WARA's Mini-Retreat (Rox Delaney)

Due to the craziness of life, I missed writing my blog post earlier this month.  It happens to all of us.  We all have lives that are woven with have-to's and need-to's, and some things get missed in the process of day-to-day living.

If you look to the left, you'll see a photo of a group of women.  They're smiling.  Why?  The photo was taken at WARA's Fall Mini-Retreat, held last Saturday.

I can't remember a time when I didn't enjoy one of WARA's weekend retreats or mini-retreats.  If I had to count how many I've attended, I wouldn't get it right.  I've been a member of WARA for most of the past 17 years.  Although there have been a few times we've had to skip having a retreat, there have been many.  For me, they're a must-not-miss.

Retreats, whether over a weekend or only just a day, are a kick-in-the-backside.  A good kick-in-the-backside!  Not only is it a chance to hear where others are with their writing, but a time to Talk Writing.  Those who aren't writers have difficulty understanding people who hear voices in their heads.  Those who do write take it for granted and understand that if you aren't hearing those voices or seeing a scene played out in your head, something needs to be done.

It doesn't take much to hit a roadblock in a story.  Sometimes a character decides to make decisions or do something the writer never planned.  Or sometimes we discover we've written ourselves into a corner and don't know how to get out of it.  Talking with others who understand story structure or conflict or goals or motivation are a godsend.  Even many non-writers, but voracious readers can only help so much.  Writers are a writer's best friend.

Not only are those of us in WARA writer friends, we're also friends who write.  Add to it that we have families and the usual activities and difficulties that women (and men) face in the "normal" world, and strong friendships are often made.  I have writer friends, within WARA and without, and friends who've never written and don't have a clue what it takes to create fictional people and stories.  I value all of them.

So what did we do at the retreat?  We brainstormed, we offered suggestions, shared bits of information, had lunch and ATE CAKE that Reece baked and decorated. :)  We came away with possible answers to questions and the good feeling of having spent a day with friends.  Retreats help fill the well.  Who could ask for more?

As for WARA, itself, we've outgrown some things and are adding new.  We're looking forward to making our group better and stronger as we continue to make new friends and and meet with long-time friends.  Our retreats help with that and our writing.

Start BIC-HOKing, ladies!  Pat and I each have a whip. ;)

Critic Schmitic

In catching up on my fellow WARA writers blogs, I found my soul resonating with Pat’s. I have many reasons for why I write, but reading badly written books is a real motivator.

I just finished a small historical romance. It took me three days. Normally, I can do it in three hours. This one was sadly lacking a few things. You may wonder, why continue reading it? Because I’m one of those goofy people who always thinks it will get better. I must be an optimist. Movies, books, you name it. If I start it, I finish it. Stupid way to be, but that’s what I do.

This particular book turned out to be ninety percent history and ten percent story. The history was a nice refresher, but I didn’t pull it off my shelf for that reason. I wanted swept up in the romance amidst danger. I wanted to get lost in a more exciting and intriguing world than my own. It didn’t happen.

The ending made me slightly bonkers. The hero suddenly quit being a spy in the middle of the Revolutionary War. No explanation. No hint of how he managed to extricate himself from the British army without someone noticing. No nothing. He shows up at the heroine’s house and supposedly explains everything to her father. I say supposedly because the reader is left in the dark. At least this reader didn’t get it. I can only assume the author had used her allotted word count. Story ended, readers unhappy, but book ended with the right number of pages. Aacckk!

I couldn’t decide whether to throw it away or push it off on some other unsuspecting sucker. Since I abhor throwing books away, I opted to pass it on to my mother, complete with ample warning. Let her throw it away J

The oft-found inconsistencies in books and movies have always made me crazy. I would run to whoever had the bad luck to be near by and rant about whatever idiotic thing I just saw or read. I have to wonder if all my ranting will come back to bite me when my books get published. Writing is hard work. There are hundreds of details to remember. I can see how things can slip through the cracks. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes along the way.

Little boo boos are one thing. A complete loss of coherency or logic is another. I can never decide if the writer had brain freeze or the editors neglected to read the story before they chopped it up. Either way, poorly written stories are a good motivation to write. As long as you produce something better. But, that will be for your readers to decide J

Imagination: Fueling children and writers for centuries (Melissa Robbins)

At our writing retreat, I shared how imaginative my ten year old daughter is.  I still want to create a picture book of her story about a little girl and her pet pig living in a Paris hotel even if it's just for her.  

I too grew up with an active imagination.  I was a shy kid and played with my made-up friends more than with real kids.  A child of the 80's, naturally my first story I wrote down involved a winged unicorn with a rainbow mane.  It was 'published' in my fourth grade class complete with illustrations by yours truly.  I still have it.  It's awful.  

Part of my extraordinary imagination came from hours spent reading.  My parents took me to the local library and an amazing used bookstore all the time.  Easy to get lost in your imagination when the bookstore had so many shelves, it was like a maze.  

Books allowed me to travel to far off places.  I loved books about dragons, magically lands, and pirates.  My dad was a sailor so that fueled my pirate obsession.  My next story (written when I was a young teenager) was about a girl who went sailing with her dad, but a freak storm appeared.  She got hit with the boom and fell over board.  When she woke up, she was on a pirate ship in the 1700's.  That story is unfinished due to lack of GMC I would later (a lot later) learn I needed.  

From dragons to pirates, I drifted to mysteries, borrowing my mother's copy of Murder on the Orient Express by the Queen of Mysteries, Agatha Christie and I've been hooked ever since.  

I bet I got some of my creativeness from my grandfather.  That man was an amazing storyteller.  Between his childhood stories and WW2 ones, I still wonder how much of them were made up and which ones were true.  Sometimes, truth can be just as amazing as fiction.  

Whatever the case, I have to write and create stories.  I can't help it.  It must be in my blood or was it my environment?  That would be an interesting study of writers.  Are you a writer because of you, your environment, or both?    

Finish Your Shift (Penny Rader)

Due to some family health issues, I'm sharing a post I wrote for my personal blog a couple years or so ago.  It's still relevant to me, so maybe someone else will benefit from it, too.  I do apologize for not doing a links post on Aug. 31--I was traveling to a Texas hospital my husband had been taken to following a heart attack.  Since I didn't want to miss two posts in a row, I'm hoping you won't mind a repeat piece.

http://bit.ly/19v9hBR by avrdreamer
Creative Commons licensed content

I recently listened to a writing workshop given by Jodi Thomas. One of the lessons she learned as a teen and applies to her writing keeps playing in my mind: Finish your shift. Translation: Finish your book. If it's completed, rewrite it. If it's rewritten, submit it.

I love doing revisions, doing research. It's the new stuff that comes hard for me. Getting those words on the page in the first place, that's my struggle.

While listening to Jodi's workshop, I realized that as a kid I loved working on various projects, but sometimes I didn't finish them. Who am I kidding? Most of the time I didn't finish them. I think it's because if I finished it, it would be done. Over. Completed. Then what? I didn't have a money tree in my yard, so I made projects last as long as I could.

I think it's the same with writing. If I finish the story, then what? I'll have to create a new one. Then the fear sets in. What if the words won't come? It's almost easier not writing, than risking the words not coming.

http://bit.ly/18NkqTj by Bright Meadow
Creative Commons licensed content

Why Aren't I Writing?

Dang! This question comes up a lot.
The easy answer is that writers have tortured souls.
Gosh. Wish I could claim that.
What I can claim is that life and its challenges, pulls, wants, and whines seem to pull me away from my favorite mind game...writing.
Perhaps that is it.
Why do I feel selfish if I'm writing? Probably because is speaks to the romance in my soul. The stirring of my heart, the fevered brow, the...grasping of fantasy. The reality of life is dirty dishes, dust on the window ledges (I nobly refuse to mention the dead six-legged, winged critter there), killing three vacuum cleaners in the last month, the commute from daily duties to home, where there are more.
Solace for others. That takes up hours.
I've been prioritizing some tasks.
One--learn my computer. It is a special needs pet.
Two--clear out old files little at a time.
Three--find the top of my desk.
Four--realize suddenly that these are recurring issues.
Plan B.
One--make myself post-its to remind me of the schedule of tasks I've planned.
Two--make list
Three--on list determine next course of action for things needing done
Four--calendar those actions
Five--perform those actions because I've post-it-ed them and they are now on my bathroom mirror.
Six--realize first thing on list is to wash bathroom mirror
Plan C.
One--go for refreshments this looks like a long task
Two--review notes for this blog.
Three--Oh, here it is.

Writer's Productivity Pitfalls by Sage Cohen.

1. Unclear big picture vision. Without an idea of where you're headed, it will be impossible to set realistic goals and measure your progress along the way.
2. Lack of short term goals. You can't hit a target you can't see. Knowing our daily,weekly, monthly, and annual goals (both practical and inspirational) can help you keep moving in the right direction.
3. Fear. Risk is the hinge on which productivity turns; if we aren't in danger of falling, we aren't growing. When we let fear prevent us from taking steps that could bring our writing dreams closer, we limit our opportunities to succeed.
4. Trying to force productivity. Understanding your writing rhythms and honoring them is the key to finding and sustaining flow you can count on.
5. Shabby systems. If you can't find the latest draft of your essay, can't keep track of what you've pitched and to whom, and don't remember that great idea you had last week, you're limiting yourself needlessly.
6. Lack of awareness about time. If you're not aware of how you're spending time, what your time is worth, and how you might devote more time to writing, or what you intend to accomplish in each chunk of writing time you do have, you're not maximizing this most precious resource.
7. Transition turbulence. Work to establish rhythms for everything from sitting down to the blank page to completing a writing session, so that shifts from one project to the next don't leave you in a lull.
8. Perfectionism. If you wait for your work to be perfect, it (and you) may never leave your desk. Focus, instead, on professionalism-doing the best you can, learning along he way, and understanding that mistakes and failures feed every success.
9. Isolation. Without a social, professional and community context, we're far more likely to get discouraged, lose our way and miss out on opportunities.
10. Negativity. It's easy to focus on the negative in writing and in life. But when we turn out attention to what's working and what we appreciate from moment to moment, our sails turn into the wind.

Well, I'm sorta clear on my big picture, but really, my big picture is sooooo big, I don't know what it looks like. I think I'll work on that this next week.
I have short term goals. I just never seem to get them all met. Hmm. don't really know why.
Fear. I used to be afraid. Then my good compatriots of WARA helped me out with that. WARA members rock!!
Forcing Productivity. If only.  I think I could use a little more force.
Shabby Systems. Oooops. Bingo. I was totally shot down when I realised that when I backed up in my backup drive that I had multiples of my WIP. I had kind of wondered why work I had done on it appeared to have disappeared the next time I worked on it.  Now I have multiple versions too. Yay me.....
I have no awareness of where time goes. I sat here at 4:30. It is now 8:42. I have been very busy.
Perfectionism. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Isolation. HA! I have WARA!!
Negativity. It comes and goes...like dyspepsia.

How are you doing on the writer's productivity pitfall list?
How's your romance vs love your writing life?
Going for coffee and chocolate. You're on your own for a while.

And why isn't this posted on my day, the 10th? Because I won't be available on the 10th and the last time I tried to have it auto-post, my post got lost.

Bumps, Potholes, and Tsunamis along the Writer’s Way by J Vincent

For some strange reason I went to check what was up on the WARA blog this morning.  I saw Pat’s great blog from the 2nd and thought, “No one else has posted?”  Then I realized it wasn't mid-month.  In fact today is my day to blog!  I’m way too tired to check what the topic is supposed to be.  After reading Pat’s blog this is the topic that came to mind.  I know, my thought process is a little warped, or perhaps a lot twisted these days!

My writing total for August was zilch, nada, zero.  Or to the best of my memory it was.  This summer has sorely tested the will to write, let alone time to write.  First we sold our house, then a week before the closing the buyer just disappeared without telling anyone.  We were about two-thirds moved out by then and so I got to unpack a little of what I had already packed.  The house went back on the market and we soon had another contract.  As the closing neared we started to discover just how expensive selling an older house can be.  First came the radon test. An expensive radon eliminator had to be installed.  Then the septic system had to have an upgrade and a collar.  I could go on but you can see this picture and we made it to the closing.  A week after the closing we received a demand from the buyers to pay for an item we had clearly stated in writing on the house prospectus as being taken with us.  That was cleared up in an hour but rattled our cage.  As if all the packing, cleaning out, fixing up, moving into storage, moving into our son’s basement for a three month stay before moving to our next home, and the battle with AT&T U-verse over 3 cable boxes buried in a storage  unit  (another too-long story), wasn’t enough.

In the midst of all this my health issues continue.  There was the leg weakness which therapy was helping until I broke a bone in my left foot and had to wear a CAM boot for two months.  Only those of you who have been tortured by one of those boots can truly understand the discomfort.  The boot did help the foot (try packing a house up while in one!) and cured the sciatica on my left side but threw off my stride and worsened the problems on my right to the point I had to get a spinal epidural in July.  Now my doctors have scheduled some kind of test for my right leg later this month to see if all the problems aren’t caused by permanent nerve damage.  There were also the flare ups of lung infections par the course and two cataract surgeries thrown in for good measure.  It has been a perfect storm of bumps, potholes, minor mountains and low valleys.

Why am I telling you this in a writing blog?  Because no matter what hits you--a wave in the face or a tsunami, it will come to an end.  Things will go back to “normal.”  The human spirit is resilient.  We’ve only been here in our son’s (very nice) basement a little over a week but already my mind has turned back to writing.  Not full-force by any means as there are still too many other details meddling with my time but a start none the less.  I’ve managed to read a book that has given me a leg up on setting and timing.  I am determined to prove Cherry Adair wrong.  I went to her writing seminar in May in KC and got a lot of good ideas.  But she said if you’ve thought about or worked on a book for more than 6 months and not finished it, you should throw it out.  Book Five of the Honour series has been stewing a lot long than that!  I’m much more a proponent of all things in their time, which usually isn’t our time. Here’s hoping you’ve had smoother sailing than I this summer and wishes for a great writing fall!

Why I Write.

Pat Davids here.
Someone asked me why I wanted to write romance novels?
Well, its because, once upon a time, I fell in love with a love story.
It was The Wolf and the Dove, an awesome historical romance by the great Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.

After I fell in love with romance novels, I started to read as many as I could. At one time, I could read five or six books a week. Yes, a week. Historicals were my favorite, but I read all kinds of romances. My husband loved to read almost as much as I did and we spent many happy hours browsing in the local book stores. He liked vampires and serial killers, not romances.

Then, a sad thing happened. I began to notice that not all books were created equal. I don't remember the name of the book I was reading, but I remember tossing it aside in disgust and thinking. "That was a terrible ending. I'd never end a book that way."

After that, I began to notice that some characters said stupid things or did stupid things that didn't make sense. I began to grumble more about poor quality writing. I lost that easy suspension of disbelief that is so important in keeping a reader engaged in the story.

All my life, stories had formed in my head and I thought I would write a book when I retired from nursing. Suddenly, I didn't want to wait. I wanted to tell a story that a reader couldn't put down. I began to think that I could write a better story and make a fortune doing it.


With an inflated sense of talent and zero knowledge of the business, I set out to write a novel. A historical novel set in Canada in the 1880s. Thankfully, it was never finished and will never see the light of day. I actually had a scene in the female grizzly bear's POV. (FYI, it wasn't really a romance.)

Along the way of my writing journey, I joined WARA. I learned what POV was, I learned what pacing was, I learned what publishers were looking for and that it wasn't one of my stories. I learned about rejections. Lots of them. I learned to revise and follow the market trends and I listened to other published authors.

I discovered that my voice fit the inspirational market, a place I wouldn't have looked to become published if not for a speaker I heard at one of our WARA meetings.

I might have fallen in love with romance novels when I was a reader, but WARA made me the writer I am today.

What are some of the things WARA or research has taught you about the craft of writing?