Archive for June, 2010



The Fitness Instructor’s Guide to Writing Fast
by Our Guest on June 3rd, 2010

Note from Jessa: I got to dance with Marie-Claude Bourque at RT in Columbus this year, so I can attest to her fitness!  She’s willing to give away a copy of ANCIENT WHISPERS to one lucky commenter, so you can experience her wonderfully evocative writing yourself!

mcb-photo-verysmallWhen it comes to writing fast, face it, unless we are specially gifted, it all comes down to motivation and how much time we spend putting words on the page.

I spend 15 years as an AFAA certified fitness instructor, the last 5 of those as a coordinator and trainer of instructors. I learned a thing or two about motivation, because really, taking the steps to stay fit and healthy requires a lot of motivation.

So here is what I taught my fitness clients and class participants and how you can adapt it to find the motivation to be more prolific in writing (and, as bonus, learn some fitness tips).

Keep your goals intrinsic:

Fitness: This means that your goals should be things that you can do something about as opposed to goals that involve someone else or external factors. I can have a goal of losing 10 pounds by next month or looking like Heidi Klum by my birthday but I’m fighting a lot of things here, my metabolism and my genetics. It is impossible with that goal to reach success. If I say I’ll exercise 4 times this week, or take my latte nonfat for now on, the goal is completely under my control. If I do fail, it’s my fault.

Writing: Similarly if my goal is to sell my first book within the year, hit the NYT list in 5 years or become as famous as Nora Roberts, I am not setting myself up for success.  However, I can be quite successful if I chose to submit my manuscript to ten agents this month, or my proposal to my editor by next week or finish my 2 completed novels by the end of the year. It’s all under my control.

Write it down:

Fitness: Most successful fitness professional write down their progress. In an exercise or a food log, in a notebook, calendar or on a smart phone, it doesn’t matter but it seems that people who track down what they are doing tend to think more about what they are about to eat and are motivated to see their progress on paper. I lost 40 pounds of baby weight twice by writing down everything I ate. It works.

Writing: We can do this in writing to. Track your daily word count or pages written, whether on a calendar that you see every day or in a special notebook, by coloring blocks on a chart, using a word count meter online or posting your accomplishments to your social networks, whatever works for you. Seeing the number add up every day is very motivating.

Make it social:

Fitness: I always tell my participant to make dates with friends at the gym. If you know your best friend is there, you can’t change your mind at the last minute. She might be upset. Planning for coffee afterwards with a bunch of pals makes you more likely to go because it’s fun. Having a running buddy who picks you up at your house also gives you no choice but go ahead with your exercise.

Writing: Writing is more solitary but you can make it social. Why is Twitter so popular with writers? You can meet a writer friend at the coffee shop to write, you can have a writing buddy that you email in the morning then at the end of the day to encourage each other or you can belong to goal oriented group like Amy Atwell’s Goal in a Month groups. It’s a lot more fun when you are not alone.

Get your stuff ready ahead of time:

Fitness: I like to keep my gear close by and accessible. If I am not spending 15 min. looking for my gym socks, I am much more likely to stick with my daily walks. I like to have my clothes ready if I know I’ll exercise in the morning and I would always pack my gym bag in my trunk in the morning when I used to work outside to head straight to the gym before going back home. In college, I would pack my locker with a fresh supply of all my gear for the week including swimsuit and rackets, so I could just go there and decide what kind of exercise I would do on the spot.

Writing: I write first thing in the morning and I am not blessed with an office. I found that when I put my notebook, pen, and laptop all ready for me to write, I am much more likely to do it. If you keep your material organized and easily accessible in an obvious reminder that you need to write now, you are more likely to do it.

If all fails, buy something.

Fitness: I used to tell people to go buy some nice exercise wear when they felt their motivation slipping. Yes exercise it hard, but we might as well look pretty while doing it. Trust me, it works. Plus if you’ve invested some money, you’re imposing a little guilt on yourself to actually use the stuff.

Writing: I cured my writer’s block last summer by downloading a song each time I would finish a scene. I figured the most it would cost me would be $75 for a whole book. Pretty cheap! It worked for me. Soon I was writing one-two scenes a day and even started to forget to buy songs because I was having so much fun writing. Find a little treat that you can get once you’re done, it might help!

Just do it

Fitness: In the end, there are no tricks. That’s why Nike got its trademark bang on. You just have to get there and do it. Don’t think. Learn to shut that part of your brain that moans and complains that you are tired and will start tomorrow. Get out there and exercise. Do it first thing in the morning (early exercisers are more successful at keeping up with it) or head to the gym straight after work. Don’t get comfortable, do it. Do it for 5 minutes, hey you might actually stick with it for 30 min. but if not, at least you got into the habit of doing it. It does get easier.

Writing: BIC: Butt in Chair. Is there any other way? Again, just do it. Don’t think about it. Sit and stare at the blank page. Even if all you do is sit there for your allotted time and think about your book, you are being productive. Find times to do it when you are so tired there is nothing more you’d like to do than sit down and daydream (I like early morning and right after my run).

So now, make a date with yourself and write!  (or exercise or both!)

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mcb_ancientwhispers-original-mediumMarie-Claude Bourque is the American Title V winner and author of ANCIENT WHISPERS, a sensual gothic paranormal romance filled with sorcerers and Celtic priestesses in search for eternal love in modern time. She worked as a climate research scientist, a scientific translator and a fitness expert until she turned to fiction writing. She draws her inspiration from the French legends of her childhood and a fascination for dark fantasy.

ANCIENT WHISPERS, a Dorchester -Love Spell release is available now wherever books are sold. Find more at www.mcbourque.com and don’t forget to enter the contest for her month-long virtual release party at www.mcbourque.com/launchparty

Fluttering by
by Sharon Ashwood on June 2nd, 2010

The fun and the pain in building the world of the Dark Forgotten is that I had a wide-open slate to bring various species onstage. Some, like vampires, would be more like us (after all, they started out human) and others, like the fey, might sometimes look human but have completely different value systems. How these various creatures viewed the world, interacted, built their economies and belief systems, rapidly became a fascinating playground.

And that didn’t cover all the fun things like looking into the various pursuits my human(ish) characters had: police detectives, radio announcers, and eighteenth century cavalry officers. Who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon sitting in the booth during a talk show, or scour the Internet for engravings that showed the proper uniform the hero wore in his misspent youth?

11butterfly

Yup, my weakness is remembering which story I want to write. A fascinating something flutters by, and my natural instinct is to chase it.

It doesn’t just happen with world building, either. I’ll be writing along and think, “Whoa! Wouldn’t THAT plot twist be cool??” and I’m off. The trick is knowing which of these winged messengers are actually memos from the muse and which are demons in disguise—because every time a new layer of complexity is introduced, each and every character will be impacted. Sometimes that opens up a fruitful vein of characterization, and sometimes it’s just a big old can o’worms.

can-o-worms

Put another way, one can end up with a book badly in need of pruning and shaping. Annette’s post yesterday about editing is very true. What makes a book is the ability to see the book under the butterflies (by now no more than splotches on the plot development windshield), weird outgrowths, and scraggly patches. What I love is seeing the finished product and seeing how the unexpected bits of inspiration that I keep have changed the original concept into something new and surprising.

Of course that same butterfly-chasing urge can strike in other ways, too. I’m always fascinated by what I carry out of the bookstore. I always go in to buy JUST ONE book . . .

Writing is a pensive task
by Annette McCleave on June 1st, 2010

The hardest part of writing for me really isn’t a craft topic. Well, not the way we generally think of craft, anyway. My biggest struggle as I work through a book isn’t plot or character arc or even choosing the right verbs. It’s deal with a fear of failure. Like many writers, I can visualize my book and my characters with amazing detail. The problem is getting those details onto the page with even half of the vividness I see in my head.

Writing would be easy if I had a pensive. Any Harry Potter fans out there? A pensive is a dish that can hold thoughts–you pull thoughts out of your head and put them in a pensive, where they can be shared with others. The thoughts are pure and vivid and almost livable. That’s what I aspire to do with my stories, but without a pensive, capturing them is a real challenge.

There are days when I look at the words I’ve clumsily cobbled together to shape my story and sigh in disgust. How can words do justice to what I see in my head? I’ll never get it right. Why even bother trying?

The hard part, for me at least, is staying at the computer and continuing to put black marks on paper even when I feel unhappy with the result. Sometimes it’s the dialog that’s not working, sometimes it’s the mood or the setting, and sometimes it’s the character balking at my orders. Whatever the current concern, I find the best way is to write through it. Keep going. I can tighten the prose, I can change the plot points, I can tweak the dialog. But I can’t fix a blank page.

The self-doubt I experience at moments when it’s not working well is tough to ignore. A little voice in my head slyly suggests I’m a fake. I’m not a real writer–real writers can mold moving tales from these inert words and letters. They can create visual masterpieces from blocks of text. Me? Not so much.

How do I get around that insidious voice?

1. By telling myself I’m not a writer, I’m a rewriter.
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” ~James Michener

2. By telling myself I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Every writer I know has trouble writing.” ~Joseph Heller

3. By reminding myself that edits are a vital part of the process.
You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” ~Arthur Polotnik

Then I pull the chair a little closer to the desk, put my fingers on the keys, and type.

I have a huge array of inspirational quotes that I read from time to time. Does anyone have a favorite quote they’d like to share–one that revs them up and sends them back in to the fight?