Wednesday, January 30, 2019

DIY MFA 19 01 30 

For info in joining in, go to DIY MFA BookClub

5. Prompt: What's one "Best (Writing) Practice" that didn't work for you?

There's been more than one "Best Practice" that hasn't worked for me but I guess they all have one thing in common: restriction. Advisors say you have to write so many words a day, or you have to write for so many minutes at a sitting, you have to sit at your desk like it's a day job. Those kinds of "Best Practices" shut me down.

I can see if a writer depends on her writing as her living, then she may have to treat it as a job and keep regular, productive hours.

I don't depend on my writing to earn a living. Good thing! It is a creative outlet for me. If others want to read what I write, if they want to buy one of my books, I'm overjoyed. If not, I try not to think about it. I try not to let it affect my mood.

So the other side of the coin is: What are my "Best Practices"?

I feel more creative in the evening. I like to make a playlist of music that fits the theme and mood of my WIP (work in progress). Sometimes it takes me a while to 'warm up'. I have to go back and re-read where I left off so I can get back into the scene. But once I'm into it, I can write for a long stretch, sometimes into the wee hours. That can be almost everyday on a first draft, when the story is flowing. Subsequent drafts, i.e., editing, are usually broken up into smaller segments.

What "Best Practices" have worked for you?


Monday, January 28, 2019

DIY MFA 19 01 28  
 DIY MFA BookClub.

4. Prompt: What feeds your creativity?

First and foremost is my imagination. Characters and stories play around in my brain most of the time.  If I'm reading a book I'll stop and think, what if they did it this way or what if she hadn't said that, how would the story unfold?

Once I start a story I might need some inspiration for plot lines and scenes. I have a few sources:

My browser... The internet is so convenient. Type in key words and search for ideas, images, quotes. Check online thesauruses.

I also have some aids on the shelf behind my desk.

A couple of fun ones:
TheStorymatic (comes in a box) by The Storymatic Corp is a box of 500+ cards with prompts. You draw out two gold cards and two copper cards.
  I'll draw out some now as example:
  Gold card #1 - space alien disguised as a person.
Gold card #2 - teller of secrets.
  Copper card #1 - tornado.
Copper card #2 - phone call at 3 a.m.
  The instruction booklet goes on with suggestions for exercises and story building.

 Writer'sDigest Writing Kit (comes in a box) from the Editors of Writer's Digest Books. This one is a little more involved. It has two books: The Mini Market Book by the Editors of Writer's Digest Books, and 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer. It also has two decks of writing cards, 30 square with writing helps and 30 round with writing prompts.
  Again, I'll draw out some cards:
  Square: Reseeing - Pick a scene from your fiction-in-progress that you aren't satisfied with—especially one that feels boring or stilted. Introduce an object or an element that clearly doesn't belong, like an infant in a strip club or an atheist at church. How can this type of fish-our-of-water scenario shed new light on or bring new energy to the situation? How does it change the behavior of the key characters? The odd element needn't be the focal point of the new scene—and maybe you'll take it out later—but it may provide some energy (or levity).
  Round: What would happen if you ran into an old crush from grade school? An old bully? Detail the encounter and use setting, body language, and dialogue to paint the mood.

There are other similar kits to the ones above. Find something that makes if fun for you. 
Some unusual books I have, not meant as writers' help, are:

 Manwords, Real Words for Real Men by Jeremy Greenberg, Aadams Media. This is a dictionary of words most often used by men. The book is not only funny to read, but can give your male characters real personality. Warning: there are some bada-- words in this book that might offend, therefore I won't give any examples.
 YouJust Don't Understand, Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tanner, Quill. This book gives insight in how differently men and women communicate. At one point the author says that men don't ask questions, they make statements. I went through a chapter in my book and changed most of the questions my beta hero asked into statements. It really made a difference, giving him the touch of alpha he needed.
 Dividedby a Common Language, A Guide to British and American English by Christopher Davies, Houghton Mifflin. If you're American and you have British characters, this book is very helpful in lending authenticity. I once read a fiction book about two Americans living in Alaska written by an Australian. The book was strewn with Ausieisms that just didn't work. A reader not familiar with Ausieisms would have a hard time reading the story. For example: timber floor = hardwood floors, kitchen bench = kitchen counter.
 Understanding British English, Bridging the Gap Between the English Language and its American Counterpart by Margaret E. Moore, Citadel Press. Similar to the above but published 15 years earlier.
 I also have some books of quotes. You can look up an emotion and find some wise sayings that will inspire your scene.

All the above topics are easy to look up on the internet. Look for blogs that discuss relationships, communication between the sexes, British vs American English. Whatever you need to ignite ideas. But that can be time consuming and distracting. Having a book on the shelf can be more efficient. 

Those are some of the ways I spark my creativity and reboot my imagination.

This blog contains affiliate links for your convenience. You pay no more when you follow the link and I earn a small commission. I only list items I think are helpful to others. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

DIY MFA 19 01 25 
 DIY MFA BookClub.

3. Prompt: Unleash Your Storytelling Superpower.

Take the Storytelling Superpower quiz. Don't worry, it's super short!

I took the quiz and the result was: SURVIVOR. This is pretty accurate as the heroines in my stories are survivors. They are on their own, fighting in some way to survive, or get ahead, or achieve the big goal, or live a life of quality and fulfillment despite a disability.

Marcie leaves a controlling relationship to make her own career in art. Sandy works hard at what she loves to support her son, despite being legally blind. Alex goes to great lengths to prove her research, which will disrupt the old-boy network. Rosie stands up for herself when she intends to take over her father's business after he is killed. Gina goes after the big story to expose a business magnate, then gives up sensationalism for truth.

My stories are romances, but more that that they are stories of hope. But that's what romances are, that's why they are a top-selling fiction genre, that's why readers read them. It's all about the HEA (happy every after) = hope.

Take the quiz, it's fun. 

Marci's Story

Sandy's Story

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

DIY MFA 19 01 23

 DIY MFA BookClub.

2. Prompt: Tell a story about a time when you had to honor your reality.

I don't believe I've ever even considered honoring my reality. I'm not sure I've ever lived in reality. The only thing I've ever been responsible for is myself, my job, and a cat or two. I've worked to support myself since I was 17, but I had family support also. I never married, never had children. My time was always my time.
As an introvert I've always been comfortable with my own company, happy to sit and create visual art or fictional worlds. That makes me sound totally out of touch and selfish, but I'm not. I've always enjoyed finding ways to help people solve problems. I helped my parents in many ways as they were less and less able to do for themselves.
It wasn't until lately that I had to honor my reality as I felt like I skipped later middle age and dropped directly into old age. I know chronologically I am not old. Both my parents lived over age 95, and I'm 30 years younger. I guess it's the change in lifestyle after my parents are gone that has made me feel old. Their siblings are all gone now, as are most of their friends. My own peers are dropping here and there. I got an invitation to my 50th high school reunion. I've had trouble recovering my strength and ambition after minor surgery and the loss of my mother, my cat and my job.
Now I am honoring my reality. Not expecting too much of myself. Not expecting great things. My new motto is: It doesn't have to be perfect.
Now is the time to create for the joy of creating, and not add the pressure of thinking that I need to justify the time and money spent by counting on monetary returns.
That is my reality.

Monday, January 21, 2019

DIY MFA BookClub 19 01 21

I have been away for awhile taking care of family and personal concerns. I am now starting the journey back. Here is my writer's story as written for lesson one in the DIY MFA BookClub.

1. Prompt: How did you become a writer?
Writing is a superpower and every superhero has an origin story. What’s yours? When did you realize that you wanted to write? What motivated you to get started?

I didn't become a writer until I was in my 50s. But then I looked back, and I realized I was always a writer, I just didn't have the confidence to know it.

I used to make up elaborate adventures in the back seat of the family car when we were on the highway at night and there was no scenery to feed my imagination. Life situations were fodder for alternate endings in my head. Backyard gatherings of neighbor kids usually ended in play acting.

I wrote a deserted isle story when I was about ten. It had a heroine, a hero and a chaperone. I gave it to my mother to read. I don't remember her reaction exactly, but she was always encouraging in her critiques. But writing was hard for me; I had little academic prowess. I paled in comparison to my older brother, the A student who always made the honors list. What I was good at was art. Not great, but better than my peers. And that is where I received my praises and where I found creative satisfaction. Art came easier to me than writing.

I didn't read a lot as a child. (My first chapter book was Misty of Chincoteague. I still have it.) My reading comprehensions was't the best, and I was always put in the remedial English class. With that background how could I be a writer? 

But writing was still there. In high school I wanted to take the creative writing elective my senior year so badly that I overcame my shyness and timidity and talked my counselor in to letting me take it. I was the only one in the class who had to take senior English as well; all the others could take Creative Writing instead. Two of my classmates were the top two students academically in the school. I remember more from that class than any other academic class I took.

Writing took a third or forth seat to my different careers in art related fields. As I worked my way through college, earning an AA degree in 16 years off and on, I did very little writing and the critical writing I had to do for my classes was rubbish. Although I felt the desire to be a writer, I had decided I didn't have the understanding of the mechanics of language to carry it off. One of my 9th grade papers came back with a note in the margin: "learn to use commas!". I am still a commaphobe, so be gentle.

When I was in my late 30s I had a job that was very hands-on leaving my brain free to imagine. And I started a story, a novel length story. I didn't finish it. A couple years later I moved to a small rural town in a new state and got the idea in my head that I wanted to work for the local small-town newspaper. I didn't get the job because my typing skills were not good enough. By then I had my first computer. I got a typing program, practiced, and got the job next time I applied. Not as a writer, but as a graphic artist. I retired from that job last year, after 26 years.

Having a computer changed everything. Keyboarding, editing, spell checking, grammar checking were now doable, I had digital help. I dug out my little handwritten manuscript and opened a new document. I polished the story, but still didn't finish it. By then I had another idea. A Christian romance with an American heroine and an English professor set in England where I had visited relatives a few years before. I finished that story and gave it to my mother and a friend to read. Of course, looking back, what brave souls they were to slug through it! I made every beginner's mistake.

But when did I know I was a writer?

When another writer said (and I paraphrase, because this was some time ago and I don't remember) she was surprised when she discovered that most people don't have characters and stories buzzing around in their heads all the time. That most people don't constantly think of alternate endings to stories they read or movies they watch. That clicked, I knew I was a writer. At least in the sense that the stories kept piling up in my head and my characters wanted life.

At that time I was getting into the groove of writing. A contemporary romance idea came to mind. An American artist heroine and a Scottish hero set in the Highlands, which I had also visited. By now I had decided that maybe I should study storytelling. I joined some on-line communities that offered free workshops. I bought the 'in' witting books, I studied, I read, and I wrote. And I read other writers' career stories. I noted that for most writers, getting traditionally published can take years and years. The story that struck me most was a woman who sold her first book when she was forty. She started when she was twenty. By now I was fifty-five. I didn't want to wait until I was seventy-five to get my first publish contract. I was honest with myself; my stories are not great literary fiction. They are sweet stories meant to make the reader feel hopeful, and take them away for a bit from their day-to-day worries. My stories are like comfort food, or as one reviewer said: "couch curlers".

Her Scottish CEO
A Daddy for Luke
So I sent my manuscript to a friend who was also a proofreader, and has always encourage my writing. Then I sent it to a professional editor. As a graphic artist I was able to format the book and design a cover. Then I published it myself. I didn't care about the critics who still think self-publishing is second rate. I'm not publishing for them. I now have two romances published and two memoirs by others that I produced and published. I have several more WIPs (works in progress) with characters that want life.

I've had a dry spell the last few years as I took care of my sweet old parents and saw them through the end of life. Now it's time to regroup and get on with writing again. That's why I signed up for DIY MFA BookClub.
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