It’s all about the prep.

Don’t prepare and you might be preparing to fail.
No matter what you’re doing, the job is always easier when you prepare for it ahead of time. Whether you’re cooking a new recipe, planting a garden, building a bookshelf, or writing a book —preparation is the key to success.

There are those that say they are Pantsers and there are those say they are Plotters…

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But, I think, all in all, each of us does a bit of preparation before we sit down to write that first word. We have a general idea of what our book it’s going to be about. Who are main characters will be and the central setting we will create. A Pantser might stop right there and start writing. On the other hand, a plotter (like me) will sit down and do an outline. We want to get as much preparation done before we start making, making the writing process flow.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there will be changes. Something comes up that makes your story go in a different direction, but if the outline is done and your notes are organized, then it’s easy enough to adjust and move on.
And so tomorrow begins the month of July. This is one of three months that I participate in NaNoWriMo. To me the preparation for this month (as well as April and November) are critical to my success. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is more than a challenge it’s a conquest!

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Today is June 30th, and I wait with bated breath for midnight. Why? Because I’m ready to go. My outline is complete, I’ve got my first scene is written in my head and I’m just counting the hours to start. Yet, I can also look back and remember when there were times that I wasn’t so prepared. Because of this, I wasted precious time and word counts trying to figure out where I was going.
To all of you who have no preparations set out–there is less than 24 hours to be prepared. Turn off that TV and get ready!
And to all of you who are prepared and are waiting for that stroke of midnight-—good luck. I hope Camp NaNo is a rousing success and at the end of the 30 days you are pleased. Then you will hold a rough draft of your book in your hands, ready to edit and publish.

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Happy Writing!

Use a bit of Sense

When developing a character, I like to think of everything. it’s almost as if I place my character on it examination table.   I go over him from limb-to-limb, cell-to-cell, wondering what makes him tick.

I recently wanted to create a new character and take away one of his senses, but which one which would he lose? Then I thought, well which one would I lose willingly – or, at least, miss the least.

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Would have been my sense of sight? Would I miss watching a morning sunrise or looking into the face of a loved one? Would I miss looking into a garden seeing all the flowers in full bloom or watching a child take his first step? How could I enjoy a quiet snowfall or a thundering storm? No, this isn’t the sense I could lose.

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Maybe I wouldn’t mind losing the sense of smell? Goodness knows there’s enough things to smell throughout my day; the sweet scents coming from my garden flowers or the spicy fragrance from the herbs. Or, that home cooked meal, made from scratch, that you know will stay with you for the whole evening. Or the aroma of the first cup of coffee in the morning, helping wake you up to face your day. No, the sense of smell helps me get through the day, so I don’t want to lose that one either.

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What about the sense of hearing? I have two ears – would it be so awful to lose the sense of sound, or diminish the ability, from just one ear?  Then I remember the beautiful music that gets me through the day, and the sound of laughter from my friends as we share a quiet joke. Or the voice of the newscaster as he tells us what went on during the day and, most importantly, the sounds of my loved ones. No, even though I have two ears, this is one sense I do not want to lose either.

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And what about the sense of taste? It goes along with your sense of smell, but the sense of taste can also protect by keeping you from eating something that is bad. Yet, the special flavor of certain ingredients can help you devour a whole chocolate bar and smile afterwards. Certain distinguishing flavors can bring back memories of food  you’ve had before, like a seasonal fruit. There’s nothing like biting into that first strawberry of the season, or the Christmas cookies only gets baked once a year. While I might lose some weight if I lost my sense of taste, I wouldn’t want to give it up for one pound.

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Then there’s the sense of touch. This is sense can offer us protection by warning you if you are near something too hot or cold. It allows us the luxury of feeling a soft cashmere sweater on your skin, the sweet kiss from your lover. Or the sensation of the smoothness of our baby’s skin and the silkiness of your dog’s soft fur. I wouldn’t want to miss out on the joys the sense of touch can bring either.

I ponder long and hard, finally deciding I don’t want to lose any of my five senses. And it would be cruel-hearted to make my character loose one of theirs. How could I relate to what they’re going through when I can’t experience it myself? Besides, it would make for one miserable character.

So, cherish each of your senses and remember them as you write.

Let your characters feel all they are capable of. Weave each of the 5 senses into your words, so your reader knows what the character is feeling and experiencing.

 

Write, Weather, Mood

Have you ever noticed how much the weather affects your day-to-day life?

 It’s not just whether it’s raining or cold; it’s the whole feeling of the weather.

On sunny days, you’ll find people smile more and they are more apt to greet you kindly and engage in conversation with you. If it’s one of those perfect weather days, we’ll even prolong the conversation to stay outside to enjoy the weather.

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On a cold rainy day, people barely even look up at you as you walk by. If words are exchange, the  conversation is grumbling about the weather.

As a writer, I’m amazed at how much the weather affects my mood for writing as well.

Seriously, it’s kind of hard to plan a deep dark murder or some villainous crime on a bright sunny day when you’re sitting by the beach. These are the days when I am more in the mood for writing a funny scene or even a romantic one.

However, if you’re curled up inside shivering because of the cold and it’s overcast and rain is hitting the panes of glass of your windows, well that’s different. On a day like this, it doesn’t take too much to put you in the dark mood to write a dark scene. Plots of murder and misdeeds are easy to put down on paper. I have no qualms about putting my main characters in a miserable situation. If I’m miserable, then they can be, too.

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Unfortunately, as a mystery writer, I can’t wait for dark rainy days to write about a murder. My imagination must work overtime to create the mood or scene I’m working on at that moment.  That’s when I often will use other stimuli to help me get in the right frame of mind. Music is a big component as I write, setting the mood for the writing I wish to accomplish. Often going online and looking at pictures (I love Pinterest!) will spark the needed thought process. After all, a picture of a lethal weapon can lead to thoughts of crime.

If these methods don’t work for me, then I find it best to go ahead and write a scene that will fit my mood. I will sneak it into my work in progress later. Or, maybe, put it away in a file to be used in another book.

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No matter what the weather ,as a writer it is important to take control of your work. You should write every day, 1 to 2 paragraphs or 1 to 2 chapters. And if that fails, pick up a book and read someone else’s words. You’ll be amazed at how much this will spark your imagination!

Watching for Inspiration

Sometimes you have to just push the chair back and walk away from the desktop.You can only stare at a screen for so long before your mind goes numb and you’re searching for inspiration.

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Some of the best inspiration that you can get is from watching the people around you. This is especially true at large public locations. I’m lucky to live in South Florida; between the place where the mouse lives and the place where the dolphins swim there’s plenty of attractions to go and watch people. I don’t know what it is about people who are on vacation, but it seems like they’ll do the most amazing things. It might be because they’re letting their inhibitions down, as ifthey have an “I don’t care” attitude. Or maybe it’s because they think no one’s watching: at least no one they know. Young or old, male or female, there’s plenty of inspiration to watch for.

 

I especially like to watch the interaction between people;  what they’re doing while they’re talking. There are so many hand gestures and movements a person makes without even being aware of it and if you incorporate those into your story line you can add a lot of interest.

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Here’s a perfect example…

We were at the place where the mermaids put on a show in the springs  by Tampa. Two little girls very close in age were excited to be able to see the show with the mermaids. They jumped up and down and chattered non-stop. Their parents kept exchanging looks as they tried to quiet them down. Finally it was time for all of us to go in and sit down in the auditorium to watch the mermaid show. The two little girls were overjoyed with excitement and chattered loudly.Their mother tried to quiet them down but to no avail. Rather than getting in the middle of an argument with them, their father simply took each   girl by  hand and led them to their seats.  Instead of letting them sit together, he conveniently put himself and his wife between the two of them. They weren’t able to feed off the excitement of each other and they settled down to enjoy the show.

In that same auditorium over in the corner there were three little girls in the front row leaning over the railing. They were so excited to see the mermaids that they were pushing their noses up against the glass. Instead of being loud and rambunctious like the other girls, these three little girls were in awe of the mermaids. They whispered back and forth to each other and when one of the mermaids swam over and waved at them they were so excited they just didn’t know what to say.  As the mermaid swam away, the giggling and the whispering started. Yet, it was a smile on the adults around the three girls that told the true story. We were getting more enjoyment out of the children’s joy then out of the show itself.

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Children of all ages are great to watch, because they held nothing back. Watching an adult is a little bit harder; you have to really pay attention, without appearing to stare at the interaction between them. It can be something as obvious as to couples fighting with raised hands and loud voices, to another couple so comfortable with themselves that words are needed. They let  their emotions show through actions;   the older man holds the woman’s hand to help her over a rough patch in the sidewalk. To me that action was louder than the arguments of the other couple.

So, when you feel like you’re stumped, or that you need a break, get out of the house and see what’s going on around you. If you can’t do that, flip on the TV and watch the interactions of the characters on the show. Be sure to pay closer attention to the side characters instead of the main characters. Sometimes what you see going on in the background is funnier than the comic one-liners the main characters have.

Feeling inspired? Good, now get back in that chair and start writing!

 

 

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