And Then One Day, You Do

The art, and probably science, of coming back to oneself, especially as a creative, after a significant trauma, is not a straight line, but more like a manic freeform scrawl, like what one might find if a toddler were given a Sharpie and a blank white wall. It feels like forever. It feels big and blinding and impossible. It’s at once a fever dream and a much-desired goal. How to get there, though? Beats me. I have been through this journey more than once, may well again, as I still have some time in front of me, and each time is going to be different.

it also involves a lot of The Sims, or maybe that’s just me

There are big chunks of wanting to do the things that make a person the unique individual that they are, to get the creative voice to make a sound, but …not. There is knowing the thing, knowing one likes the thing. The thing is right there. One could do the thing. This crawls through one’s brain like a news crawler. One wants to do the thing. One wants to like doing the thing. One wants to have done the thing. Does one do the thing? No. Why?

Season 5 Whatever GIF by Paramount+
Lucy says it best

The easiest explanation I have, for my own individual case, is that there aren’t enough spoons. If you’re not familiar with spoon theory, it’s kind of like the pain scale. Basically, there is only so much energy a person has when dealing with a chronic condition, it’s finite, and putting spoons in one place means they can’t go in another. Sometimes they go to playing Sims for a few months or rearranging the furniture, or constructing planners or whatever happens to fill the need at the time. It’s different for everybody. It also very seldom resembles what the person thinks it’s going to be.

For me, I thought it was going to mean gorging myself on a steady stream of historical romance, preferably from my keeper boxes. Probably Netflix/Hulu binges, and oh the writing I was going to do. I’ve done some. I hired my first indie editor, the fabulously talented Jessica Cale, and got through the first round of edits, which then just…sat. Because. As with the reading. As with the viewing. As with the total lack of listening to music, which has some interesting results for my Spotify year in review. I will also mention the war between a mad race to the end of my Goodreads challenge, or shrugging that off and deciding it is what it is.

And then. Because there is always an “and then” when it comes to this sort of thing. Thing is though, there is no sort of time table, though one would be incredibly useful. Maybe, though, we write it as we go. At any rate, we go about it one foot in front of the other, maybe even plodding through rambly blog posts, or lack of blog posts and it gets annoyingly tedious. Will This Ever End? Maybe there has been some writing, but it’s more like going for a hike with a cartoon style ball and chain around one’s ankle. Doable, and one can technically get to one’s destination, but is one going to appreciate the scenery and/or have a lovely chat along the way? Possibly not so much.

But back to the “but then.” Then one day, one does. Oh, look, I’m reading a book. Oh look, I finished watching a series on Netflix. Oh look, I added something new to Spotify. Oh look, sleep tracker shows a steady bunch of nights that count as decent rest. That’s all good stuff. It’s not one thing. The ball and chain doesn’t drop off dramatically. It gets ground down by a million single steps. Online chats. You Tube videos playing in the background when not looking at the screen. Mindless tablet scrolling, like treading water in an infinity pool, no agenda in mind.

Then one day, the ball and chain isn’t there. It’s weird. Writing is a challenge, and then, one day, it’s …normal? The way it should be? Familiar? Sort of “oh, there you are.” Not exactly the same, because I don’t think that’s possible, but okay. Stepping from one room into another.

Do I know where this is going?

Season 5 Whatever GIF by Paramount+

Not sure, but it’s real, and it’s true, and writing it feels good, so I am going to hit the publish button and then get on with my day. Moving to a two blog a week schedule, one of those Storm’s responsibility, honestly has made a difference in my fiction writing, so I am thinking of keeping the practice beyond December. Not sure yet; we’ll see, but putting the emphasis on writing romance fiction, feels right.

Hmm, probably time for a new signoff graphic.

Plot Bunnies in the Attic

First of all, Storm is on heat lockdown (we do plan on getting her spayed) and thus was not allowed to use the computer unsupervised. She kept attempting to log onto Cat Tinder, and we could not have that. Seriously. I found her profile picture.

single black, white, and orange female….

Beyond that, things are going pretty well over here. I was a bit under the weather over the weekend, but feeling much better now, and excited over the holiday season proper being right around the corner. For those of us who are stationery aficionados, that means new planner season is coming. For those of us who write fiction, it’s time to look ahead at the coming writing year. For those of us who are both, that means time to work on a writing planner.

One of those sections is creating a “stuck list,” aka books, movies, TV, other media that usually gets my idea hamster on the wheel and running like they think they are Wilma Rudolph or Usain Bolt.

For me, the book section includes romance and non-romance books. One of the non-romances, that I come back to time and again, is Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. As a romance writer, that does give me a moment of pause. Trigger warning: incest, child abuse.

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Dollenganger #1

Though there is an intimate relationship between teen protagonists Cathy and Chris, who are full siblings, under extremely extenuating circumstances, this isn’t a romance. It’s a tragedy. I’ve classified it as horror, of the psychological sort, and it is that, but as I wandered down my most recent FITA rabbit hole (it happens every once in a while) I found myself thinking, as I usually do when I revisit good ol’ Foxworth Hall (sarcasm mode on for that house name) “how would this work as a historical romance?”

Not, I should note, that I would ever want to have a hero and heroine who are full, half, step, foster, etc siblings. Not my thing. The big old house with centuries of heritage behind it, though? Oh yes. The family secrets? Yep. The family dysfunction? Well, of course. The creepy-deepy atmosphere? Um, have you met me? You know this is all Anna-nip when it comes to inspiration. I do have to admit that I had some degree of shock when I saw the Lifetime TV movie adaptation of the first book (there are five in all, number five being a prequel; when I reread, I read FITA, then the prequel, then FITA again, as the prequel is the origin story of the villainess) and very seldom pay any attention to the books in between. That’s just me, though.

My other listening obsession is podcasts on romance writing/reading, of which there are delightfully a lot. Though I don’t recall the specific episode where I heard author Sarah MacLean say that she also always thinks “how would this work as a historical romance?” my brain did catch on that. Fellow author Corinna Lawson once told me, after I’d given one of my very first workshops on what is now Play in Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys, that I tend to “take fantasy inspiration and file off all the fantasy.” She’s not wrong, as I first got my start writing Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic that read like historical romance with blinky things. I think the same thing might well apply to horror.

I did mention above that I have always classed FITA into horror, and with the discovery of some analyses of the Andrews books (only the actual V. C Andrews, thanks. Not the ghostwriter.) that it also fits into gothic drama, and since most of her stories take place in the south, Southern Gothic elements abound. I love that stuff. I gobble the classic gothic romances of the late sixties/early seventies when I can find them, and some authors who are on my top tier historical romance list, like Valerie Sherwood and Aola Vandergriff, also wrote in this gothic genre. Hmmmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmm.

Romance, though, particularly historical (the tone of my contemporaries with Melva Michaelian are decidedly different and equally natural) with HEAs and dating outside of the family line. Right now, I am at the phase of noting things on my stuck list and leaving them to marinate, to ponder in days to come. Maybe this will come in handy when I revise Orphans in the Storm, which may be on tap for 2022. Maybe not, but it’s always fun to examine something that gets the idea hamster on the move, and that’s a worthwhile end in its own right.

What surprising items might you put on your stuck list?

A Good Writing Day

Today is a good writing day. I don’t have an idea for this blog post, but I do have workers in the apartment across the hall banging on things, a sleeping kitty, and about one hour before the rest of the family comes home and settles in for the evening. Thankfully, it’s Real Life Romance Hero who is cooking tonight, but I do have to take out the trash. Which is fine. Not doing it right now because Storm doesn’t like it much when she is left alone-alone, which means that if we are indeed planning on visiting friends out of state any time in the tucked away week between Christmas and New Year’s, we will need to start harness training her so she can come too.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Storm is a natural traveler, which worked well in our favor when we had our vagabond year, and for future adventures (by choice!) yet to come. She’s also an excellent office companion. I am her hooman and she is my purr-sonal assistant. If I spend too long in Housemate’s room or the kitchen, she will come in and yell at me until I follow her back into the master bedroom, which is also my and RLRH’s shared office.

Se have learned, to our astonishment, that we share an office extremely well. My pro tip: headphones. The over ear kind. For both parties. Also, don’t face each other. If we face each other, we will indeed enjoy the view, but we will also talk to each other and get very little work done. We usually leave the door open, as A) Housemate is a strong introvert, and as long as she has her book and/or tablet, she will be well occupied, and B0 we both need easy access to bathroom and kitchen. Most importantly to cat food, because cat.

Anyway, this is my roundabout way of saying it’s been a good week so far. Okay, apart from when I thought my Monday night scene deadline and chat with Melva was on Wednesday, but I managed to turn that around, and hey, free evening. This could mean Sims, Netflix, or reading, either electronic or the old fashioned kind. I haven’t decided yet. I might also, as RLRH says, fall asleep next to a good book (highly likely.)

there is always a chance that I will bring some sort of journal with me to the comforts of bed, and then capture the mind meanderings that only come in the twilight hours of a rainy grey day spent with one’s imaginary friends from multiple centuries. I have been doing a lot of journaling as of late, which is proving to be a pretty useful tool. There is also the fact that as we get into the middle of November, that means January creeps ever closer, meaning that it’s time to get the 2022 planner and notebook lineup finalized. I have my eighteen month classic and mini Happy Planners, buuut somehow acquired (October birthdays’ll do it for you) a second classic and second mini planners, which might end up being writing planners but it’s early days yet.

The weekly chats with friends, online but face to face (yay, video) are also huge helps. There are times when I need to blabber at someone and then find the answer to my own questions in the blabbering. Not much at all to say on the whole matter, but to say that writing is, for the first time in a while, writing feels pretty good. Smaller goals, more easily reached. That’s important, too, leaving room for just one more sentence, paragraph, page, ect. I am rather fond of that. How is your week going?

NaNot, Mislaid Plan(ners) and Other Stories

Once again, I am not doing National Novel Writing Month, though I am peeking through the cracks in the fence. Maybe next year? Maybe so. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know the last couple years have been quite the trip. Several of them, as a matter of fact, so that staying home now is actually kind of exciting, because I have a home to stay in, which I figured would have some sort of effect on my productivity.

If we are talking about blogging, I am doing okay. If we are talking about journaling, I am absolutely crushing it. We’ll talk more about that later. If we’re talking about writing romance fiction, that’s where it gets a little murkerier, and yes, I did put that distancing phrase in there on purpose. Melva and I completed one contemporary romance novel, which we now need to do some surgery upon before we can give it another shot with our current publisher. That’s not a bad thing. We are currently working on another one, and starting a new contemporary series after that. We are working our way to a new sort of schedule as both of us have had changes in our day to day routines, but we are getting into the swing of it, and it’s good.

only the tip of my big bag of books iceberg

For historical romance, that’s where I feel the most guilty, meaning that I’m not where I thought I was going to be at this point. I mean, it’s in sight, and I am getting my way back there. I am now in a two person critique group with a local writer friend, who is newer to the game. We write different subgenres, but both under the romance or romantic elements umbrella. I do read the genre that she writes in, though she is new to historical romance, and I am very interested to see what I can learn about historical romance from seeing it through fresh eyes. So it’s steps in the right direction. Historical romance is also a very common topic on my weekly three hour chats with my friend, Mary, who gifted me a huge bag of classic historicals on her recent visit. I also owe a letter to another writer friend, which is all moving in the direction of getting back to talking about my work, which, for me, is definitely a thing. #extrovertlife

The writing planner I had set up for the last six months of this year is sitting in its cover, glaring at me. Not to say that the planner isn’t working. What it means is that that method is not working for me, and I need to find the one that does. Which means trial and error and blabbering about it here, because, metaphorically, I have a microphone and you all have to listen to everything I say. (The Wedding Singer is a work of genius; fight me.) In short, all part of the process. As we near the end of the year, the planner possibilities are endless, and I will find the right one at the right time. For now, it’s going to be more a matter of blundering into the forest with oven mitts on my hands, and recording what actually worked for me. That tends to be how I work. Stumble my way halfway in, survey, and make a plan. I am bound and determined that A Heart Most Errant is not going to have a birthday of sitting in my documents file, edits unaddressed. Nope, nope, nope. February is not that far away, which means I need to get on it.

How does yoeur week look?

A Good Place To Be

Today is a lovely, chill, and grey Monday in October, which is to say exactly my kind of day. This may also be why it is almost three pm when I sit down to write this post. I spent all of the time prior alternating between setting up my planners and turbo napping. I am not exactly done with the plan-ification because I acquired a new planner this weekend, an early birthday gift from the friend who gave me my first Happy Planner, thus creating the monster that is now me.

The new planner is a “skinny” planner, same length but half the width of the classic version, which is here:

photo: Anna Carrasco Bowling

I haven’t taken any pictures of the new planner yet, (not this design, but this size) because A) I am still deciding how I want to use it, and B) I’m not decorating it until I figure out its purpose. The friend who gave it to me doesn’t use a planner, but uses this sort of planner as a notebook. I do know it’s the same theme as my catchall planner (the one above is my writing planner) and the coordinating sticker book. My friend says she likes that size for toting around in her purse, so I might try that. It also fits perfectly in the zip folio that would be bulky in my purse, but never felt right with anything else. I have also done squat all for months with the dot grid notebook (though it has delicious thick, smooth paper; I think I’m not a dot grid person) I put in there a few um, months ago.

I hate having partially used notebooks lingering in my possession, but they also aren’t exactly salable or re-giftable, so I am still figuring out what to do with that sort of thing. Maybe scrap paper? IDK.

There’s something about birthdays and planners and trackers and calendars and journals and that sort of thing. Combine that with an online workshop on resilience I am taking right now, which is highly relevant to my interests, of coming back into myself. I very much like knowing why somebody else likes something they like, and inviting me to experience it too, well, that’s special. It also still doesn’t bring me any closer to knowing what I want to use this new planner for, but eh, that’s kind of how I operate anyway. Jump in, splash around, and then sort it out in some sort of organic fashion.

That’s a heartening thought as I look at the writing week ahead, especially since it’s Housemate’s staycation. We do have some fun stuff planned, and some time set aside where she is doing her thing and I am doing mine, aka actually writing.

Ever since I started having weekly video chats with one of my besties, I have felt ever so much Anna-er. Ditto with the fledgling critique partnership I have with a local writer friend, also via video. Bonus points for said writer friend also being a big ol’ extrovert. I even have some pen and paper letters in the works, which is something I have always found both a necessity and a delight. It also means I get to dive neck deep into pretty stationery, pens, stickers, ephemera, et al. It’s a good place to be.

How is the start of your week looking?

If The Ears are on, I’m Working

It’s funny, the things we remember sometimes. This morning, when I set aside time to fully plan out my week (I hear the voice of an aunt in my head: “I don’t mind clutter, but I can’t stand chaos.” I may well be turning into my aunts, which is fine, because they were all awesome.) my brain informed me that the first time I knew (American) football was a fall sport was on my first day of maybe second or third grade, when a fall themed bulletin board included football imagery.

Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur on Pexels.com

The reason my brain thought I might like to know this was probably because I had laid down some autumn leaves scrapbook paper, because having an image on the page anchors my attention, making the actual planning a lot easier. Insomnia has been raging this past week, meaning that I do have some ground to recover, and planning is the way I figure out how that happens. Planning is also great for focusing on something that is creative but not storytelling creative, which gives that part of my brain some room to do its own thing without me in the way.

There’s also the fact that I can see my week laid out, mark the family days (two per week) that I will have a full house (not the tv show) so those are very unlikely to have writing time unless I leave the house. This is one reason I look forward to having a dedicated office, with a door I can close, in our next apartment, but we will be here for a while. Not at all complaining about that. I will make do with cat ear headphones. If the ears are on, leave me alone. This actually works because if eyes are on me, then I know I have to actually produce something.

For those who may be wondering, this post has nothing at all to do with football. I neither watch nor play, so it doesn’t affect me in any way I can relate. Why did it show up on my mental feed, then? I am not sure. Maybe because I am training myself to get back into writer mode, after being in survivor mode for so long. There is executive dysfunction, which is basically “I need to do the thing. I want to do the thing. I know how to do the thing. I have the stuff I need to do the thing. It is right over there. I should do the thing,” and then….not doing the thing. Gets annoying after a while, by which I mean immediately, and every time.

The only way through this kind of executive dysfunction with writing is to actually do the writing. Which means writing bad pages. Knowing that I am writing bad pages. Write bad pages until I write good pages. Lather, rinse, repeat. Feels like I have been doing that a lot lately. Probably boring and/or annoying people, because geez, get on with it, woman. Not always that easy, but there is indeed a path through. Insert the maxim about not comparing someone else’s chapter thirty to one’s own chapter five. Even if chapter five seems really long. It happens.

The point of al of this? Eh. An item off my list. Seeing things on a list, especially a visually appealing list, makes the Big Scary Task look and feel a lot more palatable. So. It’s here. So am I. I call that a win. Planner open at the ready, now off to Google Docs and some time with my imaginary friends.

How does your week look?

Anna

The Importance of Stationery Nesting

Note: That is “stationery” nesting, as in nesting with stationery, not creating a nest that remains in one place, though that is probably a good idea, especially if young are involved.

Somewhere in our three room apartment, I have three, maybe four packs of my favorite discbound graph paper. There are not a lot of places this stuff could hide, but after a day of seriously whipping my writing area into shape (including but not limited to planner related things) I cannot find even one pack. This probably means that I put it where I thought it would be a logical place when I was tired or overwhelmed and a very poor judge of such matters.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since I am the only one who touches my planner/journal supplies and indeed the only one who goes into my writing area, the list of possible culprits is extremely small. Basically, me, aka I can only blame myself for this development. :looks at self reprovingly: I have no doubt that I will find them in the process of “putting like with like,” as my mother used to phrase it. I hated that term when I was a kid, but as we often find out when we have to start doing my own adulting, Mom was on to something. She would probably be dumbfounded that organizing and planning is one of my passions. Seriously, I have been used as a pole in a scale designed to measure how much someone likes planners/stationery, “on a scale of ‘hate it,’ to ‘Anna,’ how much do you like planning/stationery?” Probably on more than one occasion, but I witnessed the one,

As a dear once upon a time writing group facilitator once said, “the process begets the product,” and I have found that she was also right. In her case, that meant keeping the pen on the paper for the entire span of our writing sprints, but in this case, it means that I remembered where I put an important item I needed while repurposing a languishing notebook into something I actually will use, and rotating out seasonal things that do not jibe with this season. It meant that while I was making the bed, I wondered what would happen if I pre-cut the printable stickers I love, using my slicer, rather than cutting them out one at a time, fussy cutting with small scissors.

I have repurposed my Big Pink traveler’s notebook to focus on some mindful creativity exercises, as a composer I admire terms them. That means doing some hard work regarding what makes me tick as a creator. My pink A5 six ring binder is similarly now for keeping lists of my favorite authors, tropes, settings, etc. This will serve as a handy “hey, you like this stuff; maybe put some of that in there” reference for when I need such a reminder. Please note that is “when,” not “if,” because it will definitely happen. I have known myself for quite a while now, and I may have noticed a few patterns.

I am very happy to be at this stage because it means I am getting ready to Do Business with the writing stuff, and that feels frankly amazing after the last few years. Not that anybody waved a magic wand, but more a series of progressions and setbacks and a lot of little things that all lined up to get me to this place. I have even been thinking about NaNo. If I do go through with it, I will be a rebel (no surprise) but even if I don’t sign up officially, I love the idea of testing how much I can do this time around.

How are you nesting this season?

Scattered Monday Thoughts (but the writing is going well)

Heh. This is the funny kind of thing that happens when the writing is going well and one actually takes the time to do the week’s planning all at once. By “funny” I mean “completely forgets that this is Monday and “write blog” was right there on the top of the list. I was doing well on the rest of it, though, so a quick blabbery post and I will be back at it.

Photo by Ravi Kant on Pexels.com

The “it,” of course, being the writing of actual fiction, which is going in an actually-not-awful direction. This sort of thing does seem to be easier since I have been putting some time and attention to some specific-for-writers journaling thingamaboodles, which I will probably talk more about later. The weather is cool and rainy today. I am wearing real shirts and sweatshirt, but pajama bottoms, and am settled at my desk, after a morning spread out in the soft office (aka on the bed) with planner stuff and some of the YouTube stuff I’ve been meaning to listen to while I do it, feline companion comfortably settled within petting range.

I have the house to myself today. Well, technically, for about twenty to sixty more minutes as of this writing, which is when one or more family members will return. It is true what they say about home being the place that, when you have to go there, they have to let you in. I’m not too bothered by this because A) I love everybody who lives with me, and B) we already have dinner covered, meaning I do not have to cook. I will probably still be the one doing dishes, though, but I don’t mind that. Especially since we have a new set of lovely, grown-up dishes, meaning the stuff we hauled around with us for a year can go into storage and only come out for potlucks and picnics and that sort of thing.

Writing feels good today. Stopping when family arrives also feels good, because I’ve put in a decent day’s work. That feels well, good would be too bland of a word, so I will say me-ish instead. I do feel as though I am getting closer to myself, which is a rather nice sort of feeling to have, especially when my purpose here is to draw on that me-ness to make up stories and blog posts and other related ventures.

That’s probably enough free form babbling for today, especially because I want to get the rest of a scene transcribed before the evening (or prevening, as Sheldon Cooper would call it) settles in and attention turns to family members and filling the creative well. As of late, that has involved a lot of music (surprisingly heavy on the Glee covers, and no, I do not know why) and my new old faithful, listening to somebody summarize horror movies or games that I have no intention of seeing/playing, while playing a very normal suburban version of Sims 4.

trust me, in the background, a mellifluous voice is describing something horrible.

How is your week going so far?

Survival Drama Binge Babble

Right now, I am sitting at my laptop with wet hair, because, somehow, in the midst of all the Monday stuff, I am coloring my hair. I don’t remember the last time. I am listening to summaries of horror movies I will never watch, on YouTube, because A) I work better when hearing human voices, ;and B) it’s pretty good at getting my brain in storytelling mode, without the risk that any of it would naturally seep into my own work. Hm. Maybe that’s why I read as my contemporary YA as I do. Hm. I’m going to put a sticky note on that.

Okay, the historicals do get kind of dark. I will admit that. It’s part of my charm. It may also be one of the reasons I have been bingeing on survival dramas on various streaming services. Bonus points if the show is not American. Subtitles are fine, as I would rather listen to the original language and read the English translation than listen to dubbed dialogue. Then again, there are some dubs that are right up there with the original language.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Currently, the show of choice is season two of Into the Night, a Belgian show where a solar event has ended most life on earth, but for a few plucky survivors (seriously, I am 100% there for a small band of plucky survivors in the midst of a disaster) who were on a hijacked airplane when it all went down. The title comes from the fact that our survivors have to fly during the sunlight hours, always away from the sun (aka into the night) so they can touch down in darkness and scramble to get any fuel they need for themselves and their plane. Sometimes they pick up stragglers along the way. Sometimes those stragglers are Not Nice People.

Case in point: touching down in an airport in Scotland to get more fuel. They have more fuel. Yay. They also have three British soldiers, some of whom can do Plane Stuff. Yay. They can come with. This will take some of the workload off Original Pilot (who only has one working hand) and Substitute Co-Pilot, who used to fly helicopters for the French military, but is new to the plane thing. Once in the air, though, one of our Plucky Survivors learns that New British Soldiers are actually war criminals, recalled for a court martial for Very Bad Crimes. Oh noes. What to do, what to do? Also, if we have a standard for them, what does that mean for Turkish Man who has a shady professional past, but is also bonding big tie with Ill Russian Boy, and IRB’s lovely young mum? Thankfully for IRB, there is a nurse on board, a home health worker who lost her own patient early on in the adventure.

When the first season ended, our Plucky Survivors have found an underground military bunker, where they can hunker. Yay. Only, they are not alone. Uh oh. A politician and soldiers are also hunkering there, but they seem friendly. Yay? Then Bad Things happen, including a fire that wipes out most of their food supply. Oh noes. Suffice it to say that I am not bored. The cast is diverse, not only from country of origin, by walk of life. Every episode, we get a glimpse at somebody’s life Before. I love that stuff, because it’s new information and gives new insight to the choices the character makes now in the worst nightmare scenario.

This is all probably going into the idea soup for my second medieval historical romance, which takes place in the wake of the plague. Other ingredients for idea soup will include medieval romances, because romance. Still backburner at this point, but it’s all part of the process.

Where am I taking this all? I write about survivors. Well, obviously, as otherwise they would be zombies, ghosts, or necrophiliacs. That Thing, though, that people hang on to in the midst of the worst, that Thing that keeps them going; I love finding out what that is for a character. For two characters. Discover the way their Things can work together, make something good even when good things are not the thickest things on the ground.

That’s where the start of this week finds me. How are you doing?

Asking the Right What Ifs

On Wednesday, it will be September. In our family, that means the unofficial start of autumn, and maybe more importantly, the return of my superpowers. It’s also the time for the seasonal turnover of planners, which took up a lovely portion of my Sunday afternoon. I love that ritual, of curating my planning supplies, moving from summer vibes (as much as I do, which isn’t much, as it’s not my favorite season) and into my natural environment. Bring on cool days, warm afghans, hot tea, big books, and all that good stuff.

In a writing perspective, that includes writing those books as well. Another part of the afternoon was me going over my edits letter from Safeword Author Services, which I cannot recommend highly enough for any author looking to hire an editor. Awesome encouragement, excellent insight, and I actually agree with the changes my editor proposed…so why haven’t I made them since February? That’s kind of a while.

First, let me introduce you to my non-besties, Anxiety and Depression, and the common author challenge of mind numbing terror when it comes to working on some of the tough stuff. But is it really? Sometimes, it’s as easy as asking the right questions. When I set up my writing notebook for historicals, I made sections for A Heart Most Errant, and Her Last First Kiss, with another for general tips and ideas for future project. For AHME, the first thing in there is the editorial letter. I read it through, then highlighted the areas I needed to address, color coded for hero (blue) heroine (pink) and general writing (green.) If I had a villain POV, which this book does not, then that would get a yellow highlight, because yellow is my least favorite color.

When I have Character A flip flopping from X to Not X a couple times throughout the story, making that decision for them wasn’t going to do. Instead, I turned to a fresh page and asked myself, “How does Character A feel about X, really?” Pros. Cons. Why they can hold both beliefs at once. Both hero and heroine in this book are trauma survivors (which is probably true for most of my characters in any story) so that is going to play into how they react to things, even good things. There’s also whether Character B would really focus on Y at a given moment. If they don’t focus on Y, then what would catch their attention instead? What would be more important? How does Not-Y fill a more urgent need than Y?

The only way to find that out, for me, is to do what I did when I wrote the beginning of My Outcast Heart, my first published historical romance (out of print right now; stay tuned for reissue talk) — follow my character as they run off on their own and write down what they do. It’s not entirely pantsing, as I can tell them “okay, here’s what has to happen next,” but usually, they figure out how they are going to that on their own, in their own particular way. It’s also not always in order. When I wrote Orphans in the Storm, my fourth historical (also out of print right now) I wrote both ends against the middle. I knew how it started, I knew how it ended, but connecting those two?

That was a matter of connecting “what happened after that?” with “what happened before that?” Repeat until the two ends meet. (I do not recommend the other notable thing about this manuscript, which was losing the whole file, after I had already sold it, but if you do, be sure to have an awesome critique group with hardcopies.) In this case, it’s translating to “okay, if X didn’t work, what could be Y?” Not what is, necessarily, but what could be? In the words of an online writer friend, “it’s just riffing.” Have fun. Chuck some ink on that paper and see what transpires. For my money (and that which I hope comes from it) it’s well worth the trip.

How are you getting ready for September?