To Vlog or Not to Vlog?

My First Vlog Interview

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Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

I was recently contacted by fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to participate in her new equestrian spotlight vlog series. A vlog? It’s like a podcast with video, in case you’re slightly behind the times, like me. Being an extreme introvert, my initial reaction was NOOOOOO! I emailed her back and asked if I could do an audio podcast without the video. I’ve done podcast interviews before and gotten through them without too much embarrassment. She graciously accepted my audio-only podcast alternative and we set a date.

Later that night, I told my husband what happened. He looked at me with a disapproving look. “Why aren’t you doing the video?”

“It makes me uncomfortable.”

“So? Visual marketing is what everyone does now. It would be great exposure for your books.”

Ugh. I hate it when he’s right. It was a good reminder that the easiest thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do. I emailed Carly back and told her that my husband gave me a kick in the butt and that, yes, I would now like to do the video. I was worried she’d be annoyed with me, but she thought it was funny. Apparently, I’m not the only one to receive kicks in the butt from my significant other.

My stress level steadily increased as the interview date drew closer. The time arrived two nights ago. I set up my screen, background, Bluetooth earbuds, and microphone. I reread the questions she had sent me a couple of weeks earlier. I gave my kids strict instructions to stay in a room on the other side of the house (with the dog) and not to come out unless it was an emergency. My kids proceeded to ask me many questions outlining hypothetical scenarios and whether or not they constituted an emergency (FYI, being hungry for marshmallows does NOT equal an emergency!)

At last, Carly and I connected via an app called Zoom. She made me feel at ease immediately. I was thankful to learn that if I messed up, I could clap my hands (her signal to edit something out) and redo my answer, which I did a few times throughout our discussion. I was nervous for the first five or ten minutes, but after a while it seemed more like we were just two friends talking about writing and publishing. The hour went by fast.

I have not seen the final product yet. I might look terrible or sound unsure about my answers, but I hope not. Overall, I’m glad I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone. it was a great experience and I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about writing and to promote my YA horse books, including the upcoming January 2020 release of the third book in the series. I will post a link to the vlog on this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account as soon as it is ready, which I’m told will be sometime in November.

A final suggestion to my fellow introverted writers who might be presented with the question, “Would you like to appear on my vlog?”

The answer is “YES!”

 

Writing through the Snow Days

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It has been just over thirty days since I started my own personal NaNoWriMo. The goal was to write 50,000 in thirty days. I know at least one of you is dying to know….did I do it? Before I share my results, I’d like to give a piece of advice for any writers who live in Michigan and have school-aged children:  Never attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of January! My kids had nine snow days over the last three weeks. NINE! Plus, three additional holiday break days. By the ninth snow day, I was practically begging for someone to shoot me.

Okay, seriously now. I love my kids. They are mostly well-behaved, and it wasn’t that bad. Despite the *minor* interruption in my writing schedule, I did manage to write 38,457 words. I wrote another 2,000 words today (they had school!), so I’m now past the 40,000 mark. My crappy first draft seems within grasp. Then the real fun of revising and expanding on certain themes, plot points and character backstories will begin.

ChemistryIn addition to typing words, I’ve also been doing a lot of research. My new novel-in-progress involves a murdered high school teacher, and one of the main characters is a high school chemistry teacher. I remember next to nothing from high school chemistry, so I’ve been spending more than a little time researching chemistry projects and everyday chemical reactions. Does anyone remember a favorite chemistry experiment from your high school days? Tell me! Who knows? I might incorporate it into my story…

Until next time, here’s to writing, reading, clear roads and unexpected chemical reactions:)

 

 

Get Writing in the New Year!

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Happy 2019! My kids are back in school (Yay!), I got a much-needed new laptop for Christmas, my revisions to my suspense novel have been completed and sent to my agent and I have the seeds of a psychological thriller clawing inside my mind, struggling to materialize. Why, then, have I languished at my desk for the last three days, my shiny laptop gleaming in front of me, and not been able to write a single word?

Instead, I’ve been plotting my story, drawing time lines, doing character sketches, tinkering with my website and trying to achieve 10,000 steps per day on my Fitbit. These are all good things, but my “novel” still contains zero words. Despite the excitement of starting a new project, writing the first chapter (or even the first line) of a novel can be difficult, overwhelming and even a little scary. The fear is amplified even further after taking a three-week break over the holidays.

I’ve now had a few days to think about my writing drought, and here are a few explanations I’ve come up with, along with solutions, that I’m hoping will help both myself and fellow writers facing similar struggles.

Making my own NaNoWriMo

My four previous completed novels have one thing in common — they were all written (or at least started) on November 1st as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. The clear goal of the challenge, to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, was a huge motivator for me. I knew exactly how many words I needed to write every day (1,667) to achieve the goal. This past November, I was swamped with rewrites to my existing manuscripts and did not have a chance to participate. To compensate, I’m declaring January 15th-February 15th as my personal NaNoWriMo challenge! I won’t have the fancy NaNoWriMo website to track my word count, but I do have a bare-bones excel spreadsheet that accomplishes the same goal.

 It doesn’t have to be perfect

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This might be the hardest part of writing for me–knowing that the sentence, paragraph or even an entire chapter is dog poop, but writing it anyway. Perfection does not happen in the first draft. A worthy story comes with editing, input from critique partners and many rounds of revising. So, go ahead and write that run-on sentence, ridiculous dialogue and scenes that come out of nowhere.  Everything can be fixed during round two.

Butt in Chair

Getting more exercise is always a noble New Year’s resolution, but enough with the Fitbit already! (I’m talking to myself here.) I may not get my 10,000 steps today, but there’s always February 16th for that. Starting January 15th, I vow to not leave my desk until I achieve my goal of writing 1,667 words per day.

So, that’s my simplified plan for jump-starting my 2019 novel. I’ll check back with you on February 16th to let you know how I did.

Are you writing a new novel for the new year? Tell me about it. We’ll cheer each other on!

#NaNoWriMo is Almost Here!

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResIs it possible to write a novel in a month? That’s 50,000 words in thirty days. It’s an intimidating goal, but also one that makes my heart pound faster, as glimpses of soon-to-be-created characters and plot twists dance in my head. For the last few weeks I’ve been gearing up for the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, for short). It’s a test I’ve participated in three times before–each time leading (eventually) to the completion of a full-length novel.

As a goal-oriented person, NaNoWriMo is exactly what I need to get myself in a chair and spewing out words from my keyboard. Most writers agree that the first draft is the tallest hurdle when writing a novel. NaNoWriMo forces me to produce the words, and not worry about whether they’re perfect the first time–they won’t be! The months following the whirlwind thirty-day challenge will provide plenty of time for revisions, but at least there will be something to work with.

Another reason I’m a big believer in NaNoWriMo is because it’s worked for me in the past. To be completely honest, I’ve fallen short of reaching my 50,000 word goal in 30 days every time. Last time, I ended up with 27,530 words. BUT…of the three novels I began during NaNoWriMo, two are now published with a small press in Minnesota, and the third is sitting with a literary agent in New York, looking for a bigger home. I’m hooked! pearson-creative-writing

So, how does one prep for NaNoWriMo? I’ve learned from past experience that I’m a “planner” not a “panster”–meaning I need a plan before I start writing, in contrast to some writers who write by the seat of their pants. (How do they do that?) This year, I have a rough outline completed, as well as character sketches of the main characters. Additionally, I’ve done some preemptive research into some unfamiliar subject matters featured in my new book. Finally, I’ve logged into my NaNoWriMo account and “created” my new novel so that once November 1st arrives, I can track my daily word count. My goal will be to write at least 1,785 words per day–that’s based on 50,000 words in 28 days. I subtracted a day for Thanksgiving and a couple of weekend days when I know I won’t get any writing accomplished.

Another way I prepare is by finding writing “buddies” on NaNoWriMo.org. That way, we can cheer for each other and even engage in some friendly competition. I’m always looking for new writing buddies, so please friend me if you are doing NaNoWriMo this year (username LWolfeWrites). I’d love to connect! You can use NaNoWriMo to find local writers in your geographic area by selecting your “home region” on the website. I can’t believe all of the events that are happening at my local library.

I probably won’t be writing any blog posts in the month of November–for obvious reasons–but I will check in to share my results after NaNoWriMo is over. Good luck and happy writing!

The Surprise Benefits of Journaling

quotes-writing-virginia-woolf-600x411I organized my thoughts on journaling a few weeks ago for a guest post on another blog. Here is a revised version of that post…

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On my recent birthday, my seven year- old daughter handed me a few tattered horse stickers, a purple pencil, and a blank notebook that she’d salvaged from her bottom desk drawer. I must have given her a confused look because she pointed to the notebook and told me it was for me to practice my writing. How cute! I thought as I hugged her and thanked her for the thoughtful present. It wasn’t until later that I realized what a powerful gift she had actually given me.

I kept that notebook next to my bed where it lay untouched for several days. Before falling asleep one night, I decided to open it and give journaling a try. At first, writing down my thoughts felt awkward and strange. Why did I need to write a note to myself about what I’d already experienced? What if someone read this? Why was my handwriting so horrible? By the third entry my handwriting was still illegible, but the words started flowing easier. Now, two months—and dozens of pages—later, I’m hooked on journaling. I’ve outlined some ways journaling can help writers below:

  1. Journaling sparks creativity – Stream of consciousness writing—or writing without thinking—brings forth thoughts you didn’t know you had. Journaling has no rules! There’s something freeing about filling a blank page with ramblings meant only for yourself. A journal allows you to explore crazy ideas and exercise your expressive muscles without the worry of what others will think.
  2. Journaling eases stress – Had a horrible day? There’s little worse for your health than keeping your emotions bottled up inside. Writing it down on paper can somehow contain the situation and make it seem manageable. You can even take it one step further and write a happy ending to your sad story. Now that’s my kind of plot twist!
  3. Journaling eliminates writer’s block —Journaling documents snapshots of your life which may eventually become segments of your novel. Drawing a blank? Look out the window and describe the weather. Describe the room you’re sitting in. Write a letter to a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Describe what you ate for lunch yesterday. You get the picture. The topics of journal entries don’t have to be life-changing. Revisit these seemingly mundane journal entries when you’ve reached a tough spot in your novel and see how they inspire you.
  4. Journaling transforms your emotions into words – When drama does occur in your life be sure to record your feelings while they’re fresh. Journaling preserves the sensations you experienced during times of intense emotions. Chances are good that the characters in your novel will experience similar periods of love, hate, despair, elation, anger, contentment, etc. Pull details from your journal to bring truth and authenticity to your writing.
  5. Journaling makes you more likely to achieve your goals – There is something about the written word that holds people accountable. Writing down a goal may prompt you to outline specific mini-steps for achieving that goal. The words may cause you to visualize and feel your own success. Make sure to take time to write down—and occasionally revisit—your goals while journaling.

As it turns out, my seven year-old daughter somehow knew  that a blank notebook sitting at the bottom of her desk drawer was just what I needed to jolt me out of my writing slump. Journaling has benefited me in all of the above ways and I’m happy to have rediscovered this simple writing tool. Do you have a birthday approaching? Perhaps you should ask for a journal!

 

 

Clear the Clutter and WRITE!

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year filled with hope and possibility when people make long lists of resolutions which they may–or may not–keep. I’m happy to announce that I’ve already accomplished one of my goals: DECLUTTERING my writing space! Over the last six months, my home office has fallen into a state of utter chaos. It was the room where my family stashed all of the items that didn’t have a clear place of their own. My desk had become hidden under piles of half-written manuscripts and book order forms. My extra books lay stacked in the corner. My husband’s old work papers overflowed in an unorganized heap, leaving almost no room for my computer. My daughter’s art supplies invaded every nook and cranny. Don’t believe me? Check out this “BEFORE” picture of my office. And, yes, that’s a bag of Mrs. Pastures horse cookies in the background (my bad.)

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I’m a big believer that the state of one’s surroundings is generally a reflection of their life as a whole. Amid the claustrophobic atmosphere it became almost impossible for me to create anything new. There was simply no room to think! It’s no surprise that during the last 2-3 months of 2016 I did not write a single word (other than making some edits to an already completed manuscript and sending out a few query letters.)

But have no fear-I have retaken control of my writing life. It took several hours of lugging old papers, folders, and envelopes to the recycling bin. I filled two trash bags with, well, trash. I delivered a carload of random office supplies and picture frames to the Salvation Army. I dusted. I vacuumed. I moved my riding equipment to the basement. And here is the result…

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What you can’t see are the empty drawers. Yes-EMPTY DRAWERS! Oh, the possibilities! In case anyone was wondering, the dog bed stays because of my writing partner, Milo.

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One more view of my clean desk. I can’t wait to get started on my next novel!

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Have you recently decluttered your workspace? Tell me about it!

The Emotional Stages of Editing

heart-touching-feelingsRecently, I’ve been working with a copy editor to put the finishing touches on my YA mystery, BARN SHADOWS (Dark Horse, Book Two). Our mission:  to identify and correct all typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies, and overused words/phrases in my novel. Thankfully, we’ve almost reached the end of this back-and-forth editing process which has been successful (yeah!), but also a roller coaster ride of emotions. Because I experienced a similar set of emotions when editing my first novel, I’ve outlined my own Emotional Stages of Editing below in order to help other writers going through this harrowing ordeal–or at least to make them laugh.

Emotional Stages of Editing:

  1. Fear–Your publisher notifies you that the copy editor has your manuscript. She’s probably reading it right now. Will she like it? Will she hate it? Will she understand your jokes? You break out in a cold sweat and lie down in the fetal position while repeating positive phrases in your head.
  2. Anger–A few days later, you click open the Word doc entitled, First Round Edits, expecting to see a few extra commas and comment proclaiming “WELL DONE! BEST BOOK I’VE READ ALL YEAR!” but what you see instead is a blur of red typing and strikethroughs. As your eyes focus on the specifics, the heat rises to your face and your hands shake. Why has the word “that” been added to the third sentence of the opening paragraph? Why have those two short sentences been combined into one long run-on sentence? Where is the joke about the baby llama who works at the cheese factory? This editor is trying to ruin your book! You’re sure of it!
  3. Despair–After exchanging a livid email voicing your displeasure with the suggested changes, the editor sends you a point-by-point outline of why she made each change. You slump into your chair and suck in your breath as you realize she was right–an em dash does work better than a comma in that sentence, and the word “that” is sometimes grammatically necessary. How could you have made so many mistakes? Your book must be horrible. Once again you curl up in the fetal position, only this time no positive thoughts pop their way into your head.
  4. Determination–After several martinis and a good night’s sleep, you open your “motivational phrases” Pinterest Board and realize that no mountain is too tall to climb and everything worthwhile is worth fighting for. You determine to get through these edits, one by one, word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. You sit down at your computer and start re-reading your book for the 803rd time.
  5. Hope–The editor looks through your responses and sends you round two edits. Hey! There are only a few comments this time. And she added that joke back in–the one about the baby llama and the cheese factory! She probably realized how funny it was the second time she read it. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  6. Joy–All edits have been approved by both parties. The work is done! You jump up from your chair and wish you had a co-worker to high-five. Your dog will have to do. Soon your publisher will present you with the most dazzling cover ever created. Oh, the joy of all this hard work coming together! Editing isn’t so bad after all…o-book-wrapped-gift-facebook