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I’ve been burning the midnight oil a lot lately. To no good purpose, I might add. Just to watch time go up in smoke. The ending of a year does that to me, encourages me to squander my remaining resources.
I also find that the final days of December cause me to think more about endings than beginnings. The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nine has been no exception. It was a bad year for me, and I’m not sorry to see it go.
I wrote next to nothing this year. I reinforced my poor self image by being unreliable in my writing commitments to this blog and to the Mission: Possible! exercise. Over the last two years my writing productivity has ground to a halt yet again. I used to be frightened when this happened. I thought my Muse had died, and that I would never write again.
The good thing about having years of writing experience under my belt is the knowledge halts and dry spells don’t last. You can BICHOK and begin again. If any of you are suffering from doubts or writing blocks, I would suggest you take the valuable suggestions to be found in Rox’s blog of December 29th and put them to use. Start by making specific goals and writing them down on paper. Don’t be too hard on yourself or waste time in recriminations. Move with the flow of the universe and renew yourself with positive thoughts and good fellowship with other writers.
I wish you all good things in the days to come. I offer you a toast: May your days be long and filled with the joy of family and friends. May your imagination be fruitful, and may your writing tools produce many pages. May your work lead you to a publisher’s door, and may you earn the lasting satisfaction of authorship.
Have a Happy New Year!
I'm a sentamentalist who keeps way too many "memory" items. I have boxes of old school papers of my own, my siblings, and my daughter's. I'm the designated keeper of all generations of family photos for my family and for my husband's family. I keep souvenirs from trips, from events, and even movie tickets. Basically if it can (and probably shouldn't be) kept, I keep it. (I am trying to sort through things now and thin out those amazing collections since I don't believe my daughter really wants to inherit quite so many "treasures.") And I have many, many special keepers from Christmases over the years.
I enjoy seeing what my friends and family collect as decorations. Some people put up exquisitely decorated trees or have holiday designers do their trees. They are nice, in my opinion, but not special. I like seeing trees filled with ornaments made and collected over the years. That's the kind of Christmas tree we put up. Some of my most beloved ornaments are the twisted pipe cleaner ones or the felt ones made by my daughter when she was very young. You aren't really sure what they are, but they're keepers. Even more so because she always tries to hide them at the back of the tree.
I also treasure the ornaments friends and family have made for me: beautifully beaded ones made by my Great Aunt, handpainted ones lovingly created especially for me by my niece, crocheted candy canes, and the special ornaments people choose for me. And I pick up ornaments when I travel to different places.
Every year when I decorate the tree it's a time to reflect on the past. The last few years my daughter and one of my nieces has helped decorate the tree and put out my other holiday collections of decorations: snowmen, angels, Santas, gingerbread men, and my holiday houses. As we pull out the decorations and decide what to put on the tree, we talk about our memories of the ornaments. Unless an ornament gets totally broken, it will find its way onto the overly decorated tree. The wounded but beloved ornament will be nestled on a branch. The tattered and stained small cloth angel that my daughter took from the tree and played with when she was young still finds its way onto our tree.
I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas and that you took the time to drift through pleasant memories of past years.
We were all packed into my sister’s living room, sharing space with crumpled wrapping paper and gifts haphazardly strewn across the floor. The fireplace was warming my backside as I sat at its corner on the floor. The scent of apple and cinnamon candles, turkey, pumpkin pie and wood smoke permeated the air. The crackle of the fire was punctuated by rounds of laughter, thank you and the occasional, “Oh good grief, what am I going to do with that?”
My sister’s gift to me was a good sized box which I dutifully shook, and attempted to weigh, but had no clue what it might actually contain. Imagine my extreme surprise to find a case, not just a box, but a case of Team cereal. I was so excited I actually screamed my delight.
For those of you under the age of, well, just under; Team cereal was the BEST cereal of my generation and our personal favorite. It was healthy too, which made us seem really weird to our friends, but we didn’t care. We noticed in the early nineties, I think, that our usual store quit carrying it. We then excitedly called each other and bought extra boxes to share any time we did happen upon some but eventually, it went the way of the dinosaur and disappeared from sight.
Imagine our heartbreak and disappointment at finding no Team to start our days with. We each sampled unknown, but similar looking cereals, in hopes of finding a suitable replacement but to no avail. Disenchantment and disappointment ruled our mornings (Big Sigh!) until my sister sneakily discovered that it could be ordered by the case from our friendly neighborhood Dillons store.
My ecstasy increased when I offered to share the case with her and she informed me that she had bought her own. Hallelujah, the only threats to my mouth’s eternal bliss were all the kids parading through my house that thought they should be fed. I tried to hide them (the boxes not the kids) but no dice, they had witnessed the opening, they knew I had them somewhere. Alas, I had to share! (Bigger Sigh)
Life was good until I hit that last box and discovered that Dillons could no longer order my beloved Team, even by the case. Woe is me! That was still one of the best Christmas’s and one of the best presents ever. And I’m sure that my shriek of eternal glee is still reverberating around the neighborhood, haunting the houses as a joyful ghost of Christmas past.
While the entire story of Sapphire and Gold isn't centered around Christmas, there are several scenes that take place during the Christmas season in Colonial Williamsburg. Here's an excerpt of one:
Alexandra stood at the staircase landing’s large multi-paned window, bathed in the golden glow of the setting sun. She waited and worried. Waited for Derek’s schooner to appear at the plantation’s wharf. Worried about his reaction to her confession.
She placed her hand on her abdomen and wondered if she would look different to him. Within weeks her condition would be apparent to all. Would he turn away from her in disgust? She wouldn’t be able to bear it.
She leaned over the balustrade looped with spruce garlands. “Yes, Mother?”
Laurel stood at the foot of the stairs. “Our guests are arriving.”
“I’ll join you in the ballroom in a few minutes.” With a heavy sigh, she cast one more longing glance out the window then gathered the folds of her burgundy velvet skirt and descended the stairs in slow, unhurried steps. Her brow knitted in concern. Derek had said he would be there. Something terrible must have happened.
“Why, wherever could your husband be, sister dear?”
Alexandra turned to see Jillian emerge from the shadows of the hall. The jubilant expression in the younger woman’s dark gaze put her on guard.
“Do you suppose he has tired of you already?” Jillian shook her head and clucked her tongue. “I can see why. You look a bit dreadful. I fear that color doesn’t suit you. Did you do your own hair? Your secret’s safe with me. I shan’t tell anyone.”
Alexandra resisted the urge to smooth her hair. The slight movement would only serve to reward her sister’s desire for revenge. Instead, she stood confident. Derek had often remarked he liked her hair unbound and he had chosen her dress himself. “I won’t fight with you. Nothing you can say will spoil this day for me.” With quiet dignity, she walked past the younger woman.
“I do believe the purpose of this ball is to celebrate your marriage. Won’t that be a trifle difficult without your roving husband?”
Alexandra’s footsteps faltered for but a moment at the venom in her sister’s voice. Then she squared her shoulders and continued on her way, struggling to shut out the echo of Jillian’s mocking laughter.
“Derek has not left me,” she whispered. “He will come back. He must.” She lifted her chin a notch and entered the ballroom.
Festive splendor greeted her. Christmas finery decked the large room and brought a hint of a smile to her troubled heart. The fragrance of pine and bayberry mingled in the air. Garlands of box and bay added touches of gaiety. Sprigs of holly had been tucked behind the mirrors. In one corner, fiddlers played a romantic ballad that tugged at her already fragile emotions.
She forced back the sudden onslaught of weepiness and moved forward to greet her guests. Many of the prominent planters of the area accompanied their wives in wishing Alexandra well with her marriage and asking after Derek. After each congratulatory offer, the scorching heat of Jillian’s triumphant gaze bored through her back.
Where are you, Derek? Behind her she heard the doors open. The curtains fluttered, then a hush fell over the room.
There stood Derek. Dizzying joy swept through her
Her husband caught her up against his lean, muscled form. “I claim the right of kissing the fair maiden standing beneath the kissing ball.” He lowered his mouth to hers and stole her breath.
Alexandra entwined her arms around his neck and reveled in the sweet sensations. “I thought you’d never arrive.”
He pressed a final kiss to the tip of her nose. “I always keep my promises. Don’t you know that by now?”
A lump in her throat thickened her speech. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you.” A frown gathered on her forehead and she gave his chest a sharp poke. “Where have you been?”
His eyes alight with a merry twinkle, Derek turned and signaled to a house servant. Within seconds, Polly Taylor and the children swarmed around her, talking and hugging all at once.
The children had come. Tears spilled down her cheeks as she pulled them close, touching each and every one of them to assure herself they were really there.
She looked up. Derek stood outside the circle of children, his grin wide. “Is this the pressing matter you had to attend to?”
He nodded. “You are pleased with your Christmas gift?”
“Pleased? I’m more than pleased. It was more than I dared to dream for.” No wonder she loved him so.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is While You Were Sleeping. (Love the leaning scene.) One of my favorite Christmas books is A Season for Miracles by Marilyn Pappano, which is the first book in her awesome Bethlehem series. Do you have a favorite Christmas story or movie?
I've always loved the holidays and have never understood people who dread them. I would teasingly refer to them Scrooge or Grinch. This year I'm trying very hard not to put myself in that category. In looking back of 2009, it's easy to see why I might not be so elated with greeting what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. It's been a difficult year. I won't go into detail because I've dealt with a lot of the same issues most everyone else has at one time or another: divorce, sickness, death, unemployment. It all tends to suck the life out of a person, even someone like me who has rightfully earned the reputation of the optimistic, care-free, look-on-the-bright-side Pollyanna.
I've stayed away from malls and stores this Christmas. I don't have the money that I've had in previous shopping seasons. I thought it would be too depressing to be in a mall when I can't buy anything. But the other day I had to go to a certain store for a non-Christmas related purchase. You know what? I should have gone sooner. The beat of the cheerful Christmas tunes restarted a holiday rhythm in my soul. The glitter and twinkle of bells and balls made me smile. The wonder in the eyes of children searching for Santa warmed my heart.
Later that day I stopped by the grocery store. In the parking lot was a rusted out truck with a cardboard sign taped to it. It read: "Homeless vet needs work of any kind. Job in California. Just need the gas to get there." I considered that message with more compassion than I used to. I was embarrassed at what my inner reaction would have been just one year ago. But with the lesson the last year has taught me, I understood better. How many of my friends were not too far away from being in a similar situation? It's been a hard year for a lot of us.
I was asked this week what was the best Christmas gift I ever received. I thought of my favorite book on my shelf. It's a leather bound notebook filled with my father's handwritten stories and poems. A few years ago he gave identical books to my two sisters and me. He must have worked on these gifts for months. It cost him nothing but time and maybe a few bucks for the notebooks. But it truly is the best gift. He gave me a part of himself.
So how does this all tie together? Because as writers, you know we have to tie it all together, right? I think when I'm 90, I will look back on this Christmas as one of the most memorable. Not for what wasn't under the tree or stuffed in a stocking, but for what filled my home and heart. I've been given a most amazing gift. The wonderful part is that it is something I can give away, too. The gift is one of an ever-expanding heart. The hurts of this past year have increased my capacity for understanding, compassion, and love. Without the losses, I couldn't have gained so much. It's priceless.
And I have another gift, as well. It's the gift of words. Like my father gave to me, I can give a piece of myself to others. Because even though the past year has had it's hardships, there has been support and love, too. Won't those friends and family members smile when they see their gift from me: A long letter to my 90 year old grandma filled with all the stuff I meant to write all year long but didn't make the time. A thank you to my parents for their unwavering support and abundant love. A fun poem to my best friend who finalized a divorce this year, too and helped me find something laugh at almost every day. A list of really useful advice (like how to catch an escaped hamster) to my corporate-ladder sister who lives in a world SO different from mine but asks for my opinion all the time anyway. And I'm-Proud-of-You-Because letters to my children because I really am so proud of them. It will cost me nothing but time and few bucks for paper. I'm guessing these gifts will be remembered long after the others have been forgotten.
Remember your true gifts this Christmas and share them. I promise, it will put you in the Christmas spirit.
1. Examine the true reason you are writing. Is it for the personal achievement of completing a finished novel? Do you want the glory of seeing your name on the cover of your published book in a bookstore? Is it primarily for the desire to make money? Are you writing because your friend is writing and you want to be just like him or her? Do you enjoy developing and creating characters, with the excitement of seeing a completed ending? Learn what your drive is you want to pursue. Knowing your motivation will help you to be honest in achieving your publishing goal.
2. Read what you enjoy. I believe reading can only enhance the quality of your work. You hold the book in your hands and you say, “If he or she published, I can as well.” This is a great motivator in reaching your personal goal.
3. Entering contests is a great way to get an honest opinion from others in the writing field. This helps you to experience an opportunity to submit your work. You just might be one of the lucky one’s to place in the competition.
4. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t try to send a chapter, synopsis or a proposal. A non-published writer must do the work. Complete the book. Your book must have a beginning, middle and an ending. Of course there are other elements such as romance (if it is a romance novel), conflict, a black moment. A main plot and sub plots vary. The list goes on and on. The main point I’m trying to convey is, learn the craft of writing and complete the book.
5. Do rewrites. Don’t try to by pass this step. Your poor writing will show through. Your story must be the best it can be. You must grab the editor’s attention. This is crucial to the sale of your book. Research all you can on the subject of rewriting. Be familiar with the techniques, so you can adjust your book accordingly. Find a good critique partner who will give you helpful suggestions. This doesn’t always have to be, but sometimes finding a writer who reads and writes the same type of books you are interested in, will give you the right helpful critique you need. Above all stay enthusiastic about your writing.
6. Read everything you can about publishing industries. Knowing someone employed in the publishing market could be a plus. Learn as much as you can about the market you are targeting for. One thing I’ve seen over time, write what you like. Not just what the market or editor is wanting. For example, if you are writing a novel, by the time you reach the end and have done all the rewrites, the demand for that type of story may have changed. Write what you are inspired to write. There is always going to be a time and place for your completed manuscript.
7. Once you’ve finished, submit as soon as possible. Research the publishing houses to find out who is requesting submissions. Once you’ve made your choice, follow their guidelines exactly. There aren’t any short cuts. Researching and finding the right publishing house to submit to, is just as important as writing your story.
Hope these steps help you in accomplishing your publishing goal. Feel free to share your experiences in your writing career. It is always interesting to hear how other writers motivate and follow their dreams.
May everyone have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The weather outside was frightfully cold and Blossom would have preferred staying in the nice warm barn today. Except that Her Highness Elsie had started the morning off being particularly snooty. T he herd leader had refused to leave the barn when Farmer Sam came to let them out. Her faithful lemming cows refused to go as well. Blossom’s choice had then been to stay inside, be warm, but grow more and more annoyed as the day wore on because, as always, Elsie would do everything she could to get on her nerves. Or she could brave the cold and venture out to the frozen field, with the hope of seeing her beloved bullfriend.
Her hooves were all but frozen by the time she’d hoofed it on near tippy-toes to the corner where she usually met Ferdinand. She could hardly blink her eyes. It was if her eyelashes had frozen in place. It all seemed so wrong. The sky was a beautiful clear blue and the sun was shining brighter than ever. Besides that, there was none of the usual Kansas wind. But it was bitterly cold and she shivered clear down to her double stomach.
She craned her neck over the fence and strained to look across the Stanton field, but saw no sign of her hunky Galloway. How depressing was that! She’d even brought him a little Christmas gift, one of the apples Farmer Sam’s daughters had brought her as a treat this morning. None of the other cows ate apples. A few might have tried them, but Elise turned her nose up at them. To stay on her good side, they refused them as well. Stupid heifers. Still, Ferdinand shared her love of apples. Such an intelligent bull. Even if he’d turned out to be a wuss and stayed in his no doubt warm barn today instead of coming to meet her.
Shoulders weighed down with disappointment, she picked up the apple she’d carefully carried all the way here and dropped to look over the fence. She’d just take it back to her stall and munch on it while she sulked over all this wasted effort.
Blossom had just turned around and trudged a few steps when a deep rumbled complaint stopped her. Her heart pitter-patted crazily. She drew in a familiar scent. Then, as she shifted back again, the post near the corner crashed to the ground. Evidently he’d been hidden behind the large clump of bushes.
“Where are you going, My Love?” Ferdinand grouched, forcing his way through the space he’d made. “I’ve been near freezing to death waiting to see you.”
She did a little happy dance and skipped over to him. She held her head up proudly so he could see the precious apple gift she’d brought him. As he grinned in that odd macho-bull way of his, she tossed the apple at his hooves. “For you, my hunka-hunka, Stud Boy.”
Ferdinand ambled closer, rubbing his massive head against her neck, nibbling at her almost-frozen ear. “I’ve got a Christmas present for you, too, Sweet Blossom.” He breathed hotly and moo-rumbled, “Something personal. Very personal.”
“But it’s so cold outside,” she teased, trying to bat frozen eyelashes at him.
“It won’t be for long.”
Blossom forgot all about the frigid weather and the warm barn she’d left behind. Ferdinand always made her days better. “Merry Christmas to you. Merry Christmas to me. Merry Christmas to us,” she moo-sang.
Our first Christmas after our wedding found us in Arkansas where Vince was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. Our railroad style apartment was in North Little Rock in a four unit building. We were dirt poor but wanted to celebrate Christmas like we both had back at our families’ homes. That meant at least a tree with all the trimmings. We soon found all we could afford was one string of lights. No tree. No ornaments. Just lights.
Vince proved the hero of the day when he appeared at our apartment door one afternoon with a real pine tree. I was aghast when he told me he had driven out into the countryside and “chopped” down a pine tree with my butcher knife. I thought he was lucky he didn’t get shot. My poor butcher knife was never the same. I thought it the most wonderful tree in the world. I’m certain I rewarded him suitably for such heroics.
Immediately I set to work making decorations for our grand tree. I colored and cut out paper ornaments. We strung popcorn for garland and then splurged and bought tinsel. That weekend we spent a very romantic evening decorating it while we listened to Christmas music. The only photo I could find shows not only that I was a poor photographer but that the tree had a few large gaps between the branches. That green thing bottom right is a green net tree I sewed. I still have it and a few of the original ornaments from our first tree.
Something else I did to decorate was use Glass Wax Stencils. These were heavily waxed, hence waterproof, stencils which I stenciled onto windows and mirrors using Glass Wax window cleaner. The cleaner dried white—to the left is the mirror above the fake fireplace in our apartment in N. Little Rock. When I rubbed the stencil off after Christmas I had the bonus of a clean mirror. I still have the stencils and continue to use them.
Vince surprised me by arranging for us to go “home” to Kansas on Christmas Eve. The photo at the top (we are sooooo young!) was taken at my parents’ house that first Christmas. The gift from Vince is a watch. But gifts weren’t necessary. The previous year he had been overseas serving in what is now called the Vietnam Conflict. This first Christmas we were together; we were married. We had a gorgeous tree, gorgeous because it and its decorations reflected our love for one another. We now have forty two years of ornaments and garland and Vince always does a spectacular job decorating the tree, but none ever meant as much as the one we had on our First Christmas.
What are some of your First Christmas memories? First Christmas away from home. First married. There are a lot of different firsts Christmases. Share some. Merry Christmas!
I was lucky enough to have both my parents around for every holiday up until this year when my dad passed away in October. I know this Christmas will be hard for us, but we will get through it. Hopefully, instead of dwelling on his passing, we will reminisce about the good times we’ve shared as a family.
Even though we weren’t well off, my parents went all out at Christmas. After a special Christmas Eve dinner, my sister and I were allowed to open one present —always pajamas. But long before the big day arrived we’d pour over Christmas catalogs, making our lists, writing letters to Santa and watching Santa’s Toy Shop with Toy Boy. Several times during the month, we’d pile into our station wagon and drive around for hours looking at Christmas lights. Of course this was before filling your gas tank cost as much as a new pink bicycle with a white whicker basket and streamers dangling from the ends of the handle bars.
After I married and had my own family we started our own traditions and as much as I anticipated Christmas as a child, there is nothing better than experiencing Christmas through the eyes of your own children and grandchildren. Now I understand why my parents looked forward to Christmas as much as we did.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
Needless to say, it was small, but it filled my apartment with that wonder fresh-cut pine scent. After adding a string of new light and the few ornaments I had brought from home, my living room didn’t look quite so bleak. In fact, the sofa and the floor lamp looked positively delighted to have the company. As I made a foil star to top my tree, I struggled not to cry. It was a very low point in my life. Facing the holidays alone was hard.
Then, one December 22, I got an unexpected call. My husband’s submarine was coming into port for repairs and the crew would be allowed one night’s liberty. On Christmas Eve! That night, I hurried to picked up my husband at the naval base. We hadn’t seen each other in two and a half months. There was a whole lot of kissing going on even without mistletoe.
After the baby was tucked snug in her crib, my husband and I snuggled together on the sofa. The lovely lights of my little tree cast a heartwarming glow across the room. That tiny, bare apartment became the place I spend my most romantic Christmas Eve ever.
Tell us about a special Christmas in your life.
1. READ romances.
2. Learn the genres and sub-genres of romance. Find out what type of romance you'd like to write. (Tip: You really should love them before you write them.)
3. Learn what publishers publish the type of romance you want to write.
4. Learn (and correct, if necessary) the Top Ten Beginner's Mistakes.
5. Join a writing group and/or organization, and, if possible, find a critique partner or group. There's nothing like having someone who understands and will cheer you on and lend a shoulder to cry on when needed.
6. Learn how to set goals...and how to keep them!
7. Learn how to manage your time. Too often we put the things we want to do behind all the other things that vie for our time. Make writing a priority.
8. Keep current on publishing industry news.
9. Enter contests and submit your work to pulishers. Someone other than you will have to someday read it. Contests can help you hone your skills. Remember that rejections are part of the writing life, so grow a thick skin. Learn how to use rejections to your advantage.
10. Remember that you'll always be learning, whether you're a beginning writer, have been writing for a few years, or have published twenty or more books.
*Resources for the above can be found within the Bits & Bytes blog.
Through that same book, I also found a link to Romance Writers of America, and then eventually to a local chapter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I lived seventy miles away and the meetings were held on a Thursday night so there was quite a bit of challenge with babysitters and bad weather, but once I'd made the connection with that group, it was like finally reaching land after spending a year at sea.
Heart of Iowa Fiction Authors gave me my first connection to someone else who was trying to write a story. The meetings were always informative (if not over my head:) and I had the opportunity to socialize with other aspiring authors. That was a big deal for me.
Through the years, although my needs as a writer have changed, my connection to that group has not. Longtime members viewed our meetings as a time to catch-up and learn a little something new. But it was always the visitors to the group that lit a fire under me. What can be more inspiring than pure enthusiasm for putting words to paper? And many times their excitement for the craft gave me a lift at just the right time.
Nowadays, we as writers have many opportunities to reach out to others in the business. Through conferences, contests and writer's loops, we have the chance to connect with someone who is walking the same path. When you have a little free time, run an internet search on writer's resources and see how many opportunities are available.
For me it was three Trojans (not Brad Pitt), one virus (no pigs or birds), one embedded spyware (definitely not James Bond) and seventy two, yes, seventy two, warning thing-a-ma-jigs. Apparently they had been setting me up for disaster for some time because with one little click, it was a barrage of pop-ups and then a quick death by strangulation. My computer was no longer my own. It would not let me access the internet; it would not let me do much of anything. Pop ups claiming to help me get rid of the bugs were everywhere but I’m told they probably activated them instead. It became apparent that my security system was not so secure and once those buggers got started, they disabled, reconfigured and reconnected whatever dots they wanted to.
After getting some much needed help to determine the damage, my computer was taken back to ground zero and born again. Luckily for me my help knew how to save my document files on to an external hard drive while reanimating my electronic corpse; otherwise I would have lost the entire contents of my last days work. The dedicated writers of Wichita Area Romance Authors have stated numerous times the necessity of backing up your work to some external device by either a thumb drive, external hard drive, CD disk or my own personal favorite: emailing my work to myself to store in cyberspace. When your computer has a meltdown either through old age, lightening or sabotage, it’s the luck of the draw as to whether your work can be saved. So be smart, save EVERYTHING somewhere else and then you can rest peacefully knowing that your “babies” will still be there to greet you in the morning.
My last word of wisdom for the day; do some research on security programs for your computer. Ours was a popular one but obviously not a very good one. Check with several computer technicians to see which one they recommend and when you get a consensus, change. There is at least one good security program that you can download for free from: download.com. So do yourself a favor, save yourself a ton of money, do your homework and make your work environment virus free.
Pictures and Collages
One of my favorite pastimes is flipping through magazines, looking for pictures I can use for characters and settings. I also like to clip out motivational words and pictures and fix them onto my writing notebooks with clear contact paper.
I’d also like to make a collage for a series I’m planning. Since I haven’t done one yet to show you, I found this site with some great examples and how-to info: http://belleenchanted.com/pre-writing-with-collage/
The links she gives for the Jenny Crusie collage don’t work, but this one does
I love to listen to music, especially songs with a story. I’ve heard many authors say they create soundtracks for their stories. I’d love to try this, but haven’t quite figured out how to go about finding the songs that would fit the story I’m working on. I think it’d be a helpful tool, sort of like a habit maybe, where I’d get used to turning on the soundtrack and the story would leap into my mind and out my fingertips.
Books about Creativity (As many of you know, I love writing exercises!)
Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. Turn fifteen minutes a day into productive sessions that get and keep your creativity flowing. Here's an exercise to try: " Detail the senses by writing for fifteen minutes on a certain food...for someone who has never tasted it. Write about a visual scene for someone who can't see, and write about a piece of music for someone who can't hear."
A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves. This book has writing prompts for every day. For example, one for today is “Returning takes too long.”
The Writer’s Retreat Kit by Judy Reeves is a workshop in a box, with a guidebook and interactive cards. An example of one of the prompts: “It’s what whispers your name at night.”
Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg. Here’s a quote: “You feel the call…Now answer it as fully as you can. Take the risk to let all that is in you, out. Escape into the open.” This book has exercises that unleash creativity and fire passion/emotion into writing. Here's an example: "Write a description of something you look at every day in three different types of light (e.g., morning sun, dusk, lamplight)."
Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink: Everyday Creative Writing by Michael C. Smith and Suzanne Greenberg. This book has 40+ exercises based on daily life. For example, “Invent two plausibly odd remedies for whichever ailment you wish to cure…Begin a poem, story, or essay that incorporates one of these ‘cures.’”
Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit by Mari Messer. “Fun…is a central element of creativity.” Try this exercise: "Do something a kid would do. Walk in the rain and splash through puddles, play with bubbles in the bathtub, leap into a pile of leaves, run on the dewy grass in your bare feet. Write about how this experience felt."
If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland. I found two chapter titles particularly intriguing: “Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing” and “You Do Not Know What Is in You—an Inexhaustible Fountain of Ideas.”
Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life by Bonni Goldberg. Here’s an example: “Today pick a stranger who fascinates you. First, describe the person’s spirit, soul or energy, without relying on physical appearance. Then begin the physical description.”
The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood. This is a book of prompts, exercises, and illustrations. Here’s an example: “Write about your earliest superstition.”
The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron. “…writing is best broken down into a one-day-at-a-time, one-page-at-a-time process. We do not need the courage to write a whole novel. We need the courage only to write on the novel today.”
Writing toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way by Georgia Heard. “My notebook…always reminds me I’m a writer, and it helps me live a considered life that doesn’t spin by focused only on groceries, dinner, and car repairs.”
I’d Rather Be Writing: A Guide to Finding More Time, Getting More Organized, Completing More Projects and Having More Fun by Marcia Golub. Prompt: “Something is lost, not long ago but now. What is lost? What does the character do?”
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. There’s a chapter about giving yourself permission to write “shitty first drafts” and one about writing what you can see though a 1” x 1” picture frame instead of worrying about writing the entire book right now. Or something to that effect. :D I don’t own this book and it’s been a while since I read it, but these two things are what stick in my mind.
So…what works for when you need inspiration? Care to try your hand at any of the prompts and exercises listed above?
Roget’s is my third most favorite writing resource.
Number one is my imagination.
Number two is my computer.
My Roget’s is dog-eared, tattered, ripped, rent, and damaged. I love it. I simply adore finding the word that makes a sentence sing.
For the most part, my writing style is simple. I have no illusions about what I write. It’s entertainment, easy, uncomplicated, pleasing as stroll down a shady lane, but sometimes I just need a better word.
Maybe I used handsome three times on one page. I try to avoid those echo words that writer’s notice, but ordinary readers gloss right over. Shift+F7 gives me the thesaurus in Microsoft Word. I use it frequently, but there is something more satisfying about grabbing the book with the broken spine and falling out, ragged pages.
Leafing though all those words gives me new ideas. Sometimes, they take my story or my characters in a whole new direction.
Handsome = attractive, good-looking, elegant, stately, majestic, gorgeous.
An essential writing technique in storytelling is Creating Suspense. How many books have you read until the wee hours of the morning? Not wanting to put the book down. Involving yourselves with the characters, as if you knew them on a personal basis. Have you taken time to watch people when you talk to them? If what you are saying is putting a glassy eyed look on their face, it’s a sure bet, they aren’t listening. Same concept goes for when you are writing your story. Anyone can write words on paper. It’s the emphasis a writer applies to grammatically correct sentences and interesting words, that makes the novel suspenseful to the reader.
Characters are the working force to storytelling. Without them, there isn’t anything to write about. Characters have an agenda following a goal. Put them in a situation where there is conflict. I like to call conflict, obstacles. The hero and heroine will work through the conflict; building on the obstacles, moving the plot along creating the necessary suspense. A book I have found helpful is “Building Believable Characters” by Marc McCutcheon. Great book for helping me develop my character charts.
Some writers have difficulty applying Conflict in their storytelling. Once our characters are developed, we as writers have established a relationship with them. The last thing we want to do is cause pain or discomfort towards them. Conflict makes the story worth reading. It provides the story with struggles, tension, choices the characters will have to make. Having opposing forces is what brings the internal and external conflicts to a height of the drama. If you touch the reader’s hearts at all levels of emotions, you’ve created the art of storytelling.
Storytellers must satisfy their readers with a Believable Ending. Characters should have their conflict reduced to a workable agreement. A twist of surprise at the ending will bring delight to the reader. Such as a traumatic event giving the character a chance to change. Romance storytelling is based on the hero and heroine resolving their differences in harmony. What the basic conflict was in the beginning of the story is now reflected to a happy ending.
Are you excited to be with your characters each day? Does your story hold your interest?
A “premise” is a brief summary of what the book is about, preferably in one to two sentences. It can be considered the quickie pitch for an agent, an editor, or a reader.
A Premise’s Job
Reinforce what the title says about the book’s genre and tone
Summarize the storyline
Show the story’s uniqueness
Intrigue the reader, agent, or editor
Entice the reader to want to know what’s going to happen
Establish the story’s dramatic issue and hint at movement within the story to reach a satisfactory fulfillment
Sample Premise of It’s Mau-idness (by Starla Kaye)
Two people burned in previous bad marriages fight an unwanted and irresistible attraction while battling over a spa ranch business investment in Maui.
Tone: semi-lighthearted by the play on Maui Madness (original title I came up with)
Summary: characters battling over something both want
Uniqueness: the type of business being battled over
Romantic conflict: prior bad marriages make characters wary, but physical attraction is strong and hard to resist
Some people wrongly believe that a “premise” is the same thing as the promotional “blurb,” such as used on back covers. The premise may be incorporated into the blurb, but the blurb goes into more detail to encourage a reader to buy the book.
Goals of the Blurb
Introduce the main character or characters
State their goals (the reason for the story)
Hint at conflicts (reasons they will have trouble reaching the goals)
Establish setting details: time period, genre influences, location
For a romance, to show attraction and frustration
Sample Blurb from If You Loved Me by Starla Kaye
Caitlin Curran MacDonnell’s life is a disaster. Forced into marriage in Scotland at eighteen to a man she had never met before, at twenty-one she’s told the marriage is to be annulled. Only problem: Now her brother wants to force her to marry someone else. She’s had enough. She has dreams of her own and they don’t include an enormous, handsome Scot OR a disgusting old man. It’s time to find her “husband” from whom she was separated after her wedding night and get on with her life.
Just when Mac is getting on with his life, his sassy young bride shows up in Tumbleweed, Kansas where he’s now the sheriff. He’d been told she’d died, yet there she is, willful and independent as ever, demanding an annulment so she can go off to San Francisco to be a photographer. That might be what she wants, but what she needs is a man to keep her in line.
Character introduction: Cailtin Curran MacDonnell and Mac MacDonnell
Her goals: end her farce of a marriage and start her own life as a photographer
Her conflicts: not go from one forced marriage to another
Setting: married in Scotland, confronts Mac in Tumbleweed, Kansas
Romantic elements: sees Mac as a handsome Scot, he sees her as needing him
In baseball terms, it would be what a pitcher throws to a batter in an attempt to work towards a game win. The pitcher would hope that all of his pitches are so good that all the batters strike out, and he earns the glory of a win.
In a writer’s terms, the pitch is what a writer tells an agent or an editor about his/her manuscript with the hope of earning representation or a sale. The pitch can be as short as the 1-2 sentence premise, or relating the guts of the work in 6-10 well crafted sentences for a five to ten minute agent/editor appointment. The pitch can also be used in a query letter.
Contents of a Good Pitch
Relate the genre, and possibly a targeted line
Give the approximate word count (should fit the targeted line you mention)
State if the work is complete
Provide a succinct summary of the basic storyline plot points
Establish the setting, including the time period
Introduce the characters and their goals
Show the conflicts and obstacles to keep the characters from reaching their goals
In a romance, explain what attracts them to each other and what keeps them from physically or emotionally apart
I’ve had a lot of favorite writing books over the years. Fiction Is Folks by Robert Newton Peck, Shut Up, He Explained: A Writer’s Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue by William Noble, The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders, Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Deb Dixon, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, Sun Signs by Linda Goodman, Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson, and 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt are just a few of them. One was a small book bound in light blue paper that I got from Beverly Wadsworth that had been written by an author she represented. It was an informative little piece of work that had one of the best character sheets I’ve ever seen in it. I can’t remember either the title or the author of it, and I lost it during one of our many disasterous moves.
So you can see it would be hard for me to pick just one book. These days, like everyone else, I rely a lot on Internet websites for assistance and information. The two I use most are Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/) and Seventh Sanctum™ (http://www.seventhsanctum.com/). Dictionary.com has a dictionary, a thesaurus, an encyclopedia and a translator all on one site. It’s good for spelling, short information on a subject and synonyms and antonyms. I use the thesaurus section most often, particularly when I’m stuck for a word or stuck on one.
Seventh Sanctum™ is a collection of “generators.” These generators are programmed to randomly create names, characters, plots, ideas, items, or just about anything you can imagine. If you need a name for a minor character in a hurry, try the Quick Character Namers. It generates names based off census data for America. It uses common names only, so you won’t get something like Grail Steelreaper or Ginger Lustflame. However, if you need a name like one of the afore-mentioned, you can certainly come up with it on the Weird Name Generators.
Two of my favorite generators are the Romance Stories generator and the Cuss-O-Matic. The Romance Stories generator will give you a romance-oriented plot and pair of characters complete with extra details and plot complications. For example: This story starts in a small city in the Antarctic. In it, a silly professor is in love with an unwise project manager - all thanks to a murder. If it does nothing else, the generator will certainly get you thinking.
The Cuss-O-Matic is found at Serendipity(http://nine.frenchboys.net/). If you need a colorful epithet, try generating one like, “Oh, pinch my pestilent, pogo-sticking rump!” One of my favorite all time exclamations came from the Cuss-O-Matic. It’s fun to use Seventh Sanctum™ or one of the other generators links on its page. The only problem is you can get caught up in the whimsy and adventure of generating that you don’t get much writing done. But if you need a quick writing boost, Seventh Sanctum™ is the place to go.
The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene, (also the author of 48 Laws of Power) if taken for its purported purpose of getting anything from anyone, is rather creepy and chilling in its constant use of the word “victim.” It takes seduction at the worst meaning of the word and often made me think of stalker. Here, however, I present it as book with information that can aid in developing and understanding your characters.
The book is presented in two parts. The first part gives a straight forward, in depth explanation with historic and or literary examples of Greene’s arbitrarily set of nine types of seducers:
1. The Siren—ultimate male fantasy figure who offers a total release from daily life. Symbol is water, liquid and enticing.
2. The Rake—provides a mix of danger and pleasure. Symbol is Fire, a Rake burns with a desire that enflames.
3. The Charmer—discussed below. Symbol is the mirror, reflecting what the other person wishes to see.
4. The Ideal Lover—reflects fantasies and desires. Symbol is the Portrait Patinter—under his eye all imperfections disappear.
5. The Dandy—creates an alluring presence that stirs repressed desire. Symbol is the Orchid, odor sweet and decadent, prized for rarity.
6. The Natural—has the qualities we left with childhood: spontaneity, sincerity, unpretentiousness. Symbol is the Lamb, soft and endearing, a pure innocence we want to possess.
7. The Coquette—grand master of the game of alternating hope and frustration with the lure of total satisfaction. Symbol is the Shadow, it cannot be grasped.
8. The Charismatic—attract by radiating a confidence and contentment they keep mysterious. Symbol is the Lamp, an invisible current that turns cadescent.
9. The Star—uses the desire to escape into fantasy and dreams. Symbol is the Idol, the eye of the worshipper fill the Idol with life and imagine it to have real powers.
Each type also has a “Key to the Character” section and “Dangers,” a connotation Greene never applies to his “victims.” In the margins are a great many historic and literary quotes which are interesting in themselves and are used as mirrors of the author’s ideas. The second half of the book is given to the “process of seduction” which Greene divides into four phases, the first being “Choosing the Right Victim.” It is a disturbing dissection of social power but can provide motive, means, and modus operandi for your characters.
Take the seducer type “Charmer.” Greene states, “Charm is seduction without sex. Charmers are consummate manipulators, masking their cleverness by creating a mood of pleasure and comfort. Their method is simple: they deflect attention from themselves and focus it on their target. They understand your spirit, feel your pain, adapt to your moods.”
We all use characters that are charming. This book gives an in-depth analysis of how to charm—be it your hero or, if followed to the conclusions of the book, the vilest of villains. The main facets of a charmer, according to Greene, are that they are keen observers and truly listen. By keying in on what is important to their “victim” they tailor their responses and bolster self-esteem. Greene includes paragraphs with these headings in explaining how a Charmer works:
1. “Make your target the center of attention
2. Be a source of pleasure
3. Lull your victim into ease and comfort
4. Show calm and self-possession in the face of adversity
5. Make yourself useful.”
One of the examples given to support the Charmer is a telling of how Averell Harriman came to marry his second, and much younger, wife Pamela. It makes fascinating reading as well as suggesting several plot lines.
If you are hunting for a different or unusual way for your hero to gain your heroine’s heart or vice versa or a way to make your villain truly despicable The Art of Seduction may be for you. Check it out from your local library and see if you find it useful.
Ever been stuck for a name to fit your plucky heroine or dastardly villain but your brain can’t get past the mundane? Consider the phone book. First names. Last names. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. (Insert your favorite instrumental music here.) I tell you, this book has it all and the bigger the city, the better selection. Just let your fingers do the walking.
Baby name books. (Slide show of the cutest babies in town—your own included while we are treated to a moving rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.) If you don’t own a book, then buy one or hit the web for more names and meanings than you could ever use.
Year books. (Showing bad hair photos and smiles with shiny braces while playing 80’s music.) Remember Betty Brown and Janet Jones, the mean girls in high school? Now is your chance to get even. They could become Betty Jones and Janet Brown and you can steal their boyfriends before the end of the first chapter. Or make them flat broke, flabby and working some menial job at your heroine’s very successful company.
Friends and family. (Slightly out of focus photos of family members gathered around Grandpa while we are treated to the theme to Deliverance.) As long as they are minor characters and you paint them in a good light, then go for it. Just remember you might be sitting next to them this Thanksgiving when you ask them to pass the gravy. Trust me, it’s not worth a lap of turkey goop.
Map Quest. Where do these people live? How far away? How long will it take them? Which highway will you choose for your characters to run out of gas, blow a tire, lock their keys in the car, pick up a lonely hitch-hiker or get stranded at a motel on a hill? (Key in the spooky music along with visual images of Freddy, Jason and or Norman Bates.
So, savvy writers, what forms of research do you use when you get the urge to create a masterpiece of your own?
Roll the credits.
I was really scratching my head over this topic for our blog during the month of November. There are more resources available to us than one can possibly imagine. We have resource books, research books, the Internet, even movies can show us how to become better writers.
Today, I want to talk about a resource EVERY writer has.
Yes, the invaluable resource I'm talking about is you.
When I wanted to know the symptoms of appendicitis, I called the local hospital emergency room, explained that I was a writer and asked if there was someone available to talk to me. Before I knew it, there was a doctor and an ER nurse happily telling me how to diagnose and treat appendicitis. Yep, all I had to do was ask, and this was long before I was published.
In my most recent novel, I needed information about nurse midwives. My nephew is married to a nurse midwife, so I did have a special in, so to speak. But what I really needed was information from an Ohio nurse midwife, because laws on midwifery vary from state to state. In this instance, the Internet and e-mail became my best friend. After searching for an Ohio midwife in the area about which I was writing, I contacted the clinic via e-mail, explained I was a writer, and soon had the phone number and e-mail address of the midwife happy to answer any questions I had.
I have interviewed, The Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard at Fort Riley, Kansas, the sheriff and police chief of Council Grove, Kansas, a nurse midwife in Millersburg Ohio, a cowboy, a rancher, a cattle buyer, an 1860's reenactor and a fireman. Talk about more information than I could possibly use. And all because I asked.
People can give you insight and information that you could not uncover by reading. Their anecdotal stories can give your writing an authentic flavor. You can learn terms and procedures that add realism to your characters. So when you're doing research for your heroine’s or hero’s job or just need information about a different part of the country, you can be your own best resource tool. Don't be afraid to ask.
Ragged clouds scudded across the swollen face of the blood-red moon. The rising wind caused the bare trees branches to clack together like skeletal fingers. It whipped strands of Randi Enderson’s pale blonde hair into her eyes, blurring her vision. Her heart thudded with fear as she called her son’s name. “Kitteridge!”
She spun around at a rustle in the underbrush, and her foot came squarely down on the tail of her neighbor’s black cat, Spectre. At his ear-splitting yowl, her flashlight dropped from her nerveless fingers, bounced hard off the ground and went out. Blackness enveloped her like a heavy cloak.
Lightning split the sky, throwing the trees and brush into an eye-searing bas-relief. Deafening thunder rolled through the countryside, shaking the ground. The first icy drops of rain pelted down. She had to find Kitt before his father arrived. Schulyer would have her in court in a heartbeat if he found his son shivering from wet and cold.
Randi staggered, need driving her. Her steps faltered, and the skin on her arms dimpled and the hair on the back of her neck stood as an impossible sound filled the air. It rose, far too close, long and ululating, a note out of nightmares and fairytales. No dog, no yipping Kansas coyote. Only one animal made that noise, the reverberation of violence, terror and death.
Crimson eyes gleamed in the darkness, as Randi found herself staring into the face of the wolf.
The piece above illustrates nine ways to add eeriness and suspense to a manuscript.
1. It uses the number one devastator of us all: Fear. Randi is afraid for her son. Afraid for his safety and of losing him.
2. It uses a ticking clock. She must find Kitt before his father arrives.
3. It uses a deprivation of the sense we all rely on most: Sight. The darkness and lightning make it hard for Randi to see.
4. It uses a “bus.” Named for the famous bus scene in director Val Lewton’s movie Cat People, it represents a scare that elevates tension, then turns out to be an empty threat. Randi’s stepping on Spectre is a “bus.”
5. It sets a tone with portents. The blood-red moon and the skeletal fingers of the trees let the reader know something untoward is about to happen.
6. It uses weather to add to Randi’s disorientation and discomfort. The thunderstorm with its lighting and rain drives her fear higher.
7. It piles problem after problem onto the character: Loss of sight, stepping on the cat, flashlight going out, lightning, thunder, rain, the thought of her ex-husband’s disapproval, all leading to the final terror of the howl.
8. It’s unpredictable. Small annoyances like stepping on cats and flashlights going out increase tension. No one lives in a vacuum. Everyday problems bug us all.
9. It throws the unexpected at the reader. The Kansas countryside is not a place you would anticipate coming face to face with a wolf.
I hope this post helps show you how to add the “creep factor” to your work. Enjoy this night of horrors and hauntings. I wish you a Happy Hallowe’en!
There comes a time in every writer’s life – and often several times – that the words don’t flow. When the act of writing is almost physically painful. Maybe it’s because of things happening in our lives that make concentration and writing difficult--one of those “tough times”, as in the illness of a family member, the loss of a family member, or the breakup of a family. Or maybe we just temporarily lose the desire to write. There are also countless other reasons in between. Whatever the cause, we become frozen in our writing, unable to proceed or sometimes even care.
Learning to write through these times and find a way to bring back the spark that led us to writing is an individual thing. One method may work for one writer, but won’t work for another. There are times when we may have to try several methods before we stumble upon what works for each of us. Some of us simply give up and patiently wait until an idea strikes and we find sitting at the keyboard pleasurable again.
If you are a published author with a few, several, or many books to your credit, you may not have the luxury of writing only when the muse is kind and the words are flowing. Deadlines will loom at the worst possible times. In these instances, the writer has no choice but to find a way to write.
But even those working toward their first sale should learn to find a way to write when the desire isn’t there. The day may only be a phone call away when, like those who have sold before have learned, there isn’t an option.
Here are a few suggestions gathered from my own experience and others who have shared theirs for different methods to write through the tough times, whatever they may be.
- Forget about the work in progress (wip) for a day or two. Find something to take your mind off of it. Read a book, watch a movie, go shopping or even window shopping if funds are low. Do anything that will get your mind off your story. If you have a non-writing friend, go to lunch and try not to talk about writing.
- Brainstorm with other writers, if possible. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a good brainstorming session, even if it’s for someone else’s book! But what if all your writer friends are online and live far away? Try a chat room or instant messaging. A phone call, if possible, is even better.
- Don't worry about perfect writing. You can do revisions later. Put a mark where your story takes a different turn than you'd planned (MS Word has a little highlighter that I adore for this!) and keep going. Make a note of what you might need to change in previous pages, but don't make those changes now. Unless you're the type of writer who revises as you write or reading over yesterday's writing and "fixing" before going on), don't go back and read through what you've already written. Just keep going and don't look back, at least for now.
- If you're stuck, play the "what if" game. Let your mind free-write. Can you think of 5 different things that could happen? How about 10? 20? Make a list, then go through and see which ideas are usable. Give those few a thought and try them out.
- Consider changing POV or staying in the same one instead of changing. Sometimes we're coming to our story from the wrong character.
- Try interviewing your characters. If you've never done this, it can feel strange at first, but once you get into it, you'll discover a lot of things that may take your story in a new and interesting direction. An interview can be done verbally and with a tape recorder, if you feel comfortable doing it that way. Or it can be done on the computer. Either way, ask/type the question, then answer/type the question from the character. Start with easy questions and slowly dig a little deeper. As you ask and answer more question, you’ll think of even more to ask. You need to be "in the character's head" for this to work best.
- Write something completely different. Write a letter to a friend about something other than writing. Journal, if it makes you feel better. Or maybe write that murder scene? More internal editors have been vanquished in this way.
Whatever you do, don't quit!! Keep trying different methods until you find one that works for you. You may also find that, although you’ve found a method once, it may not work the next time, and you may have to go through the list more than once. Remember that if you quit, you'll never know if that next submission would have been The One.
In the past almost ten years since I received The Call, I've been through a divorce, moved four times in the first two years, dealt with the loss of my best writing friend's husband (who was also a close friend) and my mother's death a year later. My daughters have blessed me with five grandchildren in the past 8 years, the last having just had open heart surgery at the age of four weeks. The majority of those times I've been on deadlines. I'm living proof it can be done. It also may be the reason for my ditziness. :)
While life changing events are a definite reason to give writing a short rest, be sure not to make it a permanent one. If you're writing on deadline--whether self-imposed or contractual--make a schedule, either with a daily page goal or set chapter goals. If you can get ahead of your schedule, time off can easily be taken. Remember to be kind to yourself. Rest, exercise, and healthy eating can go a long way to help combat the stress, whatever the cause, that keeps you from writing.
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