Crazy, Freaky

By that, I mean the weather. As I write this on January 22, I have my windows open. It’s over 60 degrees here in southwest Ohio. I just got back from taking the dogs for a walk with DH, first time I’ve done so since we got Skeet. Yesterday, my husband went hunting and almost got struck by lightning when a popup thunderstorm came up while he was in a tree stand. Not fun for him.

As nice as the weather is now, it’s just not right. I’m used to cold and often, snow, this time of year! Not that I’m complaining.

What I’ve been reading: Dead Money by Dean Wesley Smith. This is the novel in Smith’s Monthly #22, which is an issue I missed. Studying how he did point-of-view in it was one of the exercises in a workshop I recently finished (“Plotting with Depth” – highly recommend for writers!). I went ahead and read the rest, and it was as entertaining as I know I can count on from him. Even though it’s set in an arena that doesn’t particularly interest me (professional poker), the book still kept my attention throughout. A fast-paced, exciting thriller where someone is systematically killing off the members of a group of old poker buddies, one of whom is the president of the U.S. One need not know anything about poker to enjoy reading!

ROW80Logo175

Writing/ROW80 Update: I figured out a few more things about my stuck story, but still no idea of the end. That’s no big deal for some writers (and I envy them), but for a planner like me, it’s paralyzing. I have no idea what comes next if I don’t know where I’m ultimately headed. Yes, I’m one of those people who looooooooves maps, always have, even back when they were paper.

I also realized that there were some basic things about my story I’d failed to determine as well, like what the main characters needed to learn in this one, and–duh–the basic premise of the story. As in, “the sentence” that tells what it’s all about. So I looked into a plotting aid I read about recently, The Story Toolkit by Susan Bischoff. It’s a set of worksheets of questions to answer about the story, plus a book to explain the details. It’s not vastly different than some other workshops/books I’ve read, but arranged differently enough that it may jar some stuff loose, so I figure why not give it a try. This week, I want to work through as much of that as I can, although I have a lot going on this weekend, so probably won’t get through it all.

What about you–how’s the weather where you are? Is it as crazy as here? Are you someone who likes to know where you’re going, whether you’re writing or driving? Or do you like to discover as you go? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Depth in Fiction: Why I (almost) Put the Book Down

This was one of those weeks where I didn’t do a whole lot besides the usual go to work, write, and of course, read. I finished last week’s book early in the week, so picked up another. This book was a type of story I love, so I expected to really enjoy it.

Despite its interesting story and premise, I kept finding myself distracted by all kind of other thoughts, and frequently putting the book down to think about something I’m working on instead. I couldn’t figure out why–it didn’t have any of the typical things that make me put books down, like excessive background information, repetition, or just nothing happening. Then I remembered the online writing workshop I recently completed.

Depth-Workshop-Cover2-e1402637242834Like Stacy commented on last week’s postsometimes we learn the most from the books we don’t enjoy. When I put a book down–or am tempted to, I always try to figure out why. The workshop I took last month was Dean Wesley Smith’s Depth in Writing (highly recommended if you’re a writer, btw). In it, he discussed how the bestsellers–and all good fiction–pull readers down deep into the story, quickly. This is something vital to keep readers reading, and to make them want the next book.

One part of accomplishing this is to draw the reader into the setting through vivid details, using all five senses–yep, even taste. (I’m not giving away any of the workshop either–he’s mentioned this on his blog before.) I skimmed the openings of the book’s prior chapters, and sure enough, this was what was missing. I couldn’t find any descriptions of smells or tastes, which are strongly connected to emotion, and only in a couple places could I find sounds or touch/temperature.

Now, I have never been overly fond of a lot of description in my reading, and it’s something I have had to work on in my own writing. But done right, it’s not a big chunk of bore, and won’t even be noticeable to the reader. This book was a perfect example of how important that is.

Sometimes, lack of depth can be compensated for with good storytelling, and that’s why I haven’t put the book down yet. It’s an engaging and interesting plot, and I want to find out what happens next just enough to keep on.

smithsmonthly15What I’ve been reading: I definitely enjoyed the book I finished early last week. That was Smith’s Monthly #15, by Dean Wesley Smith. The full novel therein was Cold Call, a really twisted murder mystery featuring retired cops who get together to play poker and solve cold cases.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: last week, my goal was to complete my first draft revision, and get the novella off to the beta readers. That is DONE. I contacted my publisher, and they already have my final editor lined up, and expect to have the book out by mid-March, barring anything unforeseen. Since I do cover design for Mythical Press, I also design my own covers, so that’s what’s up for this week–the cover design, and a short blurb suitable for back cover copy, something else the publisher needs. As a bonus goal, I need to collect all the front- and back-matter for the book, which I’ll need to supply to them as well.

What about you—have you put down a book lately, or considered doing so? Do you know why? How do you feel about description in fiction, whether you’re a writer or from a reader’s perspective? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments—I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Just Do It

No, this is not an athletic shoes commercial. This is what I had to tell myself yesterday to get the job done, the “job” being the scene that’s hung over me for the past three weeks.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting the writing done is just getting started, going to the computer, and overcoming inertia. But lately, my main problem has been staying focused once I’m there. I did some more experimenting with mynoise.net, having decided that Brain.fm was not working well enough to be worth spending $6.99 for a one-month subscription.

My conclusion? Sometimes/it depends. Which soundscape I chose definitely made a difference; some were too bland to aid in focus, as they were mostly intended to be noise-masking. Others sounded great, but made me sleepy (one use for these sounds is in hypnotherapy practice). I might try listening as I’m reading before bed to help me go to sleep. But that’s not what I want to do at the writing computer. I really like the Ice World sound, but this is one of those. However, My Noise lets you combine sounds, and combining it with Ethereal Choir is great, and did seem to help with focus.

I met with three of my writer friends yesterday, and one of them was having focus trouble, too. We talked about what we do when we come to a scene we don’t want to write yet, whether because of mood or something else. “Toss it out” wasn’t discussed, although that’s a perfectly viable option when the scene isn’t really needed for the book. We were talking about those that were definitely needed.

I just skip the scene and move on to the next, as I mentioned in last week’s ROW80 update. One of my friends writes out of order, so that’s a no-brainer for her. It’s easy enough for me to do, as my sketch/outline tells me what happens in the next scene. But one of my other friends does the same thing, and she uses absolutely no outline. She and I both write our scenes in order otherwise. But my third friend said he absolutely can’t write out of order. Lucky for him, he doesn’t come upon this situation very often.

Yesterday, I still had not finished either of the two scenes I’d wanted to for today’s ROW80 update. But meeting with my writing friends is always fun and energizing (at least creatively), and I came home ready to tackle those scenes. I hit the later one first, and finished it without a problem. Then I played computer games for about an hour, procrastinating on that scene I didn’t want to write, until I finally realized I was not going to hit that goal for the third week in a row if I didn’t Just Do It.

So I went back to the writing room, fed the critters, and fired up mynoise.net with a combo of Ice World, Ethereal Choir, and Coastline. I don’t know whether it was the music/sounds, or my determination to just get it written, but it worked. Took about three hours, and 2500 words, but it’s done! 🙂

GodsSwindlersWhat I’ve been reading: I finished Gods and Swindlers by Laura Kirwan last Sunday or Monday. I love, love, love this series, about a fifty-something, non-magical lawyer who lives in a magical town and is the only thing standing between it and magical baddies. This one was a little slow at first, but still kept my interest, and only got better and better as it went (much like the previous two books in the series). I hope the next one is out soon, though I’m willing to wait.

One thing I’ve noticed as a reader is that I can’t tell if something was written fast or slow, in order or not, outlined or written into the dark. Nor can I tell whether the author revised and fixed as s/he went, or did a big revision (or multiple) afterward. A lot of people have strong opinions on these, particularly the speed and revisions, but IMO none of them matter. What’s important is that we do what works for us for that book, at that point in our knowledge of craft. And it can change. (FWIW, I am a nominal outliner, I mostly write in order, my speed varies greatly even within one book, and I am working toward fixing more as I write, and revising less because I don’t enjoy it.)

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I made my goal to finish both the scenes I was working on (barely)! So this week’s goal is to write the last scene (yes!), and then go back and fix the things I know are missing. As a bonus, I’d like to do the read-through and proofread, to get it ready for the beta readers.

What about you–when you read, can you tell anything about how the book was written? What do you do to get yourself to Just Do It when “it” is something you keep stalling on? If you’re a writer, do you ever write out of order, and how do you handle scenes you don’t feel like writing? How are you doing on whatever goals you may have, whether or not you’re a writer? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

 

How to Train Your Brain (Maybe)

I ran across an interesting blog post last week about a website called Brain.fm, a tool that’s supposed to help us focus.

Like many writers, this is help I need, as when I sit down to write, I’m as susceptible as anyone to OOOOOH SQUIRREL! and thinking about things like how the gerbil cages really need cleaned, or how I haven’t yet done the daily challenges in Microsoft Solitaire. So anything that can help me focus without icky side effects? I’m so there!

Image via Morguefile.com

Image via Morguefile.com

Brain.fm offers seven free sessions, so I jumped right in that night, selecting the “Intense Focus” option. They tell you to wear headphones or earbuds, and then you get a half hour or more (you can pick your session length) of what’s basically electronic ambient music that mostly fades into the background, but blocks out other noises, like my gerbils’ wheels, the bubbling of the aquarium filter, or the TV in the next room. I was especially intrigued by the comments on the above-linked blog post, where several people tried it and found it really helped them, even one who admitted to being skeptical.

I gave it five tries, plus one at my day job, where I also have trouble focusing (probably because the projects I’m currently working on are just not that interesting). So did Brain.fm work for me?

Uhhhh, maybe.

It did block out other noise effectively. And since I like electronic music to begin with, was decent listening. But I still wanted to do things like go pet the gerbils, or see what my husband was watching in the next room. If I had more free sessions, I would give it more of a chance, but it didn’t work well enough for me to pay $6.99 for a month, or $47.88 for a year.

I mentioned this to my daughter, who was home yesterday. She hadn’t heard of Brain.fm, but she uses a competitive site, mynoise.net. So I tried that one out.

The sounds on the sites seem fairly similar, with the main difference being that Brain.fm’s music includes percussion, while those I’ve tried so far on My Noise did not. There are a bajillion different settings on My Noise, too, so I spent much of my writing time last night fiddling with it. I did find some sounds I liked, and it had about the same effect as Brain.fm – and a one-time donation of as little as $5.00 unlocks all the advanced features. So I tried those out too.

I’ve only tried My Noise once, so not enough to decide how well it works. I’ll update you when I do!

What I’ve been Reading: Still working on the same novel as last week. It’s long, and I don’t get much time to read, but it’s very good. I’ll talk about it next week.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal last week was to finish the next scene in my WIP. I wrote probably half of it before I realized I was padding because I was not in the mood to write what comes next. So I skipped to the next scene, and got it about half done, too, so I’ll consider that a win. I also completed the writing workshop, and the instructor said I totally nailed the assignment with my scene from the Blizzard of 1950. So another win! My goal this week is to finish both, which should be doable as this week should not be as busy as the last one.

What about you–have you ever tried focusing aids like Brain.fm or mynoise.net? Did it help? Or if you haven’t tried them, does it sound interesting? These aren’t just for writers, but anyone who wants help focusing, relaxing or even to get to sleep. How are you doing with whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from  you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Fighting through Fear

There’s no shortage of blog posts and articles on writers’ block at any time, but there seem to be a lot of them now, with the new year. I’m one of those who doesn’t believe in writers’ block as a thing in and of itself, but I experienced a bit of block myself this week, when it came time to do the assignment for the writing workshop I’m currently taking.

Last week’s assignment I pretty much put off to the last minute, and wound up dashing off something I didn’t really find interesting, that I suspected wasn’t very good. The instructor called me on it (though nicely), which I totally expected.

This week’s assignment was a challenging one, and I put it off too.

I was blocked on it, and when I took a minute to think about it, I realized it was because I didn’t want to throw out more crap and get called on it again. But what that really was, was good old fear.

I believe that’s what’s behind most of what we call writers’ block. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of getting bad reviews, if we publish. Fear of rejection, if we’re sending materials to agents or publishing houses. Fear of… I don’t know. It’s kind of irrational when I think about it. As this very instructor has said in other workshops, what is there really to fear? It’s not like an agent, editor, or reader is going to hunt us down and shoot us for writing something not so good. If we send something to an editor or agent and it’s no good, it’s not like they’ll remember it–or the writer. Or if we self-publish, neither will readers, if they read it at all. And I have zero illusions that the instructor for my workshop remembers anything that students send in for these short, 200-400 word assignments. That’s just silly.

This week’s assignment was to write about someone in a blizzard. It helped that we had our first, real snow of the winter last night (one that’s pretty but didn’t stick to the roads, my favorite kind!). That led me to think of some cool Ohio history–something that interests me–so I wrote about a girl in the Blizzard of 1950 and sent it off. And yes, once I got going, it was fun to write, getting all those historical details in without coming out and writing a dateline. Here’s hoping that will show through for the instructor, because I’d like to think I’m learning something in that workshop. 🙂

What I’ve been reading: Still working on the same novel as last week, so I’ll discuss after I finish.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Here are last week’s goals, and how I did.

  1. Finish two more scenes on the novella – Done
  2. Complete last week’s assignment for the workshop- Done
  3. Watch the workshop lesson videos for next week – Done
  4. BONUS: Start the following scene in the novella – Done

Yes, really! I met all of them, even the bonus. It helped that I finally kicked the last of the crud last weekend, and have been feeling better this week (two weeks is an improvement over last time I got this sick, so my supplements must be helping :)).

So this week’s goals are:

  1. Finish the next scene in the novella
  2. Watch the workshop lesson videos for next week
  3. BONUS: Start the following scene in the novella.

These look less than last week, but I expect the scene to be a long one, and I have plans all day Saturday, so taking that into consideration. Luckily, it’s the last week for the workshop, so no assignment.

What about you–have you had to fight through fear lately, whether writing or something else? Did the fear turn out to be something silly, and what did you do? How are you doing with whatever goals you have so far this new year, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

How Routines can Free us from Guilt

One thing with my writing that has been a constant struggle is how to divide my time between marketing and writing new material. Some long-time pros advocate focusing on the new writing, as the best marketing is to publish a new book. I observe other authors who seem to publish a book (or two, or three), then spend all their time marketing and networking. Both approaches can work, but the former begs the question, what good is publishing another book if they’re all invisible? And the latter often makes us cranky, because we got into this because we love to write, not because we love to market.

Clearly, some balance is needed. But after seeing so many marketing ploys either not work for others, or work only when those others have many more books out than me, I sort of gave up on it and focused on learning and writing. And no one was finding my books. Which brought forth all kinds of unhappy thoughts: if no one’s reading, why am I bothering to publish? I really needed to do something to keep my books out there.

I switched gears into marketing this summer. It has helped. I wasn’t happy focusing on that, but I couldn’t mentally switch from new writing to doing marketing each evening.

Isis has no problem with guilt - but is good at inducing it in others!

Isis has no problem with guilt – but is good at inducing it in others!

Then it dawned on me that some advice I saw for balancing the publishing tasks with writing could also work for the marketing: set aside one day a week for that stuff, and write the rest of the week. I’ve been doing this for stuff around the house for years–for example, Monday nights are when I do bill paying and bookkeeping for my husband’s businesses. Anything that comes in during the week goes into my letter sorter, and stays there until Monday. It’s so much more efficient than dealing with each piece of paper the day it comes in–or putting it off, and being late. I’ve read variations of this before, so I don’t know why I never tried it–until now.

Last week, I devoted Sunday to writing my blog, doing website stuff, and getting through a couple things on my marketing list. I didn’t plan to write that day, so no guilt there. And I got a lot done, in addition to the usual household stuff I do on Sunday.

I also did no writing on Monday, which is typical since that’s bookkeeping day. But I did write every other day this week, and again–no guilt over not doing any of the other tasks.

So we’re going to stick with this plan for the time being, and adjust if it doesn’t work. One catch is that sometimes Sundays are taken up by other things, like family get-togethers. I have one of those coming up next week. So on those days, I’ll just pare down my usual list to maybe one item that can easily be done after I get home, and ditch the guilt.

What I read this week: I’m only about halfway through this novel, so I’ll blog about it after I finish.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Last week’s goal was to write 5,000 words on the novella, plus do 3-5 items on the marketing/website list. I added 7500 words to the novella (though admittedly, some of those were copy/paste from my outline), plus I updated my headers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and set up a special offer for my newsletter readers, and sent out a newsletter. Speaking of which, anyone is welcome to sign up for that, which you can do here. I also received my upcoming novel back from my editor, so making the edits is my writing priority for this week. In addition, I’ll complete another 3-5 items from my website/marketing list today.

What about you–do you have certain tasks you delegate to certain days? Or do you try to do a little each day? If you don’t, do you get a bad case of the “shoulds,” or is it just me? What are some routines or time-management tips that have helped you? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Pomodoro for the Win!

This has been a good week for the writing–enough to make up for the last, lousy week. I spent about two hours on Sunday trying out the Pomodoro method, as suggested in Write Better, Faster. One thing I liked about that book was that it also gave suggestions on applying the efficiencies therein to other aspects of writing beyond the first draft: outlining, editing, and publishing tasks like cover design and formatting.

Monday was Dog’s Nite Out at the ice cream shop. Isis was so eager for her doggy cup that she almost launched herself into the window when we went to order!

Isis orders ice cream

 

She also saw her Rottie friend there who we met last month:

Isis and rottie

And she made some new friends, a pair of Irish Wolfhounds, and an Ibizan (in back, in the photo below) who was also named Isis!

Isis makes new friends

Blind TemptationWhat I read this week: Blind Temptation, by Stacy McKitrick. I was mostly focused on my own writing, so have not yet finished this book, but close! This is a really different vampire story in that the vampire is a girl who was turned as a teen, so that’s what she looks like, even though she’s over 300 years old. The hero is blind–a totally capable and lovable guy, and a nice change from the typical “alpha” male that typically is found in vampire books. How his sightlessness works with the romance was well-done, and effectively demonstrates the theme. It is book 3 of a series, but these each stand alone and do not need to be read in order. If you like vampire romances but enjoy something a bit different, definitely get this one! Disclaimer: this was published by my publisher–hey, they have great taste! 🙂 But I bought my copy.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal was to finish writing in the revisions for three chapters–I did five and finished the book! So this week’s goal is to type in the changes, and complete this draft. This coming weekend will be a busy one, so I’m hoping to get 10 chapters. That may be a bit ambitious, but with the Pomodoro method to help me stay focused, is doable, I hope!

What about you–have you ever tried, or at least heard of–the Pomodoro technique, and if so, how did it work for you? Have you made any new friends this week, in person or otherwise? What would you do if that was looking in at you through an ice cream shop window? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might be working toward, whether writing or not? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Writing and Raiding

This week has mostly been about the writing, between times of fatigue and headaches. I got a ton done last Sunday, but after that, the week started out slow (as in, nonexistent) on the writing front.

I was mad, because I had no one to blame for that except me. You see, I was playing too much Clash of Clans, figuring “oh, I’ll just go do one raid, then write.”

Except I realized that usually turns into “just one more raid” and “huh, let’s check out the clan war” and “hmm, I wonder how he did that” and watching replays of other people’s battles. Then the next thing I know, it’s midnight.!

So I decided that writing must come first, then raiding, if at all. That worked out as long as I felt well. (This has not been a good week, but I’m thankful that today was an improvement.) And yes, I did get a couple of good writing days in throughout the week, in fact, I got to the writing computer before dinner a couple of times (that helped a lot).

FasterBetterWhat I read this week: Still not quite done with the novel (though I’m really enjoying it!), which I will wait again to go over, but I also picked up a craft book that ties in well with this week’s efforts in upping productivity: Write Better, Faster by Monica Leonelle. There were a ton of great ideas in there about how to more effectively use time tracking to gauge where you are, and where you want to be, and also went over how this author writes a first draft of each scene by going from outline to draft in four steps. So if you are a writer who’s vehemently opposed to outlining, this book will probably be a lot less useful for you than it was for me, but I think there will still be some good tips in there. I am an outliner, but I still find some useful tips in books that are geared toward not outlining. What was interesting about this book is my approach is similar to hers in that I first do a very brief outline, then I sketch in each scene before I write it in with full details. The main difference with this author is that she breaks the “sketch-in” into two steps, and sketches out the whole book at once. She also emphasizes that every author works differently, and analyzing our own process like she did will help us find what works for us, and do that. She is also a big proponent of the Pomodoro Method of focusing and keeping on task. I tried writing in 25-minute increments, and that helped me immensely.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I only wrote four days this week, but with what I did today (I counted last Sunday’s work for last week), I still managed to add over 2600 words, which would have been more since I also deleted a good bit here and there (some of the scenes I worked on were mostly revision). So I see that as a win! This week, I want to finish one short scene I broke out of another, and revise two more.

What about you–how has your week been? Do you ever find yourself having a hard time staying focused on a task? Have you found anything to help with that? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or not? Please drop me a note in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Progress, and Process

This has been one of those weeks where not a lot has been going on, and… not a lot of writing, either. Not really any reason for it other than just slacking. One thing I did was meet with my fiction writers group on Saturday.

It is always fun to see my writing friends, and one thing we talked about was our writing process. As one might expect, there were as many, or more, different processes as there were writers in attendance. Some of us outline; some don’t, some do sometimes and not others. One has recently found that her process lends itself much better to flash fiction (very short stories, of 1000 words or less). One friend writes groups of scenes, but not in order otherwise, and has to figure out what stays, what goes, and in what order. “I would not recommend this process to anyone,” she says. One friend has a different process for every book – some were written with no outline and just an idea; others he wrote with a very detailed outline. Still others fell somewhere in between.

I am for the most part an outliner. However, my outlines are not very detailed, and there are always gaps in them. The gaps are where cool stuff shows up, a place for ideas that will make the story better. Not that I slavishly follow what I’ve outlined, either–with each book, I find that the outline is more and more just a guideline, and can (and should) be deviated from whenever a better idea occurs to me. This is where I really take issue with people who say outlining is not creative; I would say it just isn’t in their case. It’s especially not un-creative when I start by simply writing everything I know about the story, in a sort of free-form, free-flow brain dump where I never fail to find surprises in what comes out, and what I do know.

Last night, my husband was out of town, and you’d think I’d have gotten a lot done. Nope. It was really strange when I went to go to bed–I couldn’t find Isis anywhere! I knew I’d just let her in, and looked all over the house, most places twice. How easily can a Rottweiler hide? Then I heard a scratch on the patio door, and there she was, outside on the second story deck! I hadn’t seen her out there and had shut the door. Boy was I glad to find her! I was also glad to see DH when he got home this morning. Isis certainly was, as you can see here:

Isis hottub

Huntress9-ebookHuntress10-300What I read this week: Huntress of the Star Empire, Episodes 9 & 10 (yes, I get them in advance! :)) by Athena Grayson. All I can say is wow! This series keeps getting better and better. Even better than that, she’s informed me there will be a Season 2, though that’s a way off. Which is just as well, because I just finished the covers for Episodes 10-12. They are fun to do, but Athena knows I can use a break!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As you can tell from above, nothing to report. So same primary goal as last week: finish the current chapter.

What about you–did you do anything fun this week? Have you had nice weather where you are? Ours has been great, maybe that’s why I’m slacking! If you write, are you an outliner, or a just-sit-down-and-writer? And how are you doing toward whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you! 

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Holidays and Houseguests and Books!

We had a nice Christmas, but like always, I’m glad it’s over. I am blessed in that there is not a lot of drama in my family, and though I host dinner, everyone chips in with the food and no one complains about anything (well, nothing related to dinner or each other). My husband and daughter went to Staples to shop for me, LOL. They got me a new desk chair for my Internet computer, which was sorely needed, and filled my stocking with things like pens, sticky notes, and a few small treats. Money from my parents will undoubtedly go for writing workshops–always appreciated!

She borrowed Isis' clothes

She borrowed Isis’ clothes

Isis got a candy-cane-shaped rawhide, which allowed everyone else to eat without being bothered.

The next day, we got a houseguest–a furry one with four legs and a tail. We are dog-sitting for a neighbor, and their dog and Isis get along well together, so we just brought her back to our place.

They had a sleepover

They had a sleepover

 

Our guest really enjoys GerbilTV

Our guest really enjoys GerbilTV

She enjoys TurtleTV too

She enjoys TurtleTV too

Isis is ready for a nap

She wants to play, but Isis is ready for a nap

cd-hersh-cover-blood-brothersWhat I read this week: One thing nice about having a few days off work is more time to read! I read several short works, both fiction and nonfiction, that I’ve had for a while. I also finished the novel I started two+ weeks ago, Blood Brothers by C.D. Hersh. This is urban fantasy, and the sequel to The Promised One, which I really enjoyed, and discussed here. I like the shapeshifter mythology in these books, because it’s different: rather than people who shift into one type of animal (i.e., werewolves), these folks can mimic other people as well, so you can imagine the kind of havoc that power raises in the hands of less ethical folks. Add in a good twin-evil twin scenario, and things get even more interesting. In addition to continuing the relationship between the main characters from the previous book, it also had a nice romance subplot featuring an older couple, which I find I like more as I get older LOL.

Forever32I also read a couple of short stories. One I’d been wanting to get to for a while, “Forever Thirty-Two” by Stacy McKitrick, was the prequel to her vampire romance, Bite Me, I’m Yours, which I beta-read probably a year ago and really enjoyed. So I knew this wouldn’t disappoint, and it didn’t. “Forever” is the story of how the vampire hero in Bite Me was turned, decades before the novel takes place. Fun to see the background, and I loved the bit of justice in the circular plot ending. You can download “Forever Thirty-two” for free from Stacy’s website.

HunkyElfI’m not a big reader of holiday stories, but I do like one occasionally, and on Christmas night, I was in the mood for one, so I downloaded Meg Cooper’s erotic romance short story “The Hunky Elf.” Very cute, and definitely a fun read that perfectly fit into the Santa mythology and feel-good spirit of giving, along with some good steamy stuff.

In nonfiction, I went through some of the books from the NaNoWriMo Writer’s Pack that StoryBundle offered a few weeks ago. These included Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing by Dean Wesley Smith, The Pursuit of Perfection and How it Harms Writers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing by David Farland. The first two are collections of blog posts but updated and organized, which made for a very worthwhile read even as a repeat. The Resonance book brought up some concepts I hadn’t thought of or even heard in workshops before, and while not as immediately useful with my writing process, was also worthwhile.

ROW80/Writing Update: ROW80 is on hiatus until January 4, but I’m still writing! Why? Because it’s fun! Of all my writing goals for this year, one of my primary ones was to find the fun in writing again, and I have. I’ve written something every day this week and the one before, even if only a couple of sentences, and on Christmas, I got 1500 words written after my family left, my daughter went to visit a friend, and my husband and brother went to the garage. Other than that, it was one of those weeks where it didn’t feel like I got much writing done. But when I checked my log, I’d completed a new scene, and it added up to 3500 new words. So a big win! So this week’s plan is to keep up that pace. I only have to work Monday and Tuesday, so that will help.

What about you–did you have a nice holiday? Any houseguests? If you celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts, what did you get and/or give? Read any good books lately? And what are you looking forward to in 2015? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.