Tag: #writingprompts

#writingprompts

Fueling Wonder for 40 Years

What fueled wonder for you when you were a kid?  I just had a Twitter discussion with my friend Don Bentley (check out his debut release! LINK: Without Sanction) about C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He’d shared how he’d scoured his grandma’s house for years looking for a wardrobe. I was the same! Hoping to find a doorway to another world of color, adventure, and dreams. Another one of my wonder-decisions was from a commercial where Juicy Fruit Gum grew on trees. I of course planted a piece of Juicy Fruit Gum, hoping desperately that in the morning there would be a large Juicy Fruit tree grown taller than our house with thousands of packs of gum hanging off the branches. I bet there were millions of pieces of gum planted throughout the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. (You can see the actual commercial in link above. Note of caution: you WILL be singing the song all day). On a scary scale, when I was a child, we had painting in our dining room of a girl who looked like a young, but beaten down servant. Her […]

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I would never disagree with Janet Evanovich

If you thought the title was tongue in cheek you will be disappointed. I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Evanovich speak last weekend at Killer Nashville in a variety of forums from panel to interview to presentation and in each she didn’t disappoint. (I also was able to speak briefly with her over a glass of wine at the reception afterward…. a little bonus.) If you have passed through an airport or bookstore you likely recognize her books and you don’t have to be a fan to acknowledge that her success merits attention – 200 million books sold, I believe. In the spirit of full disclosure, I read my first Evanovich when she was on about #9 or so of the Stephanie Plum series. I was new to Kindle and wanted a book to read by the pool on an excruciatingly hot day in Phoenix. I started with number one of the series and, since I’m a quick read, needed another book later in the afternoon. To cut to the point, by the week’s end I had read all of them. The books were perfect for a great pool location – thank you Arizona Biltmore – and I downloaded seamlessly from one to the next. All the while my husband thought I was reading serious Russian literature (Evanovich, get it?).   In any business there are crossover principles to be learned (if you have major success in a hotel chain perhaps the restaurant business can pick up a pointer). This should apply to book genres as well:  mysteries learn from thrillers as well as from humor or historical romance or any other success story, and of course the reverse is true. Evanovich’s principles are as universal. Her main theme throughout the weekend was Work Hard. Seriously. In any discussion this came up. Treat writing like a job because it is a job. If you aren’t willing to do this, then you need to find a different job. Her analogy – do you drive up to 7-11 for a shift and sit in the car and decide if the muse is upon you before clocking in? Good day or bad day you go in and work. And just like a clerk or barista, as a writer you will experience the range of ‘performance’ – the day you spill the pot of coffee on a customer or consistently count out the wrong change, as well as the day when you get a huge tip. It’s a job. In the case of writing just sit down and do it.   Ms. Evanovich was asked: What does work hard mean if you have a full time job and a family and a million other obligations? Simple. It means that writing is a part time job and proceed accordingly. Do you have the ability to have a part time job one hour a day or three hours a day? Decide as if you were hiring out to work, then stick with it as a serious commitment to yourself. In the end, you will achieve your goal (a page a day and in a year you have a complete manuscript) and at the same time develop good habits that will stand you in good stead as a full time writer with a crushing publication schedule that requires sitting down at the job 8-12+ hours a day. (Here, she did a have a little be careful what you wish for moment.) Another overarching principle Ms. Evanovich presented was be deliberate and thoughtful. In other words, plan. That encompasses myriad components of her success. What should you write? Ms. Evanovich swears she was kicked out of romance and had to decide what to do next. Why was she ‘kicked out’? Because she wanted to insert humor. When she took a break to decide what she wanted to do long term she found a genre (really invented a niche) that allowed her to do what she felt she was good at: adventure, romance and humor. This means a brutal self-evaluation – if you love reading humor but can’t write it, then stick to reading and discover your authentic voice as a writer. This is a slightly different interpretation of write what you know, write what you love, etc. Yes, you should love your genre, but you should also be able to write it. This concept worked well for Ms. Evanovich and, as I said, I won’t ever disagree with her. There were many other topics she touched upon: the importance of the bad guy, setting, relationships within the novel or series. The list goes on and on, but in the end it is work hard, plan, work harder, keep working, and one day you will succeed. Right now I’d like to agree with that. 

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Writing What Scares You

Whenever I am promoting a book, I get asked: How did you come up with the idea for the story? Invariably, the answer is that something scared the crap out of me. I had to explore and, hopefully, overcome my new fear by spending the next six months immersed in it. With my first book, Dark Turns, it was my daughter that spurred the fear-related obsession. She was three and enrolled in a serious ballet class–at least relative to all the cutesy baby ballet classes in the area. My child seemed to enjoy the discipline and the private attention that came with the group’s small enrollment. However, I worried about the physical demands of the class and all that rigor destroying her burgeoning love of movement and expression. One day, the teacher excitedly showed me my daughter performing a saddle split. She had her press against a cement wall and then pushed her pelvis against the concrete until both legs stuck out on either side. My kid smiled at me proudly and then her eyes started to water because achieving that extra inch of flexibility HURT. (This pic was a precursor to it.) I had a well controlled panic attack. Questions ran through my brain as I smiled and clapped. What does it do to a person taught to push herself beyond the limits of her physical comfort from age three? Should my child be this serious about anything at this point? If she continues on this path, what will all the rigor and pushing do to her psychologically?  The book that resulted is an exploration of the worst answers I could think of to those questions. The next year, I enrolled my kid in a more fun dance class that focuses on flexibility, though less intensely. If she still has a passion for ballet at eight, she can return to a more intense version. (Meanwhile, I hope I didn’t destroy the next Sara Mearns.) For my new book, The Widower’s Wife, it was fear of our new mortgage that spurred my writing.My husband and I had purchased a house in the suburbs and paying for it was (and is) dependent upon his salary. I began worrying about what would happen if he lost his job in another financial crisis/housing crisis/Great Recession. It would be difficult for him to secure employment immediately and, if the house declined in value at the same time, we would find ourselves extremely overburdened in a year or so. My salary would never make the payments. How would we recover? How easy would it be to downsize? How would my husband stomach downsizing?  I like to think that we both would be fine. We’d move away from the city. We’d use our skills differently. But… The characters in The Widower’s Wife–particularly the husband figure–are nothing like me or my spouse. As a result, the answers to my concerns are much more dramatic than they ever would be should the worst strike my family. Still, the initial fear lead me down the rabbit hole in which I found my story.           

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