Tag Archives: motivation

Finding Your Writing Voice

I began my writing journey over ten years ago and from the get go I submersed myself in learning and refining my craft. Even then, I heard talk about ‘finding your writing voice,’ but didn’t pay it much attention. I mean, I was too busy trying to learn how to write a book : )  I read every romance and women’s fiction that I could get my hands on, and joined a critique group.

Then I started to attend conferences and saying I was overwhelmed, well that’s putting it mildly. A few years passed, and I found workshops no longer exhausted and overwhelmed me. Instead, I actually began taking away information that I could apply to my own writing projects. I thought, hey, my book is good, but it can be so much better, so I used what I learned. I entered contests and received some great feedback. I pitched to editors and although they rejected my projects, I often received nice, detailed letters encouraging me to revise and resubmit.

On some of the revision letters I was told to take my writing to the next level—the story flows, now add some personality and give the book flavor. Now, some writer’s sell their very first book, or even their second. Some go on to win awards and become NYTimes bestsellers right off the bat. I’m not one of those writers. Everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve had to work hard for. Ahhh, but that’s another blog for another day : )

Anyway,  I wondered about what the editors had said, what it meant to take my writing to the next level, so I talked to as many published writers as I could and they all told me the same thing. Relax and trust in your skills, it will happen. But I was still frustrated. It doesn’t help that I’m the kind of person who hates to wait. What did they mean, relax? I kept thinking, when will it happen? Where is this voice I’m supposed to have and why is it so hard to find?  Not until I pushed the thought from my mind–when I said enough of this frustration and trying to find something I don’t know how to find, did I truly relax. And what do you know…

I had my ‘aha’ moment a few weeks later when I was reading a chapter I’d written out loud to myself. I liked what I was hearing and somehow it seemed different than my other books. My dialogue was more conversational–my characters witty and real. I caught myself laughing at these people I’d written–what they were doing, and why.

I added my personality, made my characters endearing, quirky and appealing, and it was then, not until I was well into my fourth book, that my writing voice took form. I found that by giving my characters the opportunity to become real people reader’s want to relate to, my writing voice flowed freely.

It’s funny, I’ve heard that when you read your book, the emotions you feel are the emotions the reader will feel, but somehow I didn’t get it until it happened to me. Right there in the quiet of my own little office on a day I will never forget, I found the voice that had probably been there all alone. I just didn’t know how to coax it to come on out and play : )

Best,

Cathy Tully

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo LogoI’m glad to say that my little corner of NJ survived Sandy with little incident. My heart goes out to all of those who have been devastated by this storm. I sincerely hope they can start to get back on their feet soon.

It’s November 1, do you know what that means? It’s day one of NaNoWriMo. If you’re a writer, you probably know what that is, but for those who don’t. November 1-30 is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.  There’s even a website that has forums and tools to help support you in you quest. Check it out here at www.NaNoWriMo.org. This can be a really great motivator because there are so many people across the country working towards this same goal with you and encouraging you along.

Whether you get to 50k or not this endevour can be a great way to get your story out on the paper. It’s about speed versus finesse. It’s a month long spew. Regardless of what you put on the page, by the end of the end of the month you’ll either have the skeleton of a novel or a solid beginning. As someone once said, you can’t edit an empty page. So, even if, in your opinion, what you produce is a flaming pile of cud, at least you’ve got something to fix.

Personally, I’m thinking I’ll do it this year. I’ve got something that I’m working on that I’d really like to knock off my plate and this may be just what I need to get it done. So who’s with me? Who else is going to take the NanoWriMo plunge?

~Rayna

Writing and Rhythm

I’ve just passed the halfway point in my work-in-process.  From here on out I expect to gather steam.  For me, the beginning of a book is always the hardest part.  My last project, SHE CAN TELL, came out nearly perfect in one draft. I call it my gift book. That will never happen again.

So far, writing MIDNIGHT SACRIFICE had a painful start, which I blogged about here. I tried a book-in-a-week with no success and ended up floundering around for about 8 weeks with few pages to show for my effort.  The fix ended up being the simplest thing of all: just writing. I gave myself a daily word count.  It didn’t matter what I wrote, I had to meet my goal for the day before I went to bed. The first week or so was painful. There were a few very long days and late nights. But, the more I wrote, the easier it got.The story developed flow and rhythm.

I’m happy to report the book is cruising along quite nicely at the moment. <knocking on wood> In the last few week, I’ve upped my daily goal from 1,000 words to 2,000, with my sights set on finishing the draft before the family vacation.  Discipline is a foundation of martial arts, so I thank my studies there for the sheer determination that got me over the hump. When you’re knocked to the ground in the sparring ring, doing nothing isn’t an option. If you want to earn your black belt, you have to get up and defend yourself. Writing takes the same amount of commitment. Deadlines don’t allow the professional writer the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike.

So, my cure for difficulty with writing is writing, even if it what I’m throwing down on the page feels like monkey poo. Does anyone else have a go-to method to get their book off the ground?

Living the Book by Angela Knight

One of the pleasures of being a writer is the moment when the story comes alive. The scene bursts into my brain, shimmering images flowing through my consciousness as my hero and heroine argue, make love, and fight for their lives against some overwhelming force.

I love to read – the walls of my house are lined with bookcases stacked three deep with books.  Yet as much as I enjoy other people’s stories, they never make me fly the way my own do.

It’s not that I consider myself better than those other writers. In fact, I’m a rabid fangirl when it comes to my favorite authors.

Yet not even Nora Robberts or Lois McMaster Bujold or Tanya Huff has ever given me the soaring high I feel when I watch my own stories unfold.

Those moments are why I write.

It’s not the money, though God knows cash is always welcome, especially in this economy. But if you want to know the truth, I’d write even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. In fact, that’s what I did for years before I got published.

I caught the writing bug when I was just nine years old. Even as a child, I loved the way characters bloomed in my mind like bright flowers – the talking mice, the superheroes, the horses running free across landscapes I’d never seen.

I felt driven to put those images on paper, first with a pencil, then with my mother’s electric typewriter. (Yes, dinosaurs do roam the earth. Arrrrrr!)

I was seventeen the first time I got the courage to start submitting my work. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of practice to learn how to write, and I hadn’t yet mastered my craft. For years, every story I wrote was rejected.

When I turned twenty, my bewildered father asked me why I kept torturing myself.

“Why do you keep sending those things out? You’re never going to get published.” He wasn’t being cruel. He just hated seeing my crushed disappointment every time I opened a rejection letter.

For once, I had no idea how to put what I felt into words. “I’ve just got to, Dad. I need to.”

He shook his head and turned away.

How could I explain my addiction to the glittering people in my head? How could I make him understand what it felt like to craft the perfect sentence that captured what I saw in my waking dreams?

My father isn’t a writer. He couldn’t understand what it felt like to spill a river of words on the page strong enough to sweep a reader into another world.

Writing is my addiction, my demanding lover, my obsession. Its hold on me is so strong, I never doubted I’d one day be published.

So I kept writing, though I knew exactly how long the odds against me were. I didn’t give a damn about the odds.

The only thing I cared about was the people in my head – watching them live and love and fight…and sometimes die.

No wonder people say writers are crazy. They’re right. We’ve just figured out how to use borderline schizophrenia for fun and profit.

At last my stubborn dream came true. Berkley editor Cindy Hwang called and asked if I’d like to write erotic paranormal romance for her.

Hell yes!

But as I finally realized my ambition of becoming a full-time writer, I also discovered what it’s like to write 100,000 words with a deadline looming over my head like a legal tsunami.

Contracts have a way of turning creation into a job. Unfortunately, muses don’t like to punch a time clock.

Even so, there are times my dreams become vivid enough to drive all thoughts of contracts and editors right out of my head. I often had such moments with Master of Shadows.

I watched Belle Coeur pick her way through the ruins of a burned house, searching for the seared fragments of a young werewolf’s spell book. Sparks danced over the ashes as her blonde hair shimmered in the morning sunlight.

I saw Tristan battle the Beast, his sword catching the moonlight as he dodged the bearlike creature’s raking claws and snapping fangs. Powerful muscle rolled beneath his magical armor, blade sweeping in great arcs with all his legendary skill.

My heart pounded almost as fast as the keys I hit as I worked to capture each flash of the blade and surging heave of the monster’s brawn.

When Tristan and Belle finally gave in to their mutual desire, I felt the heat of the knight’s touch, the rise of Belle’s answering magic, the sweet, burning trail of Tristan’s tongue drawing patterns on smooth, pale skin.

I felt each rolling thrust of his powerful body and the answering hungry rock of her hips. I heard her cry of delight and his roar of pleasure.

I also felt their anger and despair as they confronted the ghost that haunted Tristan – Isolde, the legendary lover who’d betrayed and tried to kill him. Though long dead, she stood between them like a cold stone wall, making Tristan distrust both himself and Belle.

When the Magekind marched to meet the Direkind, I loved the cool glint of moonlight on armor, the flash of swords, the rippling snarl of attacking wolves. I saw dragons take to the air as the witches of Avalon formed a shield wall of golden magic against the werewolf wizard’s furious blasts.

But sometimes those beautiful images failed to form, and I was left pacing the floor and struggling to find the key to unlock my dreams.

I’ve never written a book without getting a case of writer’s block somewhere in the process. Hours, even days, are often lost as I wrack my brain for that missing scene, that flash of inspiration that will let me see the rest of the story.

I always take long walks and longer baths, staring into lit candles like one of my witches, looking for the future in the leap of the flame.

In desperation, I often spill the plot out to my patient husband or one of my critique partners, hoping they will make some brilliant observation that will send the story spilling through my brain.

That happened with Master of Shadows one night as my husband worked on dinner. (Cooking is not among my talents.)

I spent a half hour ranting about my frustration as he worked. Suddenly Mike looked up and said something. I have no idea what, because my brain was instantly flooded with the story his words triggered.

I envy the people who deny the existence of writer’s block. I firmly believe those lucky bastards don’t get blocked because there’s something different about the way their brains create a story.

Still, to deny the existence of writer’s block because you don’t get it makes about as much sense as a color blind man saying there’s no such thing as red.

I simply can’t write the story until it’s in my head. Until it is, I’m locked in mute frustration, pacing and muttering and watching bad movies, hoping that something, anything, will make my creative subconscious yark up the next scene. And with it, my next fix of images, emotion and words.

As I write this, I’ve just started work on my next novel, Master of Darkness. I’m looking forward to it. I can already tell it’s going to be one of those fabulously vivid dreams as my werewolf couple battles the wizard determined to destroy the Magekind.

Yet even in the midst of all that conflict, love will still manage to bloom between Justice and Miranda, all velvet petals and raking thorns.

Unfortunately, the details of the story haven’t solidified yet. Until they do, I can’t start writing. But they’ll come. They always do — and I can’t wait.

I need my next fix.

Best,

Angela Knight

For more information about my books, check out my website at www.angelasknights.com

What Makes a Good Villian

What makes a good villain? What makes Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege or Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter so intriguing and yet so bone-chilling to watch? Obviously, these two gentlemen are supremely talented actors, but there has to be more to it then that. Without the right ingredients even the best actor in the world can only do so much to bring a character to life. IMO, the qualities that help create a good villain are the same ones that make a good hero/heroine: A solid goal, motivation, conflict and a sharp intelligence.

Just like you don’t want your hero or heroine to be too stupid to live, the same holds true for your villain, unless you’re writing a cartoon. We may get a kick out of Dr. Evil’s antics and cluelessness, but that’s part of what makes the Austin Powers movies so funny. Take Dr. Evil and put him in a dark intense murder mystery and it all falls apart. You want your protagonist and your villain to be on a level playing field intellectually. You don’t want to make it too easy for your villain to be captured, stopped, etc. You want your hero and villain to match wits with each periodically gaining the advantage until the bitter end.

The next piece to the good villain puzzle is a solid goal, motivation, and conflict. If  your villain is seeking world domination that’s fine, but he needs a solid reason for wanting world domination.  Being mentally unstable is not good enough IMO.  I’m not saying that your villain can’t be insane, but that insanity should be a trait that makes him unpredictable and ups the creep factor. It shouldn’t be their sole motivation. Think of  Tommy Lee Jones’s character in Under Siege.  Sure he’s crazy and he’s greedy. But his betrayal by the government is so deep that it pushes him over the edge. Pushes him to finally turn against what he once defended.  He’s highly skilled and very smart and as you watch the movie you see that battle of skill and wits play out until the final battle at the end.

Sometimes the sympathetic villains are even more fun then the irredeemable ones.  First because it gives you the potential for another story, but also because you can really ramp up the internal conflict in this character. Think 0f Darth Vader. He starts the Star Wars trilogy on one path, but by the end he’s deeply conflict and winds up turning away from the dark side. Another great example, are the heroine and villain from Maggie Shayne’s book Infinity, a particular favorite of mine.  Throughout the whole book you see the villain as mean, spoiled, and selfish. Then you come to learn that everything she did was because she wanted the hero’s love and attention. She was used by both her father and the hero as a means to form a political alliance and all she really wanted was someone to love her. She never had it from her father and when she realized she wasn’t going to get it from her husband either she lashed out.  As abhorrent as her behavior was there was something about her that a reader could understand maybe even connect with. This  is why it wasn’t that hard to switch gears when she became the heroine in the next story.

Well I’ve rambled on long enough. Why don’t you share with us what you think makes a great villain? Who are some of your favorite bad guys?

~Rayna

First Draft Momentum

How do you keep the words flowing?

I’m three-quarters of the way through a work-in-process.  The project is progressing faster than any other I’ve ever written, thanks to a no-excuses daily minimum word count.  In the beginning, when I typed up a writing schedule to write in my word count to date, the daily accountability was daunting.  But once I adjusted, the benefits of a formal “log” quickly became apparent.

The formality did two unexpected things.  First of all, looking at the proof that I would have an 80k rough draft in approximate eight weeks was incredibly motivating.  We all know when we begin chapter one, the next 350 pages loom over us like a Mt. Everest of words.  Secondly, the momentum I generated by committing to 1,500 words every single day increased my creativity.  I’ve been able to stay immersed in the project, picking up the plot line each morning without any need to recap what I wrote the day before. I’ve brainstormed plot issues on the fly and kept all my subplot balls in the air.  (A freakin’ miracle!)

And no excuses means exactly that.  If I got stuck on a plot point, I go back and flesh out an earlier scene.  Words not flowing?  I’ll outline scenes to come.   Busy day?  Take the laptop in the car.  Prop that sucker up on the steering wheel and write in the parking lot during my teenager’s guitar lesson.  A few days I’ve stayed up very late to get the words on the page.

So, I’m crossing my fingers.  The draft should be done (or nearly so) in another two weeks.

What works for you?  How do you keep the words and pages flowing?