voices:
3) "Never dull your shine for somebody else." --Tyra Banks
4) "Never let go of the fiery sadness called desire." --Patti Smith

Even legendary sports stars have gotten into the act:
5) "Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit."--Wilma Rudolph
6) "Never let the fear of striking out get in your way." --"Babe" Ruth

Some have an impressive metaphorical quality:
7) "Never cut what you can untie."--Joseph Joubert
8) "Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts." --Alice Walker

And some are beautiful examples of paradoxical phrasing:
9) "Never let your sense of morals keep you from doing what is right." --Isaac Asimov
10) "Do you wish men to speak well of you? Then never speak well of yourself."--Blaise Pascal

The conclusion? Never underestimate the power of a neverism to improve your life. How about you? Do you have a neverism you want to share?
~Michelle

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday-Expectations


The other night my husband, daughter and I went walking with our dog Moose. He’s a puppy, about 8 months old, who is big (probably about 70 pounds), smart, and very stubborn. My daughter walked out of the house with the leash but as we got to the road, she handed the reigns over to my husband.

“Here Dad. You walk him. He listens to you better than he listens to me.”
            “That’s because dad expects him to listen,” I answered without thinking about it.

But as we walked some more, I thought about my answer. I think the same goes for parenting overall. If we discipline our kids or give them rules to follow but don’t expect them to follow through, why do we ask them to do it? We know that they won’t, and our expectation will have been met. Often the kids know when we are backing up our request and when we are giving lip service. (Darn kids!)
           
Then I got to thinking about my writing. If I write with the expectation that no one will like it, then the probability of that being the truth is pretty high. Why is that? I think we are often products of our expectations.

            Think about this for a moment. I think it’s a cousin to the self-fulfilling prophecy idea. According to Wikipedia “a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.” It goes on to give this example, which I think will clear up that hazy definition. “When Roxanna falsely believes her marriage will fail, her fears of such failure actually cause the marriage to fail.”

Wow. The power of the mind and spirit is astounding. Our thoughts influence our actions such that just thinking something negative can make it happen. So, the lesson here? Be conscious of what you are telling yourself as a writer and be kind. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, try something new, and take a chance. When those negative thoughts creep in, throw them out the window. Why? Because it matters.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday-Books on a Box


Books On A Box

Yesterday I was reading World Magazine and in it was a little, obscure article about an idea that I think is fabulous and makes me wonder -“Why wasn’t this around when I was young?” British supermarket chains and Puffin books (owned by Penguin) are working together to “make breakfast more interesting”. They will be featuring excerpts from Roald Dahl’s books on millions of breakfast cereal boxes. The excerpts will be about 200 words long and described as “the most immediately exciting bit, something that plunges you straight into the story.” The cereals that gets the “bits”? “Rice pops, frosted flakes and honey hoops.” The goal? Get kids reading.

I think that’s a great idea! Much better the scheme that was around when I was a kid- voting on if the Trix rabbit should or shouldn’t be able to finally eat that bowl of cereal. (If my memory serves me right, he was btw. I got a sticker in the mail to prove it. It went straight to my Big Wheel. :) Wouldn’t it be fun to see the “exciting bit” of your favorite romance novel on the back of adult cereal boxes? I bet the men in our lives would be just as interested in them as we are. And those ladies who hold their noses high in the air with disdain would be racing to the library to secretly check out their new find. Heck, it might even increase the sales of Wheaties, Special K, and Cheerios. <wink>

Till next time,
Michelle

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul-Friday- Support


I have a confession to make. I am afraid of the dark. Not because of a gremlin or a boogeyman under my bed, but because I struggle with sleep. Sometimes I have trouble going to sleep. Sometimes it’s staying asleep. Sometimes it’s both. Whatever it is, it makes life very difficult.
              
It’s hard to hold conversations when you can’t remember what you were talking about and even worse when you say something and you know it’s not coming out the way it sounds. It’s hard to concentrate on anything for very long when you have only had about four hours of sleep. It’s hard to teach high school level Chemistry if you can’t keep your eyes open. And when you are in survival mode, you can just kiss your imagination goodbye.

The last time I posted on my blog I was so excited about the writer’s retreat last month. It really was so much fun getting to go away by myself (almost never happens) and to travel (also almost never happens). That weekend we had good food, great speakers, ghost hunters, a painting session, and a sex toy party (which, btw, was so much fun and yet…weird). Saturday night we even tasted all kinds of different alcoholic drinks in the name of research for our writing. <wink>

But, in the middle of all the fun I was struggling with lack of sleep and basically hit a wall going 80 miles an hour. And, I crashed and burned. I came away from there wanting to quit writing. I wanted to quit homeschooling. I wanted to crawl into bed and never get out. But two things held me up. 1) going to Nationals and 2) writing friends.

See, I bought my plane ticket in March. Five hundred dollars isn’t a small chunk of change for my family. I made the commitment to go back then and I’m sticking to it. And for good or for bad, I am not going to go with an “I want to quit” mentality. Besides, I want my kids to see me as a person who has a goal and works toward it, whatever comes along.

And also I wouldn’t be writing this blog today if it wasn’t for several writing buddies I’ve made along my journey. One is a woman I met in a class who has encouraged me to stay with it with almost daily emails. When I told her I was done, she told me she wasn’t going to let me quit. She also told me of her struggle with insomnia and how she overcame it with a major change in her diet. I have since changed some things in my diet as well.

And lastly, I wouldn’t be back in the ball game if it wasn’t for Lisa Miller (from a yahoo group I’m in) who started a 50x50 challenge on the loop. The challenge is to write 50 words a day for 50 days. At first I told myself that I didn’t even have 50 words to give to my writing. Then I told myself that since I didn’t start with everyone else, I was too far behind to participate. But not so. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday she sends out an encouraging email. This past week it felt as if one of them was directed straight at me and for whatever reason, I found some time and energy to write. For the last three days I have finally worked on my WIP. My work isn’t pretty and will probably be dumped eventually, but at this point, I’m just thrilled to have put anything on paper.

How about you? Do you have anyone who keeps you gives you support and keeps you going?
That's all for now....
~Michelle


Monday, April 11, 2011

I've Been Interviewed

Check out my interview with my first workshop teacher, friend and mentor Kat Duncan.

Thanks,
Michelle

Friday, April 8, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday ~ Never Alone


Writing is a solitary undertaking. You can connect with authors online in so many ways, but writing, when it all comes down to it, is something we do alone. And while we don’t mind being alone, alone can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes alone in my own mind I battle my demons of self-doubt and fears.

I have found other writers to connect with through RWA online groups and workshops, but recently I found one more place-and that is through my local RWA chapter called River City Romance Writers in Bartlett, TN.

Now, technically, they aren’t local. I live an hour and a half from where they meet, but for me, the once a month drive is worth it. I visited the group in January, met the ladies of the group and had such a good time I joined the same day. Miraculously, I am getting to know about fifteen other people who do what I do. Write.

The benefits of membership in a local group are many, but here are my top few. (Can you tell I like lists?)

1) All of the members have more experience than I do, so I can ask them writing questions and most of the time they have answers. 

2) I recently was able to judge our contest, Dual on the Delta, which gave me, a super-duper green newbie, the chance to read other people’s work, which was wonderful! I hope to do more judging as I get more experience writing.

3) BEST OF ALL!!! This weekend we have the annual writer’s retreat. I’m so excited. Karen Docter and Deb Dixon are the guest speakers. We are also going to have an art time together and paint to help stimulate those creative juices. I've never painted on a canvas before. It’s my first writer’s retreat and it’s going to be fun. (Can you tell I’m excited??)

If you can’t find a local group to connect to, take heart. Those online groups can become a second family if you let them, like the Celtic Hearts. Find one that fits you and your writing.

And dig in and see if there isn’t a “local” group. If you’re willing to drive, there might be one out there for just for YOU!
 

~Michelle Muse

Friday, April 1, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul-Friday- Procrastination


 Procrastination. It’s a word that most of us have first hand experience with. According to Wikipedia procrastination is “the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low-priority, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.”

At some time or another, we all do it. Sometimes we do it without even recognizing it. All too often though, we know we are doing it. I mean, come on. We are all adults here. For the most part, we know. We know when we should be getting something done, and yet we make conscious decisions to do something else.
            It’s the consequences of our procrastination that trigger whether it’s something we need to work on. There are two consequences to procrastination:
1)      external- Do you send in the request for a partial or full MS after being contacted by an agent or publisher? Do we have a MS ready to pitch the day it’s being ask for or do you have to let another opportunity pass you by because you aren’t ready?
2)      Internal- Do you feel anxious all the time, even when you are doing something you enjoy because you know you should be writing, researching, reading and answering the questions for that online workshop you signed up for but aren’t really participating in? (Can you tell I’ve done that one?)

WHEN AND WHY WE DO IT:
Procrastinating doesn’t mean you are lazy or inefficient. It’s a habit that can be overcome by looking at its origin and making the right, but sometimes hard, choices.

First we have to look at why we do it when we know we shouldn’t? Here are the two big fears for writers. See if they fit you.
1)      Fear of:
a)      Failure-Do you avoid doing something because you think you won’t do it well? This involves the idea of perfectionism.

b)      Success-This is one that many people looking at us from the outside in don’t understand. Why would we be afraid of succeeding with what we want to do? Ask yourself these questions: Are you afraid that if you become a successful writer you will turn into a workaholic, someone no one else will want to be around? Or are you afraid that if you succeed everyone will expect more from you, making you live with pressure you aren’t sure you can live with?
2)      Perfectionism- Many of us know we aren’t perfectionists in all areas of life, just look at our homes, but in writing, we want only quality work. Producing something that isn’t up to our standards makes us feel that we aren’t good at what we do, so we just put off writing. As a newbie, I’ve been guilty of this one already. It can cause you to doubt yourself so badly, you even contemplate quitting altogether.
3)      You are too busy with life demands. This one is hard to shuffle. On the one hand, you want to write. You need to write. On the other hand, you have a family you have to interact with. Being a parent is hard work in its own right. Shuffling kids, “keeping” the house, being there for your spouse are all things that pull on your time. Finding a balance here is hard, but it’s doable. Do you put off writing by telling yourself that you are needed elsewhere? I’ve been there, done that one too.
4)      Procrastinating works. We have taught ourselves to avoid those things we dread by doing what we enjoy. It’s a way to escape those dreaded tasks.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?:
1)      Figure out when and how we are procrastinating. Don’t take too long on this, or you’re just procrastinating again, but often just looking inward can cause us to reason out the causes of our procrastinating.
2)      Create a productive environment. Here’s the clincher. This place needs to have no internet access! If you are addicted to email and facebook, this is a must. If you can put that window down and not think about it, it’s not as imperative you do that. Now be careful here. It’s easy to procrastinate during this step by working hard on our spot that our time is wasted looking for pretty, relaxing pictures to put on the wall instead of writing.
3)      If your schedule allows you to write for long periods of time, take breaks in your writing. Get a small projects done, like switching loads of laundry. Take a few minutes to stand and stretch your muscles. Set the timer for ten minutes and check your emails. Doing this will allow your brain to feel like it’s not working as hard, but in all actuality, you will probably be more productive.
4)      Break down you writing into obtainable goals. Figure out when you want to be done, how much you want to get done, and then take out your calendar and see what is a realistic way to get there. Having goals will help your writing in a way that you’ve never imagined.
5)      Have a new attitude. Tell yourself only POSITIVE THINGS! This one is probably my biggest struggle as a new writer. It has to do with that perfectionist disease, but it’s something I’m trying to work on. Don’t just tell yourself these things either. Write them down. Put them on your mirror, around your computer, your kitchen cabinets. Surround yourself with positive thoughts and quotes.
6)      Ask for help. Writing is a solitary endeavor. We sit at the computer in our own little brains for hours at a time. Sometimes we need to ask for help from our family. Getting help with household chores doesn’t make you an unfit mother. It makes you a mother who will raise her kids to call her ‘blessed’ because they’ve learned to do things they need to do in order to live away from you. I’m not saying you should sit around while your family does all the work, but asking for help once in awhile is a win-win situation. Really.

Procrastination is NOT a personality trait. It is a habit and it won’t go away just because you are aware you do it. But, as a habit it is something that we can overcome. Thank goodness. Now it’s time to take those first steps to change and get writing!!

For more information look at: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/procrastination.html

Friday, March 25, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul-Friday- Lessons From My Teenage Daughter



The past few weeks I’ve seen a connection between parenting and writing. As a parent I have learned so many things about my kids and myself along the journey, but the last 2-3 weeks I have come to really focus on two.
1)      My kids are not me. I know, this one should be obvious, but every once in awhile I need a big kick to suck that one down. They don’t see things the same way I do nor do they respond to things the same way I would.
AND,
2)      There is only so much control you have over your children. As much as you want to control their lives and the hurt that comes their way, you can’t. And maybe we really shouldn’t. Here’s why:

The past few weeks have been teaching times with my daughter. Long story short, her best friend turned on her. Texts, facebook posts. (And we all know the power of the word.) A horrible scene at a restaurant that resulted in my daughter leaving in tears.

Just as I’ve told my daughter through all of this, you can’t control what others say about you, only your response to it. As writers we need to remember the same thing. We are constantly told we must develop “thick skin”. There will be times when someone will say something about our MS that will hurt deeply.

 A few weeks ago, the first 250 words of my work-in-progress (WIP) was critiqued online. Twice, in big bold letters, they said that my work was boring for all of cyberspace to see. And while I nursed my wounds for a day or two, ok, more like five or six, I know that what they said was true and I’ve worked to fix it. As hard as this was to handle, I know it will happen again the more I take chances and put my work out there.

I have come to realize that what I’ve told my daughter this week is so true. In both life and writing we have no control over how others view us. We can only take what they have to say and chose to ignore it, or learn from it.

Improvement, after all, is what we are looking for. Our goal is to be published and that isn’t happening unless we share our writing and open ourselves up to the occasional growing pain. So go ahead, share your passion with others. Tell people you are a romance writer. Let people read your work. It will be worth it in the end!

~Michelle

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Endings

In life, no one is guaranteed a happy ending, but in romance, everyone is. Writing romance there are only two musts.

1) There MUST be a central love story.
2) There MUST be an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

As I said above, happy endings aren't "real" life, but who wants real life when you want to escape? I mean, come on, a story that ends with the hero and heroine with the wrong person, or worse, dying, is something that can keep you in a fog for days. Ok, maybe not you, but it does me. Nothing but the happily ever after stuff for me. Call me crazy. Call me delusional. Call me an optimist, but happy endings are the only way to go.







My very favorite romance author is Julie Garwood. Her historic romance books based in Medieval Scotland were my first taste of romance, and the first romance books I actually spent money on to collect. I've read them all, some of them three and four times. My favorite of all of those is Ransom. If you like historicals, you'll love this book. My husband once made a comment about my reading "sex" novels. I challenged him to read that book. Even he loved it. It is full of interesting and exciting storylines with a bit of romance on the side.








 My favorite romantic comedy movie is While You Were Sleeping. I just love Sandra Bullock. Who can resist Lucy's pull to have a family again? Not me. That scene where she finally admits to falling in love with "not that one. That one." gets me every time.

So what are some of your favorite happily ever after stories-movies or books? I'd love to hear from you.

~Michelle

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Beginnings

In light of just beginning this blog I thought I would take this first post to share a bit about myself. My name is Michelle Muse. I'm married to a wonderful man and together we have two children. I began writing when I signed up for National Novel Writer's Month in November of 2008 along with my teenage son. I "won" that challenge by finishing an original story of at least 50,000 words in one month, and have been hooked on writing romantic fiction from then on. With a few months off after the death of a dear friend, I began to get back into writing early 2010 and I've been writing since. I joined Romance Writers of America last summer. Through RWA I have also taken many writing workshops where I have met other people who also share this passion of writing and are either published or, like me, dream of being published.

I have finished two contemporary romance stories, one of which I am editing and reworking right now. My  heart lies in historical fiction so the next story I plan to work on will be based in medieval Scotland. I am also interested in the paranormal genre as well. 

There is nothing like digging deep inside of yourself to see and create your own characters, their lives and their community. It's a way for me to dig inside myself.

I hope to use this blog to share my journey, the ups and sometimes downs of writing for pleasure. I hope you will join me.