Thursday, January 24, 2013

Three Steps to Creating Believable Character Emotions

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)
Creating Character Emotions 

I’ve been a mother who accidentally killed her only child. I’ve been an orphan stalked by the man who murdered her family. I’ve been a barbarian warrior struggling with how to survive in his brutal, pagan culture now that he’s come to faith in the one, true God. I’ve been all these things without ever actually giving birth, losing my parents, or swinging a sword in battle.

As a fiction writer, you’re also going to need to write about characters who are nothing like you and who are in situations you’ve never been in. And to make it work, you’re going to need to convincingly convey their emotions. Even in plot-driven novels, readers want characters whose emotions seem real and powerful. The question for us as writers is, how do we write emotions our readers will be able to feel and participate in when we have no personal experience with what our character is facing?


Monday, January 21, 2013

Writing Moms: Holding it All Together

My own four children are all grown now, though my youngest daughter and two children live with us. There have been only tiny windows in my life when I’ve had no children to care for. I even took in my first grandchild while my daughter worked, and I was still raising two children at home, and working 40 plus hours a week evenings at my real job.

But at the time I was unpublished, I was determined not to work at that job for the rest of my life. I became determined to make enough money writing to support my family. I wrote every available minute. When I was writing my (first published) book Rain Shadow, I was working crazy hours. Whenever I wasn’t at work, I was in front of my computer. My children took turns fixing supper, and they quickly learned to leave me alone while I was working. My husband, who’d never turned on the washer in his life, learned to do laundry. I wasn’t always happy with the results, but he did it and I appreciated it. For nearly a year, I barely attended any family gatherings.

My family was a big help, but I know plenty of single moms who have set priorities and placed writing near the top, too. It can be done. We have good examples and bad examples all around us, and we should learn from them. We’ve all learned that successful people set goals, write them down, refer to them regularly, and re-evaluate when necessary. Writers need attainable short-term and long-term goals. Write long terms goals on separate sheets of paper and list underneath each, the steps it will take to reach it. Then take those steps.

Looking at my goals to quit my job and make enough money to support my family, I considered the steps it would take to get there. Obviously, I would have to sell books. And to do that I would have to write them. And to do that I would have to give up a lot of other things. A lot. So I missed my friends, but my writer associates became my friends and still are. I missed having a clean house, but most of my friends who now come over are other writers, and they’re all in the same boat. The sacrifices paid off in the long run.

You can tell how serious a writer is by how selfish they become with their time. Let me put it bluntly: If you still have a life, you’re probably not a serious writer—you have a hobby that may or may not pay off.

There was a time between all those early rejections and that first sale that I felt pretty low. I clearly remember the overwhelming frustration. I remember saying to my husband, but more to myself: “Why can’t I be satisfied to do nice little needlepoint crafts like all the *normal* women I know?” This was a burning question in my heart. Why didn’t the same things that made every other woman in the country content, make me content? I wondered over and over again if I was doing the right thing. Was this what I should be devoting all my time and energy to when I had no guarantee of a payoff?

There were times when I didn’t feel as though I fit in anywhere anymore. At a gathering someone would ask me what I’d been doing or how the writing was going, and when I started to tell them their eyes glazed over. Next thing I knew they’d changed the subject back to their dog or their kids. I felt like I could hardly talk to people anymore.

We can’t stop ourselves from sharing the most exciting thing happening in our life . . . but later, the admission comes back to haunt us: “Sold that book yet?” “When can I buy that book of yours?” “Got an interview on Letterman yet?”  And then you wish you’d never told anyone.

At same time that thoughts of throwing in the towel crept into my head, I knew in my heart I would never be happy with myself if I didn’t give this thing every last ounce of energy I had. I couldn’t quit. And what if I had? What if I’d given up after the first seven rejections? Those were only rejections for ONE BOOK. I’d been rejected regularly on other projects for years before that. But what if I’d given up? What if I’d decided I didn’t have the stamina it took to absorb all that rejection and still feel like a writer? What if I hadn’t been willing to listen to the advice of writers and editors more experienced than I?

Well, then I’d never have known that all that rejection was only the beginning, that from there on, I’d be ranked and graded and critiqued by reviewers and contest judges and readers. That editors would still find fault with my work, and I could either improve it or be far less likely to sell the next time. When I turned in my first contemporary, my editor told me she cried at all the right parts. She also told me she hated the ending. The whole last chapter.

I asked what she’d like to see happen, rewrote it and faxed it to her the same day. See, way back then, realizing that words are only words, that they’re not pure genius engraved in stone, and that my head is full of billions more words, was a well-learned lesson. You just have to keep trying. And you’ve got to be positive.
Surround yourself with positive people. You know how good it feels being with someone who’s really up and positive? You can feel good being the positive one, too. I use visual affirmations in the form of book covers, photographs, best seller lists, etc.. Combine your self-talk with your faith. Take workshops on goal-setting or how to handle rejection.

Consciously listen to yourself and the thoughts that come out of your mouth. “I’ll never learn all this.” “I don’t have what it takes to juggle a job, kids, a house, a husband, and write, too.” “I’m too tired to get up early and write five pages.” “I’ll never sell this because I met that editor and she didn’t like me.” “I’m brain dead today.” Those are self-defeating attitudes and words.

Oh, I did my share of whining and crying and feeling sorry for myself. But once I really heard myself, I changed that for good. When I was working those horrible early morning hours and getting the kids off to school and handling all that life as a mom entails, I can remember dragging out of bed first thing in the morning. It was still dark, and I’d barely slept enough hours to combat exhaustion. My feet still hurt from being on them all day the day before, and as they’d touch the floor, the first words that came to mind were, “This job is killing me.”

Once I really heard my own thinking, and realized what that negativity was doing to me, I was able to change it. The situation didn’t change overnight. But instead of thinking “This job is killing me” when I got out of bed, I would say OUT LOUD, “This day gets me one day closer to my goal. I can do it. I can make the best of it. I’m not going to be doing this much longer.”

I changed my confession, and with it I changed my thinking. Each time I sit down to my computer, I read something inspirational to get started. And I tell myself, “I’m writing a RITA winner.” Do I feel silly saying things like that out loud? Not at all. Too many of them have come to pass.

Do I still have doubts? Every time I get a particularly ugly line edit. Every time I get to the middle of my current book. Every time I stretch my writing a step further. Every time I have a proposal rejected. But every accomplishment is a confidence builder.

Deal with feelings. Take thoughts and emotions under control. I heard somewhere that if a computer were built to have the capacity of the human mind it would take the space of the Empire State Building to house it. And yet we use only 10% of our brains. We live in a society that believes we’re all victims; nobody’s responsible for their actions or feelings or thoughts. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m responsible for me. I may not be able to change my past or other people, but I can change how I feel and how I react to situations. You can too.

There is no one rule or schedule that works for every mom. Unfortunately you have to figure out this stuff by trial and error. But I hope it’s reassuring to know there are other women who understand what you’re dealing with as a busy wife, mother, writer--and maybe even breadwinner. Many of us have been there and survived. You will too.

What positive thing can you say about yourself and your writing dream right now?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Welcome to The Next Big Thing!

What is a blog hop? It’s a virtual event that helps readers discover new authors. The first author tags other authors whose work he or she admires, who each tag more, who each tag more, and so on. These memes float around the internet every few years, and this particular event has been widespread, covering many genres and amazing authors.

Big thanks to Sparkle Abbey, co-authors of the Pampered Pets mystery series, for tagging me for this blog hop.. Together Marylee Woods and Anita Carter have written Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang.

"Desperate Housedogs is a wonderful, fun-filled mystery brimming with hope and humor. Lamont and Malone are unique, strong-willed characters that are (I hope) destined to drive each other crazy for many books to come. A howling good time."  
- Lois Greiman, award–winning author of Uncorked

The way this hop works, authors answer ten predetermined questions, ranging from current works in progress to writing processes.

1: What is the working title of your book(s)?
My most current release is this month’s Colorado Courtship anthology, with author Debra Ullrick. I’m contracted for another Harlequin Historical with a working title Song of Home. I can’t promise what it will be called when it’s released.

And my Next Big Thing is a non-fiction book that’s been in the works for quite a while:
Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
For years I’ve taught workshops and classes, and for a few years I gave online workshops. Instruction is something I thoroughly enjoy, and I got the idea to put together a how-to-write book and see where it went. My agent loved the idea.

 3: What genre does your book come under?
 Non fiction. It’s a how-to-write instructional book.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I guess technically I’m the only character in this book. Oh, let’s have Sandra Bullock play me. J

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Who doesn’t want to write a book that will end up on reader’s keeper shelves?

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
My agent and I submitted to one house, Writers Digest, and we were delighted to snag the interest of their F&W Media division.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’d been working on it in bits and pieces over several years, although I never expected to pull it all together into a book. Once I got the idea, it took me a couple of months to get it down and create a table of contents.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The editor I’m working with suggested we gear the whole book toward writing a book with emotional impact in order to make it not only marketable, but unlike other writing books on the shelves.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I guess it was a natural progression after teaching the craft of writing for so many years. It just made sense to write it all down in one cohesive volume.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book is written with examples from movies and books to show how techniques are used effectively. Each chapter has exercises pertaining to the reader’s own work in progress. I don’t believe in exercises that don’t move a story forward so they are geared to help writers learn their own emotional triggers and to prompt ideas.

So that’s it! Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict will be in the Fall 2013 Writers Digest catalog.

Next Wednesday, January 23, 2013 you will be able to read about Sherri Shackelford’s Next Big Thing! Please bookmark her website and add her to your calendar for updates. Visit her now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pam Hillman: Wallflower Writer to the Rescue

When I’m invited to blog with someone, I like to visit their home on the web and browse around for a bit. What sets their blog apart from others? What makes my host or hostess special?

Visiting Cheryl’s blog made me feel warm, cozy, and welcome. Her historical book covers made me want to click on each one of them to read the stories inside. Even the title of her blog, From the Heart, sends a warm inviting message.

It was easy to come right on in and sit a spell.

Isn’t that what we all want? Someone to invite us in, make us feel welcome, let us know deep down inside that we have worth, that we mean something to them and to those we come in contact with?

Have you ever been somewhere where you felt out of place? Maybe in a group setting where it seems like everyone has paired off in groups chatting, connecting, having fun, but you feel left out, maybe even unwanted?

I don’t know about you, but I have. As a matter of fact, when I was younger, I felt like that most of the time. I was a shy, introverted, gangly teenager. I got tongue-tied around strangers and rarely initiated conversation. I preferred solitude and books.

So, what changed?

First, I owe the nudge to actually come out of my shell to my employer of 28 years. I went from office worker, to payroll clerk, to office manager, to purchasing manager where I was forced to talk to salesmen (Strangers. Eeek!!) on the phone and in person constantly. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

My newfound confidence spilled over into my writing life as well.

I started focusing on others instead of myself. At least once or twice at ACFW conference meals I look for a table where I know no one. I started this practice at the RWA conventions years ago. Instead of stressing that I couldn’t find any of my friends among 2000 writers, I found new friends. Okay, at ACFW, it’s getting harder and harder for me to meet a stranger. Just sayin’

In large group settings where people are milling about, I don’t hug the wall, avoiding eye-contact with other people who are avoiding eye-contact with me. I make it a point to mingle. I smile, catch the eye of those standing or sitting alone. I try not to be pushy: if they’re waiting for someone and their friend shows up, I move on, looking for another vict…uh…lonely-looking person.

I’ve been rescuing wallflower writers for close to fifteen years. But, really, if truth be told, who’s rescuing who?

Pam is thrilled to announce the release of her second novel,
Claiming Mariah
To celebrate, Pam is giving away two eReaders
(choice of Kindle Wi-Fi, 6" Display, or Nook Simple Touch)
Two Winners: One on Facebook. Facebook Drawing: Kindle/Nook Giveaway
One through Pam’s Newsletter. Newsletter: Pam’s newsletter. 

Registering both places is not required but will double your chances of winning. Also keep in mind that you will receive updates more often being connected on Facebook than through the newsletter. Just sayin’

Contest runs from January 1st until March 31st, 2013.
And....that’s not all! There will be prizes offered randomly throughout the tour.

Pam is especially excited about this week’s giveaway:

January 11th: Blogging with Catherine Terry

January 15th: Blogging with Rose McCauley