Writer’s Log Jam

X-posted from the Manuscript Mavens blog.

Like Darcy, I was going to blog about my pre-conference preparations, jitters, and excitements this week, but another topic has been pushed to the forefront of my mind by recent events. You see, I’m in the throes of writing my two contracted but as yet unfinished novellas, and I’m realizing that I have a problem. It’s kind of like writer’s block, but not exactly. It’s more like writer’s log jam.

You see, I’m not suffering from a paucity of ideas. Quite the reverse. I have too many!

The novella I’m currently writing (the third chronologically in the anthology, but the second I “conceived”) is giving me fits because I’m afraid it won’t fit within its 25K-35K boundaries. I have at least a dozen more scenes rattling around in my head that could and/or should go into this story, but I’m already pushing 20K and I’m still miles from the Black Moment. The result is that I’m finding it difficult to decide which scenes I should write and which I shouldn’t. Worse, I’m an incredibly linear writer, so I can’t just write the scenes out of order and put them together later. I have to know for certain what happened before the scene I’m currently writing, or I can’t write it.

To make matters worse, other stories are plaguing me. Driving through the Black Hills on our way back from our vacation in Minnesota the week before last got me itching to write a Western historical (which I never thought I’d do, but the place is just do darned evocative!). Add that idea to all the others taking up space in my brain (there must be at least a dozen, if not more, begging to be written), and I’m finding it quite difficult to concentrate on the projects I’m actually obligated to complete! The words for the stories I must write are getting jumbled up with the words for the stories I want to write.

So, is there a solution to this dilemma? Short of just plugging away and doing what I have to do, I doubt it. But somehow, putting my finger on the root of the problem has me feeling a bit less anxious if nothing else. “Writer’s block”–the possibility that my ideas will dry up and I won’t be able to write anything at all–terrifies me. Being caught in an idea traffic jam doesn’t make me nearly as nervous!

YOUR TURN: Do you suffer from writer’s log jam? How do you overcome your selfish desire to set aside the project you’re currently working on to start a new one? Or do you just give into temptation?

P.S. I’m also blogging today at the Aphrodisia Authors blog and guest-blogging with my critique partner, Emma Petersen, over at Shiloh Walker’s blog. Drop by and see me if you get a chance!

It’s All About the Passion

X-posted from the Manuscript Mavens

There hasn’t been a whole lot of writing in my life this week. Instead, my days have been heavily dominated by the day job, and particularly by a conference I attended Monday through Wednesday.

I have to be honest and say that when I was reminded that I had this conference to attend, I was far from thrilled. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and taking three days out to go to workshops that probably wouldn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know (yeah, call me arrogant, lol) was hardly appealing. But, my company paid good money for me to attend, and so, attend I did. (Fortunately, it was held locally, so there was no major travel involved. Just the 20 minute drive to and from downtown San Diego on $4.20 a gallon gasoline. But I digress.)

Truth be told, there weren’t a lot of workshops geared toward the things that I would have really liked to learn. Or at least, they weren’t marketed in such a way that I thought they were. In all likelihood, I missed a bunch of sessions that were just not accurately described in the conference materials.

I did, however attend one really FABULOUS workshop on Wednesday afternoon. It was my last of the conference, and honestly, it made the whole experience worthwhile. Not so much because of the subject matter, for though I did learn some new things of value, there was nothing really earthshattering in the material he presented.

No, it was because the speaker was flat-out fantastic. Dynamic, funny, and absolutely PASSIONATE about the subject. And it occurred to me that this guy could have been reading the phone book aloud, but if he did it with the same charisma and passion, I’d have been hanging on his every word.

Of course, when I teach workshops of my own (as I had to do today), I try to bring excitement and energy to my performance. It’s one of the reasons teaching is so exhausting! (And why, when I got home this afternoon, I pretty much collapsed in a watery heap and didn’t do anything useful for the rest of the day.)

But sitting there listening to this guy talk about something that was arguably incredibly boring (performance support) and eating up every second of it, it occurred to me that a big part of what keeps me hooked in a book is that the author demonstrates the same kind of passion for his or her story in writing. And I got to wondering HOW the author is getting that emotional connection to the story across to the reader. Clearly, it’s not with body language, tone of voice, or ad-libbing responses to the audience on the fly, all of which the speaker used in spades.

Obviously, whatever an author is doing to communicate that sense of urgency to the reader is both deeper and more subtle than anything a presenter can do with a live audience. I like to think I can TELL that the author *loves* the story he/she is writing, loves the characters, and is aching to share that love with me, the reader. But I’m not sure I can put my finger on what is telling me that. I know when I’m WRITING something I feel passionately about, the writing itself seems to come more easily and I’m almost racing myself to get to the end because I want to experience the story MYSELF. But I’m not sure if that really comes across to the reader.

My contemporary novella, The Gospel of Love: According to Luke, comes out from Cobblestone Press next Friday. (Yes, Friday the 13th. I promise, however, no one named Jason and no hockey masks appear in the story.) And I really felt a passion for that little book while I was writing it. It fell out of my head in a little over two weeks. Every day during that two weeks, I couldn’t WAIT to get time to sit down at the computer and write more.

I hope readers of the story will feel that passion in the words I committed to paper (or screen, as the case may be). And I believe fervently, with every fiber of my being, the loving the story you’re writing is the first and most essential ingredient to producing a marketable manuscript. After all, if you don’t love what you write, why should anyone else?

YOUR TURN: Do you think you can tell when a writer is passionate about his/her story? And conversely, do you think readers can tell when YOU aren’t? How?

Performance Anxiety

x-posted from the Manuscript Mavens blog

In the world of romance, heroes rarely suffer from this malady. Not only are they supremely confident gentlemen of the world, they are also so wildly attracted to their heroines that any possibility of failure to rise to the occasion is unthinkable.

Would that the writers who invent these rarefied creatures shared their immunity! Alas, I’m afraid it’s not, because I seem to have developed a pretty bad case.

You would think that the validation inherent in receiving a contract for publication would be sufficient to convince any author that her work has merit and she should simply forge ahead. But I’m not any author. I am Jackie and I am neurotic. Which means that instead of rejoicing that my editor loves my work and wants to publish it, I’m worrying about living up to his expectations. About not screwing it up.

Now, of course, I know the best way to screw it up is not to get it written. So obviously, I need to conquer my fear. I’ve still got plenty of time, but every day I fritter away angsting and biting my nails is one less day I have to meet my deadline.

So, my question for you, MaveFaves, is…how do you conquer self-doubt when it’s preventing you from writing? I’m already trying the Angie Fox “it’s only half and hour” method with some success, but I think I need more techniques in my box of tricks.

Falling In Love

I got one of those rejections today that makes you want to scream. Oh, not because it was mean or got my name wrong or was a form letter. No, it made me want to scream because it was nice and complimentary, but ultimately amounted to an “I liked it, but I didn’t love it” with no real explanation of why.

But that’s just the thing, isn’t it? Love is irrational and, when you get right down to it, impossible to truly justify. Oh, you can always cite reasons. But in the end, it comes down to chemistry, to that indefinable quality that one person (or book or movie or work of art) has and another doesn’t.

Read the rest of my words of wisdom at the Manuscript Mavens blog.

What do you mean, there has to be a conflict?

Cross-posted from the Mavens blog

When I wrote my first manuscript the first time (and the second, third, and even fouth times), one of the comments I persistently got from my critique partners and from contest judges was that there “wasn’t enough conflict to sustain a full 100K-word novel.” But since I’d actually written more than 100K to get to The End (the first completed first draft was a whopping 136K and that was after I chopped some stuff), I have admit, I kinda scratched my head over that.

I mean, I’d sustained a 100K novel with the conflict I had. What in the world were they talking about? Obviously, they didn’t know what they were talking about and should be shanked with Erica’s machete.

Read the rest of my moment of brilliance (or forehead-smacking d’oh!) here.

News and a Contest!

Welcome to 2008 and to my blog. (Some of you may be visiting for the first time, I know!)

If you’ve come from Jacqueline Barbour’s blog, then you already know that I’m in the process of shutting down that blog in favor of this one. If you just happened by for other reasons, the scoop is that I used to have two pseudonyms, but I’m in the process of whittling that down to one: this one! But enough about that.

First, the news.

I am pleased and excited to announce that I’ve sold another novella to Cobblestone Press. This one, titled The Gospel of Love: According to Luke, is a first-person contemporary (yes, I know I need to work on that tagline, drat it!) erotic romance, which I expect to be released in June. It is the first in a quartet of novellas (and I’ll bet you can guess what the other three are called) that I hope will be finished and released in short succession after Luke. Here’s the blurb, which I hope entices you to want to read the rest:

Luke Finley, the eldest of four brothers, is a committed serial monogamist.He’s all for one woman at a time, but not one woman forever. He knows a lifetime of fidelity just isn’t in his genes. But when his latest girlfriend kicks him out–of his condo–the woman he’s always thought of as “one of the guys” turns
out to be the one woman who can rock his world and make him see the light.

Second, the Manuscript Mavens blog is a nominee in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll. We’re hugely honored to have been nominated, but we’d love to win even more. So please, hop on over and vote!

And finally, I am scheduled to appear as an author-guest on The Spiced Tea Party blog tomorrow. I’m very excited about this opportunity and hope you’ll come visit me there. But even more, I want to give you an incentive to swing by the Tea Party as well as celebrate my sale and the Mavens’ nomination, so I have a little contest in store for you.

Here’s how the contest will work:

1. Comment on this post.

2. Visit us at the Manuscript Mavens blog any day this week and post a comment on any of our posts. (We are blogging our writing tips, so it’s a great week to drop by if you haven’t before.)

3. Visit me at The Spiced Tea Party and comment on my post there.

Anyone who manages to make comments in all three places between today and next Tuesday, January 15th, will be entered in a drawing to win one of the following three fabulous prize packages:

1. A $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com and a free copy of The Gospel of Love: According to Luke (which will be sent to you on release day, whenever that turns out to be).

2. A one-pound box of See’s Candy (chocolate…yum!) and a free copy of According to Luke.

3. Any three of the following books (some are signed by the authors, some are not) and a free copy of According to Luke.
Books:

Now, how can you resist an offer like that? Go forth and comment. I’ll draw and announce the winners next Tuesday

And happy 2008 to everyone!