Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Good Writerly Things

This week is a good week to celebrate writing. Why? Because with all the angst of writing, or not writing, or worrying about the book that's out or the book that's about to come out or if you're doing enough, not enough, too much, whatever, we tend to not celebrate the good things that do happen. What are my good things this week?

Going to Jocelyn Shipley's book launch for How To Tend A Grave tomorrow at Ben McNally Books. So excited for her and this book!!

THE BREAK got its first review - and a really nice one at that! - from the Winnipeg Free Press and so did fellow Great Plains author Brenda Hammond! Yay for good reviews!!

THE BREAK is starting to be ordered by libraries (thanks Hamilton Public Library and Oshawa Public Library!) and its on the shelves at Chapters/Indigo (Canada's major book chain) across the country (never a sure thing in these days of shrinking book shelf space)!

So, all in all, a pretty good writing news week. What about you? We need more celebrations and less worry!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Summer Writing Goals

The May 2-4 weekend approaches (yes, I know it’s not always on May 24th but here in Canuck land the Victoria Day weekend is known as May 2-4 because of the ubiquitous celebration of the start of summer with a case of beer (24 bottles) at the cottage.) and it symbolically heralds the official start of the summer season even though summer doesn’t begin until June 20th. Now usually I don’t do goals for summer. Goals in my mind mean pressure to accomplish something. The only things I usually want to accomplish in the summer are reading a stack of trashy magazines and getting my legs tanned. But this year I need to have goals because, honestly, I have been running around like a crazy lady and feeling like I’ve not accomplished much lately.

I may be being a little harsh on myself since we did finally move into our house after over a year of reno’s so that was a huge accomplishment. But there are still so many things to do and never enough time to do them. What I have been most lax about has been my writing. I have had bursts of writing over the last year but not the steady, progressive output that I usually produced. So, beyond my neverending list of household goals (e.g. get a den couch! Paint the blanket chest! Get a dining room light fixture! Build a fence! – don’t exclamation points make things sound exciting rather than the pain in the arse they really are?) I have a few writing goals that I need to accomplish by September so that I can once again feel like I’m making progress in that part of my life rather than stagnating or falling backwards.

For better or worse, here are my summer writing goals for 2012:

I know, I know. I said writing goals. Not reading goals. But wait a minute. Every serious writer knows that to re-energize, to get better, to learn craft, to revel in the joy of story, one must read other writers. I have a slew of amazing books to read this year –my fellow Great Plains Teen authors books (How To Tend a Grave by Jocelyn Shipley

, Cape Town by Brenda Hammond

and The Green-eyed Queen of Suicide City by Kevin Marc Fournier

); my fellow Torkidlit author’s books (some on my list include Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

, Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath by Helene Boudreau

, Under the Moon by Deborah Kerbel

and more coming after the summer – especially Maureen McGowan’s Deviants (Dust Chronicles Book#1), Debbie Ohi’s I’m Bored and Natalie Hyde’s Hockey Girl.) Torkidlit authors are so prolific and the group is expanding so much I can hardly keep up with all the amazingness coming out of these writers. But I know that whichever book I pick up I will learn and be inspired by in my own writing.

I used to write almost every day, every time I got on the subway in the morning and again on the way home from work, then I’d put in another hour or two (or more) that evening. While that was an intense schedule – sometimes I wouldn’t get to bed until 1:30 in the morning – and I won’t be able to keep up that pace in my current semi-exhausted state - whatever I write (and I currently have an almost finished WIP and a just started WIP) I need to strive to write something for either of those two books every day. Just like I need to take my vitamins every day to stay healthy, I need to write every day to keep my writing healthy.

Now this sounds weird, but Twitter actually is not a distraction for my writing. I mostly follow other writers and I need to hear what they’re up to and get a kick in the pants by following the #amwriting hashtag and celebrating their successes and commiserating with their struggles. The children’s writing community is one of the most helpful and encouraging ones out there and I need that to kick start me again.

There’s old info and old pictures and I need a new background. Plus I need to get back to blogging regularly. ‘Nuff said.

I need to connect with some other bloggers about doing interviews, send some info out to some groups to let them know about THE BREAK (especially the Alzheimer’s Society) and other writers who are generous about spreading the word on new books. Publishing with an independent Canadian press means an author has to do a little more work in getting the word out there about their book or else we get lost in the noise of new books from the larger presses.

The last couple of years I took a break from judging the Toronto Romance Writers annual contest for unpublished writers but I agreed to do it again this year. Judging contests is an amazing way to hone in on craft and voice and the things that work and don’t work in the beginning of a book. While I can’t commit to a writing workshop or conference this summer, judging a contest helps to get the analytical side of my writing brain working which always helps the creative side of my brain.

I’m almost 45,000 words into a planned 60-65,000 YA contemporary that I think is not complete crapola (that is high praise for me for a WIP). If I can just finish the darn thing!! Another 100 pages will do it. If I just write a measly two pages a day I can finish it in less than a couple of months. Here I have to invoke one of my favourite quotes from Nike: Just Do It.

This is more of a September goal but by the end of the summer I want that WIP polished and a query letter ready to go. I need to get back in the game and I need to be ready to do it. My home life may be crazy but it is no longer SUPER crazy. Another quote I like: No More Excuses.

So that’s it. I know I should have added one more goal: DRINK MORE RED WINE but that makes me sleepy. And I need to be energized, not lethargic. How about you? Any summer writing goals for you or are you taking a wee bit of a break to enjoy sun, sand and water?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mood and Creativity

I always believed that whole idea of being in the ‘mood’ to write was poppycock (aside: I believe that is the first time in my life I have written the word ‘poppycock’). I was/am a firm believer in BICHOK (Butt in chair. Hands on Keyboard) no matter what – rain, shine, happy, sad, inspired or not just get the words down and do it every day and presto (well, presto may involve months of BICHOK) you have a workable first draft of a book. But lately, especially with this last year of highly stressful personal life and emotions going through the wringer and the myriad of decisions, decisions, decisions that I’ve had to attend to, my BICHOK approach has changed to BIBHOC (Butt in bed. Hands on Chocolate) more often than not. I have come to believe that mentally – emotionally – I have to be in a good mood to write, to create something.

I’ve even looked up some articles to justify this shameful revelation of mine. See the following story about how being in a positive mood boosts creativity at work.

You’d think this would be a no brainer. Of course you have to be in a good mood to create! How else can you access all those wonderful areas of the brain that surprise you with their inventiveness unless you are relaxed, open, stress-free? But …

What about those grumpy, unhappy, miserable, hermit-like writers who create masterpieces yet seem to hate everything in the world?
What about all those writers writing on a deadline, who have ill relatives, had their car break down, lost their wallet etc. etc. and still write and create amazing books.

Why can some people do that? Why can’t I???

I wonder if it has been because my environment (my home) has been in such disruption lately that (homebody that I am) I have been unable to adjust as well to that stress as I could have to the litany of stressors I just listed above? I think, for me, my environment directly affects my mood thus my ability to write.  And by environment I don’t mean I have to be sitting in my living room chair with the lamp on and my favourite pillow behind me. No, I can write on the subway, in cars, at skating arenas, in doctors offices – anywhere really. I can tune out the outside world. But if I don’t have that refuge to escape to at the end of the day or if that refuge is so disrupted that it is no longer a refuge but someplace I dread going, then that seriously affects my ability to write.

So for me, environment affects mood which affects my writing. Or lack of it. What about you? Do you need to be in a good mood to write well? Or does angst and stress actually bring out the creative beast inside you?