Inspiration from the past, and all the stuff I didn’t think I wanted to learn

 (Photo by me.)
(Photo by me.)

So this week I’ve been plotting like mad, and the new book has required me to create not only the regular kind of things for a book (overall plot and characters, romantic and character arches, etc), but also something more: I’ve had to create the entire world my story takes place in, down to planets and their resources, the gov’t systems controlling those planets, and potential political issues.Β  It’s been crazy, but a lot of fun too.

And as I’ve been considering starting a rebellion and a war in my new solar system, I’ve considered how much I owe my ability to do so to two high school social studies teachers: Mr. Tietzen and Mr. Long. These men had very different styles, and how they taught their subjects, covering history, political systems, current events, and position papers was also very different, but both of them have contributed to my new world, and I thought how thankful I am they taught me all of that.

One of the projects Mr. Tietzen gave us was, coincidentally, invent your own country. You were given basic guidelines (like about resources, etc), but then you had to come up with all of the rest of the information, like political system, values, exports, flag, etc. Yeah, I’m betting you can see how useful that was. (Just of note, I can still remember the name of my country: ElephantΓ©, and yes, it did have an elephant on the flag.) πŸ˜‰

Mr. Long taught me a lot more, probably some of the best things I first learned about writing and a position paper, current events, and his favorite: watching and learning about history and political events on the spectrum of the rise and fall of three primary elements. These were: individualism, egalitarianism, and nationalism (and if I’ve forgotten one, it’s not his fault, totally mine!)Β  You wouldn’t believe how important this, as well as considering the causes and repercussions of both the French Revolution and World War I, is to my development of this new world.

The other teacher who has to get a shout out and who I’ve drawn on is my Classics 101 prof, who sadly I can’t recall the name, but who let me focus my entire paper on how pirates brought about the fall of the Roman Empire.Β  And yes, this too plays into the creation of my new world.

All of which made me think how much we can draw upon what we know, and how sometimes, we hit on something that really is intended for us, something that makes use of what we know and what we love. And if we’re writers, sometimes it means we get to create that perfect symmetry. In my case, I think it’s going to turn into a space opera romance; I’m terrified and tremendously excited all at once. πŸ™‚

So now to you: have you ever found something you’re doing in your current life makes you draw on things you never thought you’d find useful in your past? Maybe that one thing you didn’t even want to learn?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you all a great week and happy writing out there! πŸ™‚

Fresh New Idea

So I have a new idea forΒ  story cooking in my head. This past week has generally been one of those good news-bad news kind of weeks, and the WIP I was working on isn’t working. And I don’t mean a little difficulty, I mean it’s not moving forward.

I have therefore given myself permission to start work on something new and come back to the other WIP at another point. Perhaps the distance and time will provide some added perspective I haven’t thought of yet. But of course, this means I have to figure out how to develop what is essentially little more than an idea into something that might become a story.

For me, I often get a character come into my head first, a character looking for a story. Since I right romance, the next step is trying to find a partner for the initial character who will eventually become the secondary lead. Beginning the story this way means that the path of the story generally comes through the overall character arch I want the character(s) to follow and achieve.

This latest book is different. Yes, there’s definitely a character, but she came with a whole world of her own, something crazy and strange, but filled with my favorite things. πŸ™‚

How then, to develop this?

My first step was to write down as much as I knew about the story as it first came to me, because it came to me all in a rush and thunder.Β  Bizarrely, there are even images associated with this story in terms of setting, which is unusual because I don’t think much about images, but there it is.

The next step for me is developing and nurturing this idea into something real. I have a couple of my favorite books help me out with this, including tips from James Scott Bell. I free-write on the idea, fleshing it out, deciding what it is I love about it and why others would love it. This time I also really want to focus on why this book is unique, and how it will be accessible for readers. Plus, I think I need to give some time to the back-story just so I know what’s true for this world, even if much of that detail never makes it into the primary story.

You see, I’m trying to improve my method. In fact, I tweak and change things a bit every time I write. And one of the things I’m worse for is coming up with an idea and starting to write right away … before I’ve properly figured out much. This often necessitates rewriting or often throwing out the first act completely after I change my mind. Ideally, I’d like to avoid doing that if possible. πŸ™‚

So what about you: when you have that fresh new idea, how do you develop it into a fleshed out story? Next week I want to look more specifically at some of the steps, since this week I have to see what they are first. πŸ™‚

Have a great one, and happy reading out there. πŸ™‚

Resolve to Give Yourself a Break

We’ve made it to the third week of January – hooray! I say this since my feelings for January are still, let’s say, “mixed.” But I’ve been feeling a lot better since I decided on three things:

  1. To focus on the creativity and the process rather than the end product (at least during the actual creation of said product.)
  2. To make sure I’m having some fun, whatever I’m doing.
  3. To give myself a break, and let some of the “shoulds” slip.

Here’s the thing: by the end of the year last year, I was contorted and twisted with stress over all the things perhaps I should have done, the way I should have done them, what I should do next, what should I write, what was the best path I should take, etc.

Sense a pattern?

Should is all well and good, and indeed, there are lots of things we should do, all the time. But it’s also highly subjective, and so often we guilt ourselves into misery thinking of all the the “shoulds” and not simply focusing on what we WILL do, what we HAVE done, what we NEED to do, and sometimes, ironically either neglected at the bottom of the list or given too much priority, we think of what we WANT to do.

For myself, I decided that rather than “should” I would focus on want. Indeed, the paranormal romance market is down, which doesn’t make sale of my books easier. But when I considered what I wanted to read, and moreover, the stories I wanted to write? They’re paranormal. It’s where I enjoy myself and can play. And when I let myself decide that’s what I’d do, despite it perhaps not being what I “should” do, I felt a lot better. When I let myself take a break and relax, creativity opened up again, and the writing was better.

Which comes back to the title of this post: if there’s anything I might advise someone to resolve to improve in 2015, it’s to take care of yourself, and in all the ways that matters. By all means, join a gym and get into better shape – exercise can also help mentally and emotionally. But also remember not to be as hard on yourself. To paraphrase an old song: reach for the moon, but don’t ever be ashamed if instead you only end up with the stars. πŸ™‚

So now to you: are you trapped by “shoulds” and other imagined pressures? How do you resolve to take better care of yourself?

Happy writing to you all, and thanks for stopping by. Have a great week. πŸ™‚

Happy 2015!! Sneak up on those goals!

So it’s a brand new year all ready. Are you prepared?

First I always find it pays to look at the last year – while trying very hard to look at things in a positive manner, focusing on what was achieved and accomplished rather than just what wasn’t accomplished. πŸ™‚

Then comes the new year, and for me, since I have rather mixed feelings about January and February (mostly like a post-holiday hang-over and that these are the long, dark months of winter). So, I’ve been “sneaking up” on my goals for the year. Since I know many people have rather mixed feelings about year-long goals and and setting resolutions, I thought I’d share how you, too, can sneak up on your goals. πŸ™‚

Christmas and the holidays can be very stressful and full of excitement. And while it’s wonderful, exciting, and more glittery than any other time of the year, there’s also the inevitable let-down when all the pretty lights go out and we’re left in the dark of January and February. It can be easier to look at the negative in that kind of environment. If you’re not pleased with your progress (you know, since you’re looking at the negative), it can be really hard to see the bright possibility of a new year. Dark questions arise. What’s the point of writing (or whatever it is that you’re doing)? Why am I doing this anyway? Why shouldn’t I just quit and try something else?

Here’s the trick of the sneaking up: don’t treat the questions as rhetorical. Answer them. Yep, you heard me. Those questions that start to get you down? Answer them, with honesty and an open heart. Free-writing or a journal entry that no one else ever has to see is a great start (and it’s what worked for me.)

Yes, at first you may start out in the kind of tone better for a grumpy ogre. But keep writing. Keep opening yourself to the possibilities.

Why do I do this? Because I’m a writer, and that’s what I do. It isn’t all about the marketing, the sales, or becoming a bestseller. It’s about writing, creating a story, and hopefully sharing that story with readers. I continue to press onward in part because I’m more stubborn than is probably healthy, and because I want to send a positive example for my young daughter. What’s the point of writing what I write? Because I believe in it, and because I write the stories that I want to read – even if not everyone is going to love them (the subjectivity of the business), and even if it’s not what everyone else writes. Why shouldn’t I give up and try something else? Because I’m a writer, and it’s too much a part of me to just stop (besides, I did mention that more stubborn than healthy part, right?) πŸ˜‰

As you find your truths by answering these questions, the goals often arise from them. Has one action not resulted in what you want? Well, maybe it’s time to switch tactics. Does something scare you? Maybe you should consider doing it anyway.

And in the end, while I have a few more specific goals, I also have some broader ideas that I want to bring into my life in 2015. I want to live bravely, pushing my own boundaries. I want to build in more fun into my life, for the sake of stress-relief and because hey, fun is good! πŸ˜‰ And I want to act, reaching for my dreams instead of just dreaming about them.

Wishing you power, bravery, and fun in your 2015, along with whatever you work toward. All the best, thanks for reading, and I look forward to chatting throughout the year. πŸ™‚