Self Care During Nano

We all do it.

Roll out of bed, park ourselves in front of the computer, hair not brushed and still adorning our favorite pair of pjs or sweatpants, coffee in hand as we pound out the words to our next novel. Maybe we brushed our teeth, maybe we didn’t (this is a judgement free zone). We cringe when we pass by a mirror, wondering if we were body snatched.

I’ve done it. Plenty of times. #noguilt #bedheaddontcare #pajamadayeveryday. Eventually though, I have to do something that allows me a mental break. I need a moment to reset or I fizzle out (and I was specifically ordered by some of my Nano-ing partners in crime that there will be no fizzling unless it involves a beverage).

Seriously though, if ever there is a time that we, as authors, should pay attention to ourselves, it is during the lovely month of November. We push ourselves to the bring, pulling our hair out, putting in the time and the words to hit that magical 50k+ in a single months time. Every man, woman, and child participating will need to take a step back, regroup, breath, and let themselves focus on something else for even a mere fifteen minutes.

My own personal take on self care probably varies from the many pieces of advice floating around. I tend to look at things I don’t typically allow myself the time for during even a low key writing month or work day. Here are my ideas for self care…

  • Read a book. I’m often so busy writing or dealing with family shenanigans that I don’t do this enough. It’s nice to read a book. It takes your mind on a journey not of your creating. You don’t have to think, you just go along for the ride.
  • Bubble baths. #luxury! I love a good bubble bath. As a parent, you are often lucky to find a single solitary moment in which you can have a peaceful moment in the bathroom, which is why this is a self care luxury in my book.
  • Go get a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Letting someone else do the pampering for you….you will feel like a king or queen for a day.
  • Take a hike. No not in the mean get the hell out of here sort of way. Literally go for a hike. So many great spots out there where one can convene with nature. I’ve found some great ideas from hanging out with ol’ Mother Nature.
  • Go have a girls or guys night out. Sometimes, just hanging with the friends is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Follow the family dog or cat’s lead and curl up for a little afternoon snooze. I don’t do this often, and I will admit to sometimes taking it so far that I wake up feeling a bit groggier than when I put my head to my pillow, but man when I manage a simple power nap, I come back refreshed!

I have many more things that go on my list, but these seem to be the ones that always seem to get my mind working again…and sadly they are also the ones I usually avoid like the plague. However, this month I am planning a #nanoselfcaresunday journey. Every Sunday, on my Instagram, I will post a selfie of how I am indulging in a little self-care.

How do you take care of yourselves during this month of endless writing, yelling at the blank screen, and overall writing chaos? Join with me on my Instagram journey…who knows, maybe we can make it habit and it will just become part of what we do from here on out. I’m game.

About Kinsey Corwin

Kinsey Corwin, a contemporary romance author who really is drawn to small town stories, beaches, and cowboys (I know, that is quite a mix). She is a single mom of amazing boys, a fan of kitchen experiments, a lover of country music, and a dreamer.

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.

I read for the good parts *wink, wink*

Before I start in on this little rant, I want to preface this blog post with the following:

Everyone likes to read what they like to read. There’s nothing wrong with sweet romance vs. regular romance. I’m not writing this to tear down a genre, but because I’m tired of the stigma that comes with writing sex scenes. With that, let’s begin.

I write sex scenes. I don’t close the door on my character’s sexual interactions with one another.  When I announce such a thing in a group of people the following reactions occur:

  • “Oh, you’re a freak, huh?”
  • “You write mommy-porn.”
  • “But you say you don’t like gratuitous sex.”

These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard. Some involving the winking eye from the guys, the casual drop in conversation by the gals, and anytime a conversation veers to the inappropriate people get a little shocked when I say the discussion is a bit risque since I write such things.

No one ever imagines that it’s not about the sex. At. All. The physical act on the page is usually a very limited part of the equation. Why do you think Twilight was so popular? It wasn’t because of the sex since there wasn’t any. What is important is the emotions, the way the act propels the plot either by causing conflict, bringing the couple closer together, dividing them apart, challenging core beliefs, and the list goes on. Some of my favorite books involve sex scenes that don’t actually describe the body parts entering bodies and such, but how the characters emotions evolve throughout the scene.

Not to mention, not every book requires 5 sex scenes, even an erotic romance, the scenes must fit the characters themselves. Writer’s really do ask themselves if the scene is necessary. In editing, and critiquing for others, I’ve removed sex scenes and added in others. Sometimes the comments are for more intimacy and less physical description.

I don’t write mommy-porn, I write emotional growth and discovery. A lot of the sex scenes are about that. Pushing the limits of what the character believes sex is really about and forming a genuine connection between the two people sharing it.

Books I recommend that do such a thing:

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

The One In My Heart by Sherry Thomas

There are many more authors and books, but these are the ones that came to mind. What books can you name where sex is more emotional than physical?

Also, how do you think we can break the stigma?

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

If I Knew Then: Writer’s Edition

Today, I thought I’d blog about craft. Specifically, the things I wish someone had told me (or helped me understand better) when I first started writing. I’m focusing on three main areas today.

Goal-Motivation-Conflict

There’s this fabulous book, if you’ve never heard of it, by Debra Dixon, called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. When I first started writing, I kept hearing about GMC. Maybe you have, too. No one really explained it in a way I understood or, worse, they assumed I knew what GMC was. At that time, you could only order a hard cover from the publisher to get this book. I paid $20, plus shipping, and I’ve never regretted it. It’s incredible.

To summarize, characters want GOALS because MOTIVATION but CONFLICT. It’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, goals are the future, motivation is the past, and conflict is the present. If you can pull all those together, give your character an achievable goal for a realistic reason (motivation) and then have someone stand in their way, you have instant conflict.

Protagonist/Antagonist

Speaking of someone standing directly in the way, pushing back against the hero/ine, that is your antagonist. You really do need an active antagonist. It can’t be your characters drunk, dead father because he can’t push back. Alcoholic daddy can be part of the motivation, but he can’t be the antagonist.

The protagonist has a goal they are working toward. The antagonist has a goal (GMC of his or her own, in fact) and they are actively standing in one another’s way.

Conflict Boxes

Conflict boxes are these nifty, simple little boxes that help you show how the protagonist and antagonist are in opposition. They’re explained best, in my opinion, by Jennifer Crusie in this blog post. Their goals are mutually exclusive, which means only one of them can achieve their goal. The other has to lose. Sometimes, if you aren’t sure who you’re antagonist really is, a conflict box will show you in about two seconds.

If Only That Were It

Obviously, there’s more to learn, but these concepts will get you well on your way. I highly advise reading GMC and checking out the Basics of Fiction blog post by Jennifer Crusie if you’re at the beginning of your writing career or even if you feel you need a little help in these areas.

We’ve got a slew of helpful writers here, so if you have a question, one of us will do our best to answer. Or maybe you have a tip for a new writer. Just post it in the comments below.

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.

On Critique Partners Part 2

As previously mentioned, we’ve all heard the horror stories that can happen when youcrit partners graphic 2 get mixed up with the wrong critique partner. Everything from hurt feelings to making changes on a story you probably shouldn’t have made. The question is how do you find the right one?

There are multiple websites and groups via Yahoo, Facebook, and a simple search can set you on the right track.

What are you looking for? Depends on what you want, a one-on-one partner or a group. For a one-on-one partner, you’re looking for someone with similar goals, career, and writing, to your own. Reason being, you’ll both be working towards a similar path and help support one another to get there. It’s as simple as asking the potential partner what they want out of the relationship. If they just want someone to bounce ideas off of, but you’re looking for a partner to help you get ready for publication, then this may not be your person.

Additionally, you want a person whose strengths will build on your weaknesses.  An example: One of my writing weaknesses is writing dialogue. I found a partner who excels at it, through this, I learn from her.

For a group of partners, you want to seek a balanced environment. Look for a group with published and unpublished authors.  This means you’re getting a wealth of knowledge from those who’ve been at this a little longer than others. The success of a group is based on the diversity of the authors. Similar rules to the ones above apply. Within a group, you should find authors with similar goals to your own and those with strengths that will help you shore up your own weaknesses.

You found your potential partner/group how do you get started?

For individuals, do a trial run. Test out a couple chapters, set expectations, and discuss them at length. Schedule chats to review feedback and ask questions. Critique partners are supposed to be your best friend, your confidant, and the person who helps you work out all those pesky problems. Mine talks me back from ledges, a lot.

For groups, apply (if it’s necessary), follow the rules, and as Lori mentioned in her first post, be respectful. Crits are about the positive and negative. It’s constructive criticism, not tearing someone apart either.

What if I disagree with the feedback? It happens. The best part about crits is that partners (good ones) will tell you to use what you think applies and ditch the rest. It’s universally known that not all feedback may apply. Additionally, don’t dismiss anyone’s feedback. I personally, follow the rule of 2. If 2 critique partners call out the same thing then it’s something that needs to be fixed, hands down. Otherwise, a good tip is to follow your gut, but it’s also highly recommended you let those crit comments marinate for a few days before taking action.

Here’s to the search for the partner and the group. I recommend both and, in most cases, more than one. To find those gems is like having a personal treasure chest.

Missed part 1 – Check out Lori Sizemore’s original post from earlier this month.

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

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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