Sunday, August 31, 2014

Writer's Block Sucks

Let’s talk about writer’s block today and how to overcome it. There was a time I would have told you writer’s block didn’t exist, it was simply a matter of being discipline. (yeah, I was arrogant)

But in my defense, I was working my day job for 40 hours a week, writing every night until my eyes were blurry, and maintaining an impressive writing schedule for even a full time author. Granted I gave up things like fun and sleep, but I never had writer’s block. I had days I didn’t feel like writing but I did it anyway. I was disciplined. I set deadlines and goals and made those. Period.

However, I am now a little older and wiser and I have been writing a lot longer now so I better understand what writer’s block really is. The official definition who I google it is this: the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.

This is a fine definition; however, I think there is so much more to it. The fact is there are several different ways your writing can be blocked. 

  1.  .   Your story has lost direction.
  2.      You don’t have any ideas that capture you.
  3.      You keep getting distracted by everything but writing.
  4.      You dread something that is coming up in the story.
  5.      You have too many ideas.
  6.       Fear.

I am sure there are infinite ways to be blocked, but these are the ones I have at least had some experience with since I have been writing. I have read lots of what is becoming clichéd advice on how to get over writer’s block and it works on some of it, but not all of them.

Step one to overcoming writer’s block is to figure what exactly is blocking you.
Once you know that, it is easier to figure out what you need to do to fix it or overcome it. Below I am going to tell you what has worked for me. These tactics may or may not work for you. As with everything in writing, it is all about trial and error.

Your story has lost direction: You have been writing, writing, writing then all of a sudden you have no idea what to do next, how the book should end, and/or how you got to where you are in the story. This one happens to me a lot. Normally it has one or two different causes.
  • You forced your characters in the wrong direction at some point in the story. To remedy this reread the book. Figure out where things went amiss. If it is an easy fix, then do it and keep writing. If it isn’t sometimes you have to take the very painful step of deleting the words you have worked so hard on. When I was writing Choices (book 2 of the Guardian Trilogy) I had to deleted 40,000 words because I had a clear goal where I wanted my characters to go so I forced them to go there. But the further I went the more I hated my book. I knew something was wrong with it and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make it write. However, after taking a deep breath and deleting it, the next run through went to much better.
  • You simply have lost focus. A simple reread then some basic plotting to get you to the end. I personally like lists and flow charts. I will reread what I have written making a list of all open threads. Then when I get to the point I stopped writing I will look at what I need to address and I will make a flowchat of the order in which everything should happen and cross them off as I get to them. I don’t force myself to do the chart in order, but just having the chart gives me a sense of control and direction.

You don’t have any ideas that capture you: For this there are a few tricks that help me overcome it.
  • Flash fiction. Instead of sitting down and trying to write a novel, find a picture that inspires you and makes you want to write something. Set a small goal (250 words, 500 words, whatever you are comfortable with) and write a story based on that picture. Who is the person in the picture, what happened at that location, what are the circumstance of that brought everything to that point? This is a great way to get new story ideas or to just clear your mind from whatever you have been writing. Like if I am writing a lot of paranormal novels then I like to make my flash fiction more mystery or horror based. Then when I go back to paranormal I feel more refreshed.
  •  Get out of the house. This one is getting more and more important to me since I became a full time writer. Less and less I have to interact with people and that means that I have lost a huge source of inspiration. So go shopping, go for a walk somewhere that there are people, do anything that forces yourself to be around other people. I do a lot of people watching. I like to make up stories about the people I see in my mind. Based on their movements, interactions, clothes, mannerisms, what are they like? What are their circumstances in life?
  • Have a marathon of your favorite tv show or a new one. Sometimes a great place for inspiration is in movies or television or music. Watch how the story unfolds. How would you have done it differently? Write down the lines that inspire them. Give your mind permission to carry you away.

You keep getting distracted by everything but writing: This one is tricky. The fact is it is hard to work a full time job, raise a family, spend time with friends and family and still manage to write. In fact, it isn’t just hard. At times it is impossible. I don’t have an easy solution to this. Try making a schedule and putting writing into your daily routine. Be realistic though. Don’t tell yourself you can devote three hours a day to it when 30 minutes is more likely because then you will be discouraged. You won’t spend that spare 30 minutes writing when you don’t have a three hours block because that is what you believe you should have. It is easier to schedule 30 minutes and write for an hour than it is to schedule three and only be able to write for 1/6 of that time. Also I devote Sundays not to writing, but to menu planning, grocery shopping, schedule making, and organizing. That way come Monday morning I don’t look around and find 100 things I need to do that can distract me from writing. It isn’t 100% and sometimes these things work better than other, but regardless I keep trying.

You dread something that is coming up in the story: This is when you know a part of the book is coming up that you really don’t want to write. You know you have to kill a character you love, write a scene you aren’t comfortable with (a fight, sex, a breakup, etc.). For this there is only one way that I know of to get over it. Keep writing. Force yourself to sit down and put one word in front of the other. Have some wine, take a shower, do whatever you need to relax and write. Don’t separate yourself from the scene even if it hurts I believe in feeling the scene make your writing stronger and allows the reader to feel it too.

You have too many ideas: This is when you start one story then while you are writing it, you get another idea so you start that, then another and another, so on and so forth, until you have 20 stories started and none of them are finished. The key to this is discipline. Write down the idea and move back to the original story. Force your mind to focus. If you still can’t write it then look objectively at the story. Is it a good idea? Will it make a good book? If you can’t remember why you wanted to write to start with maybe you should shelve the book and write something else. But just keep in mind that having 20 beginnings means nothing if you can’t give them 20 endings.

Fear: Oh fear. It creeps up just when you need it the very least. There are so many things to be afraid of while you are writing. What if people hate the book, what if you don’t live up to expectations, what if they make you stop writing (I don’t know who they are, but they suck), what if the writing is terrible, what if, what if, what if. It can eat at you and paralyze you. Again I don’t have a ready and easy solution to this problem. Most simply I work through the fear. I push it to the back of my mind and write anyway. I may not be perfect, but I will get better. Hopefully with each story I write I learn something and improve. Fear will not dominate me, it will not hold me back. Recognize it and defeat it every chance you get.

Anyway, these are the things that work for me.  I don’t know if any of it helps other writers, but I hope it does. I know a lot of my solutions are tough it out, but frankly writing isn’t for the weak.


Friday, August 29, 2014

An Interview with Holden and Olivia about Inferno.

Today we are going to talk to Olivia and Holden because apparently I promised one of my fabulous readers, Suzie Williams, that I would do a joint interview of them and I never did it. So without further ado here they are.

Liz: Hello, you two. Now today we are talking about Inferno, but please no spoilers. Teasing however is perfectly acceptable.
*Olivia frowns and Holden gives me a level look*
Holden: Not really the happiest time in our lives.  I assume we have you to thank for that.

Liz: I’m sorry, but I’m just writing the story. I can’t help the way the pieces come together. You were there. You could have changed it.

*Holden folds arms over chest*

Holden to Olivia: I told you we couldn’t trust her.
Liz: Hey!
Olivia: Holden, that’s not entirely fair. She’s on our side, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to go through the steps to get to wherever we are going.
Holden: It the “wherever we are going” that worries me.

Liz: *clears throat. Clearly I need to take back over this interview* Okay so what can you tell us about how the book starts.
Olivia: *bites her lip* Well, things could be better.
Holden: The shit has hit the fan and coated the room.

Liz: That’s actually fair assessment. Again, I’m sorry. But tell them a little about what happens and what to expect.
Holden: *sighs* We have taken the fight to them (the demons), but it turns out our biggest fight is within our own walls. *glances at Olivia*
Olivia: Well you see the angel is a little bit out of hand. She has really good intentions, but not all plan, no matter how good they are, turn out the way you think. *chews on her fingernail*
Holden: *takes her hand* We had to do it.
Olivia: I know.

Liz: You guys really aren’t being very forthcoming.
Holden: You said no spoilers.

Liz: But surely there is something we can discuss.
Olivia: Probably shouldn’t mention *** ****** with Baker or that ** ***** *** ****Femi…
Liz: Not probably not.
Holden: Or that Maggie ******* * *******
Liz: *shakes head*
Holden: Phoenix is freed.
Olivia: Someone from Femi’s past comes back into the picture. He’s a vampire.
Liz: Yeah they met him in Sweet Little Lies.
Olivia: Well, I’m a hot mess in this installment, but Holden. *smiles* Holden keeps things together.

Liz: Anything else?
Olivia: …
Holden: …

Liz: Okay then. This wasn't exactly an exciting interview. Maybe next time we should let the readers ask the questions. I’ll let you go and get back to the Easy Bake Coven girls. See you guys again soon.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

11 Paranormal Books For .99

So here's the deal.

I have been wanting to do a multi-author box set since the last one I did (Six Times A Charm). This time there are 11 (Eleven!!!) of us in the set. All of the books are so much fun and I am pretty sure all of our favorite paranormal creatures are covered: Jinn, Guardians, werewolves, shifters, vampires, oh my).

I am so honored to be a part of such an amazing box set of authors. The set is available for PREORDER right now on iBooks, Amazon, and Smashwords for only .99.

This is a very limited time promotion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Last Night I Stayed Up Too Late Reading

It's true. I meant to read a book and I, through no fault of my own, read a trilogy. Sometimes these things happen.

I love to read.

I love to write too, but some days it is just really nice to get lost in someone else's words and let them carry you off to vacation in their imagination. Then when I woke up opened Facebook and saw this article on Bustle about how readers react to nonreaders (complete with gifs).

It blows my mind that there are people in this world who don't like to read, but alas to each their own.

I leave you with this rhyming monstrosity of a poem I wrote because I can and no one can stop me! *insert crazy smile*

An Ode To Reading
11pm Tossing and turning
Mind hopelessly yearning
I’ll just pick up a book
Distracting my thoughts was all it took.

12am prop myself up
To take a sip from my cup
The pages turn fast
The die has been cast

1am toss off the cover
Anxiously waiting to see if he’ll love her
Emotions soar and crash
A tear sticks to my lash

2am roll over to lean on my arms
Who wouldn’t fall for his charms
My eyes are blurry
Only five more chapters so I’ll hurry

3am close my eyes
Staying up this late wasn’t wise
The character’s journey plays in my head

So much more than just a book I read.

What are you reading right now?


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Feeling Blurb-y

Describing your 300 page novel in ten sentences is not for the weak. Picking and choosing what is important, what will make a reader want to pick up your book, and what needs to be left out of the blurb (or as the traditionals call it the jacket copy) is on the very best days daunting—and on the very worst impossible.
However, it is also necessary.

A good blurb the difference between getting new readers and, frankly, getting no readers. The cover is your novel’s first impression. Its job is to make them stop and look at your book. The blurb’s job is to sell the book. It should be easy to read, enticing, and representative of your writing.

Today just helped two of my friends with blurbs for their upcoming releases, so I thought why not write a blog post about it to help any other authors out there who are also working on their book blurbs. To make this easy and because I love a good list, I am doing this in list form (this is my blog. I do what I want!)

1.      1.  Forget about the entire book and focus on who is your character at the beginning of the novel.  What is he or she like before their whole world goes to hell.

2.       2What is your inciting incident? What happens at the beginning of the book to drive your character into action?

3.      3.  Show the rising action. Put in your mind what your character’s ultimate goal is in the book (ignore the side stories) and then think about the challenges they had to overcome to reach that goal. Those challenges are your rising action.

4.      4.  What is at stake for the character? If they fail to make their goal what happens? If nothing happens then you might want to take another look at your book. There should always be something that drives the character forward and makes them want that outcome more than anything else.

The above is really all you need to write a good blurb. These things cover the story and help build interest and tension. However, there’s more to keep in mind.

1   Details. They are like the Goldilocks of blurb writing. On one hand you can have too much detail and it will bog down the blurb and make it hard to read. On the other hand you can have too few details and the reader will come away knowing nothing about your story. Neither of which make enticing blurbs. The simplest way to state this is: you should share the specific events and details in the book that drive the main plot, but not the names or the subplots.

Example of a blurb without enough detail:
“Emily is driven by one thing: her determination to make up for a pivotal, crushing mistake. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t let go of the past, much less let herself be happy.

Mike’s picture-perfect world has been shattered. Now he’s struggling to pick up the pieces. Nothing makes sense and around every corner a landmine from his past destroys any hope of starting over.
When these two broken souls reach out to each other for comfort, neither intends for it to go so far, or so deep. Can they learn to live and love again, even if it’s for just one night?”

It isn’t a bad blurb. The writing is good and it pretty much covers the things I listed above, but at the end of reading this blurb my only real thought for what the story is about was, it’s a romance. That isn’t enough to sell it. Let the reader in. Show them the heart of the book. 

Revised blurb:
Emily is driven by one thing: her determination to make up for a youthful, pivotal mistake. An unplanned pregnancy before she graduated high school changed the course of her life forever. No matter how hard she works or how much time she devotes to her son, it will never be enough. Her own happiness is the furthest thing from her mind.

Mike never planned on being a single father, but when cancer claimed his beloved wife his picture-perfect life shattered. A year later he still struggles to pick up the pieces and raise their daughter though his heart breaks every day. And around each corner inescapable memories of the love of his life haunt him.
When these two broken souls reach out to each other for comfort, neither intends for it to go so far, or so deep. Can they learn to live and love again, even if it’s for just one night?

The difference between these two blurbs is that the first you walk away know something happened in Emily’s life, but you have no idea what. That makes Emily nothing more than a name on a page. In the second example, you are starting to get to know Emily. You understand her a little better and maybe you can relate to her. Lo and behold you actually want to know if these two people can love again.

2.       Cliches. If you read it once, you’ve read is a thousand times (totally did that on purpose), avoid clichés. I know it’s hard and I don’t always succeed either, but damn it, you have to try. The thing is when you write a blurb the length is so restricted that is honestly makes very little sense to include something that is basically a throw away. These are words that in no way will resonate with a reader and will not set apart your book. Yes, they are easy and so readily available, but they aren’t helping you.

3.       Ending with questions. I can honestly say I am not a fan. Occasionally a blurb will pull it off, but mostly, I recommend avoiding the use. The ending question has been done so many times it has become a cliché blurb writing technique. Instead of leaving a reader like that, take the extra time and think of a great last line that will stick with them. Just like your novels, the first and the last line are the most important.

4.       Make it easy. The more complicated your blurb is the less likely people will read it to the end. If you start throwing out super long sentences, big words, tons of details, people are going to lose track of what you are saying and give up. A blurb should be short and simple. Something a person can read at a glance and know if this is the book for them.

5.       Demonstrate what your book is by the writing in your blurb. You shouldn’t have to tell someone your book is a mystery or a comedy or a romance. You should be showing it in what you are writing. If you have written a comedy then your blurb should be funny (good luck with that).

6.       Ask for help.  This is my final piece of advice. Blurb writing is hard—really really hard. You will never write as good of a blurb alone as you will with the help of others. You see the problem is you already know intimately every detail of your story, therefore your opinion is shit. You can’t see the places that the reader will be like “Whaaaatttt?” So get help. Ask your author friends to read it and tell you what they think. No, you don't have to take everyone’s advice, but if several people are bothered by the same thing, then you should seriously think about it.

If you have one friend who is really good at writing blurbs then I would suggest asking them what time would be good for them to help you, then set aside like thirty minutes with that person to go over it. That way you can be there to answer questions and go back and forth with them. Do not just send them your blurb and expect they can work on it immediately. Be respectful of their time because they are doing you a favor.

Personally when I work on a blurb for someone it can take me anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours depending about how responsive the other person is.

Anyway, that’s what I know. I hope this helps.  I have spent so much time writing this post I am not going to proofread it, so you will have to deal the typos. :-D

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