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Happy New Year 2018l

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While sitting in my family room with my first cup of coffee this morning, we noticed tracks in the back yard. A deer had passed through while we slept. Wish I had seen it.  But then if I’d looked out in the night and saw it looking in, I might have been a little less enthusiastic about the whole experience.

Which brings me to my reason for this post – my  2018 writing project. I will be writing a mystery with a paranormal twist that involves death by werewolf. I know sounds a little gruesome but hey, it is a childhood fear. We’ll see how it goes.

I am sending this message out a few hours early. The new year won’t start until after midnight but I decided to get a head start.

This is in the very beginning stage of writing. I have been thinking about the idea for a while and taking notes but I haven’t actually started putting words on the page.

I plan to share my writing process this year. Hopefully it will help you with your project and help push me forward. If I have learned anything over the years it is that there is no one way to write a novel and from what my author friends have shared, it changes with each novel. Writers are always looking for their process. Hoping that it will make the next one easier. But once you’ve written a few, you know that is not true. Each project is different and you just have to do the work until you get to the end.

I am not a plotter or a pantzer but something in between. So my goal for this week is to figure out my plot points. I use those to guide me through telling the story. If I can figure out my plot points, then I can create scenes that will get me from say the beginning to plot point one and then on to plot point two and then to plot point three and then the resolution. Sounds easy but it’s not. There will be lots of writing and editing before it is ready for publication. This is all about the first draft and I do know that when it is done, it will not be done. It will be crappy because that is what first drafts are. So this will be my journey to write my crappy first draft. I can blog later about edit and revision.

Once I have that figured out, I’ll have a loose outline.

I need to know my characters so they can help me tell the story. So I will also be completing character sketches this week. I use the term complete loosely because as I write, I discover more about my characters and continue to write down information all the way through to the end. I will go into more details about this with my next post.

To help me get there I purchased my planner for the year. I am a geekster when it comes to office supplies. I have used several planners over the years and this year I have settled on the Top Down Planner. The concept is to help you discover your goals and the steps needed to accomplish them. It is supposed to help  you focus on what is most important. It looks like an upside down food pyramid except food isn’t involved, unless you snack as you plan but that wouldn’t help my other annual goal of weight loss but again, we won’t go there.

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Besides writing my other favorite pastime is reading but if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you already know that. Currently I am reading – Magpie Murders. I won it at a Christmas gift exchange with my local SINC chapter – SINC-Iowa. It had been on my radar for a while so it was a huge win. And by the way, if you live in Iowa and write either Romance or Mysteries and are looking for a writer’s group, I belong to both chapters. In fact I will be President again this year of the local Romance Writers of America Chapter. Both organizations are always looking to add membership so comment here if you’d like more information. Or go to the National websites and sign up and then you can locate our local chapters or one near you for more information.

I have had personal issues that have kept me away from my blog longer than expected but I plan to post more often, at least a couple times a month.  I hope you will follow my posts and feel free to comment often. Maybe together we can make 2018 a productive year.

Feel free to share your writing process and books you’ve read and since I’ve been fighting a Holiday cold and staying in from the bitter temperatures – a little chicken soup wouldn’t hurt also.

Stay safe and have a wonderful New Years Eve – see you next year!!!

Virginia

 

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Unlock Your Dreams With a Little Help From Your Friends

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“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” – Anais Nin

I have jumped back into my writer’s groups this year. Yesterday was the first meeting of 2015 for both Iowa Romance Novelists and Sisters in Crime. Both meetings involved setting goals and preparing ourselves for the journey of completing a new project this year.

I am Co-President of IRN and so will be very involved with that group this year. Our theme for the year is Finish the Book. We had a presentation that helped us identify the different things that may be holding us back. Way too many to list here but I thought it was interesting that even the published authors struggled with many of the things that are keeping the rest of us back.

Each month we will focus on a different aspect of getting our book done. We also have a new reward system set up. We have a list of goals to choose from. We choose only the ones we want to focus on. They have to be a little stretch and they involve several categories from reading to attending classes, conferences, workshops, writing so many minutes a day or pages per day, critiquing, and many others. If we accomplish 4 of the 12 listed goals, we will get a $10 Amazon card, 6, $25, and 10 $50. It looks to be an interesting year.

My Sisters in Crime group started out the year with Creating a Dream Vision. Our new President Jordyn Meryl brought all the supplies and members brought plenty of enthusiasm and magazines. Jordyn also brought each of us a VIsion journal. We spent the afternoon cutting out inspirational images to paste onto our Dream board. It could be just to help you with your life dreams or for your manuscript. I chose to start making it for my current wip. Will maybe post a photo of it when I get done.

All in all it was very inspirational. Today I have managed to make my list of characters and start my book bible. That is the binder I use for my project. I will continue to do character sketches this week and aim to have them done by next Friday. I printed off photos of my characters for both my vision board and my book bible. Plan to hang my vision board next to my desk. By end of month, I plan to have my outline complete so that I can start writing with my online campers, a closed writers group at Perley Station Colony Writers in February. I plan to set a weekly writing goal and get the first draft done as quickly as possible. I don’t plan to have it totally done by the end of February though. Iwill give myself at least a couple months for the first draft.

Have you started any new projects for 2015? Do you have any pre-writing rituals that you use before you start writing?

Are you struggling along on your own and would like some help? If you are in the Central Iowa area, IRN and SINC are always looking for new members. IRN meets the third Saturday of each month at the Urbandale Library this year from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. We have monthly programs, critique, and we are there to help and support. SINC meets the same day each month at Smokey Row Coffee Shop from 3:00 to 5:00. You can visit but if you are interested in becoming a member, you will need to join the National Organizations as well as the local chapter. Writing can be lonely, we can help.

Until next time,

Keep writing!

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Novel Writing, Writing a Novel

 

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Who Lives Here?

A visual for a writing prompt. Have some fun with it.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Writing Prompt

 

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Sometimes thinking up new ideas is like pulling teeth, very painful.

When that happens, I go back to the basics and start brainstorming.

I used to think that brainstorming was something you did before you started writing but the more I write, the more I understand that it is all brainstorming. The story doesn’t come to me full blown. I get a scene in my head and then I think about who might be the person in that scene. I then start developing that character and start making decisions on character goals. What does that character want? What would make that person want that goal and what is keeping that person from achieving it?

After I get a good feel for the character, I start looking at my plot points.

To put all the pieces together, I have to continue brainstorming. I brainstorm scenes to connect the plot points until I have enough for a story. Sometimes I brainstorm with friends but most of the time it is by myself.

Here are some ways to gather ideas:

1. Actual brainstorming: This is where you take a large piece of paper and interconnect circles on paper – start out with the character’s name in the center of the paper. Make other circles around with whatever subject you want to connect to the character like, family, love interest, career, fears. There are no real rules. Do what works for you. Use colored pencils or pens, draw pictures, have fun.

2. Write from prompts. I sometimes do this once I am already writing. I take a prompt and see how I could use it for my story. Again, ‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ is a great resource.

3. Use a book journal. Write down all of your thoughts about your novel. What do you want to have happen? What could happen next. Write down as many ideas as you can and choose the one that might surprise the reader most. Play the what if game.

4. Watch a movie or read a book. Maybe a character will trigger an idea you can use. As an example: Remember that movie -‘The Man Without a Face’ with Mel Gibson? I loved that movie but it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to. I have always wanted to take that character and make a love story. Kind of a modern Beauty and the Beast.

5. Go for a walk, clean the house, or take a shower. Sometimes doing something mindless invites the creative part of your brain to throw out ideas. Just be ready to catch them.

6. Listen to music. Especially the radio in the car. I came up with the title to one article for my column from listening to the radio. It was back in the ’80’s and I wrote a ‘slice of life’ column in the local newspaper. The song was ‘Going Through the Big D and I don’t mean Dallas.’ My article was  – ‘Going Through the Big D and I Don’t Mean Dallas or Divorce’. I then went into a humorous anecdote about the other Big D – Driver’s license and what happened with my daughter and her test. That piece got the editor’s attention and me a column.

7. Just write. Words will beget more words until everything clicks and your story unfolds on the page. Set a timer.

Once you’ve got enough ideas to fill in the skeleton of your novel, start writing.

Where do you get your ideas? Do you ever get stuck and don’t know what to write next? What do you do?

Next week, I will share some information about writer’s conferences.

Hope your ideas flow like vanilla bean ice cream covered in bubbly hot fudge. 

Virginia

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Write a Novel

 

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What can I say?

Have to apologize. This summer got away from me. I have been dealing with some health issues and have let my blog and my writing slide. I haven’t totally quit writing. I have been trying to develop a new story. I got no where with it.

I am feeling better and now I am getting that old desire to sit in front of my computer for hours and make up things. My idea I have been struggling with doesn’t seem to want to come together but I do have one of my stories that I abandoned that seems to be calling me. It has some characters that I love and when I shared them with my critique group in the past, they seemed to like them too.

Take the Sweet Home Alabama premise, toss in a couple little old ladies from Keokuk Iowa who like to play the slots, a female impersonator named Merci and set it in Vegas. That is what I will be working on for the next few months. I managed to outline the story from beginning to end and have started writing. I have only a couple scenes that I will use from when I worked on it before. One where the heroine meets Agnes and Frieda on the plane to Vegas. Their seats get mixed up and the two old women are sitting on either side of the heroine. She offers to switch seats but one of them says that they couldn’t do that. If the plane crashed they wouldn’t be able to identify them. Freida is shorter and has a matronly figure. Agnes is thin and was once a looker. Agnes has outlived three husbands so far. Each one left her a little better off financially.

I had a chance to pitch this story to a couple agents a few years ago and got some positive feedback.

Plan to blog at least once a week. I won’t be doing Nano this year but I am part of a closed online group with an author friend so will be participating in our own November Writing Camp. I have already decided what my goal is. We just post our progress and chat. It’s fun and less stress.

If you are planning to do Nano, I wish you luck and happy writing.

Until next time.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Novel Writing, Uncategorized

 

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Struggling To Put The Words On The Page…

I hereby apologize for abandoning my blog. I let life get in the way and every day that I was away the harder it was for me to come back.

It is not just my blog I abandoned but also my writing. I struggled trying to write something but the words wouldn’t come. I had ideas but nothing would gel. I worried about too many things I had no control over and I let it keep me from doing the one thing I really wanted to do, write.

I know now that it wasn’t the writing I was avoiding, it was because I have been totally involved in trying to improve my situation with my daytime job. I currently work in a call center. Call centers are open 24/7 so I don’t have a normal work week. I get Saturday and Tuesday off. I have been doing this for 3 1/2 years and I have started to feel as if all I do is work. I finally had both Saturday and Sunday off this weekend because the company had to close the office while they worked on the power in the whole building. It was only two days but because I had that time off all at once, it felt like a vacation.

I have been applying for other jobs in other departments. I had an interview for the most recent one last Monday and am waiting to hear back. if I get it, it will be Monday through Friday.  I came in the week before on my own time to shadow for the job and then I came in again on my own time to interview. I am serious about this change and I hope that it happens. If not I will continue to keep trying. I really am not asking for much, I just want normal.

I had an epiphany and realized that I really can’t control a lot about my day job. I have no real control when it comes to changing jobs other than revising my resume, dressing the part, and convincing the people I interview with that I am the person they need.

I can control my writing. It is the one thing that brings me the most joy and I have been punishing myself by not doing it. I wrote a chapter and a half this weekend on my novel and I made up my mind I would come back to my blog. I really have to finish the novel but I will post something here once a week.

Off to bed. I plan to get up early enough to write before work in the morning. If I can start my day off doing something I really want to do, it makes the rest of the day more bearable.

Hopefully I will get the job and normal weekends will become the norm.

Happy writing…

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Writing a Novel

 

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Bringing a Story to Life

I am on the path of writing a first draft. I find that my words are lean without a lot of fluff. That is how I write the first draft. Later as I edit, I add details that bring the story world to life, at least it does for me.

A linen table cloth gives you a different vision than a red checked plastic cloth on a table. If you use only a tablecloth as your description it leaves a wide range of ways to interpret your description.

His eyes were blue.

Or

His eyes were steel blue or icy blue, or baby blue, or the color of blue that could pull a woman into his arms with a wink.

Use your senses and be specific. What does your character hear, smell, touch, as well as see. Adding in the specifics pulls the reader into the story.

Use the name of locations, the Mississippi river instead of the river. The Midwest or Kansas City, MO. Which gives you a better picture in your mind’s eye?

I am finding that using more detail is adding to my word count significantly. But unlike my attempts with Nanowrimo in the past, I am adding not just words but a real story.

How do you bring your story to life? What keeps pulling you back each day to write? Do your characters take over or do you plan their every move?

I will share more of my writing journey and would love to hear about your experience along the way. 

Virginia

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Writing a Novel

 

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Contests – Can They Help Even if You Don’t Win?

Our Iowa Romance Novelist’s group met today. I mentioned in an earlier post that our theme this year is Survivor. This is not exactly like the television show. No one will get kicked off the island but we are attempting to help each other achieve our goals by working as a team.

This month’s program was about contests. We each received the first five pages of a Golden Heart winner’s manuscript. She then gave us the instructions for judging it. There were different points allotted for romance, plot, writing, and character.

As a group, we were all over the board with our answers. It was all subjective. Some looked only at what they could see. Others judged off of where they could see the story going. We were not aware when we started that this was a winning entry. This exercise gave us a feel for how an agent or an editor might review a submission. We all agreed, they would probably make a decision within those first five pages.

Part of the challenge is that we have to submit something to a contest before the next meeting. If we do, we will have a chance to win our entry fee. I am now searching for something I can enter. Since my manuscript is not complete, I am limited to something that doesn’t involve submitting a large portion of my work.

I am now writing my first draft. Keep an eye on my word counter here on my blog and you will be able to see my progress. I am also saving vacation time this year in the hopes that with a completed manuscript I can start attending more writer’s conferences in 2014.

I do continue to read because like Stephen King, I don’t think you can be a serious writer and not read. I usually mix it up with novels and writing how to books.  I finished reading Beautiful Creatures and really enjoyed it. I read Mary Buckam’s Writing Active Setting Book 1 and I purchased Book 2. I think those will really help when I get into the editing stage for adding depth to the story. Because I have a 40 minute commute to work each day I listen to audio books. I finished Evanovich’s Notorious Nineteen and I am currently listening to a Robert B Parker’s Jesse Stone book.

I will let you know next time what contest I enter. Hope you have a great week writing. Now get off the internet and write.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Write a Novel

 

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Stuck But Digging Out

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Again I apologize for the time between posts. I know it isn’t a real excuse but I have been taking classes since before Thanksgiving on the writing craft. I think I have hit a wall where I need to take all the information I absorbed and actually use it for my story.

Luckily I have a strong support group of writer friends who have been taking some of the classes with me. One of the organizations I belong to is Iowa Romance Novelists. It is our local chapter of Romance Writers of America and the source for some of my free classes.

Each year we try to put together programs to help our members at whatever level they are with their writing to move forward and succeed. We do have a handful of published authors including Sparkle Abbey who I have featured here before who write the Pamper Pet Mysteries and Kathy Bacus who writes the Calamity Jane series. This years Theme for IRN is Survivor. In January, our challenge was to write a synopsis. It didn’t have to be ready to submit but a work in progress. Our reward was chocolate. February we had to write down our goals for the year and our reward was a nifty Survivor bracelet.

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All of this activity has prompted me to move forward and I am feeling pretty darn good about meeting my goals this year. My synopsis helped me to determine exactly what my story is about and I have been using that to plot it out with note cards. I am using Scrivener, not actual note cards. I continue this week to fill in the holes.

With all the changes in the publishing world, it could be easy to get discouraged. But instead of looking at the negatives, I’ve decided to look at the positives and embrace the changes. I look at it as more options for everyone.  It is always easier to go with the flow than try to swim upstream against the current. Disliking the direction things are going in will not stop change from happening but it could affect your mood and your writing.

I found myself trying to force a story and I kept getting stuck. No matter how much I wanted it to work, it wouldn’t so I asked myself what would make me excited about this story?. That question led me to bring back a couple characters I worked with on another project and always felt they should be part of a series.  Picture two old ladies wearing polyester slacks and matching sweatshirts with a slot machine embroidered on the front. Those characters are Agnes Hughes and Frieda Kirkpatrick. Both over 65 years old, friends since childhood, like to play slots and bingo and are always getting into trouble. I could have fun spending time with these two. I merged them into the story I have been struggling with and now I have something I can’t wait to write.

 

Our challenge for March is entering a contest. I plan to enter the Montezuma short story contest again this year. Hoping that will count. The reward is a drawing for a paid entry fee.

What have you been doing to keep yourself moving forward? Do you have a support system of other writers? Do you take classes to sharpen your skills? Do you attend writers conferences and support local authors when they come to speak?

My mantra this year is “I will survive.”  Will you?

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Write a Novel

 

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Tuesday Musings

 

 

thumbn_2945026921Tuesday is my day off. I normally meet with a friend every other Tuesday. Our schedule got messed up with the holidays so haven’t got together for a while. Today we couldn’t meet because she came down with the crud that is circulating. I am pretty sure I had it back before Christmas. I had the bronchitis thing that lasted for about six weeks. So we skipped again today.

I should be writing. I want to write but I have all these things I have to do today, errands, haircut, laundry, and I have to spend a little time doing housework since my next day off is Saturday and I already have meetings with two writers groups that start at 8:00 AM and don’t finish until 5:00 PM that day.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I wish I was financially secure enough that I didn’t have to work and could write full time but don’t really see that ever happening. I will fit in some time to write later today. Maybe while the chili simmers for supper.

I am currently taking a ‘Finish your Mystery Class’. Trying to keep up with the assignments. Each assignment is one step closer to writing the book and I think that is what is making me a little melancholy about the whole thing. I just want to get it done but I know that what I am doing will make the finished book better. I just need to trust that I can push through to the end.

My word count hasn’t moved because of the classes, I will start updating as soon as I get back into actually writing the book. I have learned a lot from each of the classes. The Mystery Writing class I took before Christmas helped me learn more about structuring a mystery. The Fast Draft Class taught me that there is no way I can write 20 pages a day, at least not yet. I did learn that even if I can’t write 20 pages a day that I can set a daily goal that will challenge me but not stop me and if I do it consistently, I will get this done. Just not in 2 weeks. I am learning more about writing the mystery in this current class and feel I will finish further along the path toward publication. I will complete this novel. It’s there, I just need to get it on the page.

How is your writing going? What do you do when you get stuck? How do you keep motivated? Do you write alone? Do you have people who keep you moving forward? When do you write?

If you are out there writing alone, I hope I can help motivate you.

Keep in touch,

Virginia

 

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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Writing a Novel

 

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