Researching

How much research do you need to do in order to make your stories believable? Granted, as writers we don’t have to actually experience everything we put our characters through. Events, places, facts, concrete things can be found on the internet, in books, at the library, etc. But how do we get the emotion to come through?

I’m pretty good at empathizing with a character even if I haven’t lived a certain situation. However, could I take it one step further? Could I better connect with the reader, and/or those that might have lived through a similar situation?

When you have an emotional scene (not sexual), do you to talk to someone that has lived through what you’re writing about? Do you contact an agency that deals with a particular issue, such as deafness or abuse? Do you have a secret way of getting the needed emotions on the page that sucks the reader in and makes them cry right alongside you? Cough it up, y’all. I’d really like to know.

RWI’s 2011 Goals

At our RWI meeting last weekend, I got to unveil our progress as a group on this year’s accounting. We want to keep track of three things: how many books we read, how many days we work and how many words we write.

Keep in mind, we’re a small group. I’m not sure of the exact number, but I think we’re somewhere around 20 members,and not all reported their numbers last month.

Even so, between us, we read 145 books. They covered every possible genre, fiction and nonfiction, literature, popular fiction, romance and mystery and children’s books and science fiction and erotic romance and research tomes. The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Connie Brockway and Eloisa James, appeared on three lists. Other than that, there was very little overlap. We are definitely a well-read bunch.

We worked a grand total of 262 days. Isn’t that remarkable? And dedicated??

And we wrote 116,323 words. At this rate, we’ll hit significantly more than a million words by the end of the year. That’s a big wow!, isn’t it?

RWI differs from other RWA chapters in that we require our members to be actively writing and pursuing a career in romance. There’s no doubt, looking at these numbers, that our members are doing just that.

And that’s why we call RWI the best writers’ group ever!

OMG! I’m late!!

Dang! I hate when that happens.  Thought about my blog all day yesterday, but couldn’t think of a topic before I had to leave for work.  Decided I’d have to blog after my shift.  Of course, I didn’t allow for a newborn who decided to stop breathing.  Luckily, her mom had her going again before I could even pound down to the room.  (She’s fine.)  And before a toddler declared at the top of her lungs she was NOT going to wear the oxygen cannula, not matter how low her blood saturation fell. (The fight STILL wasn’t decided when I left.) And waaay before I had to try to convince a mother she couldn’t feed milk formula to her infant who was breathing 80 times a minute (normal is 30)…when the mom had limited English.  (With a lot of charades, I finally got the message through and baby was happy with his bottle of Pedialyte.)

By the time I got home, I was exhausted and totally forgot to blog.  BUT it did give me a topic which I didn’t have before…what to do when you miss a deadline.  It happens.  Life gets in the way.  Things happen.  Deadlines get missed.  The key is to fix it and move on.  You can’t re-capture time.

Editors will understand; they won’t be happy, but they will understand.  Call or email and arrange for a new date.  But this time, KEEP it.  Don’t try the editor’s patience.

  Not published yet?  Learn the deadline habit.  Start with yourself.  Set deadlines for yourself.  You have to be realistic; after all, you know what’s going on in your life.  And (note to self), you don’t HAVE to wait until the day of the deadline to do the work.  You could actually do the project and submit it early. (Giving myself 40 whacks with a wet noodle.)

Contests are a great way to learn deadlines.  All contests have them and, usually, they’re set in stone.  Submit to them and, if you find you’re missing too many of their deadlines, figure out why.  Are you taking too long to complete the project?  Are you spending too much time editing and editing?  Do you have trouble remembering to mail the entry in a timely manner?  Pretend it’s the mortgage payment and you’ll go into foreclosure if you’re late.  🙂  Whatever…  The point is, if you’re late, DON’T just give up.  Don’t throw up your hands and fail to deal with it.  If you miss this contest, there is always another one done the road.

Hey, not bad for writing off the top of my head…and being late.  Forgive me?

Dream Job

My daughter just found out that she landed her dream job–working in the ER at the hospital she loves. To brag a little, if you need to be in an emergency room, you would want her on your case. She gives 110%, knows her stuff, and is smart.

Writing is my dream job too. But do I give 110% 100% 95%? Um, not always. I try to. Mean to. My actions don’t always match my desires. A part of my mind is so willing but my body and spirit are eh.

Happy writing this week!

Critiquing

Choice or Necessity? It’s definitely one of the hardest, yet most beneficial, things a new writer can do.

A former WS asked me to read new material on her current WIP and give my feedback. I love her writing! She’s articulate, extremely detailed and really puts you in the moment. She also writes Horror. Um, I might not be the best person to ask for advice. Except in order to be a good writer, we need to read. A LOT! And not just romance. I’ve read Stephen King and Dean Koontz so I’m not totally ignorant of the genre. But could I give her good feedback?

Of course I can! One of the reason’s she likes my critiques so much is she knows I’ll catch all her missing words. For instance: A, THE, AND. You get my drift. But she also knows I’ll tell her what does and doesn’t work for me. Whether or not my comments are incorporated into her story is a different matter. Some are and some aren’t.

Which is as it should be.

As writers we have to open ourselves up for constructive criticism (Did you catch the word ‘constructive’?) – to be able to weed out the good from the bad, and what will make your story stronger. I’ve found one of the things that help my writing the most is to critique others work. I see what works in their stories and what could use some improvement. Then I look at my own story. Hmmm. Okay, NOW I see why my storyline won’t work or the characters don’t come across as believable. Now I know what to fix to make the story flow better and, hopefully, more sellable. The ultimate goal…to have others outside my own circle of friends read and appreciate my story. 🙂

So if you aren’t in a critique group of any kind, find one! You’ll be amazed at how much your own writing improves as a result.

Happy critiquing!!

Write What You Know

Anyone who’s ever thought about writing a book has probably heard that old saying: Write what you know.

Is it true? Heck, no. I’ve only had a handful of jobs in my life: file clerk, X-ray assistant/EKG tech, switchboard operator, Fotomat fotomate, and author. If I could only write wht I knew occupation-wise, my readers would have been bored to tears after the first few books.

There’s one simple reason why that old advice is wrong: research. If you want to, you can learn virtually anything. If you know an expert in the field, great. If you don’t, it’s not hard to find one, and people love to talk about what they do/know.

The better advice, in my never-humble opinion, is this: know what you write. Know your market. Know your readers’ expectations. Know which publisher to query. And how do you do that? Simple, again: read.

An aspiring author — or a published one, for that fact — can never read too much in the genre they want to or do write for. Trends change. Markets change. Some things have been done to death. These are things you need to know.

The Wise Women of RWI, the greatest writers’ group in the world, understand this, and they — we — have begun a project tracking our members’ efforts this year. Not only are we keeping count of how many days we each work toward our writing career, as well as how many words we write each month, we’re also tracking the number of books we read. Let me tell you, as Keeper of the Numbers, so far I am incredibly impressed. At this rate, we’ll be able to stock an entire library with the number of books we read this year.

I don’t know if seeing the graphs and charts of our accomplishments will inspire our members each month — tomorrow’s the first day I get to show them — but they certainly inspire me.

Our slogan is: Smart women read romance. We write it.

And by the end of the year, we’ll be able to add: And we know what we write! 

I Need Rhythm!

Back when I first started writing, I worked a day job, 7AM-3PM, was a single mom to two school-age boys, and working on my first manuscript.  I would get up every morning at 4:00AM and write for an hour.  Then I’d either get ready for work or if I was off, I’d write another hour.  At six, I’d either go to work or awaken the boys so they’d get ready for school.  If I wasn’t working, I’d putz around until the boys were home from school, then take a nap while the guys played outside.  After supper and homework, time with my sons before they went to bed.  Sometimes I would watch TV; sometimes I would write, then off to bed after the news.  The next day, the cycle would start over.

Then the hospital went to 12 shifts and suddenly the rhythm of my life was permanently screwed up.  At first, I tried to save my writing for my days off, but if my shift the day before was chaotic, writing was impossible.  After a few years, I quit the hospital and went into teaching…thinking I’d get my rhythm back.  Not!  Did you know that teaching takes more than just 8 hours a day??

So I went back to 12 hours shifts and wrote the best I could.  Now that I’m part time, you’d think I would be sitting pretty.  My mornings free every day whether I go to the hospital or not.  But it’s not working out that way!   November went great, but December brought the holidays.  In January, I was working on contest entries and February was the great snow blizzards which should have been prime writing periods, but somehow all that snow must have frozen my brain because all I did was read. 

How do I get my rhythm back?  How back into the swing I had when I first started?  Is it because now I’m alone and don’t have to stay on track because I have kids to keep on track?  Is it because I’m no longer in a weekly critique group which I have to admit did make it easier to keep moving forward?  I’m not sure, but I do know, if I don’t get into a rhythm soon, I’ll be pulling my hair out.  And I can’t afford that!