Friday, April 10, 2009
"I'm so busy, I don't have time to do anything for myself."
"If you want something done, just ask a busy person to do it."
I've been guilty of saying all of the above. But why? One of the benefits of being a freelance writer and novelist is to own my own time rather than lease it to a corporation. I'm not reaping the rewards, and I know I'm not alone.
As a novelist, I live for moments when my wonderful agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, calls to let me know we have an offer on one of the gazillion proposals we have out there in "Publishingland." Last summer, my wish came true. I received a slew of contracts from two different publishers. I was elated. Then reality kicked in, and I had to get to work to meet deadlines.
Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy to have these opportunities, and I pray that I have more summers just like the last one—with lots of sales. I'm even reaping the rewards, now that most of my books are finished. In fact, I just received author copies of my latest, LOVE FINDS YOU IN TREASURE ISLAND, FLORIDA, this week. But what I need to do is stop adding to my busyness by piling on more things that aren't necessary or I don't enjoy. I'm working hard at keeping my priorities in order: faith, family, and work. However, I also need to take time to relax, regenerate, and refresh. I need more time to exercise so I can stay healthy for my husband, children, granddaughter, and friends. I need to settle down a little earlier at night and read. I need to get 7-8 hours of restful sleep at night. And I need to spend more times with friends, laughing and enjoying all the blessings of our lives.
Some of my Avalon books indirectly deal with frantic characters who need to slow down and find balance in life. You'll see this in A NEW BEGINNING and both of my Hawaii-set "Aloha" books ALOHA REUNION and FOREVER ALOHA. I also have a burned out female detective who quits the police force and visits her uncle in Florida to "find herself" in CORPSE ON THE COURT, written under my maiden name Deborah Tisdale.
Busyness is overrated. It's the act of scurrying around looking like you're accomplishing something but doing nothing the way it should be done.
How busy are you? What are you going to do about it? How do you like to relax or fill the creative well?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Am I the only writer who's turned her home office into an emergency-cleaning storage closet?
I have this nice little room in our five-bedroom house, set aside for my writing and scrapbooking. How often do I go into it? A couple times a day ... but it's either to huck something in if it's in the way somewhere else, or to wade in, tightrope-walker-style, to get something out.
This is not easy to do. In my hasty visits, I've managed to stack the floor with papers I keep meaning to go through, stacks of books I keep meaning to read (or at least shelve), stacks of magazines and sacks of outgrown clothes waiting to go to the thrift store. Stray Christmas decorations I haven't been able to fit into the closet. A whole box of rough drafts of chapters from my first, unfinished book (which should never see the light of day anyway!).
Whose fault is this? Mine. Shame, shame, shame.
A few years ago my husband and I spent a whole week cleaning out the room together, putting up shelves to support my burgeoning supply of books. Then came, and I started stashing things in there "temporarily" for those quick company clean-ups. Later, my husband's aunt passed away, leaving behind some family keepsakes that we don't quite know what to do with, but don't quite have the heart to throw away. Soon those boxes were joined by those other boxes and stacks mentioned above. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect the stuff was breeding when I wasn't looking.
I'm not sure if this says more about the priority I've given to my writing, or my borderline(?!) obsessive-compulsive packrat tendencies. But I do know that tons of women would give anything for a home large enough, and a husband accommodating enough, to provide her with a space of her own.
If there's a moral to this -- and I'd better have one -- it's that we need to take our work seriously if we expect anyone else to. This includes clearing out the necessary time to accomplish our writing goals, as Fran McNabb discussed on this blog Tuesday. It also means finding the necessary space to work in. For some of us, that might be a table at Starbucks ... a nice bench outside in good weather ... even a comfy chair or table in the heart of the house, if that works out with the Muse. And if we have a coveted office, we'd better maintain it, by golly, or clear the space for someone else who needs it!
Sierra Donovan is the author of LOVE ON THE AIR and MEG'S CONFESSION, both available from Avalon books. Her website is sierradonovan.com.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I’ve been asked this over and over: where do you get your ideas for your books?
I don’t know.
A writer friend tells people who ask that question that the ideas for her story come from a Wal-Mart outside Dallas. Writers find that funny. Non-writers don’t.
My ideas come from so many places. I read a book with a great title but the story didn’t fit at all. Very disappointing. So I thought, “What kind of story would I write if I used that title?” I came up with one which I liked much better than the other one, but, of course, I can’t tell you my title or that would give away what book I hadn’t liked.
Many times, the first sentence of a book comes into my brain from—I don’t know where. Perhaps I’ve read a book or an article in the newspaper or heard a few words on television and those burrow into my brain, take a little nap, and emerge days or weeks or years later as a new idea.
The first sentence that came to me for my Love Inspired THE PATH TO LOVE was this: “Francie Calhoun learned to pick pocket when she was five, mark cards at eight, and hotwire a care years before she could get a driver’s license.” Then I had to figure out who Francie was and what she did the rest of her life.
The same happened with my first Avalon, THE MAD HERRINGTONS. My first thought was, “’The Mad Herringtons. Blast them all,’ Aphrodite Herrington cursed to herself.” This gave me an idea that the heroine and her family didn’t get along but loved each other. I developed the story along those lines.
Our cocker spaniel gave me an idea for the beginning—a cute meet—in PERSY AND THE PRINCE, my second book from Avalon.
But I haven’t really answered the question. Where do I get my ideas? I haven’t the slightest idea. They come to me as a fully formed character or a few lines or an interesting plot twist--all perhaps the products of an oddly wired brain.
Can you think of some novels that have memorable first lines that drew you into a story and share them here? Or, writers, can you tell us where you got the idea for one of yours books?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Unfortunately, these activities are sometimes connected by one thing - Guilt. Today, I want to say a few words about that feeling some of us have when we take ourselves away from our families and friends to write or to read. We all feel it, but should we?
How many of you work all week, then spend the entire weekend cleaning house, running children around, grocery shopping, entertaining – well, you get the picture. We do what is expected of us to maintain our role in society and in our families. Should we feel guilty if we choose to find a quiet place to lose ourselves in a book or to close the door to our office to write the stories that are floating around in our heads?
Because I’m a writer, I write. When I don’t write, I feel something is missing in my life. In the end I hope what I write will be published and will make my readers feel good as well. I’m a reader as well. Just like everyone else, I read for the enjoyment of losing myself in a story and to keep my creative muse happy, but just as important, I read to keep myself abreast of the publishing industry.
Should we feel guilty about shutting ourselves off in our rooms to do what we want or need to do? No. Do it. Writing takes concentration, organization, and unfortunately lots of time, but in the end it will make you a better member of your family because you’ve done something you need – and want - to do.
So where does chocolate come into this discussion? Reading, writing, and eating a yummy piece of chocolate sometimes produce the same feelings of guilt. Don’t let it happen. Do what you have to do, keep your family obligations fulfilled, but give yourself time to read and write as well, and while you’re at it, sneak a piece of that Easter candy you have stashed away.
My wish for you this Spring: That you will have guiltless hours to devote to the need to put your story on paper and for our readers to lose themselves in the imaginary worlds we produce.
Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this guilt. Help me out here. Do you feel this way as well?
Monday, April 6, 2009
As a part time professor of psychology, I hear the excitement of my students, as they face their futures with youthful exuberance, or those who return to school to doggedly pursue goals that life had temporarily put on hold.
In my many writing circles, I work with many creative women, teach workshops and act as a mentor. From my beloved readers, I often hear bits of life stories, and their reaction and identification with the characters in my books. I also share my life with family and many friends.
I love to hear real women’s stories. We are, I believe, the keepers of family histories, cultural struggles, and accomplishments. We’re the brightly burning candle that won’t give up on the thought that life can be bettered.
But that being said, we shoulder a lot of responsibility, pain, loss, and struggle. On certain days it can sure can feel overwhelming. Maybe even hopeless. But when we hear another woman’s story, and hear how she got through the problem, it keeps the candle burning bright.
I believe that EVERY woman has a story to tell, and that she ought to tell it. Hearing each other’s stories brings hope, respect, understanding, and a kind of camaraderie that facilitates change. In the words of an old proverb, “A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.”
So what does writing fiction have to do with this?
Everything. Our heroines are fictional, on the one hand. But in other ways, they signify something very real. People often ask me where I get the ideas for my characters. Are they modeled after real people? No. Absolutely not. Each of my fictional characters is distinctive and unique. But the issues, the conflicts, and the feelings speak of the combined realities of all the women I have known.
Our Avalon stories of women who face hurdles and conflicts with dignity and perseverance are not so unlike the actual stories of the issues and emotions that we "real women" face. I find that readers really relate to them. Our character heroines strive to find lasting love and connection, while dealing with family, career, and all kinds of internal and external conflict. We cry when they struggle, we cheer when they succeed.
Even though they aren’t “real”, they are believable examples of the very things we see around us. And there is nothing like a happy ending to promote hope.
At times, I’ve heard people label romance books as “escapist literature”. I beg to differ. Often our stories and heroines help us to “face and conquer problems” rather than escape them. Each time a reader writes to tell me that she identified with an issue in my book, or felt hope when a character overcame a struggle, I know that I’m right.
Strong women read romance novels. And strong women write them. I really believe that.
I love to hear the REAL story behind the women who read and write Avalon books.
And I love to hear what kind of characters keep you coming back to a good book.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Wild West Monday is the promotional brainchild of British writer Gary Dobbs. Gary is a bit-part actor, who when he's not busy being deleted by the Cybermen or exterminated by the Daleks on British sci-fi series Dr Who, writes westerns.
The idea is a simple one that several times a year on a specific date everyone who is minded to join in should do something westerny and then let everyone know what they've done. It doesn't matter too much what's done, just that those interested should be open and enthusiastic about their interest and so help to raise the profile of westerns.
The first WWM was held last year and it gathered a small amount of interest. The second WWM last month gathered more. People wrote items on blogs, wrote articles, harassed booksellers with requests for westerns, and when they couldn't provide them as they don't stock any, requested to know why not? One person even persuaded his granddaughter to read a western then speak about it at school. For my part I was spurred into action to set up my own blog. These were all minor things but they were fun and hopefully they did in some small way do something to make a few people think about westerns when they might otherwise not have.
Even more hopefully the idea will continue to snowball. The next Wild West Monday has been scheduled for June 1st when the aim is to continue to expand the initiative. I'm not specifically asking anyone to do anything on that day (well, not yet), but if you're minded, then please put it in your diary that on the next WWM, you'll think positive thoughts about the western.
Of course like all good ideas, this initiative is available for alternate takes and angles… Mystery Weekend or Romantic Friday anyone?