Passionate Writing

Not passion as in romance. But rather “passion” as described in another of Merriam Webster’s definitions:

A strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity.

Writing Longhand

As I was journaling the other day it occurred to me how much I enjoy writing longhand. From the feel of my hand sliding across the smooth surface of the paper, the ink pen gliding effortlessly, the different colors of ink on the page, and even white ink on black paper–all of it brings a new love of writing to the surface.

I began to wonder why I’ve only written by computer for so long and it came down to one thing–productivity. I can type far faster than I can write. And while productivity is good for a writer, so is keeping the passion for the process alive. Writing by hand and typing on a computer stimulate different parts of the brain. The part of the brain stimulated by hand writing is calling for my attention. (I found this article and could relate to more of it than not and wanted to share it with you.)

Anyone who has followed my blog knows how much I love Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. Though to be honest, July is my absolute favorite because it’s literally camping season. I get out my lantern and the s’more ingredients and “camp” in the comfort of my home office.

My original plan for Camp next month was to edit and revise book five, Shear Fear, in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. However, the neglected part of my brain has decided otherwise. My plan has changed to writing, by hand, with my fun-colored pens and a fun notebook, a Christmas novella in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. Instead of the light from the computer screen competing with my lantern or toting my laptop on vacation with me, I’ll be carrying my notebook and pens. Much lighter and without the lure of the Internet, oftentimes a writer’s time suck. At least this writer’s.

I’ve got my notebook selected, my pens ready to go (this is going to be a multi-colored project), my lantern is down from the shelf, and the s’more ingredients on my grocery list.

There’s nearly a month to go before Camp begins, but I’ll be prepared. In the meantime, I can plot and outline–by hand, of course.

What about you–do you prefer to write by hand, typewriter, or computer? Does it depend on the project?

I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper.  ― James Robertson, The Testament of Gideon Mack

 

 

Camp NaNo Success!

 Camp NaNo was a success in so many ways!
  • I got a huge sense of accomplishment by completing my hourly goal.
  • Enjoyed “campfire talk” with my cabinmates.
  • Met some new amazingly kind, fun, fellow writers.
  • Established a solid writing practice.
  • Discovered that no matter how busy I am (April was one of my busiest months ever), I can always find time to write–even if it’s only 15 minutes to check in with my project.
If any of you want to join the virtual camping experience in July, all you have to do is go to the Camp NaNoWriMo site, set up your project, and let me know so I can send you an invite to our cabin.

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.  ― Virginia Woolf

 

This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be. ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (This book, BTW, is one of the greatest writing books ever written.)

 

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Book in a Day

Book

Last week was perhaps one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a long time, in large part due to Crime Victims’ Rights week (more on that next week), causing me to fall a bit behind on my Camp NaNo hourly goal. Nothing I can’t make up, though. And Saturday’s all-day event made it worth it.

Book in a Day, put on by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, was an all-day event in beautiful Golden, CO. Although, to tell the truth, I didn’t get to see beautiful Golden because I was in a conference room all day with nary a window.

But, again, it was worth it.

The event began with Stuart Horwitz, founder of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors, and Anita Mumm, teaching a class based on Stuart’s latest book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts. Given how informational and motivational the class was, I would strongly recommend the book.

Following that was lunch with fellow creatives. And there’s nothing that gets a room more fully charged with inspiration than writers brainstorming, sharing information, and networking–with FOOD! 🙂

Tummies and brains fed, we moved into simultaneous afternoon sessions, one on Indie Publishing and one on the path to Traditional Publishing. While I’m an indie author with seven published books, I attended the latter. I really enjoy being an independent author and it was my choice to do so (in fact, I didn’t even consider traditional publishing for a very long time), but with a new series brewing in my head, I’m considering shopping around for an agent. Considering. I’m still undecided. The class was taught by Angie Hodapp of Nelson Literary Agency. Now, let me say that I’ve attended several of Angie’s classes and have never been disappointed. The woman is a genius and knows how to deliver a message. In fact, when I attend the Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference in May, you can bet I’ll be attending her classes there as well.

The last session? Marketing. I tend to shudder when I say that word. Simply because if there’s one weakness I have in the writing life, it’s marketing.  The session, however, was a treat! Successful, talented, and kind-hearted indie authors (Bernadette Marie, Lisa Manifold, Corinne O’Flynn, Nathan Lowell) and, again, the wonderful Angie Hodapp, shared in an entertaining, informative, attention-keeping manner the ins and outs of what has and has not worked for them. Social Media appears to be the most agreed upon success.

To make it easy to find them, I’ve included the links to their websites. It’s well worth your time to check them out.

 

And now…I’m back off to Camp to begin week three of revising book two, Abby’s Retribution, in my Whispering Pines series. The lanterns are lit, the bonfires are burning, and the campfire conversation is flowing. I think it’s time to break out the s’mores!

 

Setting Goals

Camp NaNoWriMo began April 1st and I’m off and running. One of the best parts is the virtual cabins. We have 11 people in our cabin and the support, comradarie, and inspiration we get from each other is priceless. And, pardon me if it sounds like I’m bragging, but we do have the best cabin ever. 🙂

One of the things that has come up in conversation with my cabinmates is setting goals and it got me thinking.

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Camp NaNo comes around twice a year and NaNoWriMo every November. I set goals for these months and more often than not meet them if for no other reason than I won’t allow myself not to. So why, oh why, do I struggle to meet writing goals the rest of the months? Granted, it’s not that I’m unproductive in my writing life. I have seven published books and belong to a few writer’s groups. But I could be so much more productive if I set goals and was determined to meet them as I am during the NaNo months.

I’ve determined that as much of a blessing as electronics are, they’re equally a curse. It’s all too easy to hide behind a screen, whether it’s the computer or television screen, to “recover” from a long, hard day. Or to be mindlessly entertained. And to drag oneself away once settled in? Forget it. It has a vice-like grip.

All this from just the first week of Camp and there are still three more weeks to go! Having virtual cabinmates and chatting around a virtual campfire have proven to be most beneficial. 🙂

Campfire

Some of my cabinmates have blogs that I’ll list here in case you want to visit them. You won’t be sorry.

https://kitdunsmore.com/

https://rachelcarrera.wordpress.com/

What about you–do you set goals, writing or otherwise? Are you more likely to meet them or not? If you do set goals, what goals do you have? I’d love to hear and will be checking in between writing sprints.

Time to head back to Camp so I can meet my goal. Happy Reading, Happy Writing.

Off to Camp

It’s That Time Again!

It’s camping season again. Camp NaNoWriMo, that is.

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Fun with other writers in virtual cabins, brainstorming with each other, cheering one another on, virtual bonfires and s’mores, writing by lantern light…All the things to love about camping except pesky bugs.

This session I’ll be working on editing and revising book two in my Whispering Pines mystery, Abby’s Retribution. I got a new position a little more than a year ago where I work, which has given me a more satisfying day job. But it came with a price. I have less time to spend on my passion of writing and less creative energy. That sacrifice makes the months of Camp NaNo (April and July) all the more important to me.

Camp NaNo is a month of sheer writing bliss. You can set your own goals in increments of time (minutes, hours, etc.), words, lines, or pages. You can write a new novel, a series of short stories, poetry, or revise a work-in-progress. Basically, anything goes. If you’re interested but still want to know more, you can go to the website. If you decide you want to participate, go to the website, create your project, shoot me your user name, and I’ll send you an invite to my cabin.

Happy creating!

NaNo Coffee Mug

We write to taste life in the moment and in retrospect. Anais Nin

Writing Lessons

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This past weekend I attended a writing workshop hosted by Sisters in Crime, presented by Nancy Pickard. Nancy is one of the founding members and former president of the International level of Sisters in Crime, an organization that supports women mystery writers. She’s also a past board member of Mystery Writers of America. Impressive, right? But you haven’t heard anything yet.

She has numerous awards under her writers belt, among them the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Barry, and Shamus awards for her short stories–WOW! And there’s more! She’s been nominated four times for the Edgar Allan Poe award, she’s received a Lifetime Achievement award from Malice Domestic, and she’s been a Mary Higgins Clark award finalist.

Who better to learn from? And did she have a lot of fantastic advice!

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In addition to learning how to better be a strong female writer in an industry that leans toward men, I want to share some tips she provided that have served her well in her career.

There are five elements every chapter needs to have–Conflict, Action, Surprise, Turn, Senses.

Conflict: Old reality vs new reality. In the beginning of the story, something happens that changes what was to what is or will be. A template for a mystery novel contains the protagonist living a normal life that something intrudes upon. The protagonist hesitates to move forward but something else happens that propels them forward into their new reality. It will serve you well to include conflict in your first paragraph.

Action:  Action propels each scene into the next one, so make sure it’s present in each scene/chapter.

Surprise:  Try insert a surprise in each chapter, no matter how subtle it may be. The best people to surprise are the protagonist or the reader.

Turn:  Recognize what your character is feeling as they walk into a scene, even if it’s neutral. Make that emotion turn into something else during that scene. The emotional tone should change in your protagonist within each scene so s/he isn’t simply ambling from one scene into the next and out again.

Senses:  This is my favorite and in Nancy’s words, the most important. All five senses–taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing–should be incorporated into your writing. She suggested looking at each scene, and if there’s not a few references to the senses, add them. I wondered how to do this so it was natural and didn’t sound forced and was surprised and how many places I could add some of the senses in the few scenes I reviewed. And it added so much more to my story. If you’re having a difficult time, stop where you are, close your eyes and focus on one of the senses at a time. What do you hear? See? Taste? Smell? Feel? Our group was pretty creative with this exercise!

Special Mentions:

  • Write the letters C.A.S.T.S. on a notecard as well as a separate notecard with each of the five senses. Keep it by your side as you’re writing as a reminder to incorporate all of these elements in each of your scenes.
  • Always check the first sentence. If possible have it contain conflict or one of the five senses.
  • Pay special attention to the first sentence, first paragraph, first scene, first chapter. Take out all the words that weaken your writing–very, that, just, so, etc. Replace weak verbs with strong ones.
  • Backstory and the current one should each be their own story, with a beginning, middle, and an end. Don’t add backstory without a purpose.
  • Take care not to spend too much time setting up a scene. This one kind of speaks for itself.
  • Go deep into research, experiencing all that you can. Ride that train, shoot that gun, visit that museum, really taste that specific food…

And, as always, what can’t be taught but is so strongly felt, is that camaraderie, that support, that creative energy, those things that can only come from being in a room full of writers.

And now, it’s back off to camp. Camp NaNoWriMo, that is. To work on my project, revising book four in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, Shear Murder, by using C.A.S.T. and the five senses. Onward!

Off to Camp

If you have a dream of writing, that’s wishful thinking. If you have a commitment to writing, that’s the way to make your dreams come true.
Nancy Pickard

 

 

 

Camp NaNoWriMo

Off to Camp

So in further explanation from the brief mention of Camp NaNo in last week’s post, what exactly is Camp NaNo? It can be summed up in two words:

Fun Challenge!

Camp NaNoWriMo is a spinoff from November’s NaNoWriMo where participants from all over the world strive to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Camp NaNo is a bit looser. Where November’s goal is to write the first draft of a novel, Camp allows the participants to set their own goal in word count, page count, minutes or hours. The “campers” are also given a place to stay with like-minded campers in virtual cabins, making virtual s’mores over virtual campfires, but having real conversation. Cabin mates encourage one another, share their expertise and knowledge, and new writer friendships are developed.

Lantern

I’ve participated in November’s NaNoWriMo in the past (in fact, my first published book, The Inheritance, was born from my very first NaNoWriMo experience), I usually participate in the April Camp NaNo, but I never miss a July Camp. I dust off my lantern, prepare the month before by planning my project and reading what I can. When Camp starts I celebrate with a real s’more on day one (No virtual ones for this part) and at set intervals to celebrate accomplishments along the way.

This year I’ll be working on edits and revisions on book four in the Melanie Hogan Mystery Series, Shear Murder. Shear Madness, Shear Deception, and Shear Malice are available here and here. I’ve set my goal at 40 hours, I’ve printed my manuscript and placed it in a 3-ring binder, I’m re-reading the book Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell (one of the best books on editing I’ve ever found), and I’m ready to roll!

One last thing–Each of the Melanie Hogan Mysteries contains a recipe. Shear Madness, book one in the series, actually contains three! I’m searching for hotdish recipes for my new book. Unless you’re from Minnesota, you’re probably wondering what in the world hotdish is. It’s a casserole that typically contains a starch of some sort, meat, and canned or frozen vegetables with canned soup. Minnesotans can get pretty creative, let me tell ya, don’tcha know. Since the Melanie Hogan series is set in northern Minnesota, the chosen recipes are native to Minnesota (like hotdish) or those that were special to me as a child growing up. If you don’t have a hotdish recipe but want to participate, anything native to Minnesota will do. Nothing with Spam though, please. I’ve yet to see anything that makes Spam edible. Ugh!

I’ll be accepting submissions for the next couple of months, and the chosen recipe, along with the winner’s name, will be mentioned in the book. If you’re interested in participating, send your recipe via email to rjblackhurst0611@gmail.com.

And now it’s back off to Camp!

Campfire