Category Archives: Writing Wisdom

Lost in the Light audiobook finals in ABR Audiobook Listeners Choice Awards

NEWS

Lost in the Light is a finalist in the Mystery category for the 2018 ABR Audiobook Listeners Choice Awards!

You have the deciding vote for Dori to win it!

Cast your vote

This is such an incredible moment. I started from scratch not knowing if I had the chops to narrate an entire audiobook, or figure out how to produce it. But thanks to all of the tools provided by ACX, my podcast listeners as well as my background in high school theatre, I pulled it off!

Seriously, to be included in the finalist category is an honor.

Thank you and congratulations to my fellow nominees.

What to do when you don’t make your goals

Last Saturday, at the monthly OCC RWA meeting, we held a drawing for everyone who entered goals three months ago. I did not accomplish my goals. Bummer, but you know, stuff happens.

If I were my 20-year-old self, I would’ve shaken out the hair shirt and really worked myself over for not working hard enough.

Age can mellow you out, especially if you’re a Capricorn like me.

Here’s what 23 additional years of life experience has taught me when it comes to not making my goals.

Examine. So why did you not make your goal? Were you too ambitious in your planning? (Pausing to raise my hand.) Did work/family/emergencies take you off the path? Examine what happened from the time you set your goal to the due date.
Do the math. How much did you accomplish in that time: half of the book, ¾ of the book, nothing? Even if you only got five pages written, give that some love. As a recovering hair-shirt-Capricorn baby, I can tell you that appreciating what you’ve accomplished is far MORE productive. And us Capricorns, are all about productivity.

If you have no idea what this whole Capricorn riff is all about, check this video out and then return to the next suggestion:

Reset. Okay, so back to the math. It took you three months to complete 150 pages when you needed to complete 300 to make your original goal. The deadline for your new goal – because you’re not giving up – should be three more months from now. Or, if you really freaked out, give yourself more time.

If you really want to go deep, I highly recommend The Chunky Method by Allie Pleiter. In her workshop and book, she helps you to determine what kind of writer you are, how productive you really are and then gives you the formula to determine when you’re most likely to successfully complete a book. I always thought I was a sit-in-the-chair-until-I’m-done-or-dead kind of writer. I was in my 20’s, but now I can last about 15 minutes before I need to get up and move around. By accepting that reality rather than trying to fight it, I’ve become much more productive and my yoga has gone up a level because I intersperse writing sessions with exercise.

You freaked out big time. Hey, it happens to all of us. My inner critic can wake me up in the dead of night. I’ve persisted through her schoolyard taunts for decades because those fears were embedded way too deep. I recently undertook Nancy Levin’s audio book, Worthy. Her book focuses on self-worth issues tied to money and abundance. All I can say from the experience is: wow. I dredged up fears and confidence issues that I spent way too many years denying. Through listening to the audiobook and doing the exercises, I’ve released old abundance myths and replaced them with new abundance truths and it has affected every area of my life, especially my writing. I also have the tools to face fears and recognize excuses – they never really go away, but I have gotten better at recognizing them when they show up – and keep moving closer to my dreams.

Get to work. Ever since last week’s meeting, I’ve made headway in reaching my goals. I’m beginning to suspect that I need to be better at tracking my progress and keeping a journal of what I’ve accomplished so I know where I need to pick up in between writing sessions. If I practice what I’ve just preached, I will achieve my goals of publishing Girl in the Mist audiobook and Lost in Whispers by November 2017.

I’ll let you know one way or the other!

What are your goals for the next three months? What do you do to stay on track? Share in the comments.

Today’s 5-minute Tarot Session

I’ve recently been using the cards to help focus during my writing sessions. It is very helpful, not to mention accurate!
Here’s how I do each reading:
1-I say a prayer asking for clear, loving guidance.
2-As I shuffle the cards, I ask questions such as: what is the energy behind each scene, what does the character need to learn, how is the best way for her/him to learn their lesson and what is the outcome if they learn the lesson.
3-I pull three cards, interpret each card according to the questions I’ve asked and then read the spread as a narrative. Sometimes it makes sense; other times I know the answer will come later when I need it. I keep the spread on my keyboard as I write to keep focused on the scene or task at hand.
My only motivation in sharing is that I hope it’s helpful!

NaNoWriMo Tip 2: How to Make Your Goal

I should’ve added, “How to Make Your Goal Without Losing Your Mind.”

So this is by no means the absolute, fool-proof, 100% guaranteed list of how to achieve your NaNoWriMo goals. It is what works for me and I share this with the goal that it might stimulate you to come up with ways that will work for you.

Here we go:

  1. Understand how you write. I’ve been doing this writing thing since 1994. One would think I had it figured out. But life changes. The demands on your attention and energy change. You develop back problems and the old eyes stop working the way they used to. I was trying to do the same old routine: sit my behind down for an hour and write without a break. I can tell you what that accomplished: a page or two of work and way too much Facebook scrolling, sharing, liking and commenting. I read and practiced The Chunky Method and it changed my writing life for the better. I learned that I have an optimal 15 minute attention span. So I set my stopwatch and within an hour I work in 15 minute segments. And guess what? I write like the damn house was on fire in those 15 minute sessions! Do I say and not as I once did: rather than write the way you think you should write, embrace your work style and make it work for you!
  2. Give yourself a break. Oh I just heard that groan. I’m a mama so I also caught that eyeroll with the eyes on the backof my head, too! But seriously, give yourself a break. Even if it’s just to stand up, do some wrist circles or scream into a pillow, moving re-energizes the body and mind. My personal favorite is to do the dishes. Maybe it’s the flow of the water but it just gives my mind a release and then those characters start up again and I’m ready for my next 15 minute session.
  3. There will be days you can’t work and that’s okay. This is a judgment-free zone. Life happens. Kids get sick. You get sick. Someone at work gets sick and you have to pick up the ball. On days when I can’t write (and boy do I get a grumpy!), I remind myself that the world is always there. Because really, where the hell is it going to go? What will the characters do without you? I find that the simple statement, “The world is always there,” lifts the stress off my shoulders and prepares me to jump in mess up my characters’ lives even more.
  4. Meditate. Dude, this changed my life. I’m telling you the truth. A short prayer followed by a ten-minute session of quiet gets me in the world and ready to go. I’ve now started meditating after my writing session to transition into family time or work. I highly recommend davidji‘s Sweetspot Online Community for free meditations. He brings ancient meditation techniques to the modern world and he’s a funny guy. Plus Rocky the pug may have a crush on Peaches the Buddha Princess.
  5. Turn off social media. In fact as soon as finish reading this, do yourself a favor and turn off your browser. Set your mobile to Airplane mode, throw the wireless thing-of-boob out the window and get writing!

NaNoWriMo Tip 1: Goals

Today is the start of National Write a Book Month. Does the idea of writing an entire book in 30 days intimidate you as much as it itimidates me?
 
If so, consider setting a specific goal between November 1 and November 30th. Here are some that have served me in past NaNoWriMo’s:
  • Write the first five or ten chapters
  • Revise Act I
  • Write a novella or short story
 
The more specific I am with a goal, the more likely I am to accomplish or exceed that goal. For this year’s #NaNoWriMo I’ll be editing Act III of Lost in Whispers. Nothing more, nothing less. And I know there will be changes that will require me to back to Act I and Act II in December so that the book makes sense. But my goal is not for Act III to be perfectly publishable. It just needs to get done so I’m closer to my final goal of getting this book in its very best form to you in March 2017!
 
But if you really want to write that book in 30 days, go for it! I’ll post some tips to make it as productive as possible tomorrow.
 
If you’re NaNoWriMo-ing this month, please share your goals and stay in touch with your progress!

Entrances

The hardest part of a story to write is the first line. Speaking from my experience as a reader (e.g. what pulls me into a story) and a writer (what has sold my work), a character has to make an entrance. Or, if told in the first person, a statement. I don’t mean just having someone walk through a door, or wake up in bed and most definitely not stare at herself in the mirror over the bathroom sink. Characters arrive. They have a presence that makes you turn to the next page and the next until the end when you (hopefully) wish the book hadn’t ended so soon.

When I think of great entrances, I remember the night I watched The Seven Year Itch on the big screen in downtown LA. When Marilyn’s fan cord stuck in the doorway, three hundred of us gasped in the dark. We held our breath at the palpable energy that radiated from her 50 years after she’d shot that scene.

Right now, or rather right before I began this blog, I arrived at the phase of my WIP when it’s time to write the first line. Some lines appear just like that. Some take a few drafts or they hide from me until I realize that the first 20 pages I wrote don’t belong in the book. The only way I know that I have the first line is when (a) it no longer bugs me in the middle of the night, and (b) when it makes me sit up and shout, “Whoa!”

So here I go into territory unknown and still no first line in sight. But I figure it’ll show up sooner or later.

And speaking of signs…


When I logged into my Facebook page last night, Selina McLemore left me a little present that Latina Magazine choose Names I Call My Sister and In Between Men for their Top 10 Summer Reads!

No way! WAY!!!

So back to last night … Just when I was about to shake my groove thing, the Little Dude peed all over the bathroom floor. You know what I did? I let Daddy clean it up while I basked in my glory.

(Singing)

Shake you groove thing, shake your groove thing oh yeah!
Show ’em how you do it now

And now its back to work but with a smile on my face.

Thanks Selina! And MUCHAS GRACIAS Latina Magazine!

Beginner’s Mind

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.

-Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

This week I began a page one rewrite of my mariachi book. I know, I know. I’ve been working on this book for three years. The writing experts would’ve told me to give up and move on to more profitable pastures. Actually, three years ago I would’ve told myself the same thing.

But the last eight weeks (and being dumped by my agent) have shown me the number one reason why this book has yet to fly. It’s not the fault of my agents or readers. It’s not because the market sucks or Mercury in retrograde. It’s because I worked on it with the mind that I knew what I was doing.

I’m not saying that this journey has been wrong. I’m not blaming anyone or anything or labeling my decisions as mistakes. In fact, I’m beginning to waver on the concept of right versus wrong and adopting the idea of “what is.” (Note to Karen Maezen Miller: you’re rubbing off on me, comadre!) For us Westerners, specifically for us writers striving to become published/acknowledged/adored, the idea of “it is what it is” is wrong and scary and exclusive to authors with a lot of money and mileage on the best-seller lists.

Through all of May and June I wrote a pilot script, a series treatment and then a spec script. I began those projects never having taken a TV writing course or having written a script for TV. (Although I’d taken screenwriting courses in university, that was 15 years ago and I’d lost those class notes!) How did I do it? Well, I did it by pinching my nose and jumping in. This journey turned everything I had believed in as a writer upside down. I believed in business plans, outlines, the three-act structure and 10,000 hours of practice. I believed that I had to get away from my beginner’s status as quickly and efficiently as possible. I even believed that my producer should have hired an experienced screenwriter instead of a beginner like me.

But then I remembered what Nora Roberts had said in one her chat sessions back in 1994. Someone asked if she ever got over the fear of writing a new book. Nora, who has written something like 120+ books in her career, replied, “No. Starting a new book is like starting all over again.”

At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought it was nice of Nora to say that to all us beginners, but now I know what she meant and it freed me to write the pilot, spec and treatment. No matter how many books or screenplays I may end up writing, I will always be a beginner. It’s not scary or discouraging. A beginner’s mind isn’t hemmed in by business plans, right vs. wrong, plot-driven or character-driven or the three-act structure. A beginner’s mind damns the consequences and is open to spontaniety and “what if.” Isn’t that what we writers do?