Six Word Challenge Reveal

Happy new year, everyone! I’m pushing ahead with my novel, but in the meantime, wanted to share my six word challenge results from M.J.’s (@pageflutter on Instagram) “Six Word Challenge.” A six word challenge encourage you to spend 5 – 30 minutes a day coming up with a six word story based on a prompt.

I’ve been documenting some of my progress on Instagram… But here is my complete list!

Day Prompt Story
1 Gift exchange “But… I love you.”
“Thank you.”
2 Snowflakes “Watch out for the danger flakes.”
3 Reunited Gilmore Girls stayed same. I changed.
4 Under the Ice I won’t tell if you won’t.
5 Stuffed! “Of course I’m stuffed,” Eeyore sighed.
6 Under the Mistletoe “Well. I didn’t expect you here.”
 7  Dreaded Relative Everyone knew why they were invited.
 8  Bundle Up “It’s cold outside, baby.”
“Nice try.”
 9 Wonderland Hate this song. Stop the memories.
 10  Evergreen Wrinkled lips, trembling. Their final kiss.
 11  Dear Santa… An entire movie to accept Rudolph?!
 12  Sugar & Spice Once a currency, now cheap commodity.
 13 Wood Pile Hidden behind wood pile, she waits.
 14  Snow Day! Happily trapped in a snow globe.
 15 Office Party Reminder: Drinks limited. He breaks rules.
 16  On the Roof Rooftop date. Stargazing between tiny kisses.
 17  The List Relishing being on her sh*t list.
 18  Feast …End of days. Feast now, son.
 19  By the Fire Drawn by the frozen fire, smiling.
 20  Hot Cocoa Scalding, yet satisfying. Gotta have marshmallows.
 21  Unwanted Gift The cat doesn’t get my horror.
 22  Frozen “Let it go! Let—”
“Dude! Stop.”
 23  Care Package  Care package for sale. Donations accepted.
 24  First Candle  Candles lit. Stories told. Smiles shared.
 25  The Mensch  She helped, never hoping to receive.
 26  In the Box  Pandora tucked hope in the box.
 27  Heritage  “We are do-zers. We must do.”
 28  Helping Hand  She stood, ignoring his outstretched hand.
 29  White Elephant  Ultimately, the ring was never chosen.
 30  Cheers!  Everybody knows your name here. Why?
 31  Fresh Start  “Tomorrow is another day!”
“…Drama queen.”

Do you have any monthly challenges that you love and want to share?

Don’t Break the Chain, or, Tracking Writing Habits

Fighting to stay accountable to your writing can be difficult, as any one can tell you. How many of us writers hear from friends and family, “Oh, I have this story in my head that’s going to be the next great novel” or something similar? How many times have we said that to ourselves?

If you haven’t heard about Don’t Break the Chain, it’s an initiative to stay accountable to your goals by marking off each day you completed. The intent, of course, is to not break the chain of days you made progress. Now, I had three different goals this year, and I printed out calendar templates for each one…

  1. X number of push-ups twice a week
  2. X number of sit-ups twice a week
  3. Write as often as possible

I lost the calendars for the first two goals after three months, not an auspicious start to the year. But my writing one… well, I switched over to the DIY writing calendar my friend Caitlin O’Sullivan gave me as part of a writer’s care package. It’s looking a little battered, but not super worse for the wear.

writing_research_days

 

Pictured are the first six months of 2014, left to right, top to bottom (i.e. January is top left, Feburary is next, etc). The color legend is fairly simple… red scribbles mean I wrote that day (a paragraph counts), and blue scribbles are days I focused on research.

As you can tell, February and May were terrible months for me, but March and June were pretty fantastic!

Looking back, February was a stressful month because the swing dance team was ramping up for the first competition. I wasn’t dancing due to injuries and work overload, but I attended every practice to take video so team members knew what they needed to work on.

May was awful for writing because I was out of town every weekend, and exhausted during the week because of all the travel. So yes, I let life get in the way, but there has to be a balance!

Anyway, I’m loving this sort of luddite version of a writer’s quantified self. It’s helping me track my stress levels, too, which is funny. I’ve learned that during months where I don’t write often (meaning four or more days), I’m kind of a terrible person. Well, a terrible person to be around, anyway.

So thank you, Caitlin, for sending me this calendar. There’s something important about me scribbling a successful day, rather than checking off a digital calendar. I have two special pens I use to mark the days… it’s become something of a superstition for me.

What about you? What tricks are you doing to stay accountable?

Eight Months at a Dry Well

Last night I wrote for the first time since September 2012. That’s eight months of no writing. I was afraid I was going to hit a year. What writing I did back in September felt like pulling teeth, and I gave up until the feeling to write would come back.

I had no idea it would take eight months. Eight months of worrying why I wasn’t writing. Eight months of reading writer’s block buster articles. Eight months of reading research books about the location I thought I wanted to write about. Eight months of voicing frustrations to The Boy that I had lost my muse. Eight months of slight depression.

I tried to continue blogging, thinking writing non-fiction was better than not writing at all. But as you can tell by my pathetic archive, that only lasted a couple more months.

Writing againLast night I took the advice of a commenter and watched Shakespeare in Love for the first time. I was watching The Boy’s dogs while he met with his dance partner, having just gorged myself on homemade Chinese hot pot. The movie ended. I stared at my writing journal on my abandoned desk, which I had moved to my living room in the desperate attempt to remind myself to write.

That bright green cover with the bright blue ribbon filled with lined, unwritten pages no longer seemed so scary. I grabbed a pen and put it to paper. I wrote three pages, enough to be a decent first draft of a first chapter.

I don’t know if it’s still The Rebel’s Touch anymore. It’s not set in southern Ohio on the banks of the Ohio River. It’s in Columbus, my home city, on the banks of the Scioto. The main character has just discovered a dirty, emaciated man who just told her something that makes her think he escaped from Camp Chase, the Ohio prison for Confederates. Other than that, Abraham Lincoln has just died.

That’s really all I know. But it’s enough.

Best,
Belinda

3 Movies to Rejuvinate my Writing Mojo

Every once in a while, I get into a major writing slump. I despair of ever putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for my fiction because I am convinced I am the most unfortunate waste of authorial intent ever. EVER. This feeling can last anywhere from a day, to a couple of weeks, to an entire dreaded season. Sometimes, when the sun shines on a Sunday morning I wake up and remember I have a cure for this writerly depression.

Movies. And not just any movies. Movies about writing and writers. I have three favorite movies that I watch in succession that never fail to make me feel better. No, not just better, but excited to write. Excited about life and recording it in fiction, exploring the emotions and thoughts of these people who speak to me in my dreams and daydreams.

Stranger than Fiction

Because every writer has some sort of mania about their characters. I often dream about mine, and the idea that they can actually come to life, that they are walking around separate from me in time and space and physical-ness is just fun and inspiring.

Alex and Emma

Because it’s nice to have the reminder that you know what? Sometimes your readers don’t like your original idea, or character description, or ending. Take a moment, step back, find a good beta reader, and make changes.

You’ve Got Mail

Because the soundtrack is amazing, the characters are cute, there is witty dialogue, and when the movie is over you want to be typing with emphasis at your computer as if you were writing to the person with which you are falling in love.

And as a bonus, sometimes I like to throw Music and Lyrics in there too. Because it’s goofy, it emphasizes the importance of having outside influence on your creative inception, and Drew Barrymore is adorable.

As a quick reminder, you might be interested in the promotions below.

Haunting Miss Trentwood is discounted on Kindle. And guess what, Catching the Rose is also discounted on Kindle!

The audiobook version of Haunting Miss Trentwood will be discounted from $19.95 to $5.95 (even less to audible.com members) Saturday August 25 to Sunday September 2.

The newly released behind-the-scenes chapter called The Seance from Haunting Miss Trentwood is free on Kindle today, Tuesday August 28. Please leave a review on Amazon, it would be so appreciated!

Best, Belinda

Life as a Writer’s Block

Dear Reader,

Sometimes, we need a break.

After I graduated with my masters in 2010, I was dead-set on having my second book published within the year, which I did.

It took me seven years to write Haunting Miss Trentwood (because I was a full-time student and a part-time writer). I put my hand and head to marketing, and did so for a year… so much time spent interacting on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc, meant I wasn’t reading or writing anymore. Just talking about things that I had read and written before Haunting Miss Trentwood was published.

It was draining. Exhausting. It made me despise writing, the thinking and doing of it.

I have felt so guilty lately for not wanting to touch The Rebel’s Touch. I keep printing drafts hoping I will feel that old familiar rush that motivated me to put the Red Pen of Doom to paper. Nothing doing. Instead, I find myself staring out the window, wishing my head didn’t hurt. Or hoping a certain someone calls so we can hang out. Or looking up new recipes because I don’t want to be sitting, I want to be moving around and making something new. Or throwing my dance shoes into my bag because I have a performance or a lesson to teach or a party to enjoy.

Fact is, I have a very particular sort of Writer’s Block: life.

I never had a life before. It’s amazing! In high school, college, and even graduate school, my schedule consisted of…

  • School,
  • Homework, and then,
  • Because I wasn’t allowed to hang out with anyone after dark (in high school anyway which set my pattern for undergrad and grad school), I would read or write or paint or sew.

I love those years, they made me prepared and capable to handle the little fixes around the house.

But the truth of the matter is I have no idea how to balance a full life and my writing.

The first three months of 2012, I tormented myself by thinking I wasn’t being true to my craft. I didn’t want to admit that my “craft,” as it were, was switching. I’m a swing, lindy hop, and balboa dancer. I won’t have this “young” almost-27-year-old body forever. This is my opportunity to make the best of my youth and dance while I can. Writing… well, I hope with all my soul that I will always have my mind available to write one more story.

I’ve also begun exploring religion, something that has always been a part of my life, but never explicitly. I just have so much I’m trying to figure out right now… My psyche is in flux, making it difficult to write about characters whose lives are also in flux. Without knowing myself and what I want to write about, it is almost impossible for me to give my characters minds and thoughts and worries of their own.

Do you have any suggestions for me, to help me balance life and writing?

Anyway, that is my explanation for my radio silence.

All the best,

Belinda

The Big Question

Dear Reader,

As of writing this post, I’m 17k words into The Rebel’s Hero, which is about 24% toward my word count goal. Without fail, when I get to this percentage mark, I get cold feet. I don’t know why. It’s very frustrating. I start to doubt my ability to write, to craft characters, to weave details, to drive the plot forward. I think this is because the beginning is complete. Now the meat of the story takes over, the plot thickens, and more questions are thrown to the reader.

I’m standing in place, deer in the headlights, frightened by this monstrous train called The Rebel’s Hero steaming full blast down the tracks because even though I’ve set up a good story with a multitude of questions I need to answer throughout the plot…

I still don’t know what The Question is. What am I trying to answer with this work? What is my big question that I’m struggling to explore and engage?

Peeking over shoulders

Do other authors do this? I feel like they do. I think MJ Rose explores the question of “what if the paranormal were real?” Her form of paranormal is more of the mundane… reincarnation, hypnotism, etc. Her fiction is fascinating, deep, driven. Joan Reeves, highlighted at The Book Designer last week, asked the question “Why would a woman marry a man for money?” and was surprised when her book was labeled a romance.

Sometimes crafting fiction feels backwards. I know I write romances, sweet though they may be. But maybe I should stop worrying about the genre, since I already know that’s what I gravitate to. Instead, I should worry, what is my question?

Exploring the space

I write this blog to be transparent about the writing process. It isn’t easy, and sometimes, it isn’t fun. I look to my previous fiction to remind myself that I’ve done this before, and I can do it again. Catching the Rose asks the question “what would you do to find your first love?” Haunting Miss Trentwood asks “what do you do after your parents have died?” Mad Maxine, my short story, asks “what happens when you don’t let go?”

I’ve blogged about The Big Question before in terms of individual characters, but for the plot? Here is a list of questions The Rebel’s Hero could be about…

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why would a woman marry a man with no memory?
  • What would you do to escape an arranged marriage?
  • What would you do to help a man in need?
  • What would you do to regain your memory?

I think the last one might be a winner. Throw the question into the Civil War, add the Underground Railroad, and I just might be able to pull this off. After all, it always feels impossible until it is done.

Best,

Belinda

Sporadic Creativity

Dear Reader,

Apologies for going MIA for a bit. Work has been super stressful and winter was getting me down, but no matter. I regrouped over the weekend by working out for three hours (two consecutive, one where the trainer kicked my butt and I’m still hurting four days later).

On Monday at work I took charge on a project that people needed but no one had time to do except for me, because I’m in a holding period for my two projects. It was just the sort of creative project I needed to do at work to make me feel accomplished and useful, because I haven’t felt either lately.

Tuesday was a rush of decision-making, updating the creative project I did on Monday, etc. I tweeted about how work was making my brain hurt but I wanted to write… I haven’t written in a while and rather than feeling down or antsy about it, I was finally starting to feel like doing something about it.

I’m in the middle of organizing the extra papers and books in my home office, one of the last things I have to do in order to truly be moved into my apartment. Rather than continuing with that, I plopped on the floor in the middle of the mess and wrote for an hour.

Reader, I wrote over a thousand words in 44 minutes for the rewrite of Catching the Rose. Which, funny story, is selling better than Haunting Miss Trentwood on Barnes and Noble for reasons unknown. Hoping that the rewrite will make those sales even better.

It might be too early to say, but… I think I’m back.

Check out how the other participants of Round of Words in 80 Days are doing!

All the best,

Belinda

Empty Nest Syndrome

Dear Reader,

Reviews for Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood are positive, which I’m very happy about. And they aren’t just raving, glowing reviews which other readers sometimes doubt. All the reviews seem thoughtful. I couldn’t ask for more.

Or could I?

When I finish writing a new book, go through the edits, get it to production, I take a step back, admire my handiwork, and fall into a mini-depression.

Ladies and gentlemen, I suffer from empty nest syndrome. I want my babies back.

The nice thing about books not actually being children is that no matter how old I am, whatever my financial or romantic situation, I can make another. A stronger, faster, better one. And I can have as many as I want.

At least, I could if I weren’t also paralyzed by the fact that people are enjoying my work. I want to write, but I am feeling frustrated that the characters haven’t introduced themselves to me yet. And now I have the added pressure of making sure the next book doesn’t suck worse than a sophomore slump. What would that be, anyway, since it would be my third book? A junior jumble?

But hey, I don’t want to whine about how I don’t know my next book. Because that’s not entirely true. I do know I’m going to write a book that uses the research I did for breach of promise that didn’t make it into Haunting Miss Trentwood, which is, oh, I don’t know, all of it.

I also want to release an anthology of short stories, but the problem is that short stories are difficult! I like setting, building up the relationship with the characters. Everything is condensed in a short story. I tend to write contemporary short stories, but I want to keep to my brand and write quirky historical fictions in the short story format.

For whatever reason, I’m feeling 1930s America, which brings up another problem: the last time I studied this era I was in 8th grade. Do I want to do enough research to convert my short stories to fit that era? Or should I use my existing research and write another Victorian historical novel?

I have no idea. Performance anxiety for the fail.

I think rather than dealing with it, I’ll pull an ostrich move and shove my head in the deep sands of a good book. Can you help me out? What are some excellent books you’ve picked up lately?

Best, Belinda

P.S. It’s Monday, which means you should visit the blog to check out the Monday “Meet an Author” blog hop in the sidebar of Worderella Writes.

Don’t Write Every Day!

Dear Reader,

I’ve told you to write every day. I was wrong to tell you that.

I’m not going back on my word entirely as I do feel we need to be practicing our craft as often as we can. Taking my own experience as an example, however, I’ve found that this undue pressure we put on ourselves to write every day and come up with brilliant words every time we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is often what causes my dreaded “writer’s block.”

So what am I saying?

Maybe writers don’t need to write every day

Writing for writers is important. For me, it’s like breathing. Most times, I breathe normally, but sometimes I hyperventilate, and sometimes I feel like I’m being strangled. Those are the days when my writer’s block is the worst, and last night while I had trouble falling asleep I tried to figure this one out.

Is writer’s block really a block, or just frustration?

When I feel drained of words, I turn to reading. I pick up the nearest book and read at least a chapter. This seems to shift my metaphorical writing cup from half-empty to half-full. My imagination is sparked, and I begin asking my favorite question: What if?

The next thing I know, I’ve written a couple hundred words and hey, they aren’t even that bad.

So what am I saying? Maybe it isn’t important for writers to write every day. But it is important that writers do something related to writing every day. See the difference?

There is more to writing than the act of it

When I was learning violin in elementary school, it wasn’t enough to learn where to put my fingers on the fingerboard, or how to hold the bow, or how to read music. I needed to listen to existing musicians. I needed to watch their movements and mimic them until I became comfortable enough with the tools at hand to create my own movements. I mimicked until I was comfortable enough to create.

I am not saying to plagiarize. Good God I’m not saying that. I am saying that if you take time to read books, magazines, anything, to refill your cup (or bowl) of imagination, you are more likely to write because you won’t be burned out.

So on the days you feel like you can’t write, or don’t want to write, pick up a book and know you’re still making progress. Other things you can do that are related to writing include:

  1. Read what you’ve written previously
  2. Edit what you’ve written previously
  3. Draw a mind map of your story
  4. Draw a sketch of your main character
  5. Make a collage relating to your book
  6. Find music which inspires you to write
  7. Make an exercise routine tailored to your main character, and then do the exercises
  8. Buy your character’s favorite food from the grocery store and eat it

Take a note from Dory in Finding Nemo. What does she tell us? To just keep swimming.

What did we learn from Meet the Robinsons? Keep moving forward.

And finally, what have we learned about Belinda? She watches a lot of Disney movies.

All the best,

Belinda