header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); accountability group Archives – Kristen Koster

Social Media: Where You’ll Find Me

 The Writer  Comments Off on Social Media: Where You’ll Find Me
Mar 152013

Social Network IconsThis week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “Which social media platforms do you do? Which do you prefer and why?”

I’m not an extrovert by any means, but I can almost pretend to be one on the internet for short periods of time. I do have a tendency to lurk, but I have met some great people through various online social media networks that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.

I think the most important thing when trying one out is whether you like the atmosphere and the people you connect with. Surround yourself with positive people, people who inspire you, make you laugh. While it’s important to find “your tribe”, it’s also important to look beyond it to escape the filter bubble

Daily Social Media


Likes: In and out quickly. The instant information when something happens. The cocktail party atmosphere. How approachable most people are.
Dislikes: 140 characters. Straight web interface. Impending death of Tweetdeck — I need to find a replacement.


Likes: Games. Groups, ability to find people you’ve lost touch with. More than 140 characters. Ability to filter what updates you get from some people.
Dislikes: Games. Privacy issues. Repeated sharing of hoaxes or just plain misinformation.

Frequent Social Media


Likes: Online photo sharing and organization. Groups if I want to read them. Random pic(k)s!
Dislikes: I always forget to check the groups. Some of the organization tools are a little clunky.


Likes: Finding new books from my friends! Tracking what I’ve read.
Dislikes: I tend to lurk on groups, not sure why.


Likes: Ooooooh, shiny! Lots of neat stuff out there.
Dislikes: Ooooooh, shiny!

Forgotten Social Media


Likes: Ability to do hangouts. Clean appearance. Communities seem like a good idea.
Dislikes: Circles aren’t necessarily intuitive to set up and use. Is it just me or is it still VERY quiet?


Likes: Easy to find cool new things! Great way to help spread the word about cool things on the net.
Dislikes: Remembering to use it! (Yeah, I never got into digg either.)


Likes: I like listening to new music. I like listening to old music.
Dislikes: Remembering to open up something other than iTunes, heck I even forget that some days.


Likes: Umm… I never really got into it. My kids use it and love it though. I like looking at other people’s when they’re linked from twitter.
Dislikes: Remembering it’s there?

I’m sure there are several others I’ve forgotten I signed up for. You’ve also probably noticed that LinkedIn isn’t on the list. I’ve gotten numerous invitations (Haven’t we all?), but don’t feel like I have time or really a good reason to be there. (I’m happy to listen to reasons why I’m wrong though.) I also currently use YouTube and IMDB, but I don’t post or comment on either of them.

I do also use NetworkedBlogs, Technorati, Gravatar, WordPress, and Blogger (for commenting on other blogs), but those are much more passive than the platforms listed above.

YOUR TURN: Which social media platforms do you do? Which do you prefer and why?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:
Alexia ReedKimberly FarrisDanie FordEmma G. DelaneySusan Saxx

Mar 012013
Favorite Books: My Historical Romance Keeper Shelf

A partial view of my Historical Romance keeper shelf. Click to enlarge.

This week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “What are your types of favorite books? Do you write those elements into your own? Or do you do something different? Why?”

I’m a pretty omnivorous reader. I’ll read cereal boxes if left with nothing better. If you saw how many books we have. Ok, so we have well over 300 linear feet of books (not counting the kids’) in our house. Oh, did I mention I need a new book shelf? Oh, right, my favorite types of books.

In looking across all the books I hold dear, there are three common elements that draw me to them: a coherent world I can escape into, an emotional journey, and a happy ending. This is one reason why romance appeal to me in general and historical romances provide a much needed escape from every day first world problems.

My Favorite Books Have a Coherent World

I love series that continue to build and add depth to the setting with a familiar cast of characters. I like revisiting old friends. It doesn’t have to be the real world, but one of the things I adored about Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books were how closely tied together everything became the farther you got into the series. I love how a very minor secondary character can repeatedly show up, and each time we learn a little more about them, and end up stealing readers’ hearts. The idea of a coherent world is definitely one of the things I’ve been trying to do in my writing. The main characters from one will show up as secondary characters in another story. They frequent many of the same places which makes research easier and reusable.

My Favorite Books Take Me on an Emotional Journey

I like to laugh, to worry, to think, and yes, to cry over a good book. Now before you go thinking I’m a huge Nicholas Sparks fan, lemme tell you it has to be natural and inevitable, but it can never feel contrived or manipulative. That creates wall-bangers for me. Kat Cantrell is an up and coming author who does this well for me. Suzanne Enoch is an example of an established author who did this extremely well with her Lessons in Love Trilogy. Some days I think this will be my hardest element to conquer, but I’m going to keep working at it.

My Favorite Books Have a Happy Ending

There’s enough doom and gloom in the world. I read for escape. I want something that’s going to restore a little hope to the world and comfort and reassure me that certain truths are universal and the bad guys always get what’s coming to them in the end. I’m writing, historical romance, so duh! This element is non-negotiable for me in my own writing as well.

I don’t find it very surprising that these elements keep showing up. They’re pretty basic, but they’re also pretty universal in their appeal.

Now, if I just had more time to read, I’d go curl up with an old friend (a specific book or author) and tune out the world for a while.

YOUR TURN: What are some of the common elements in your favorite books?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx *

Feb 222013

This week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “When you need some comfort reading, who do you turn to?”

Comfort Reading: Julia Quinn's The Viscount Who Loved Me

I took a run at this topic back in 2008, with a Thursday Thirteen post where I listed 13 Repeatedly Reread Books in our personal library. But in looking back at that post, the only one of those books that I’ve reread in the last 5 years (HOW is THAT possible and where did they GO?) is Julia Quinn‘s The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgerton Family)

Maybe what I’m looking for from a comfort read has changed. It’s not that I don’t think I’ll never read any of those books on that list again. I’m pretty sure I will. However, I’d like to share a few of the authors I’ve discovered over the past 5 years and will keep buying in the future. Disclaimer: I’m friends with several of these authors and have met many others, but I stand behind their books after having read more than one of them. In no particular order…

Great Contemporary Reads

Comfort Reading: Caitie Quinn's THE LAST SINGLE GIRLCaitie QuinnTamara MorganChristie RidgwayChristie CraigLouisa EdwardsKat Cantrell (Yes, even though she only has one book out so far, I also got to read a WIP of hers that made me cry.)


Great Historical Reads

Comfort Reading: Jillian Stone's AN AFFAIR WITH MR. KENNEDYJoanna BourneTessa DareHeather SnowJillian StoneJeannie Lin



Great YA Reads

Comfort Reading: Danielle Joseph's SHRINKING VIOLETDanielle JosephRosemary Clement-Moore



Great Fantasy Read

Comfort Reading: Jim Butcher's CODEX ALERA seriesJim Butcher – Yes, Dresden Files, but REALLY loved the Alera Codex series.



I have to say that I’m reading more in ebooks these days because some of these authors are only available that way, but also I find myself pulling out my phone or my iPad to read while I’m waiting. I still prefer reading a paperback in bed and think they’re MUCH better for getting authors to sign. =)

There were a couple authors I really wanted to add to this list, but since I’ve only read one book by them I didn’t think it would be quite fair to include them yet. But I don’t doubt they’ll remain favorites.

YOUR TURN: Which authors or books do you turn to for your comfort reading?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx *

Feb 012013
My Writing Schedule Spreadsheet

My current writing schedule spreadsheet. I clipped my notes off on the right side. Gray boxes equal planned non-writing days and the ones with the dots masking the day mean I know I’ll have multiple interruptions. The numbers counting down in the purple column are working days left until my deadline. Click on the image to enlarge.

This week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “Do you have a writing schedule? How do you get stuff done?”

In many ways, I’m fortunate to be a stay at home mom. My biggest time suck is that I run taxi service for my kids back and forth to school. Thankfully this year they’re back in the same school and I don’t have to do the morning run twice, an hour apart. So this leaves me a huge block of time from about 7:30 am until 2:15 pm as my time. I do have some regular scheduled interruptions, the dog always seems to want to go out and there’s always something cropping up — it happens when you have two kids with different chronic health issues — hey, it happens when you don’t too!

That block of time is what I generally have reserved on my writing schedule during the week. There are times when I also need to work in the afternoons or evenings, but those should be the exception during the week. On weekends, I usually get up before everyone else and use that time on Saturdays for writing. Sundays are usually my free day.

I have a DayRunner planner that I jokingly call “My Brain”. I’m horrible about remembering stuff if I don’t write it down. However, I’ve also discovered that its calendar format isn’t flexible enough for me and I forget to check the book all the time. I noticed that the calendar sheets in it dated from 2007. Oops! I had been keeping my todo list in my weekly goals post on our group’s forum, which made looking ahead difficult. So my day runner is now a glorified checkbook and outdated address book holder.

This year, I decided I wanted to try something different. I know I’ll eventually want to juggle multiple projects so I wanted to try an ACT ASK IF exercise. I took an Excel spreadsheet and ran a column of dates for 2013 and another for week of the year broken up into 13 week sections. Then I have a set of columns for Drafting that includes word count information, a blog schedule, a set of columns for Revising — this quarter is focusing on devising my Revision plan that I talked about last week, and a set of columns for Brainstorming. I’ve also been tracking things like weekly word count, major distractions or scheduled appointments to work around.

I think one of the biggest things that this format let me see that a normal calendar system doesn’t is large chunks of time at once. I can look at the whole quarter and instantly see the blocks of grey which note planned off days and school vacations.

It also lets me see what impacts my daily routines and if I have set up a writing schedule that works for me.I was really worried looking back at the 2nd week, when I had 4 zeros and 2 days with less than 100 words written. This was the result of burnout from being excited and writing 900 words the week before when I hadn’t written that many new words in the previous month or so.

I’m sure this schedule will continue evolving as I determine realistic time frames and settle into my process for revisions. I like how I can look across the day’s line and see what needs to be done, but also as I’m writing up my Weekly Goals post on Sunday, I can easily see what’s coming up in the next week and beyond.

This is working really well in conjunction with Milestone Planner that my accountability group is using so we can see each other’s upcoming deadlines more easily.

YOUR TURN: Do you schedule time for your creative pursuits? Is it working for you?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Jan 252013
Steaming Hedge - Version 1 before self-editing process

Raw image as downloaded from camera.

I’m trying to develop/discover my self-editing process and this week in my accountability group How I Write series was asked, “Do you have an editing process? If so, what?”

This is one of the things that I’m honestly struggling with as a writer. I do not currently have what I would term a self-editing “process” and have just sort of flown by the seat of my pants in this area. But this year, I decided I needed a process that I could follow and would cover the necessary bases instead of just getting lost in an endless circle of line edits as my internal editor argued with itself.

So, what did I do? I started researching it. I’ve read through Cathy Yardley‘s Rock Your Revisions, by Renni Browne and Dave King‘s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and Noah Lukeman‘s The First Five Pages. However none of them really felt like a good fit with what I have in my mind as what an editing process should look like. Just call me Goldilocks… cause they’re either too vague, too fluffy, or too small and only cover a particular part of the self-editing process.

Now, that’s not saying I don’t recommend any of these books. I absolutely do! They are ALL great books, they’re just not what I’m looking for right now. They may have PART of what I’m looking for, and I haven’t discounted that either. I have one more to read through that I have high hopes for that Danie Ford recommended: Alan Watt‘s The 90-Day Rewrite: The Process of Revision. On the surface it sounds like it has the stuff I’m looking for.

So what is it I’m looking for that I haven’t found yet? Something that’s kinda like a checklist, but organized in a logical fashion. Something that details not just what I should be looking for, but how to address any problems I find. Something that holds my hand through the process and doesn’t just say, “G’won! The water’s fine! Just jump in!” Something that’s a comprehensive game plan to tackle these projects. Tall order, right?

I think I’m also looking to clarify in my mind what I should be doing at this point to get a manuscript to a state that is “good enough” to send out and hopefully one that better matches what’s in my head.

As I sat down to write this post, I immediately started thinking about what photo I was going to put with it that would be illustrative of the self-editing process. As I was looking though my digital collection, I realized I do a lot of preliminary editing “in the camera” as well as a bunch of post-processing, especially on my close-ups of flowers to get them to pop.

By “editing in the camera” I mean that I take several shots of the same subject. Often with identical settings, but sometimes I purposely try several different ones to get different effects. Then once I download the photos from the camera, I’ll sift through the multiples and pick the ones that appeal to me. Sometimes, it’s a no-brainer — blurry, badly composed, and/or poorly lit ones get tossed. But I’ve found some that had lots of potential, but it hadn’t been captured in a very flattering way.

Take the photo at the top of this post, for example. Lighting and composition were the first things that jumped out at me at problematic. In writing, this would probably translate to tone and structure. If that photo were a book, I’d say it had a lot of extra irrelevant scenes and odd tone choices that were detracting from the overall story I wanted to tell.

Steaming Hedge after self-editing process

Final image after cropping/resizing, desaturation & additional affects applied.

I’m not sure if I tackled the lighting or the composition first. I suspect I probably played with the lighting first, trying to minimize the glare from the morning sun and then added a few special affects to get the hedge to pop more visually. In that process, I’m sure I decided to play with the saturation levels and the black & white struck me as the best way to show off the contrast between the hedge and the steam rising from it. Then, a quick crop (re-framing the picture and cutting away parts of it) to fix the composition and further eliminate the big ol’ glaring sun from the top left corner.

I guess my next question is, how do I take the ideas of what I do instinctively (now?) for photography into something usable for writing.

YOUR TURN: Do you have an editing process? If so, what?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Jan 182013

Staying Positive Despite Rejection: Wildflowers blooming in the scrub by Kristen KosterThis week in my accountability group’s How I Write series we were asked, “Every writer goes through ups and downs. What do you do to keep positive about what you’re working on?” I chose to interpret this as “How do you focus on staying positive despite rejection?” Because, we writer’s know, there are different forms of rejection that must be faced and overcome on a regular basis.

Staying Positive Despite Rejection from Our Selves

This is the hardest one for me. I am definitely my own worst critic. So, how do I deal with this?

Work with a timer.
This gives me something to beat. It’s that competitive streak. Also, I know I have to write until the timer goes off, but then I get a quick break.
Stuff the internal editor in a box.
Ok, so some days the visualization is more like stuffing her into an iron-bound chest and shipping her off to Timbuktu, but I’m sure you get the idea. She’s NOT welcome for first drafts.
Reread Old Stuff
Yup, pull out that ms that’s been hidden with the dust bunnies under the bed and see just how far my writing’s come. Who would ever start with a daydream where the heroine’s looking in a mirror. Cringe and be glad you’re not that writer any more.
Revisit the Praise
Reread some of the good comments from feedback from crit partners, beta readers and contest judges.

Staying Positive Despite Rejection from Our Peers

Writing is often a solitary pursuit, but many don’t think you should remain completely in a vacuum for the entire process. It took me a long time to build the confidence to show my work to others. When I did, I told myself that I wanted the feedback and that it wasn’t personal and that the people giving the advice wanted the same thing I did, to improve the story.

Take what you can use, and ignore what doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work. It’s your book/story/etc, don’t write by committee. But do remind yourself that people have the story’s best interests in mind. Sometimes, when you come back to it later, you may see the comments from a different perspective.
Again, you’re not going to please everyone, but save off the stuff you do well and sift through for the useful stuff. Remind yourself that people have the story’s best interests in mind.
I’m not lucky enough to be in this boat yet, but I’d like to think I could handle truthful ones.
This is a more general space. This could be in email, on your blog, or even facebook or twitter.

Let It Sit
This is good for all of the above: read it, let it sting, bask in the praise, whatever. Then, put it away! Come back to it at least a day or two later and look at it with a fresh perspective.

Staying Positive Despite Rejection from the Industry

I don’t have a lot of experience with the publishing industry beyond querying some agents and editors, but here’s what I’ve learned so far and from watching others go through similar situations.

Hit Send & Move On
After hitting send, I try to jump into the next project and ignore the fact that it’s out there.
What’s the worst they can say?
No, right? Ok, there are probably worse ways they could phrase that “no thanks”, but really, it’s not personal. Move on to the next person on your list. Besides, you’re liable to get pleasantly surprised with a “yes!” at some point.
It’s all Subjective!
Look at how many books/movies/tv shows/paintings/photographs/dances/sculptures that you’ve either loved or hated. Or even just been “meh” over. Everyone has their own tastes and no two people will ever read the same book.
Keep Going/Keep Learning
This may sound similar to the first one, but it’s more specific. Keep practicing, don’t stop if it’s something you love. I don’t know who originally said it, but I love the quote, “Failure leads to success (unless you quit trying.)”. So true.

Your Turn: What do you do to keep positive about what you’re working on?

And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group is expanding out their comfort zones, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Expand Your Comfort Zone With 4 Ideas

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Jan 112013
Photo of several sections of the Berlin Wall on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Expand Your Comfort Zone -- A Photo of a section of the Berlin Wall at The Newseum in Washington, D.C. by Kristen Koster“What will you be doing this year to expand your comfort zone (in your writing or real life)?” is the question asked this week in my accountability group’s How I Write series. We’ve touched on this topic before and you can follow the progression in my thinking from my post “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone” last June.

I chose this photo not simply for the restrictive and limiting symbolism of the Berlin Wall itself and how rigid some of our own comfort zones can become, but because of the empowering graffiti that surely helped bring about such liberating transformation: “YOU ARE POWER”, “STEP BY STEP”, “ACT UP”, and “CHANGE”.

Tell yourself, “YOU ARE POWER”

If you want to expand your comfort zone, don’t assume you’ll fail before you try. Most of the time we’re our own worst enemies because we sabotage our efforts before we even start. How many times have you thought, “Oh, I could never do that…”, “They’d never go out with someone like me…” or “What’s the use, that’ll never work…” We tell ourselves these things enough times and they become self-fulling prophecies. More like self-defeating nonsense. You’ll never know until you try. Flip those negative thoughts around! Instead, ask yourself questions like, “What if I could…”, “What if I were the type of person who…” and see what happens.

I’m not very good at this one yet, but I’m getting better at it. My first thought about submissions and pitches is no longer, “I can’t do this! They’ll hate it!” Agents and editors love books, they love discovering new ones they want to share with the world. The reason I say I’m not very good at this one is because my first thought is now, “What’s the worst they’re gonna say?” My fears answer “‘No.'” But that answer isn’t as scary any more. You know why? Because if you never ask, the answer is ALWAYS no. And one of these times I might find out that a “yes” might mean even more work and stress than “no” ever did. But that’ll be ok too.


Give yourself permission to try something new. Tell yourself “It’s ok. Just do it once, if you really hate it, don’t do it again. But at least you’ve tried.” Each step past the line is that much farther you’re stepping out and will expand your comfort zone. They don’t have to be huge steps, baby steps will expand your comfort zone just as effectively. As long as you keep taking them.

I used this one last year with RWA’s National Conference, 2 contests and pitching/submitting to some agents and editors. The verdict? I’m trying to talk myself into going to Nationals again this year! Not because I didn’t have a good time, I had a blast! It was overwhelming, but not nearly as bad as I’d feared. I didn’t final in the contests, but that’s ok, I did get some useful feedback! I did get some passes on the submission, but I also got a full request out of it. Now I need to finish another manuscript and do it again! But taking that first step would have been impossible, if I hadn’t given myself permission to only do it once.


Take some massive action! Take a risk! But make sure it matters. Attempt some outrageous feat that is scary, exciting and is a bit intimidating as well. It doesn’t have to be public at first, it can be private. But the important thing is to conquer it. Break it down into manageable steps, rehearse, visualize success. Then go do it! But remember, it doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed at the first attempt. You tried and you only gain self-confidence through action. Thinking about your goal, talking about your goal. They’re good, up to a point. Some time you have to DO.

This one is a work in progress for me too. I like making plans and organizing projects, often to the point where that is more fun than completing the actual project. Last year, I decided I needed to step up my game. I jumped in at the deep end by attending the RWA National convention and, instead of hiding behind a query letter, pitching my manuscript in person, not once but twice. I survived. I wasn’t comfortable at times, but I pushed through and was rewarded with positive feedback and a chance to get my work read. How I’m going to top that this year remains to be seen.


Change is hard. No one likes it. Everyone tries to resist it. But often it’s not achieving a particular goal or level of success that defines us, but the changes you have to make along the way to expand your comfort zone in order to achieve it. You have to change your thoughts and actions to be those of the type of person you want to be in order to become that type of person.

Another one where I’m struggling to keep working at the changes in a consistent manner. One of the things I’m doing this year is attempting to keep a log of the time I spend writing and doing writing related things. I’m historically bad at logging things. But I want to see the progression from writing when the mood strikes or life allows to becoming an author, someone who writes books (plural) and to do that, I have to have something quantifiable to measure and become the type of person who logs things. Even minor changes can lead you outside your comfort zone in surprising ways.

Your Turn: How do you expand your comfort zone? Have you ever been really surprised to find something you really enjoy after having dreaded it previously?

And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group is expanding out their comfort zones, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Sep 282012

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group was asked, “If you could do anything for writing research, what would you do?”

Honestly, this was a no-brainer for me. I’d head over to Suzi Love’s blog and pull up her category of posts for the Best Places to Visit that relate to Regency England and start mapping out an itinerary. Since the question seemed to imply that time and money weren’t obstacles, I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about leaving anywhere off the list.

Oh, and I’d definitely take my camera. So I could go back later and revisit everything. Although I might have to invest in a few more memory cards.

I’ve never been to England, but as you can imagine, would love to go. Getting me to come home might be a problem. Hopefully, I wouldn’t fall through a time portal or anything so melodramatic while I was there, but I’m sure I’d come home with a whole flock of plot bunnies.

Your Turn: So what would you do for research on your creative project?

And if you’d like to read how the rest of my accountability group would like to do in the name of research, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Aug 032012

Character Traits: Photo of a man reading a book.This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group was asked, “There was an article a bit ago about how readers take on character traits of a favorite character from the book they’re reading. Do you do that with your own characters? Do you find yourself doing something your character would do?

I have to admit I was more curious about the article than thinking about the question itself. I may have tracked down the original article or one very similar, and I wanted to include it here for reference, so you could understand where my thinking on this topic was coming from. The article, “Psychologists Discover How People Subconsciously Become Their Favorite Fictional Characters” by Christine Hsu ran at the site MedicalDaily.com on May 14, 2012 and focuses on the phenomenon of “experience taking”.

The article concludes that in order for readers to make the connection to the character, details that help readers relate to the character need to be shown earlier rather than later in the story. Gee, as writers, don’t we hear that  all the time? This effect is why, suck the reader in, keep them in the story and you might also have a temporary effect on the reader’s daily life. And we can hope it’s a positive one!

So… Most people talk about a writer’s characters from the other direction. What real life experiences and what parts of your life do you put into your characters? Which are the autobiographical parts? But this question turns that concept on its head. What parts of our characters that we’re writing, do we reflect back into our daily lives?

I suspect that a lot of my new found courage and willingness to step outside of my comfort zones is a combination of those two things. I want to be more adventurous and more social, therefore, I write about those types of characters and in turn maybe exploring their lives they have inspired me to venture out of the safe zone. Other than that, I can’t think of any specific traits or characteristics that I’m consciously borrowing from my characters that I write.

Honestly, I’m not sure I could consciously (and I suspect that’s a key word here) pin point any characteristics that I’ve adopted from characters written by other authors. Do I think I happens anyway? Probably. Both in fiction and non-fiction. I mean, part of our job is showing characters learning and growing after dealing with huge-to-them experiences and readers read for the emotional experience, putting themselves in the protagonist’s shoes.

I also remember my husband telling me recently about something he read and it might have been the NYTimes opinion piece by Annie Murphy Paul, “Your Brain on Fiction“. Apparently there are studies that show that when reading about someone doing an activity if it’s well described causes the same parts of the brain get used as when the activity is done for real. The article mentions relating words for smells to the memories in the same ways that actually experiencing the scent triggers. That’s pretty strong stuff…. vicarious experience is nearly equivalent to actual experience! Mind-blowing stuff. Makes you want to go read some more of those inspirational success stories, right?

If you didn’t go read those articles, I think you’ll find them interesting and thought provoking. The concepts should definitely make writers stop and think about their choices and whether they’re being morally responsible in their portrayals of their lead characters.

YOUR TURN: What do you think? Does it make sense? Think it’s a bunch of hogwash? What about the last book you read? Did you want to be more or less like the protagonist? Do you think you may have subconsciously picked anything up from them? Did you feel like you were vicariously along for the ride?


And if you’d like to read how the rest of my accountability group answered this question, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Overcoming Obstacles

 The Writer  Comments Off on Overcoming Obstacles
Jul 202012

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group was asked, “What’s your current biggest obstacle to success? Name at least 3 things you can do improve your chances of overcoming obstacles.”

Ok, lemme ‘fess up here. I posed this question this week to my accountability group. And you know what sucks? This question sounded good in my head. It even looked good on the forum where my accountability group meets. However, when I realized I had to answer it too… it suddenly looked a lot more daunting. So forgive me, while I try to do this justice. I know it’s something I need to force myself to look at closely, answer honestly and use to build a game plan.

I’ve been skating by on minimal effort and making far too many excuses lately. And honestly, I’m not sure I can answer this with just one thing. I could point my finger in a number of directions: drive, follow-through, time management — hell, even blaming disruptions of my writing schedule on the people around me, but that one would mostly be a lie I tell myself to feel better. I still have the house to myself most days from around 9 am until noon or so, and I’ve failed to make the most of those hours.

I could also point to the many things I know are NOT obstacles. I can string a sentence together. I can even put together some workable paragraphs that read smoothly. I’ve been told I have a good historical voice. However, some spark is missing between me and the page. The ideas in my head aren’t translating properly. I get feedback that asks if I was going for a certain effect until I want to bash my head against the wall, because… Yes. Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I was trying to do. Only apparently, I didn’t quite.

So what’s my obstacle? Me. Sounds too easy right?

Lemme break it down by tackling three things I need to do in order to up my game and get past this hurdle.

First, and I’ve done this to some degree, but publicly own up to the idea that I am a professional writer. I just haven’t gotten paid for it. But in order to do so… I need to put in my hours and do the work. Nothing is going to write itself. To this end I’m renewing my commitment to use a time tracker on my iPad to make sure I log a minimum of 500 hours this calendar year toward justifying this as a business and not a hobby.

Second, I can’t let my head get in this place where nothing I do is any good. I’ve gotten fabulous feedback in some areas. I just need to work harder and improve the others. How exactly I’m going to accomplish this one? Yeah, I’m not sure either. I know what I can do toward this end is to take the valuable feedback I’ve gotten so far this year, and see if I can tease it apart from the exact manuscript, figure out how to make that work in general and then apply it back to the manuscripts in progress.

Third, I’m going to the RWA National Convention next week. This is part of the first step in treating what I’m doing more seriously, but also a great way to talk shop with experienced writers, take some workshops in some areas to get ideas on how to address the craft issues I’m having and also forcing myself out of my comfort zone and embracing that this is something I want to seriously pursue.

I think that last bit there is probably the most important piece of this post. “This is something I want to seriously pursue.” Pursue, not just allow to happen, not react to it happening around me, but to actively go out there after it, which I believe to be a very important piece of the puzzle when you’re looking at overcoming obstacles of any sort.

And if you’d like to read about the rest of my accountability group’s plans for overcoming obstacles, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney