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Creating Characters

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I have been working on a new project for a while. Not getting as far as I had hoped. It takes me forever to get into my story. This project, I have been working on the plot and characters at the same time. Most of my stories start with an idea and then I try to find characters who might fit the situation.  I am neither a plotter or a pantzer, I am somewhere in between. (A pantzer is someone who doesn’t plan their novel, they sit down in front of a computer and write.) I am not a pantzer because I get too distracted with too many choices. I try to make as many choices about the story up front.

I chose this photo because it describes how I feel about my characters at this point. You can see the face but it is still part of the background. I need to pull them out of the background to make them living, breathing characters; well as living and breathing as you can in a novel.

I have been filling out forms and answering questions about my characters and they are beginning to feel more real. I write a little and build my characters a little at a time.  On the other hand, while I develop characters, I also start developing the plot. Once I know my characters better and I know what they want and need and their motivation, then my story starts unfolding.

Some of my friends say that their characters talk to them. I really wish it was that easy. When they say their characters won’t leave them alone and keep them awake at night,  I so want to tell them that there are drugs for that, but I don’t.

I am aware that I make my characters speak and they will not say or do anything that I don’t want them to say or do. There is a point though part way through the book where I write a scene and it feels wrong. Something isn’t right. Most of the time when that happens it is because I tried to force my character to do something to fit the plot. I hate when that happens. Usually in the books I read it happens at the end. It feels like the author got tired of the story or they had to have a certain word count and instead of editing the third act, they stick in a – the end- too soon. But that’s a later blog post about revision.

I still struggle to find my method of writing. Each project is a little different. I’ve never found  ‘the formula’. Maybe that is why I love to hear other writer’s talk about their process. Do you have a certain process you follow with each book? Would you like to share your process here? If you are a published author, would you like an interview on my blog where you could tell us about your latest book and a little bit about your writing process? If so, comment to let me know.

Though I read daily, I haven’t completed anything since our last post. So many books, so little time. I always have a few books that I have read a little but not completed. I usually go back to the one that pulls me back and the others wait until I am done.  I do read to improve my own writing. Some of my writer friends say they no longer enjoy reading because they read as a writer. I am not there yet. I still enjoy escaping into a good book.

How is your writing going? Do you have questions about the process or trying to work through something with your current project? Feel free to comment and if I don’t know the answer, I am pretty sure I know someone who does.

I mentioned last time about a bullet journal. My next post will be about getting organized and I will share the planner that I am using.

Hope you have a great week writing and reading.

Virginia

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July Already?

RWA2017

I have been planning for this since January and I cannot believe it is already July 2nd. There are so many things I had hoped to do before the trip, like losing 20 pounds. Well that didn’t happen.

Even though, this year has been going fairly smoothly. I am currently the President of our local chapter of Romance Writers of America and our organization has had a very good year, thanks to all the members and my fabulous board – Cole, Jan, Marilyn, and past President Kerry. We had a productive retreat in June thanks to everything that Marilyn did to head that up. We have found our “go to” person when it comes to events. We spent a day writing as a group. Well we did have a delicious breakfast and lunch – thus the need to lose 20 pounds. Everyone seemed involved in their writing. I was able to rough draft most of a chapter that day in my current work in progress.

We have added a few members and had several visitors over the past few months. So at this point, my year as President is half over. As you can see from the photo above, I plan to attend this year’s conference and I get the pleasure of traveling with Kerry. The two of us attended a conference in Chicago a few years ago. That had been Kerry’s first larger conference. I explained to her that one was only a taste of what to expect at the National Conference.

Romance Writers of America is the largest writer’s organization in the world and when they put on a conference, they don’t hold back. Attendees have access to so many choices for workshops and you get to meet hundreds of authors. They have luncheons with keynote speakers whose names are always gracing the NYTimes lists in huge conference halls with large tables set with fine linen and crystal. The food is always tasty and they treat you like royalty. There will be book signings held by the different publishers and if you are ready to pitch your work, there are agents and editors available. There will be award ceremonies and parties and the best opportunities to network with other writers.

I have attended and will be attending other writing events this year but this is the big one.

Part of the joy will be attending with a good friend and seeing her excitement of being a first time attendee.

What are your plans for this year? Do you have that one event that you can’t really do every year but you so look forward to – when you can?

Other things that have been keeping me busy this year besides reading and writing is I discovered Bullet Journals. It is another way for me to focus some creativity and be more productive – but I will make that another post in the future.

Here are a couple of books I’ve read recently. The Lost Girls is a haunting story about a woman who tells about the disappearance of her sister when they were children.  By the time we find out the truth the narrator has passed away and her niece has inherited the family summer home and has discovered a journal. We learn about the present day family and the past through flashbacks as the protagonist reads her great aunt’s journal. This one I could not put down. I love a mystery.

Full Wolf Moon pulled me in because I do love the Preston Child books I have read in the past. Though both collaborate on those, each write their own books also. I have had a fascination with werewolves since I was a child and watched the old horror movies in the sixties. Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy didn’t really scare me but the Werewolf did. This one had a pretty good twist and explanation but to be honest it didn’t grab me like I had hoped it would. It still was enjoyable and gave me ideas for maybe a future project.

What have you been reading? Always looking for suggestions. Hope your summer is going as well as mine and hope to spend more time with my blog.

 

Okay, if you have been following me for a while, I had abandoned my blog. I had heard that authors were finding blogging not so useful in their careers. It is true, with a full time job and trying to write – it is difficult to squeeze out the time. But blogging is something I do enjoy and even if the rest of the writing world doesn’t agree, I am going to attempt to get back into blogging because it is something that gives me joy. If that is all it does, that is okay too.

In the meantime, keep writing and reading.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

An Evening with Susan Elizabeth Phillips

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I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Elizabeth Phillips at an author event at the Franklin Library in Des Moines last week.  It was wonderful.

I met her several years ago in Anaheim at a Romance Writer’s of America National Conference. I attended her workshop and it was very informative and entertaining so I knew her talk would be memorable.

She write’s humorous romances with quirky characters. Most of her hero’s are sports figures. Her heroines are strong women who sometimes find themselves in awkward situations but it always works itself out in the end. If you have shied away from romance thinking you might not like it, I would encourage you to check out this author.

I arrived a few minutes early and met a handful of my Iowa Romance Novelist friends. We sat in a group toward the front. She introduced herself and then she acknowledged our organization. I have never had an author do that. She introduced us to the crowd to let them know about our local authors and to help us maybe attract a few new members.

Most authors stand up front and speak about how they started writing or where they got the idea for their last book. She did do a little bit of that but most of the evening was spent with her reading excerpts from her books and awarding gifts to the first person who guessed the correct book. Even though I have read a few of her books, I soon started feeling inadequate. These women were very familiar with her work and it quickly became a very lively event.

She explained how some of the children in earlier books were brought back and she told their stories.  The more she talked about the books, the more I wanted to read them. It was not a good thing for someone like me. I am a bookaholic.

That night I did buy two books and had her autograph them. What hooked me on Natural Born Charmer is the fact that someone is walking down the street in a beaver costume in it. I have to find out what that is all about. I bought First Star I See Tonight because it is her most recent book.

Since then, I have purchased most of the rest of her collection. It will take me a while to catch up and I know I will enjoy every minute.

But before I can start reading those, I had to finish the one I have been reading.

a-story-to-killIt is a cozy mystery with a protagonist who is a mystery author. Her ex-husband was a college professor and he owned a huge home close to the campus. After his death, he surprised her by leaving his home to her. She decided to make it into a writer’s retreat. She invites writers to spend one week a month there to work on their own books while she as the author in residence encourages them. It was the first in a series and I did enjoy it. The characters were likeable and it kept me guessing until the end where she did hint that her husband’s death may not have been a heart attack like she was originally told; so a little  mystery to come.

I continue to work on my projects. Working on the second draft of the novel I finished before I went to Tennessee. I put it away and have just taken it out so that I can look at it with fresh eyes.  I meet with my critique group Sunday so need to have something to share with them then.

I am also developing my mystery series. Not a lot to talk about at this point but moving forward.

Until next time, keep writing and reading.

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

A Rose By Any Other Name…

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I have had so much overtime for the past few months and it is making it a little more difficult to jump enthusiastically into my project.  In the past, I have tried to work a little bit each of my four work days to keep my three day weekend for writing and all the other tasks everyone has to do like, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and trying to spend a little quality time with family. Since I work a 10 hour day, I finally decided it was too much so started using my Monday off for overtime. The last few weeks we have had less overtime each week so I think it is trending to the point it will go away for a while.

I completed my hours for the week today and decided I needed to post my blog since I missed it last week so here is what I am doing:

I continue to develop my story for the new project. I am trying to name my characters. For those who don’t write, it is almost like naming your children. The name has to fit the character, their age, gender, and personality. You have to like the name and feel comfortable with it because you will be spending a lot of time with this fictional character. I am struggling a little with my protagonist. I’ve got a couple names so far but no last name yet. The only name I have decided on is the victim and her name is Faith. So I am hoping to push forward with the names today so I can move forward with this project.

Here are a couple of books I use for naming characters. Do you have a favorite character naming book? Would love to see what other writer’s use.

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I am also trying to start revising my completed project. I will share more about that process as I get further into it.

We have a Harlequin Editor coming to our Iowa Romance Novelist meeting in October  to do a program and am hoping to maybe make a connection to pitch the romance down the road, maybe.  I am reading a couple books on revision to help me get started. Will share those next week.

If you are in the Des Moines area and would be interested in a writer’s workshop. My chapter of Romance Writer’s of America – Iowa Romance Novelists will have a Red Quill Workshop October 15th from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM with a Harlequin Editor. This workshop will give you the inside track on the art and business of writing and publishing from an editor of one of the biggest publishing houses. Mystery, suspense, women’s fiction, romance, young adult, or any other genre. This is an amazing chance to meet a Harlequin editor face to face. Check it out on our Iowa Novelists Facebook page. Hope to see you.

I just finished reading ‘Last Ragged Breath’ by Julia Keller. She is one of my favorite authors. Just noticed her newest book just came out so will have to buy it – ‘Sorrow Road’. If you’re looking for an enjoyable mystery series, do check this one out. What are you reading? I am always looking for a new author.

Until next time, keep reading and writing.

Virginia

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Writing, Reading, and Work

writer writing

Post Killer Nashville Conference: I left the conference bursting with writing motivation. Couldn’t wait to get started with my new project and then life slams a pie in my face. We had 5 hours of overtime last week. We have 10 hours of overtime this week. I work four ten hour days to have a three day weekend every week. I do this to allow me time to write. Today it didn’t happen.

Since I can work from home sometimes, I decided it was bad enough I had to work on my day off and there was no way I was going into the office to do it, so I got up at 5:30 and was sitting in front of the computer at 6:15 in my pajamas. I thought I would work until 12:15 and then only have to work one extra hour a day to finish my overtime before the weekend. Then I got to thinking that next weekend is a holiday weekend and I really didn’t want to work late on Friday, so I decided to work an extra hour. Well per company guidelines, if you work longer than 6 hours, you have to take a lunch. I ran down to the kitchen to see what I could fix fast. Looked like I was down to peanut butter and jelly but the bread was a little iffy, even if I toasted it. So I ran back upstairs, pulled off my pajama bottoms, put on the shorts I’d worn the day before, a bra, and my pajama top – no need to put on clean clothes to run to the fast food drive through and besides I couldn’t fit in a shower and lunch too. Ran a brush through my hair and took off for the drive thru. Hurried home, ate my lunch at my desk while I continued working.

But then, I got stuck on a piece of work that took me 15 minutes into the next hour. I figured I might as well work another hour and then only have 2 hours left to finish before Friday. So my plan to be done by 12:15 PM stretched out to 2:45 PM. When I was done working for the day I hurried up and showered and dressed. This is why I could not work from home every day. I felt like a sloth.

I really wanted to start either working on my new project or edit a little of my manuscript I finished before my trip to Nashville but I couldn’t with a good conscience sit down to write until I made a trip to the grocery store. I then remembered that I would be working late a couple nights this week and for my husband’s sake decided to make him a nice dinner tonight because who knew what the rest of the week would hold. 11 hour days do sometimes wear me out.  I hurried to the store, came home, stuck a ham in the oven, and then turned on Netflix. I know, I could have sat down and started working on my book but I really needed a little break.

By the time I finished watching my show, it was time to finish fixing dinner. We ate and then I did the dishes and then I remembered I wanted to get my weekly blog post out so here I am. It is now going on 9:00 PM and I have no energy left to write. But I will. Since I only have two eleven hour days and two ten hour days this week, I am sure I will get something done. If not, I have saved my weekend. Since it is a holiday weekend, I am fairly sure I will have all three days free, rarely does the company allow us to work overtime on a holiday because it is time and a half. My only fear is that we will have ten hours of overtime again next week and I will then lose one of the following weekend days to overtime but I won’t know until Thursday. I will think positive thoughts that somehow the overtime will vanish and I can reclaim my days off.

In the meantime, I have been developing my new project a little. Writing notes down about the characters and plot ideas. Here are the things I know. I want to develop a mystery series. I want my protagonist to be a female private eye. I haven’t decided on her name yet but here is the background so far. Her mother died when she was a child. Her father raised her alone. He was a cop, so she followed in his footsteps. He died while on duty and she questions his death. She questioned the wrong person and lost her job so now she is a private investigator. This idea didn’t come from a headline in the paper or a television story, it was just an idea that I’ve been mulling around for a while.

My first story will be about a missing teenage girl. There will be a continuing thread about her investigating her father’s death. I plan to use the title – Finding Faith. The missing teen is named Faith and I hope to use it for both her name and my protagonist finding faith in herself, somehow. It is a working title. Publishers don’t often use the working title but for now, I like it.

Here is one of my research books I will be using, one of many. Robert Randisi edited this book and I think he also founded The Private Eye Writers of America. I sat with him and his wife at the Saturday night awards dinner at Killer Nashville. He is a very prolific writer. He has written a book a month since the 1980’s. To be honest, he looked really tired that night. Even if I could, I don’t think I would want to push myself that hard but if it’s working for him, I can’t knock it.

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And here is what I am currently reading. Some how I do find time to read. I think it’s essential to any writer to read. While work and everyday life seem to suck the energy from me, reading helps motivate me and Julia Keller is one of my favorites. I think this is her fourth. It is set in West Virginia, her protagonist is a prosecutor who isn’t trying to convict someone, she’s trying to convict the right someone so she conducts her own investigations while going to trial. I don’t know that much about the law and whether every thing is correct but I do know her books are a pleasure to read.

Last RAgged Breath

If you write, how do you begin a project? Do you start with the plot or the characters? Feel free to share your methods. I am truly interested in the craft of writing. I think it is amazing that someone can come up with a story out of no where and everyone seems to have their own system.  I think it can take a writer a long time to find what works. I also think it changes. Each project is a little different and what worked for one book may not work for the next.

Well it’s bedtime and tomorrow I have to do it all over again.

Until next time, keep writing and reading.

 

A Conference Saved My Blog

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I just got back from Killer Nashville – a mystery writers conference and it breathed life back into my flagging writing career. I not only am thrilled to be starting a mystery project but I also felt the need to bring life back to my dead blog.

This is going to be just a brief post. I have been gone for way too long. Short story, health and life issues pulled me away. Now life is much better and I miss blogging. I plan to ease back into this, hopefully a blog a week. All about writing depending on what is going on around me at the time.

I am an avid reader so will continue to read and review books just for the love of reading and maybe helping readers find stories that I enjoyed.

I hope to write about the craft of writing as I continue to write my novels. As I get further along in this adventure I hope to look a little more at the business end of writing but to be honest, I have to wait until I have a little more experience with that part of it. I will share my experience as I write my own novel, what stage I am in, what I am doing, what’s working, what isn’t working, and looking for suggestions from my friends who write and read my blog.

I hope to continue author interviews because I feel there is so much to learn from those who have already been there, done it.

I am also hoping to bring back the joy of blogging.

And oh by the way, that big dude in the middle is one of my local writing friends and mister in crime – Stephen Brayton, talking about how to use your day job to feed your writing career – in more ways than one. You can check out his book – Alpha – set in Des Moines with a protagonist who is a detective who is also into the martial arts.

For now keep reading and writing!

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Writing with a Few of My Friends

Winter snow 2015

“Molly the pit bull used to sit in the chair just behind me while I worked at my desk. She never commented on the writing, but since she loved everything I did, her presence did give me a sense of (unearned) security about it.” Billy Mernit

As you can see from my photo looking out my office, I am spending the day inside. It has been snowing since yesterday evening. Last I heard we were supposed to get 10 inches. I think we’ve passed that prediction. I have been having a very enjoyable day at home, catching up with laundry, reading, and writing.

I belong to a closed on-line community – The Perley Station Writer’s Colony. I have only actually met the one person who started this group. The rest I have come to know, a wee bit, online. We are there to share ideas and motivation and several times a year we do something that we call Writer’s Camp. We started the first one for this year today. It runs for the entire month. We set our own personal goals. They can be whatever we feel we need. We don’t judge, we just support. I am getting back into the habit of writing and it feels good. When I am not writing, I feel off. Unless you write, you probably wouldn’t understand. But I feel like I am again in a good place and writing is an important part of my life.

I easily write short stuff, stories, articles, columns but when it comes to a large project, I get overwhelmed and abandon them. This is the year that I plan to stop that bad habit. This year I want to complete at least one project but would like to complete more. That will entail more frequent writing so my goal this month is to write every day. I am using a book – 90 Days to your Novel. It has a daily chapter of advice and exercises. It starts out with 28 days of questions to answer regarding your story. You do it by free-writing for five minutes with each question. He suggests you write for two hours a day by doing the daily assignment as well as additional questions that can be found at the back of the book. I am committing to doing the daily assignments. That takes me at least an hour. I do feel that the questions are helping me with the story. They guide me so that I dig into what the story and characters are really about. On day 29 I will actually start outlining.

I have tried Nanowrimo over the years and have completed a 50,000 word projects but when I got done with it I always felt like it was just 50,000 words – never something that could ever be a story.. I am willing to take longer to develop a story that really has some feet on it. And I think by starting out this month writing every day will help me to develop that habit.

The writer’s in this group are at all levels. Some are published, some are not. Even though we haven’t met, they feel like friends. So like the quote above, they give me a sense of security. We don’t judge but we are there for each other to answer questions and to cheer each other on. I do have the feeling they could be like a pit bull from the quote above, grasping and never letting go until you do reach your goals. I am so grateful that Theresa invited me to be a part of this group. I feel as though I belong and that is a good thing. So this month, I will continue to press ahead and even when February is done, I will keep moving forward one day at a time until I get to the end of those 90 days. When I reach that goal with a completed project, I know my writer friends will be there to help me celebrate.

What else have I been up to?

Well did I say I’d been reading? I finished a friend’s book this week. “Yip/Tuck”. A cozy mystery by my friends Sparkle Abbey. I have known them for many years. We belong to a couple local writer’s groups and I am very proud of their success. In the last few years they’ve published through Belle Bridge Books six novels and they have a contract for two more. I would love to have something like that to show for my effort. Because I’ve watched their success, I know it’s possible, so I keep writing…

Do you have something you do to keep moving forward with your writing projects? Do you have someone to support you and make you feel like it’s all worthwhile? I feel like this is my year to shine. I know it will take a lot of work and I feel like I’m ready. Is this your year? How are you going to make it happen?

Until next time,

Virginia

 

 

 

 
 
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