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

binary trading 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:

fx charts 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:

option trading platform 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
Annette McCleave

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?

Release week!
by Jessa Slade on May 31st, 2010
Jessa Slade

First of all, today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  I hope everyone celebrating has a good BBQ, safe travels, and a chance for a quiet moment of remembrance.

Currently working on: Almost release day!
Mood: Whee!

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is “the hardest part of writing.”  But I’m hijacking the thread, because this is a celebration week for me.   Book 2 of the Marked Souls, FORGED OF SHADOWS, comes out tomorrow, June 1, 2010!

978-0-451-22977-9_ForgedOfShadows.indd

The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, with the Marked Souls caught in the middle, but the new girl doesn’t play by old rules…

Liam Niall never meant to be a leader. Barely surviving the horrors of the Irish Potato Famine with body and soul intact, he escaped to Chicago…where he lost half his soul and gained a wayward band of demon-possessed warriors. Now, as the talyan face a morphing evil, Liam grows weary and plagued by doubt-until a new weapon falls into his hands. Her name is Jilly Chan. To save her demon-ridden soul, Liam must win her to his battle…and his bed.

Waging a one-woman war against the threats to the street kids she mentors, Jilly won’t be any man’s woman or weapon. But Liam-with his hard eyes, soft brogue and compelling hands-is a danger to her rebellious independence…and her heart.

These two halved souls sharing one fierce passion will sear a fresh scar across the city. Who’s in danger now?

“[F]or readers who love J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, the Marked Souls series will hit the spot.”
–4 Stars RT BOOKReviews

This is only my second book, but so far, it seems to me that release week  is one of the EASIEST parts of writing.  Because by the time release week rolls around, it’s too damn late.  Everything has been done.  The story is written, edited, wrapped in a manly chest — or backside, as the case may be — printed, and shipped to the stores (hopefully) to appear on shelves.  From thence to fall into book baskets everywhere (again, hopefully).

Sure, there are other things for me to do: Bite my nails, obsessively click refresh on the Amazon ranking page, self-medicate with chocolate syrup (I already ate all the cookie dough).  But the story itself is done.  All that remains is for someone, somewhere, to read it.

If YOU want to read some of it, you can:
Check out the first chapters here.
Or read the alternate beginning here.
Or even buy it.

This is the moment (okay, months) of truth for a story.  I’ve heard of writers who say they write for themselves, but I write to share.  The release of the book into the wild is my chance — finally! — to share.

I sincerely hope you like it.

To celebrate, I’m giving away a $25 bookstore gift card this week.  Just tell me which of the two beginnings to FORGED OF SHADOWS that I posted in the links above you like better, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win.  Tell a friend about this giveaway, and have the friend enter your name in her comment, and you’ll both be double entered for a chance to win.  Thanks for celebrating with me!

Need for Speed
by KimLenox on May 30th, 2010
KimLenox

Oh, yes. FEAR can really make me, Kim Lenox, write faster. As a writer, the fear comes from deadlines, but there is also a fear of letting someone down. Before you get a contract to write, you just write for yourself. You suffer your disappointments alone, with the kind support of your critique partners, family and friends. But once you have a contract, there are people depending on you to write, and to write well. You have an agent, and an editor, and the art department and the copy editors. You don’t want to be the weak link in the chain to producing a good, solid book. It’s an awesome feeling to be part of such a team, and you want to keep your place in the mix!

What else makes me write faster? I tend to take months to write my first 3-4 chapters, and then I speed (as much as a “slow” writer can speed) through the rest. Until those first couple of chapters are right, I just can’t move forward. To do so would be like taking a wrong turn, and just continuing to drive. So I guess knowing the story, and being on the right track.

When I’m in the last stages of a deadline, I also usually start doing timed writing jags. I’ll give myself 30 minutes to write two pages, then I can check email or surf the Net for five minutes. Then it’s back for another 30 minutes of writing.

Tomorrow is the day we in the US observe Memorial Day, and honor those who have fallen while serving in the Armed Forces. I’d like to send out a very heartfelt, personal thank you to all members of the services, past and present.

Just put down the gun, and I’ll surrender the book ….
by Sharon Ashwood on May 26th, 2010

Topic of the week: What makes us write faster?
Answer: Deadlines!!

Okay, so I’ve a book due May 31 (actually June 1, but I count ALL of May 31 as available) for my fourth book in the Dark Forgotten series. This means I have no usable brains, because they’re splattered all over my keyboard from the eight hours of work I’ve done so far today. So instead of words, I offer pretty pictures.

Ta-da! Here is the brilliant book trailer from UNCHAINED, which is out on July 6!

Fast, Faster, Fastest
by Annette McCleave on May 25th, 2010
Annette McCleave

I once wrote a first draft in six weeks. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to duplicate the effort. In fact the manuscript I wrote immediately after that one took me six months to finish. But the notion of writing a book in six weeks has continued to intrigue me—writing fast is a great skill to have—and I’ve tried a variety of methods to speed up my writing. So far, to no avail.

But there is something that keeps me steaming along at a good clip—preparation.

I’m a plotter, which means I prefer to have a map of where I’m headed before I start writing. As you might imagine, one of the items I prepare beforehand is the plot map. But I also do several other things to prepare:

1. Interview the characters. My character sheet describing height, weight, and family background only tells me so much. Asking pointed questions about why the character did XYZ in his past gives me a lot more to go on.

2. Explore the world. Some time ago, I discovered a wonderful set of world-building questions developed by Patricia Wrede, and from that I created a smaller set that works for my purposes. Answering the questions helps me add depth to my world.

3. Plan the number of pages needed each week to meet the deadline—factoring in holidays, sick days, emergencies, etc.

4. Research. I research the elements of the story that I need to know up front. A career choice for a main character, the types of weapons that character might use, the locale for specific scenes, etc.

5. Think. I spend a lot of prep time on this one. Is the conflict big enough? Is this the right place to start the book? Would that character really act that way? And a thousand more questions, some of which the answer is NO. I never cover off all the questions, and that’s really not my intent—it’s to roughly shape the story so I don’t get stuck on a big problem halfway through.

lucky

If I’ve done my homework, the writing goes along at a brisk pace—until I hit the first stumbling block. And there’s always a stumbling block. But the more advance work I do, the easier it is to recover and get back into the writing.

I’m still looking for ways to speed things up, though. If anyone has found the magic elixir to writing fast, please let me know.

Speed angel
by Jessa Slade on May 24th, 2010
Jessa Slade

Currently working on: Book 3 edits
Mood: Persnickety (Am I even spelling that right? I thought I was in editing mode?!)

When I’m writing, I’m a speed angel.  Which, sadly, is the opposite of a speed demon.  Yes, I write demons, but I write them slooooow.

Over the years, I have gotten somewhat faster.  Well, actually, lots faster.  It took me about, oh, five years to finish my first manuscript.  In my defense, the story was really long and traversed several major landmasses and various time periods. (No, it wasn’t a time travel; it was just very, very confused.)  Plus, I spent a lot of time describing the hero’s lovely eyes.

Here are a few tricks I learned that helped me write faster during the seven manuscripts that followed:

  • No one cares how polished your first draft is, so feel free to write crap.  You do have to polish later, but that’s later.
  • If you keep writing past it, crap is often less crappy after it ferments awhile.
  • Know what you are writing; you’ll get there quicker.  Disclaimer: Pantsers (writers who say they like to be surprised by their writing as it happens) say they get bored if they know where they are going.  I say, I challenge you pantsers to a duel.  But I don’t have to worry about you ever showing up at the duel site because if I tell you where it is beforehand, you’ll go somewhere else.

The single most important trick I learned to writing faster was — and I realize this sounds stupidly obvious — holding myself accountable.  Deadlines — whether externally or internally imposed — are like the salt in a recipe: Too much can make your blood pressure spike, but a pinch/dash/sprinkle gives the flavors a zing they’d otherwise be missing.

Knowing when I have to get something done, I can track my progress.  I track in an Excel spreadsheet of daily word counts.  “Over/Under” is the number of words I’ve written above or below my daily goal.  As you can see by the red, I spend a lot of days behind because — as I mentioned — I’m a speed angel.  But I aspire to speed demon-hood.

tracking

Sure, I’m not there yet.  But I’ve shaved five years per books down to about five months.  A definite improvement.  Although you might have noticed the last comment in my spreadsheet: Sometimes I still don’t know where I’m going.

shortsIn Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, which character did you relate to?  And do you think the tortoise would’ve been faster if he’d been wearing shorts instead of a shell?

Balance
by KimLenox on May 23rd, 2010
KimLenox

Sometimes it’s hard to balance the writing life with “everything else”. Writing is a very solitary activity, and it’s difficult for me, as a writer, to focus the way I need to if I feel like “everything else” is spinning out of control.

When I’m not working or writing, I’m spending time with the family, and with friends. Mundane daily events like sit-down meal time with the whole family and bedtime with the kids are precious events that keep me centered.

I also find that nature has a very balancing effect on my state of mind. I work full time, and nearly every evening the first thing I do after taking off the high heels is go plant my bare feet in the cool, green grass of the back yard. I go sit on the pier at the back of our property and throw bread (wheat, not white) to the fish. I especially love the big catfish and silvery carp that twist and turn under the surface of the water. BTW, this is where I’d hoped to insert a picture of my favorite catfish, coming up for a bite, but something is wonky with McAfee today. It’s refusing to let me visit many of my regular sites.

Back to topic - these daily habits are very comforting to me. How about you? Do you have any daily habits that, if absent, throw you off kilter?

The Draw of the Dark Side
by Our Guest on May 20th, 2010
Our Guest

Note from Jessa: When Elisabeth Naughton told my writing group about her first adventure romance trilogy, she called it “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone,” which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate.  And now she has a new series paranormal romance starting, which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.  And she’s giving away a copy today, so read up and leave your comment.

elisabeth-naughtonThanks so much to the gang at Silk & Shadows for inviting me to be with you all today! 

If you’ve read any of my previous books you know that I’m a romantic suspense author who has recently shifted to the dark side and is now writing paranormals as well. The first book in my Eternal Guardians series – MARKED – released this month. Someone recently asked me, “Why the change?” and I thought about the question for a minute, but couldn’t answer. It’s a simple question, I know, but the only answer I could come up with was not one I knew the questioner wanted to hear. I mean, authors are supposed to know why they do everything they do, so to have an author say, “I dunno. I just write the books that come to me,” I knew my answer just wasn’t gonna cut it. 

That, of course, is a cop out answer (even if it’s true). And since readers seem to want to know why things change (as my editor says… “Okay, why is this happening again?”), I’ve decided it would be in my best interest to have a list of answers ready and waiting for just such a question. 

So here it is, my top ten list for shifting to the dark side. 

marked-final-400x60010. Look at that cover. Do I need to have another reason for wanting to write paranormals?!

9. Special powers come in really handy in the climax of a paranormal book. As an author who ALWAYS gets stuck here trying to make everything work out, I can tell you it’s much easier to throw in an electrical storm or zap someone with lightning fingers to get out of a bind than it is to save the day with plane ol’ Tom, Dick & Harry. 

8. Superhuman sex. (I do write romantic paranormals, after all.)

7. I get to write about snarky gods. They seem to be able to get away with anything they want. Who knew? 

6.   Looking for a little danger? You don’t need a serial killer on the run to amp up the tension. That’s sooo over done. Throw in a seething daemon instead. Seven feet tall, horns like a goat, face like a cat, ears off a dog and lots of claws? Oh man. So much more fun! 

5. Sure, romances are great, but when the two main characters are fated to be together and hate each other at the same time? That just adds an extra level of tension that makes the whole romance that much more interesting. 

4. The fact I can throw in a Fury (or two or three) whenever I feel like it (Yes, I am Fury obsessed). And this time they’re real winged creatures with snakes in their hair, razor sharp teeth and a rabid need for blood, not simply stone carvings of the creatures. 

3. I can write really twisted scenes and blame the genre. (“What? You think that’s too sick? Yeah, but it’s a paranormal. My readers will expect it.”) 

2.  Superhuman sex (did I say that before?) 

And the number one reason I decided to write paranormals: 

1. They’re just plain freakin’ fun! 

I never expected I’d have so much fun writing this series, but every day I’m excited I get to take my world one step further. While I love romantic suspense and don’t plan to give up writing in that genre (as soon as I turn in TEMPTED, book 3 in my Eternal Guardians series, I’m jumping back into a romantic suspense novella for Kensington), I’m thrilled I get to write about heroes and gods and prophecies and soul mates. The possibilities in a paranormal are endless, the danger is epic and the romance seems a thousand times more intense when other-worldy dangers are lurking around every corner.  

So why did I shift to the dark side? The answer is clear: Why the heck wouldn’t I?   

What do you love most about paranormal novels? What draws you to them again and again? I’ve got a copy of MARKED to give away to one lucky commenter today! 

***

 

Your browser may not support display of this image. A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, heralded by Publisher’s Weekly as “A rock-solid debut,” was recently nominated for two prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America in the Best First Book category and the Best Romantic Suspense category. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. Learn more about Elisabeth and her books at www.Elisabethnaughton.com.