It’s beginning to look a lot like–

Poop. Christmas? Already?

Yes! Before Halloween, even. Dis-gusting, I know. But, it could be worse.

Shortly before Christmas last year, I was contracted by Entangled Press to write a book for them.  It wasn’t a book of my own creation, but one they’d outlined. It was up to me to flesh it out.

It was–rather, I should say is–a Christmas-themed book.

When I first started writing Santa Maybe, carols played, lights twinkled, and everyone was merry and bright. But, as usual, the holiday passed. The air grew warm. The Easter Bunny came and left. Flowers bloomed. And I was still writing that &#@!*$ Christmas book.

Baseball season began; my son played first base while I sat in the car with my laptop, melting and cursing Christmas. By this point, I was channeling my hero, Justin. Justin loathes Christmas, mostly because his dad was killed during the holiday. It’s not his happiest time of year. (Understandably.) That little character “thing” made the book that much harder to write. Depressed heroes are not fun–or funny. (Did I mention this was supposed to be a romantic comedy?)

Finally, I finished the first draft and in May I sent the book to my editor. (If I could have flung it at her, I would have. By this point, I did not love this book. I mean, seriously. Santa in the Springtime is just plain wrong.) Worse, she sent the wretched thing back. For revisions. In August! I had to wonder how they can stand Christmas in Australia; it was hard to write (or think) sentimentally about snow, sugar cookies and the scent of balsams when you’re gulping iced tea and slathering on sunscreen. (I considered sticking my head in the freezer a few times to get in the right mood…)

You know, I even had dreams that it was Christmas, and it was muggy and there were leaves on the trees (and shrimp on the barbi? Which was really weird because I live in Rhode Island, USA), and everyone looked at me like I’d gone insane. Because I kept asking, “Where’s Santa?” And–of course–because it was the Fourth of July. Insanity! Holiday chaos!

Finally, after a summer full of Christmas, the book was completed, the final version was approved, and a release date was scheduled: November 13th.  Hurray! And you know–I’m kind of looking forward to Christmas this year. At least it won’t be beach weather. 🙂

Here’s a little video that gives you an idea of poor Justin’s story. I can promise you that in the end, he loves Christmas at every time of the year.

About Cyn D. Blackburn

Cyn D. Blackburn is addicted to love. And caffeine. She lives with her husband (of 20+) years, three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs and one terribly outnumbered cat. She knows that nothing eases the difficulties of life--and falling into love--more than a little humor.

When Your Writing Misses the Mark

This post is for the writers. The aspiring authors, the seasoned veterans.

Sometimes, you write a story and it just flows. It comes together like it has a life of its own, fully-formed and perfect. This isn’t about those times.

Because even when you have those stories, you’ll also have stories that are just… off. They’re missing something, the something that makes them a story worthy of telling.

Maybe it’s your structure or conflict. For me, it was an under-developed character.

I couldn’t figure out: how did this happen to me? Me, who spends a month or two pre-writing. Polishing characters’ histories, their GMC, plotting out a story based on those things before ever putting fingers to keyboard and executing. I spend as much time pre-writing as I do writing the first draft.

But, there was no denying that’s exactly where my story was at. The bad news came from my editor. (Mistake number one–I was in a hurry and didn’t have it beta read by my trusted critique partners before submission.) My heroine’s backstory and motivation were… weak.

I couldn’t believe it. In the weeks following my grandmother’s death, I’d written Exactly Like You, edited it, submitted it, and it was published in June. It was one of the aforementioned stories–it just flowed together perfectly, seamlessly.

How could I have done that so well and missed the mark so completely in the other story? For one, I didn’t dig for backstory and motivation. I latched onto the first idea that came to me. The first idea is never the best idea–don’t let anyone tell you any different. (This would be mistake number two, in case you’re counting.)

I revised and then sent it out for beta with two very smart CPs (all my critique partners are smart, but I digress). They came back with the same verdict–I’d missed that mark again. She was still underdeveloped. Her motivation wasn’t quite believable. That’s what happens when you try to make your character fit your story rather than the other way around. (That, friends, is mistake number three.)

I’m very happy to say that I conferred with one of my CPs, sending her five pages of notes to address the specific issues she called out, then had another CP take a look at my opening and made adjustments again. This had become the story that would not live.

But I wasn’t giving up. All is well now (I hope–it’s been resubbed to my editor, so we’ll see). I can tell you that I don’t think there’s much more of me left for that story. If it’s not enough? This may become one of those stories bound for the far reaches of my hard drive.

I wish I had a happy ending, but don’t all the true life-lesson stories end ambiguously? Take what you can from this, writers. Dig into that back story, then dig some more. Don’t skimp on character, ever.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Real Life and Priorities

Are you a writer? A new writer? An aspiring bestselling author? Or a reader, curious about the writer’s life?

Have you ever said to yourself, Ugh, I hate when real life gets in the way or I had to deal with real life today…?

See, I used to say that stuff, too. There was always this idea that the writing wasn’t real. It was something that came second to everything else, no matter what that was. The writing was the first to go when life went through an upheaval.

But sometime in the last year or two… [and I think it started during my contracted writing hiatus!], I stopped thinking about everything else as real life.

Writing is Real Life. And you know what? Sometimes I let stuff get in the way of Real Life…

After reading a few articles in the past week, including this one, HERE, part of me was like. Yeah. That’s right. Writing is the important part! If we’re not writing, there’s nothing to sell. Which led me to think about how much I write and when I write and how I’ve made it a priority. This article, HERE, was a good reminder of how social can often take over my life. Even when social media feels like Real Life, it’s not. Not the promotions, not the family photos, not the political debates,…that ain’t real, people! Get off it and write.

Tuesday was supposed to be my big start into editing Book 4. But I spent the day helping the husband get ready to take a trip [not really helping, but just doing all that weird busy stuff that doesn’t seem to matter when the day is said and done!]. Wednesday, I had a board meeting for an organization I belong to. Tomorrow, I made plans to have a get together with friends. You know what? [I love all of those things. But I haven’t written anything this week!]

It’s time to get back to Real Life. The job. The goal. The dream. It’s okay to do those things…as long as I’m also taking care of my career. And that is true for the writers…and doctors, and cosmetologists, and …everyone.

What about you? What keeps you from getting the work done? From writing that next chapter? From submitting to the next agent or editor?

Post a comment for a chance to win a copy of Cindy Skagg’s new release [out today!!], Survive by the Team! Book Three of the Team Fear Series. <3

Happy Writing!

Beth

Mandi Gault never met a man brave enough to openly date a mortician, so when a good-looking man with twelve-pack abs invites her to coffee, she’s not asking any questions. Too bad he’s trying to kill her.

Danny Gault died in a conspiracy threatening Team Fear—his defunct military team—so when Gault’s sister winds up in the hospital, former teammate Stills is forced to leave the safety of the team’s compound. He recognizes her attacker as a member of a rogue military unit with orders to eliminate Team Fear. Now they’re on the run while they unravel why Team Echo wants her dead.

As the danger escalates, they share a wild night of down and dirty fun that would put a blush on a corpse, but Stills made it clear it was one and done. Now he must decide if he’s brave enough to forget about vengeance… and live.

Military trained, medically enhanced, designed to kill. The surviving members of Team Fear are out of the military and in a world of secrets, lies, and cover-ups in this fast-paced romantic suspense series by Cindy Skaggs.

 

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Writer’s Meh

The other day one of the Passionate Critters said she was having trouble getting motivated to get any writing work done. She knew what she wanted to write, knew she had some edits to do, but her heart wasn’t in it. Other things were just more interesting. Six of us responded that we felt the exact same way, including me. It’s not writer’s block–which I don’t really believe in, anyway–but it is a writer’s meh, which totally exists.

I have two books in various stages of completion, and while I have a third out on submission I should be working on them. One is so close to being done it’s practically taunting me. I was a bit stuck on where I was going with it, but last week I had a brainstorming session with a friend and I realized exactly what I needed to do. But I still haven’t been able to keep my butt in the chair, and some days I can’t even get it there at all.

It’s very easy to blame writer’s meh on lack of time or  life stress–especially during tax season, which is particularly painful when one is self-employed–but that’s really just an excuse. There’s always time to write, even when life is being persnickety.

I think writer’s meh stems from a need to check out for a while. To take stock of where you are as a person, writer, mom, wife, worker, whatever. To clear the brain of cobwebs, I suppose. (I’m thinking a lot about spiders today–I found FOUR in my house this morning. *shudder*) Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure how to get rid of it. The meh, I mean, not the spiders. I’m pretty clear on how to get rid of those.

Perhaps just a little time is the answer, although a writer friend suggested a meditation exercise that might help. In any case, I think I’m close to getting the cobwebs out, to getting the brain ready to get back to work, and to pushing the writer’s meh away, at least until next time.

How about you? What do you call this weird period of non-productivity? How do you get through and out of it? All of us critters could use your suggestions. 🙂

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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