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Friday Features

We think writing and Christmas have a lot in common.

Preparing for Christmas is like writing a book—not that anyone gets much writing done in the weeks before the holiday. The concept, however, is the same; start early and stay on target.

For an easy Christmas holiday:

  • Shop all year long, especially on vacation where you can get one-of-a-kind items, and avoid the mall rush.
  • Plan in advance. Knowing your menu weeks in advance and looking for recipes you can prepare ahead, freeze, or have on hand reduces stress in the kitchen and lets you enjoy the holiday too. Don’t want to cook ahead? Then remodel the kitchen (not before the holidays, of course) and get that second oven you’ve been wanting so all those green bean casseroles will fit in. Better yet, let someone else host.
  • Get familiar with your Christmas dishes. Start using your Christmas dishes at the beginning of December so you don’t have to get them out of storage at the last minute. That 24 piece place setting of hollies and Christmas trees needs to be used more than once at Christmas dinner!
  • Get next year’s Christmas cards as soon as they go on sale.  After all, you have a pretty good idea how many you will need for next year, and they never go out of style.
  • Begin next year’s Christmas letter now. Start in January and keep a running tally of the important things you want to include. If you bind the letters in a notebook you have a ready-made life journal. One stone, two birds.
  • Make a goal list. Shopping done before Christmas, house cleaned thoroughly by the first weekend in December, trim the tree the day after Thanksgiving (since you don’t have to shop on Black Friday), Christmas cookies baked by the second weekend (or cheat and just buy them), the guest room readied right before your guests arrive, and so on. Tweak the list to fit your needs.

For easy book writing:

  • Write all year long, every day. Then when you take all that time off in December to get ready for the holidays, you won’t feel so guilty.
  • Plan your book in advance. Some seat-of-the-pants writers claim too much planning takes the fun out of writing. We’ve done it both ways, and have found thorough planning and plotting keeps us out of those pesky writer’s blocks. You just have to be willing to let your characters speak to you even if they don’t want to go where you’ve planned.
  • Get familiar with your book and characters. Let the novel and your characters live with you daily. When you are thinking about the book all the time, the words come easily to the page and your characters’ voices sound more real.
  • Get your ideas as soon as they come to you. Carry a notebook, or use your phone, to jot down everything that comes to mind about your current WIP or ideas for new books. Even if you don’t use the ideas now, they may work, with some tweaking, for something in the future. Writers are always writing and we need to capture those ideas when they come.
  • Begin your next book now. Writers who don’t think about future projects while they are still working on the current one run the risk of writer’s block for their next book. A running log of ideas, thoughts, characters, or anything related to the next books will make coming up with the stories easier. We brainstorm when we drive places, capturing all our ideas, good or bad, in a composition notebook. In a single composition book we have at least 10 new ideas waiting to be developed. Will we write them all? Maybe not, but we have ready-made journal filled with possibilities.
  • Make a goal list. Set writing goals for yourself. Whether it’s 100 words a day, or 20 pages a day doesn’t matter. It’s the goal that counts. Tweak your goal list to fit your needs and you’ll be surprised how quickly those 100 words will turn into pages, and pages into chapters, and chapters into a book.

So this holiday season, when you are laying your gifts beside the nativity, under your Christmas tree, give a gift to yourself. Promise to start writing early in the New Year and stay on target. Who knows, with perseverance and a little luck, you could be tucking your brand new book under next year’s tree as a gift to someone else.

Happy Writing and Merry Christmas!
C.D. Hersh

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Friday Features’

We talk about

Collaborative writing … how and why it works for us

image from Microsoft Clip Art

Lots of people we know look at us as collaborative writers and say, “I don’t know how you two do it. I’d kill my spouse if I had to work with him/her.”

Well, we’re both still alive and well and loving working together.

So what’s our secret? For the inquisitive minds who want to know, here are a few reasons why our writing partnership works.

  • We like each other and respect each other—a lot. Respect is paramount in any working relationship.
  • We’ve been together more years that we’ve been apart. As a result, we know each other very well.
  • We have complimentary talents and we recognize that. Donald is a great idea and plotting person, and Catherine is good at the technical part of writing, the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and etcetera.
  • We laugh a lot when we’re working together, even if it’s a serious scene. Nothing brings people together like laughter.
  • We plot our stories in detail, but still allow room for the characters to take us to unexpected places. When they do what we haven’t planned, both of us have to sign off on what has happened before it makes it into the book.
  • We’re willing to throw ideas, scenes and whole sections of each other’s writing out. There are no sacred cows in our partnership.
  • Our methods of collaborative writing are fluid. Sometimes we create using a totally collaborative effort, literally writing together line-by-line (we’ve created a number of our plays using this method). We might revamp something one of us has created as a solo writer, or we might work with one of us functioning as the major writer and the other as editor. Changing things keeps our interests up and our egos in check.
  • And last, but certainly not least, we keep the lines of communication open. Writing is usually a solo job, but when you’re working with someone else, you have to let them know how you feel about what’s being plotted, written, and critiqued. If you don’t, then you can stifle the creative flow as well as the collaborative relationship. When we plot and one of us throws out a hasty, “I hate that idea!” (and we’ve done that) there are no hurt feelings on the part of the other person. We will ask for clarification as to why, and the protesting party must come up with a reasonable excuse, but we never get upset, want to quit working together, or get a divorce over it.

We can’t speak to the writing methods of other co-authors, although we have read that some write opposing chapters or each take a point of view, something we haven’t tried yet. However, as a married couple and co-authors, we do feel we bring something unique to the table—a spark we hope will take us a long way on our writing journey. A spark that enriches our personal relationship. For us, that’s enough reason to work together as C.D. Hersh.

Have you ever co-authored something? What worked for you in that relationship?

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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

Do you outline when writing? Do you plan out every detail (plotter), or do you just wing it (panster), or are you some combination of the two (planster). Don’t know then here is a little article that might give you some ideas.

Outlining — The Best of Both Worlds

Posted on August 9, 2014 by neelyr

The first book I wrote, and sold (there’s two ‘starter’ books under my bed) I created an outline – sort of. But when I started writing my second book, it threw me for a bit of a loop. It’s a paranormal romance, and my first foray into world building. Before I knew it, I didn’t know which end was up.

Follow the link for the rest of the article:

http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/outlining-the-best-of-both-worlds/

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Hi. It’s Catherine on the blog today. I was surfing the net looking for some ideas for things to post about and I came across a suggestion that caught my eye.

 Blog about meeting a complete stranger.

I started to wonder when I’d met and conversed on any deep level with a stranger last, besides clerks and baggers at the grocery and Kmart, or the dentist’s receptionist.  I’m always telling the baggers how to put the produce in so they don’t bruise my bananas. I just hate bruised bananas. They probably don’t consider my dictatorial instructions conversation, though.

We did meet a new hygienist at our last dental appointment, but it’s hard to say much when she’s digging tartar off your teeth. A few mmmphs and gurgles don’t really count as conversation, and she was so focused that she hardly said a single word. If she’d have been more talkative I might have been able to use her as this blog example. Still, I don’t think any of these examples are what the blog prompt meant by meeting.

We spoke to a bunch of strangers at an authors’ panel in Dayton, Ohio, about our books and writing. And we ate hamburgers and chili at 9 p.m. with one of the Soul Mate authors who lives in the Dayton area. But we sorta know her because she’s on the author loop, so she doesn’t qualify as a complete stranger. Again, not what I think the blog prompt really meant.

I did meet a complete stranger the other day when we went to lunch with my husband’s former coworkers. I even introduced myself to her, and, darn, if I didn’t forget her name within seconds. I even repeated it, too. I’m sure I’d remember her if I saw her again, and I remember the sweet stories she told me about her niece. That’s probably as close as I’ve come to meeting and chatting up a stranger in some time.

The thing is, as writers, the hubby and I have recently been spending most of our time holed up in our respective offices, heads buried in the computer, or social media, or some other writing related chore. (Well, not literally buried.) Lately, because it’s been brutally cold in our state, we’ve even shut our office doors and turned on the electric space heaters so we only warm the rooms we’re in and not the cathedral ceilinged great room. We’ve only been meeting for meals, to watch our favorite television shows, and hit the sack. Home has been our center of orbit with the snow and ice and cold weather and writing deadlines. Not many strangers wander into our house. We keep the doors locked, because I’ve got a thing about that.

The more I thought about it the harder it became to write a blog about meeting a stranger. Which is pretty ironic, since that’s what we write about. Strangers meeting other strangers and falling in love.

They say, write what you know. With what appears to be a lack of stranger experience to use for our romance novels, it’s a good thing we have vivid imaginations.

When’s the last time you met a complete stranger?  Did you leave a stranger or make a new friend?

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We are over at the SMP Author blog today talking about “Writer’s Guilt” if you want to read our blog click on the link to continue reading.

Today we are featuring

a guest blog by J.R. Richardson

author of

Cursed be the Wicked

Paranormal Mystery Romance released March 5, 2014

JR blog tour banner

Donald called this book mystery, magic and romance from the male POV. This is first person POV seen through the eyes and mind of Cooper Shaw, a travel writer assigned to write an article about Salem, Massachusetts. Author J.R. Richardson takes you on a journey of introspection into the hero’s past and the realization of the impact of past actions on the present time. Upon arrival in Salem Cooper meets Finn Pierce and there is instant chemistry between them. She helps with his growth as he slowly recognizes what his mind has kept hidden and his heart never thought possible. This story is a romance from a man’s point of view, not your normal romantic POV. Skillful writing makes this book of mystery, magic, and romance a story worth reading.

 

Now for a little more about the book we welcome today as a guest to our site J.R. Richardson. J.R. what can you tell us about the characters of your book?

Creating Cooper Shaw:

Coop 1This is my Coop.  James MacAvoy.  Always and forever.  He just fits the bill so perfectly for me.  He’s not buff, he’s not superhuman.  He’s just Coop.

Coop does his best to lead a rather anonymous life.  He writes a travel destination column under a pen name, he has no room for friends, he’s got no long term relationships.  He likes it like that, though, compared to his childhood, where everyone knew him as the potential murderer of his father, and the son of a crazy old woman who claimed to be a witch.

Coop 2Coop was forced to deal with a lot of scrutiny as he went through the rest of his childhood living in Salem, Massachusetts.   If the name calling and insinuations by people he’d previously considered friends wasn’t enough, on top of losing his dad, his mother was taken from him as well.  After confessing to killing her husband, with witchcraft, Maggie Shaw was deemed unfit, and sent away by her sister to a mental institution where she refused to see her son, much less talk to him and explain what had happened between her and Coop’s dad, Ben Shaw.  On top of that, he was placed in the custody of his only aunt, who wasn’t the best as showing affection while he lived with her.

So, he left.  Immediately following his high school graduation, Coop took off to reinvent himself and never looked back.  He was doing a pretty great job of it too, until he got word that his mother had died and the funeral services were to be held back in Salem – if he wanted to attend.  Which he didn’t.  And he wouldn’t have, except that as fate would have it, the powers that be at his magazine decided they wanted a huge spread on Salem’s Festival of the Dead and they wanted none other than Cooper Shaw to write it.

 

But was it fate?  Or was it powers that exist beyond what his bosses were capable of at the Monthly Traveler?

 

Enter, Finnley, or as she likes to be called, “Finn” Pierce:

 Finn 1

I’ve never really been able to give a face to Finnley.

Finn 2 

I knew she was free spirited,

 Finn 3

Not like any other woman Coop’s met before,

 Finn 4

And, for lack of a better word, magical.

 

The closest I’ve come, is this fantastic photo of Emma Watson:

 Finn 5

She has her own past that she thought was behind her but when she meets Coop, someone she’s vaguely familiar with before he even arrives in town, she begins to reacquaint herself with the gifts she was only starting to learn when her own parents were ripped from her life.

The challenge of writing Finn, and letting clues to who she is and how she knows what she knows seep into the story, as Coop see it all, was fun to explore.  I’m pretty subtle at times.  Too subtle, some might even say but that’s part of the enjoyment in reading a mystery for me, so I try not to give everything away too obviously when I’m creating the story.  I can only hope people will have as much fun reading the story as I had writing it.

Coop, on the other hand, was pretty easy to write.  He’s stubborn, smart alecky and doesn’t like people telling him what to do (much like me).   I tend to enjoy writing stories from the male point of view because I believe I think more like them than my own species.   I still enjoy writing from a woman’s POV, it just seems to come easier when I’m writing from his.

Putting these two together was one of the best experiences of my life.  And not just because it’s the first story of mine to land a publishing deal.  Between the guy who is determined to avoid dealing with his past, and a woman who helps him move beyond who he thinks he is without him even realizing she’s doing it, was fun to watch and write.

Blurb:

Cooper Shaw lives his life under a pen name and enjoys the anonymity it provides during his journeys across the globe as a seasoned writer for a travel magazine. When his job lands him in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts to cover the famous Festival of the Dead, he soon realizes that he can’t stay invisible forever as he faces ghosts from a past he’s been trying to forget ever since he left.

The city holds nothing but bad memories for Coop until he meets a quirky young woman with an old soul and curious insights by the name of Finnley Pierce. While she acts as his tour guide through a town he thought he knew, Finn helps him unearth the truth of his childhood and might even begin to open up his heart.

By unraveling the mystery of his father’s murder, Coop may finally accept who he is, where he came from, and perhaps even realize what he wants for his future.

Excerpt:

“I came by Geneva’s to see you this morning,” I tell her. She slides her hands inside my jacket, around my waist. She holds us together tighter.

“You did?” There’s a smile in her voice. I grin but she can’t see it.

“I’ve gotten used to starting my days out with you in them.”

“You have?” She leans back to look at me. She’s stunned although I have no idea why. I’ve been so transparent even a bat could see through me the past few days.

“Yeah,” I tell her, “I have.” I brush the hair out of her face. Even through the rainfall I can see the blush in her cheeks. This is the most vulnerable I’ve seen Finn since Geneva’s, when she thanked me for handling Dan.

“Most people don’t like the way I’m so pushy sometimes,” she says. “They find it offensive. Some might even say I’ve got a smart mouth. Too smart for my own good, blah blah blah.”

She trails off at the end there and I laugh at the way she thinks I’m buying that none of it bothers her.

“Come to think of it, you did say something I found offensive yesterday,” I tell her half serious. She looks hurt but I can’t stop the smirk from spreading across my face as I back her up against the nearest tree.

She’s caught off guard by the move, I can hear it in the way her breath hitches. “What was that?”

She tries to recover but she fails.

“I believe the term you used was friends,” I tell her, narrowing my eyes. Her lips part, just barely. She swallows something down then clears her throat.

“Isn’t that what we are?”

I move my head from side to side. “I don’t think so, Finn.”

————

See book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UnPtcBVfg

————

Reviews:

J.R. Richardson does an amazing job of slowly unraveling this mystery, not giving too much away at the wrong time. I have to say, I am one of those people who usually figures out how a book is going to end about halfway through, but not this one. J.R. managed to add some wonderful twists and turns in there that kept me guessing until the end. – 5 star review from Amy Vastine, author of The Weather Girl

Cursed be the Wicked has it all- mystery, intrigue, romance, humor and a touch of paranormal. Salem is a great back drop for this story. It makes the paranormal seem possible. The book is well written and great read. I could not put it down and I actually have read it for a second time already! I recommend this book very highly. – 5 star review from Goodreads member, BG

I would recommend this story to anyone who loves a good mystery with paranormal being involved but not in the forefront. The romance builds through-out the story and makes it feel real. – 4 star review from Goodreads member, Priscilla Kraut

J.R. gets the job done here. I couldn’t put the book down. It was fast paced, real to life, and an overall fabulous read. I love her descriptions and the way you are transported to Salem. I highly recommend it. – 5 star review from Susan Wisnewski, author of Secrets in San Remo

———

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY :

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cg62ebcer/

———-

Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ISBVAJI

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20526985-cursed-be-the-wicked

Bio:

JR BIO PIC for SMPA writer of stories and lover of life.

Jo grew up in Maryland with four siblings, three parents and an endless number of cousins within the vicinity. Today she lives in Florida with her two girls and a husband that shares her same sense of humor and basic take on life as we know it.

Life is too short to put dreams on the back burner.

She’s always loved writing, and always enjoys a good mystery, so in 2012, Jo wrote a novel that was picked up by the good people at Soul Mate Publishing.

 

Where you can find Jo:

Website: http://jrrichardsonfics.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JRRichardsonAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoFictionFreak

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/JRRichardson

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Last week we talked about Who’s on First-Keeping Your Characters Straight on the SMP Blog site. Today, we’d like to add a few more hints to the list we gave last week. If you want to know about last week’s hints click here.

We’ve all seen it. Those long passages of dialogue where readers get lost because the author hasn’t bothered to clue you in to who is speaking. Perhaps we’ve even written them ourselves. Here are five hints to help keep talking heads at bay.

  1. Don’t write extremely long sections of dialogue without giving readers a clue as to who is speaking. If you’ve gone half a page without some indicator of who’s speaking, consider giving the reader a hint.
  2. Use dialogue cues to help identify speakers, but use them sparingly. While he said, she said usually disappears to readers, when you have a string of them at the end of sentences it makes the page read awkwardly. Sprinkling a few here and there is helpful.
  3. Use action tags and inner dialogue to help identify characters. This helps break up the monotony of he said, she said. The sparingly rule works here, too.

Do you have a hint you like to use to help keep your characters from becoming talking heads?

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The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word brainstorm as: a sudden inspiration or idea.  I don’t know about you, but the brainstorming we’ve done for our book The Promised One and the subsequent series The Turning Stone Chronicles was not a sudden inspiration or idea. We tossed ideas around for several hours before we hit on a title for the series. Then we spent more time brainstorming the world, the plot, our characters, and the various books. Along the way we discovered some tips for effective brainstorming that we’d like to share.

  1. Everything is fodder for an idea, no matter how bad it might sound at first. If you tweak it enough, you might be able to use it.
  2. Two heads, or even three are better than one.
  3.  Invite a non-writer to participate. They might have a different take on the subject.
  4. Ask “what if…” , then ask it again, and again.
  5. Throw the first five thoughts out. They were the easiest to come by so they may not be the best solutions.

Do you have a favorite brainstorming technique?

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Writing Lessons From Downton Abbey ©

Recently, we’ve become addicted to Downton Abbey, the British produced PBS show  set on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire County, England. The show, which begins in 1912 shortly after the sinking of the Titanic, follows the lives of the family and servants living in the impressive country home of Downtown Abbey. The show is the most critically acclaimed English language television series of 2011. By the third season, it was proclaimed the most widely watched television series in the world and had garnered 27 Emmy nominations. Most watchers rave about the wonderful costumes and the unbelievable house and grounds as the reason to watch this show. While those are great, we like the show because anything England fascinates us—well, maybe just Catherine, and we found ourselves laughing out loud at the dialogue. We also were intrigued with the interplay between the social classes.

As we do with most shows and movies we see and love, we began to dissect Downton Abbey to see what makes it tickle our fancy so. Here are a few things we discovered in our analysis.

  1. By the end of season two we counted over 33 regular cast members with equally interesting drama and story lines, both upstairs where the aristocracy lives and downstairs where much of the servants’ drama takes place. The writer of the series says he planned for all the characters to have equally interesting lives.
  2. Every character has a place in the story, from the lowly kitchen maid to the crusty, pompous dowager countess of Grantham. No character is window dressing or extraneous in the story line, and at some point everyone interacts, even the kitchen maid and the dowager countess.
  3. The show is filled with short scenes that jump around. Although it’s not a technique we would recommend for a book, because it can make a storyline choppy and hard to follow, it works in the show. When you have a minimum of 17 characters  per show, who have to share one hour equally, there would be no other way to get in every character, in our opinion.
  4. What you, the viewer, know is never repeated as an explanation on-screen by way of dialogue. Instead you see the reactions of the characters when the crisis is revealed to them. This approach makes figuring out what is happening difficult if you come in late to the story, but it made us want to find out what the elusive references were all about. In other words, we got hooked looking for the reasons for all the fuss.
  5. Only one or two characters get the zinger lines. The dowager countess of Grantham has some lines that make us howl, and they fit her character perfectly. This sort of thing only works when you set your characters’ attitudes and personality up right.
  6. There’s always a character, upstairs and downstairs, that you love to hate.
  7. There’s a character that you love to hate who partial redeems herself.
  8. There are lots of characters with whom you can empathize.
  9. The lovers are kept apart. The push-pull of romantic relationships is the basis of a compelling romance and Downton Abbey does it well. Even the earl and countess of Grantham, the couple whom you think is happily married, have a few moments of doubt about their relationship. We were so wrapped up in their relationship we found ourselves groaning out loud, verbally urging the earl not to cheat on his wife. Matthew and Mary, the couple you want to see happily married, spend two seasons getting to the altar. Even when they marry there is plenty of foreshadowing that trouble will follow in season three.
  10. Downton Abbey is a grand scale show that watchers are naturally drawn to.

So what lessons can you, as a writer, draw from this award-winning television drama?  Here’s what we’ve come up with, aside from creating a compelling world for your book.

  1. Give every character in your book equally interesting lives and purposes.
  2. Make sure no character is there for window dressing. If they don’t serve a critical purpose to your story, get rid of them.
  3. Don’t be afraid of short chapters or scenes, but use them sparingly. It’s harder to follow the written word when you jump around than it is to follow the visual changes in a movie.
  4. Don’t repeatedly explain what is happening or provide info dumps. Your reader is smart enough to remember what she’s read and clever enough to figure things out.
  5. Make your characters’ voices distinct. Everyone can’t have the funny lines or be the snarky character. Also, you should be able to tell who is talking by what they say or how they say it.
  6. Include a character, usually the villain, whom your readers will love to hate.
  7. Make sure the characters you love to hate have at least one redemptive quality to keep them from being one-dimensional.
  8. Include characters your reader can emphasize with. This would normally be your hero or heroine.
  9. Keep your lovers apart if you are writing a romance or have a romance in your book.  This keeps your readers pulling for them and turning those pages to be sure you will give them the Happily Ever After ending they hope for.
  10. Dream big. You might not have a castle to use as your story backdrop, but that shouldn’t stop you from reaching for the stars.

Are you a fan of Downton Abbey?

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road

Photo by C.D. Hersh (c) 2012

We recently  come back from a trip to the Boston, Massachusetts area. During the 2-day, 18 hour drive we spent time plotting the third book of the Turning Stone Chronicles series, and wrapping up plot holes in book two. We always plot books when we travel. In fact, the Turning Stone Chronicles series was conceived on the road after we saw an exit road sign for a place called Turning Stone, New York.

Plotting on the road makes the time go faster for Donald, who drives, and keeps me from seeing all the crazy drivers tailgating us and zipping between semi-trucks and our safety zone. Nothing drives me nuttier than watching an F-150 Ford with a full jump cab try to squeeze into a space that barely fits a smart car, without giving us a signal! Fortunately, we were nowhere near the Jersey Turnpike where everyone drives like maniacs, although I think quite a few drivers must have had lessons from a Jersey driving school.

So what’s the point, you ask?

Here’s a few things we’ve learned during our loooong drives:

  • Aging knees don’t like being cooped up in a car. Imagine that.
  • It’s really hard to read plot notes written months ago while driving on a bumpy interstate.
  • It’s even harder to write on a bumpy interstate road.
  • I should really transcribe my notes as soon as we get home.
  • Especially when words written while driving on the buzz strips on the shoulder of the road make my notes look like an EKG reading.
  • We need a better system of capturing our discussions—and a tape recorder isn’t the solution. We tried that and there is so much road noise we couldn’t hear what we said.
  • I like plotting almost better than writing—or maybe it’s the traveling I like.
  • My husband plots very well—most of the time. I did have to throw a few suggestions out the car window.
  • We need more road trips because we didn’t get book three finished.
  • Writing with a collaborator is fun!

How and where do you plot your books?

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wikimedia

The holidays are nearly on us, and with them come extra work decorating the house, the lawn, the trees, baking all those Christmas cookies and goodies, shopping, cleaning, holiday parties to attend and give, and scads of other things that can take you away from your WIP. This year give yourself a little motivation to sit down at the computer and keep writing. Start planning now for a successful holiday writing season.

Here are a few tips on how to motivate yourself to write during the holidays.

  1. Start your holiday motivation by making a holiday advent writing calendar. Choose a series of 25 clear writing goals for the holiday season and write them down on holiday themed paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chapter a day, 100 or 1000 words a day, perfecting that blurb or synopsis, or looking up a new editor or agent to submit to in January. Drop the goals into a bowl and pick one each day. Not knowing what you are going to do will keep the excitement alive, much like opening the doors on the Advent calendar does for children. If your family already has an advent calendar when you set it up add your goals to the calendar. Let the family number your advent goal papers so you will be surprised when you open them. This way the family can see what you need to accomplish and help keep you on track.
  2. Let Santa’s “writing elf” reward you with a little gift under the tree, or holiday snack set next to your easy chair, for each goal or week of goals you complete. Shop for your own rewards in advance, involve the family and let them choose or make the gifts for you, or do both.
  3. Head to Panera’s (or some other location that has a fireplace), grab a seat next to the fire and write until the heat overtakes you. If you work on your steamy love scenes it might not take long for you to get overheated. Then call it a day and have a Chai Latte while you watch the flames flicker.
  4. Leave the decorations off of the Christmas tree and put a few ornaments on every time you write 100, 200, 300, or 400 words—you choose the limit. Store the decorations in a pretty basket by the tree to make them easily accessible. If you plan a Christmas party and need the tree decorated quickly this could spur your word count to grow rapidly.
  5. Do a fun holiday related activity with the family with the understanding that the next day, or hours, are yours for writing.
  6. Spend part of one day each week doing some holiday activity that fuels your creativity. Make Christmas cards, build a gingerbread house, bake Christmas cookies, build a snowman with the kids, or shop. You’re only limited by your own imagination.
  7. Write a Christmas story during your holidays. Inspiration is all around you during the season, from music to snow, if you’re lucky enough to get it. Writing holiday themed stories now beats putting the tree up in July, like Dolly Parton does for inspiration when she creates Christmas songs in the summer.
  8. Work hard in the time you’ve allotted and stay focused. This means no email, no web surfing, and shutting the office door.
  9. Use your crockpot  … often. Winter’s a great time for simple soup, chili or stew meals topped off with crusty loaf of bread. Make double batches and you’ll have leftovers for another day. Some soups are better reheated.
  10. Write with a tape recorder and transcribe it after the holidays are over. A mini tape recorder fits in your pocket and is easy to use. Some cell phones even have to ability to record voice notes. All those times you have while you wait for the kids’ Christmas concerts to start (because we all know you have to be there hours in advance), waiting in line for thirty minutes at the checkout counter while holiday shopping, or mixing dough for Christmas cookies can count as writing time.
  11. Plan a writers’ plotting and cookie exchange party. Have each participant bring 2 dozen home-baked cookies (which you mixed up while writing with your tape recorder)  and exchange cookies and plotting ideas. And yes, this can count toward one of the writing goals.
  12. At the end of the holiday season, if you met all your goals give yourself a BIG reward. You deserve it!

© C. D. Hersh

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