7 Secrets to Writing “On Demand”

After 19 months of caring for my daughter while also handling a full-time freelance writing workload, I did the smart thing and hired a babysitter. It’s true what people say: “It’s easy when they’re very young.”

I didn’t plop the baby in her swing in front of Baby Einstein all day, either. I practiced my own form of attachment parenting, and became adept at typing one-handed while I nursed a baby. I remember one night cradling the baby, about 6 months old, in my lap while I typed furiously to make a morning magazine deadline. Today if I did that same balancing act, my daughter would want to type, as well. I realized that the best thing for me, my career, and my daughter was to get some help.

For the first time since 2006 when I left Paintball Sports Magazine as the Editor-in-Chief, I am keeping “regular writing hours.” I write when the babysitter is here, from 10 AM until two or three, and then at night after my daughter’s asleep.

As a freelancer, I’ve always believed in schedules, but mine were very loose, falling prey to the weather, (“It’s a nice day for a bike ride!”), my husband’s ideas (“Let’s go for a bike ride!”) and whims: (“I think I’ll go work off that vanilla milkshake with a walk around the mall!”) In my pre-parenthood life, when I wasn’t writing I was eating, shopping or cycling. Days off meant a lot of late nights, but I was able to write whenever I wanted to, and, more importantly, not write when I didn’t want to.

Can I Write On Demand?

After surviving my first week “on the clock,” I can say that yes, I can keep to a writing schedule and WRITE during that time. Better yet, I’m poised to offer tips for those of you who want to create a more structured writing schedule rather than waiting for the muse. Or, as Stephen King puts it, “It’s a lot easier for the Muse to strike you if she knows where to look.”

  1. Work with your natural writing rhythms. The owner of this blog, Rebecca Laffar-Smith, recognizes that she writes best from 10 AM till noon and from 8 PM to 10 PM. So she schedules this as her “writing time.” For me, I write best from about 3 in the afternoon, onward. Unfortunately, my writing times coincide with things like dinner and bedtime for my daughter. But, years of editing magazines where I did a lot of writing have helped me “train” myself to write during office hours, so I can manage a 10 AM to 3 PM writing schedule. I still expect I’ll get more done at night, during my 10 PM to 2 AM writing spurts.
  2. Avoid distractions. Schedule set times to check your email and do social networking, and then turn off the internet and the phone if you have to. Michele L. Tune wrote an excellent article on avoiding internet distractions.
  3. Find a motivational writing partner for accountability. Sometimes it helps to have company. One writing colleague of mine plays a “game” called “1, 2, 3.” She connects with another writer through a chat program, and they set a time to write for a half hour straight. At the end of that half-hour, they report on their progress and decide if they want to continue for another 30 minutes.
  4. Have your ideas in place. It’s easier for me to write “on demand” when I know exactly what I’m writing about. Setting an editorial calendar for each day you write helps you get started. No more staring at a blank page thinking of ideas, because you’ve already brainstormed the topics in advance. You can also use writing prompts for this purpose.
  5. Have a ritual that sends your brain the signal it’s time to write. A writing ritual shouldn’t be a long, drawn-out process. I like to brew a cup of tea or coffee, check my e-mail quickly, and then settle in to write.
  6. Establish a writing place. One benefit of having a babysitter is I get to work in my home office again. I’ve used Feng Shui color schemes to encourage creativity, and adorned the walls with inspirational posters. Like writing rituals and set times, having your own little corner to write in, separate from the rest of the family, minimizes distractions and can inspire you.
  7. Treat it as a job — which it is. Money has always been my primary motivation to write. When you put yourself into the mindset that your writing is your work and set expectations for yourself, you can obliterate writer’s block.

I always liked this quote from W. Somerset Maugham: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

Now, I find myself living it.

How do you “summon the muse” when you have to write “on demand?”

Beat Writer’s Block: Leverage Your Freelance Writing Relationships for Accountability Partners

When WRA owner and fellow writer Rebecca Laffar-Smith gave me this title as a topic for a blog post, I teased her a little bit: “Can you fit one more social media buzz word into that headline?”

But it sparked inspiration and soon, I was off to write. Sharing great ideas is just one thing Rebecca and I do together as fellow freelance writers. We also use each other as “accountability partners”.

How does that work, you ask? What exactly is an accountability partner?

An accountability partner holds you accountable for finishing the writing you’ve made a commitment to yourself to complete.

I don’t get writer’s block. I’d go so far as to say writer’s block doesn’t exist — unless you believe it does. I don’t get writer’s block (ever) because I’m motivated by three factors:

  • Money
  • Deadlines
  • My writing friends (“accountability partners”)

Money & Deadlines
The first two go hand-in-hand. As a full-time freelance writer, I get assignments from clients (private clients, website owners, or magazines). They give me deadlines, I meet them, I get paid. With a mortgage to pay, bellies to feed, and a toddler to clothe (not to mention a mild shopping addiction), that’s all the motivation I need to write.

But I also have a few private writing projects in the works: eBooks, writing courses and a non-fiction book I want to shop around to print publishers. How do I stay motivated to complete these projects, knowing there’s no immediate return-on-investment (ROI)? That’s where my accountability partners come in.

Writing Friends
Some resources recommend prioritizing your writing tasks by setting “fake deadlines” for yourself to beat writer’s block. These don’t work for me. I know they’re fake, and my immediate ROI projects take precedence over fake deadlines.

But when I ask a writing colleague — like Rebecca — to hold me accountable, I feel a sense of shame when I have to tell her I didn’t meet the deadline we agreed upon. You can set up this arrangement with your accountability partner in any way that works for you: monthly updates / progress reports, weekly deadlines to a complete a project, or daily word count quotas.

Where to Find Accountability Partners
Writing is a solitary profession. If you don’t already have a network of fellow writers, start building one today. Where? Here are a few suggestions:

Writer’s Round-About Right here at WRA is a great place to start. Comment below and start building relationships with our staff writers and regular visitors. I’ll volunteer some time to be an accountability partner to any non-fiction / freelance writer who asks. (If you sign on as one of my writing coaching clients, I’ll become your accountability partner as part of the deal.)

Twitter – Just as the #FollowFriday meme has become a great way to find people to follow, #WriterWednesday helps connect you with writers to build your online network. You’ll need to follow a few writers in order to meet more. I recommend following one or two writers with a “list” of other writers, follow that list, and watch your network grow.

The forums at AbsoluteWrite.com – Fiction writers, freelance writers, Web content writers, non-fiction authors and more gather in the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler, the website’s huge forum. I met Rebecca there years ago, and it’s still one of the best places for writers to hang out in cyberspace.

The list could go on… Where are your favorite places (online and off) to meet writers and how do your writer friends help you?

Your Most Significant Freelance Writing Relationship

Your Most Significant Freelance Writing Relationship, Yourself.

What’s Your Core Strength?

“While at the flower store, ordering a nice bunch of orchids to honor the longest-term relationship I’ve ever had–with myself, I noticed that many people were more focused on what to get or do for their significant others, or what they were getting done for them, than how to celebrate their own selves.

“In fact, out of the 20 or so other people who were there, not one of them were wrapping up blooms from them, to them. When they found out I was, it was like a kitten had popped out of my jacket pocket. “Ohmigosh–That’s SO cute!,” they said, eyes wide with the sheer quaintness of it all.

“It struck me then, how weighted we can get towards our external offerings and relationships. It’s rare to see someone taking themselves out for dinner, and choosing the nice restaurant over the quick fix, or taking the time to appreciate themselves with a love letter, a kind remark or even the simple beauty of flowers. “ ~ Sadie Nardini

Loving Relationship

When I started reading Sadie’s recent article, “What’s Your Core Strength?” (Yoga Journal) I couldn’t stop. Her words are so fresh and inspiring – and true.

I mean, as freelancers, how often do we truly appreciate ourselves? Our talent? Our bodies? Our health? Our time?

How often do we skip meals, lose sleep, push ourselves through sickness, exhaustion, blood-shot eyes, headaches? More often than not, right?

Why is it that we throw all of our love, passion, time, strength, mind, body and soul into our words, stories, books, characters, work, and give ourselves so little? Why do we strive to please our editors and clients – yet don’t give a thought to the simplest pleasure that we might enjoy?

Freelance Relationships

We spend so much time working on creating, building, and nurturing the relationships with our editors, clients, fellow freelancers, and potential clients. Why is it then, that we find it so hard to have a relationship with ourselves? To be kind to ourselves? Take care of ourselves? Do something just for us?

Relationship Deprivation

Oh, yes, money is an issue. We give and give and give until we’re all written out and our bodies and minds are worn out. Our bank account may be growing and expanding but our once youthful, cheerful, well-fed souls may be withering away to nothingness!

Is it hard to imagine treating yourself to a bouquet of roses – just because? Does it seem impossible to spend your hard-earned cash on a massage, a new outfit, your favorite restaurant, or even just a stroll through the park or a leisurely day (or even hour!) spent watching a little TV, reading a book you’ve been meaning to read, or taking that yoga class you’ve been fantasizing about?

Rich Relationship

Life is so much richer when it involves vibrant relationships. But you don’t have to be in a relationship with someone else to know that you’re special. You don’t have to receive a dozen roses from someone else to smile. And you don’t have to be a freelancer to give yourself a little TLC.

If we can be as creative as we normally are without treating ourselves, imagine what a superhero we would be if we did!

You’ll have to excuse me, I have a date – with yoga and myself. After that, I’ll be refreshed and ready to greet my freelance life with a smile!

Do you having a love-filled, caring, sweet, thoughtful, compassionate relationship – with yourself? Do you think it’s silly? Do you think it sounds inviting? Do you love yourself enough to treat yourself better – or at least as well – as you treat your clients and editors, and expect others to? Have you ever written yourself a letter? Bought yourself flowers? Dined at a restaurant alone (on purpose)? If you could have any relationship with yourself, what would it be: spontaneous, encouraging, luxurious, simple? Can you be as faithful to yourself as you are to everyone else?

Photo credit: Michael Melrose

Melissa Hart On Family, Love, and Food

This month, Writer’s Round-About welcomes Melissa Hart, a talented memoirist and freelance writer as she tours the Web with her new book, “Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood“. You’ve already heard from Melissa with her fabulous guest post, “Writing, Romance, and Child-Rearing: A Critical Balance“, and Cindy Hudson reviewed Melissa’s book for us sharing the warmth and insight of the book and giving us an eye into Melissa’s world.

Melissa, thank you so much for joining us this month. It’s an pleasure to have you with us and I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me today. Lets get down to finding out your answers to some of my burning questions, then we can open up the floor to let others ask theirs.

1. In “Gringa“, you write about “a lesbian mother”, how do you think your relationship with your mother, and her inter-personal relationships, affected the way you develop characters as a writer?

My mother came out when I was a pre-teen, but I didn’t know what being a lesbian meant. For a few months, there was all this secrecy around her moving in with a woman; my father and his mother whispered about it and told me my mother was “ill.” He took us to a social worker who grilled us about where my mother and her partner slept and whether they hugged and kissed in front of us.

I learned to analyze people both for how they presented in public and for their hidden motivations. I don’t mean to sound paranoid; we all hide our motivations, and the emotions driving them, on occasion. I learned to develop multifaceted characters by studying both the public and private persona of my family members. Every other Friday and Sunday night when I traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway with my mother, we discussed how we’d been separated by the legal system and why. She was studying psychology at the time, and I remember talking about our family with respect to Freud and Jung and Rogers, and later–when I took psychology classes in college–to my social psychology professor Eliot Aronson.

In Gringa, I’m particularly proud of resisting the temptation to portray my father as simply a homophobic bully. Many reviewers have noted that I don’t place blame in the book. While I’d disagree that I don’t blame my father for some of the events in my childhood, I’ve tried hard to show his side of the story, as well.

2. The Latina culture is considered deeply sensual and erotic, how do you feel that culture and “a deep desire to be a Latina” influences your writing?

My perceived lack of culture shaped my writing for years. Growing up as a minority in multicultural schools, and visiting my mother who lived in a Latino neighborhood in Oxnard, I felt inadequate in terms of my skin color, food and music choices, lack of religion with its white dresses or Buddhist shrines. I didn’t perceive the Latina culture to be “deeply sensual and erotic” until college, however, when I was still figuring out who I was as a sexual person with an older, very sexually-secure Latino boyfriend. I’ve got a story coming out in The Los Angeles Review in a few months that illustrates my struggle to be erotic without really knowing what that meant.

3. You’ve had the opportunity to travel to other countries, each with a unique culture and people. What do you feel is the most significant lesson you’ve learned about the people and relationships in other countries that finds its way into your writing?

There’s a lot of hype about how people from other countries don’t like Americans. I’ve been traveling internationally for a couple of decades, and I haven’t found this to be true. I think when you approach a new country and its people with an open mind and an open heart, with humility and curiosity, people welcome this.

I went to Amsterdam a few years ago to present a paper on training a permanently-injured Snowy owl for the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators; here, touring the Artis Zoo and sharing our various bird-stories over meals, I felt so much mutual interest and respect. I work as a travel writer for newspapers and magazines on occasion, and I try to approach each new location and its inhabitants with this same interest and respect.

4. In a review of “Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood“, Booklist writers, “LGBT families and immigrant kids will want it for honesty, humor, and love. Every lively chapter ends with a detailed recipe that mixes food and feelings.”

Food is such an integral part of life. How do you feel these things, honesty, humor, love, food, and feelings, come together when writing?

Cooking is just so much fun, and so meditative when you’re chopping vegetables or beating egg whites or shelling peas. I always remember Laura Esquivel’s novel “Like Water for Chocolate” and how whatever emotion the protagonist, Tita, was feeling while she cooked somehow made it into the meal she served. I’m careful to think kind, loving thoughts when I cook, just in case I’m imparting emotions along with my enchiladas and carrot cakes.

When you get to cook with people, creating a meal all together, opportunities for intimate dialogue abound. I grew up cooking with my mother and her partner, my grandmother and my sister, both in the kitchen and around campfires. We talked constantly during these hours, and since my family comes from show-business stock, we did plenty of dancing and singing and joke-telling, as well. Now, we tell stories about memorable holiday meals–the time Mom and Annie dropped the cooked Thanksgiving turkey on the kitchen floor, the first time the man who would become my husband dropped a beautiful unbaked pie on the floor–and just howl with laughter. One of my great pleasures in life is to visit my mothers in Southern California and help them cook a big meal. It’s very easy to recall the emotions inherent in cooking together when I need to write a scene involving food and/or cooking.

5. Conversation is vital when developing relationships. It is what makes dialogue such a key element in fiction. When writing memoir it is very rare that a writer has transcripts or recordings of actual conversations. What tips do you have for writers writing memoir dialogue?

This will strike some writers as shameless, but I make the point in the workshops I teach on memoir writing that we do not go through our lives carrying around a digital recorder and video camera, and so we sometimes need to create dialogue. If you can’t recall what your great-grandmother said word-for-word when you were six years old, does that mean you shouldn’t give her a voice in memoir? I believe there’s an understanding between the memoirist and most readers that dialogue has been created out of memories which stay true to the character. For Gringa, I relied on journals I’d kept since age 9, as well as photographs, conversations with my mother and sister, and in one case, a recording I’d actually made of my grandmother.

There are other ways to approach dialogue as a memoirist, of course. The writer might craft something speculative, such as “Although I can’t recall her actual words, my great-grandmother might have said, ‘Why, yes, honey, I had a Latino boyfriend in the circus.'” (That’s true of my great-grandmother, by the way, but I find such speculative sentences awkward, with the effect of pulling people out of a narrative story.

I’m interested in how David Sedaris refers to his work as “stories” rather than “memoir.” I think he saves himself a hell of a lot of trouble in making this distinction. To close on this controversial subject, I think it’s all right to recreate dialogue if you stay absolutely true to your characters and their situations, but I don’t admire those memoirists who make up entire pasts for themselves for the sake of sensationalism.

6. You teach a wonderful memoir writing course with U.C. Berkeley’s online extension program that is open to the public. Is there anything you learned while writing “Gringa” that you share with your students?

I share my views on dialogue, and I urge my students to experiment with a blend of narration and dialogue, plus vivid sensory description and subtle characterization. I encourage them to play with the form of memoir; one student eventually turned his memoir about being a boxer-turned-tap-dancer into a one-man show in San Francisco. Another student wrote her final memoir in stream-of-consciousness narration similar to Dorothy Parker‘s short story “The Telephone Call.” I thoroughly enjoyed writing Gringa, even when the process felt painful, and I teach my memoir students to approach their memoir with the same levels of honesty, commitment to emotion, and humor.

7. One of the aspects of our upbringing which shapes the adults we become are our family. Family is also a defining factor in your memoir. What do you think makes family moments memorable for readers?

If they’re written well, family moments in memoir trigger the reader’s own notable family interactions. I hope readers of Gringa will relate to some of the absurd, whimsical family moments with my mother that made our situation bearable (I’m thinking of dressing up in Halloween costumes and driving in her VW bus to Sambo’s for nighttime pancakes). I know, too, that some people who read the accounts of my father’s volatile outbursts will recall similar instances in their childhood. I’ve received lots of fan mail which either commiserates with my position as his daughter, or celebrates the humor that provided salvation during the four days a month I got to spend with my mother.

8. Finally, you have a family of your own now, juggling the roles of mother and writer as many of WRA’s readers do, what do you think is the biggest benefit, and what the greatest pitfall, of being a mother-writer?

Before my husband and I adopted our young daughter, my writer-friend Jamie Passaro told me that becoming a mother would make me much more efficient as a writer. I didn’t believe her at the time, but now–a year and a half into being a mother–I see that she’s right. I carve out hours between caring for my daughter to write. Gone are those daylong stretches of free time during which I could just wander in and out of a chapter or essay at will, going for a long run in between, and maybe meeting a friend for lunch. Now, I have to write down and dirty during naps and preschool. Honestly, I don’t mind this at all; I think it’s made me a better writer.

The pitfall, most definitely, is having to be away from my daughter and husband while I’m on book tour or teaching workshops. I’ve done an awful lot of traveling since Gringa came out in October, and I’m scheduled to do much more in the form of writing conferences and classes. I adore teaching, and while I’m in the midst of interacting with students, I’m fine–but I hate telling my family goodbye before even an overnight trip. I guess I need to bring my laptop and Skype with them!

Thank you for sharing so much with me today, Melissa. It sounds like you live a full and busy life. I’m in awe of all you’re doing for yourself, your family, and the greater community. I’d like to take this opportunity to open the floor up for others if they have any questions.

Five Traits Your Heroes Must Have

Your Romantic Hero? What character traits does he have?No matter what kind of fiction you write, you have to have a main character, a hero, with various traits. This is especially true in romance writing. Your characters are tall, dark, and handsome. They’re perfect.

Or are they?

Romantic heroes should have great qualities. Here are five qualities your heroes need to be well-rounded, believable characters:

1. Likeability

If you don’t like your hero, your reader won’t either. More importantly, neither will his intended love interest. No interest on the heroine’s part, no story regardless of how much your hero wants to be with her.

Even if he isn’t likeable in general at the beginning of your story, he has to have at least one likeable quality. He also needs potential to grow to be more likeable.

2. A flaw

Let’s face it: People aren’t perfect. Your hero shouldn’t be either. He needs to be flawed.

Give him a physical imperfection. He’s tall, dark, and handsome, with a limp. His face is badly scarred from being burned in a fire.

Give him a psychological imperfection. His uncle is a renegade vigilante who leads bands of clansmen to ambush rival clans as they travel. He’s a womanizer who has been told he has to get married or lose his title and position.

3. A love interest

While your hero could be narcissistic and love himself, he also needs to have an external love interest. What else is a romance but a story between two people, regardless of sexual orientation, as they fall in love and deal with the conflicts that arise as their relationship grows? Well, okay, it could also be a suspense, mystery, or historical, just to name a few. The lover needs to give the hero a reason to grow, to change. He can’t be the exact same person at the end of the story as he was at the beginning.

4. Other interests/events

Do you have one interest and only one interest in your life? I think the answer is no. You have more than one interest. Your hero should, too.

What else is going on in his life that takes his attention away from his one-and-only? War drags him away just as things are starting to get hot and heavy. Hunting takes him away for shorter times. Injury, and possibly near-death, keep him away for longer (but also serves for good growth in their relationship if his love interest is willing to act as his nurse). His job makes him travel cross-country. Football keeps him glued to the television on Mondays.

Give him something else to be interested in. Otherwise, you will have a flat character that no one – including you – cares about.

5. Motivation

What drives your character?

Other than spending time with his heroine, there is another driving force in your hero’s life. Perhaps it is protecting his people, getting a promotion, defending his family’s honor, or making enough money to live comfortably. Without motivation, your character is a dead-beat.

That’s not very romantic.

There are a lot of factors that go into creating a strong character. These five traits, while not exhaustive by any means, provide a good foundation for creating your hero. They are also not exclusive to men. Your heroines also need these qualities, which should complement the hero’s, at least in some ways.

Above all, your heroes and heroines need to be individuals and not cookie-cutter copies of previous characters with different names. Figuring out these main five traits will help develop their individuality. How else can you set your heroes and heroines apart from other characters?

Jen Nipps is a talented romance author and freelance writer/editor based in south-central Oklahoma, USA. She currently spends time in the hands of her love, the hero of her latest historical romance, “Trevor’s Triumph”.

Kat O’Reilly On Writing Romance

Talented romance author, Kat O’Reilly, joins us today to share a little about writing romance.

On Writing RomanceHey Kat, thank you so very much for joining us this month. As you know, we’re all about “Romance and Relationships” at Writer’s Round-About this February and with Valentine’s Day just last Sunday, love is still on many of our minds.

1. You’ve written a series of historical romances already, what inspired you to begin these novels and to write in the historical romance genre?

Honestly? I had a dream that started the first book, “Kiernan’s Curse”. Half of the dream is the opening of the prologue. The other half is later on in the book. That’s really pretty much why I started writing the books. From the way Kiernan was dressed in the dream, I knew it had to be historical, but I didn’t know what era, so I had to do quite a bit of research to find that out.

2. There is at least one key relationship in any romance, what is involved in developing the relationship between your hero and heroine?

Mutual attraction brings them together initially and that does remain, but there has to be something more. And it’s not always about chemistry. No relationship is without conflict, so a big part of why they’re together is how they work things out. It’s different for each one, but the key is that they grow individually and as a couple with each one.

3. What do you think is the most important aspect a character needs to truly connect with your readers?

Likeability. Even the antagonists need to have at least one likeable trait. You hear about characters people love to hate. That’s because there was something the readers identified with that they actually liked in the character even if they (thought they) hated them.

What brings the Hero and Heroine together?4. Do you find this aspect is also what brings your Hero and Heroine together?

Definitely! If the hero & heroine weren’t likeable, there’d be no reason for the story.

5. Although the romantic relationship between your Hero and Heroine is the most significant in a romance novel, do you think it is important for the characters in romance novels to have relationships with additional characters? How do these other relationships benefit the story?

Again, definitely! Without the other relationships, the story is flat and readers don’t really get to know the characters as people. That’s important to me in books I read, so I want to give the same feeling in my books.

6. Recently, you mentioned that your current work-in-progress, “Trevor’s Triumph might be the steamiest of the three…”, what makes a romance novel “steamy”?

I have a friend/mentor who would say the “smut factor” makes a romance novel steamy.

Sexual tension definitely contributes to the steaminess of it. Some romance novels stop there. I don’t. I actually go behind closed doors. In the beginning of the book, if Trevor lived in modern times and were a woman, he’d be called a slut. He meets the woman he’s supposed to be with and immediately gets the hots for her. He respects her father, the head of another clan, so he doesn’t try to get into her skirts (yet), but he goes back home and gives himself a hand-job. That’s in chapter two. (I’ve had another hero do that, but not until quite a bit later in the book.)

I do my best to keep from including such scenes gratuitously, but I can’t give a guarantee that all of them (usually 2 per story, if that many) are absolutely 100% necessary.

7. One of the aspects that make romance novels distinctive is the broad variation of “love scenes“, from the tender caress, to the no-holds-barred sex scene. What do you think is most important when writing these kinds of scenes?

Even with a no-holds-barred scene, you’ve got to leave some things to the imagination. Otherwise, it borders on porn. While I might write erotic scenes, I don’t do porn. Some writers do (and I’ve actually read some that has been done well). I try to be erotic without being too smutty.

The most important thing in these scenes, other than the imagination factor, is if the scene works. How does a love scene work? If you get turned on. At a conference one time, I heard a romance writer (I can’t remember who at the moment) said if you get turned on writing the scene, your reader will when they read it. And you know the scene works.

What is the true purpose of love scenes in romance writing?8. What do you think is the true purpose of “love scenes” in romance writing?

I think it varies. Sometimes it’s meant to show that the main characters are sexually compatible. Sometimes it’s to show some character development. I try to do a bit of both in the scenes I include.

9. Reflecting on the novels you’ve written yourself, which lines stand out the most in your own memory? Why do you think you’re drawn to those in particular?

Do you mean actual lines I’ve written? That’s a tough one.

In “Navajo Rose”, which is a contemporary romantic suspense, it’s during the second intimate scene with Paige and Ricky. The first one, she panicked and made him stop. Here’s the bit from the second one that stands out the most for me:

  • She squeezed lightly and smiled when he moaned. She did it again and sat up to give him a lick.
    He stopped her then. “I can’t do that right now.” It sounded as if someone else spoke. He had never heard his voice so husky.
    “Then what?”
    “If I start, Paige, I won’t be able to stop.”
    She frowned and growled at him. “I’d kill you if you stopped right now.”
    His shaft jerked at her tone. “I don’t have a condom.”
    “I don’t care!” She squeezed again.

The key part of it is where he tells her he wouldn’t be able to stop.

10. Which book do you think has had the greatest impact on your romance writing? Why do you think it influences you so greatly?

I don’t think there’s one book in particular. There are four authors who do, though: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Karen Marie Moning, and Katie MacAlister. Each of them have some aspects that I try to learn from. With Sherrilyn & Katie, it’s their immediacy. With Karen, it’s her description. With Christine, it’s the closeness to her characters. (They all have great closeness, but with her Ghost Walker Series, it’s even more pronounced since they’re all somehow psychically enhanced.)

Here’s a little secret: The first sex scene I ever wrote, I read one of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s intimate scenes (I think it was in Dark Side of the Moon) as a kind of guide as to how to structure it. *s*

Thank you again for your time, Kat. I truly appreciate having this opportunity to share in your experiences. Writing for the romance genre can be particularly challenging but it’s a very popular theme and it has universal appeal. We all want to experience a little love in our lives. Writing romance must be a wonderful way to be immersed in the sensation of new love and the roller-coaster of romantic relationships.

What do YOU think makes a romance “steamy”? Have you read a love scene that really turned you on? What do you think is the true purpose of “love scenes” in romance writing? Have you ever written any of your own?

How to Show Your Clients a Little Love

Show Your Love And AppreciationIn my last post, I talked about how to break up with clients that weren’t meeting your needs or didn’t fit into your business plan.

If that went well, you’re now left with clients you love working for. Shouldn’t you let them know?

I often struggle with this question. Of course, you want to let your clients know you appreciate them, but you don’t want to come across as a brown-noser either. I’m very interested in hearing how other writers show their appreciation.

Of course, there’s the obvious:

  • Meet your deadlines.
  • Accommodate re-write requests with a smile.
  • Fact-check your work.
  • Make sure you understand their needs and deliver what they want.
  • Follow writers’ guidelines.
  • Be polite in all correspondence.

But these are the basic things a freelance writer needs to do in order to get hired again and again. What can we do beyond that, to really let our clients know that they enhance our lives?

Here are my suggestions. Please share your own in the comments section.

Say thank you.

Perhaps this belongs in the “obvious tips” category, but too many people just don’t do it. Say thank you for assignments and for timely payments. If you particularly like the layout of a specific magazine story, thank the editor and ask him to pass your words on to the graphic designers. Look for any opportunity to say thanks.

It’s also nice, every so often, to send a handwritten thank you note on a pretty note card. I have one client who sends a thank you card with every check she sends. It always makes me smile and reminds me that she appreciates me. Thank you notes can work both ways.

Remember special occasions.

Many networking experts recommend asking someone’s birthday when you first meet, and recording the date in your Blackberry (or wherever you track such things). Send a birthday card to your editor or client on that special day.

Many people disagree on the value of e-greeting cards. Some view them as “just more spam.” I think some of them, especially the ones that play music and use animations, are exceptionally cute. Use your judgment.

A note on Facebook is nice, but, chances are, it will just get lost in the shuffle of birthday wishes. Send an e-card or, better yet, a real card. You can buy cute cards at your grocery store for 99 cents. It takes five minutes to sign it and mail it. But it means a lot. A handwritten note inside the card, letting them know you value their business (and friendship, if applicable) is a great idea, too.

Promote the magazines and blogs you work for
– even if you don’t earn bonuses and even if it’s not required.

This is one way to show clients you appreciate them – and it also benefits you. I make it a point to Tweet and promote on Facebook most of the new posts I write, and many posts from other bloggers who write for the same websites I do. I also share when a new magazine (digital or print) comes out. Your client gets more traffic, your articles get more readers – everyone wins.

Look for other ways to help your clients.

Maybe you’ve just spoken with a company representative whose products would be a perfect fit for advertising in the magazine you write for. Pass on the information to the editor.

Would one of your clients make a perfect interview resource for another writer? Share her name with the writer. Maybe you know someone who needs your client’s services… Your client will appreciate the referral.

These small things cement the writer / client relationship and send the message that you consider your client or editor not just “another paycheck,” but that you consider yourself “part of her team.”

How have you shown your clients appreciation recently? I’m excited to hear your ideas!

Social Etiquette 101: Overcoming Social Phobia

Rebecca recently wrote a moving post asking: How do YOU meet and greet people? I commend her for sharing her heart and insecurities with the world, reaching out for guidance and wisdom.

social phobia, anxiety, stress, etiquette, support

Here’s a snippet of her heartfelt post:

“I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but I suffer from social phobia. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, social phobia is a fear of people, social situations, or the judgment of others. It goes beyond merely being shy to full-out anxiety attack with all the nasty side effects. My fear of people and social situations has left me feeling like I’m at a disadvantage when networking and building my business. The truth is, I don’t KNOW what I think most would consider common social niceties. So, I’m turning to you, can you help me?”

I can help you, Rebecca.

My Battle with Social Phobia

Many of you may not know that I’m a survivor of domestic violence. Even after I escaped and was back home with my family and had a strong support system, I found myself unable to leave the house, unable to face the world, and was even on anxiety – and depression – medication. I had full-blown anxiety attacks when I left the house – even just to go to the grocery store.

I thought it would be best to lock myself away and never go outside. Even when I went outside, I didn’t want to leave the yard.

Side Effects of Social Phobia

Although wrapping ourselves up in a cocoon might feel comforting at the time, suffering from social phobia actually makes for a very lonely lifestyle, I know. And realizing that you’ll probably have to endure a grueling anxiety attack when you try to face your phobia demons makes it that much harder to try to overcome. Add to it the fact that you want a successful career and it equals a stressful disaster.

Social Phobic vs. Social Butterfly

I won’t lie, social phobia continues to be a never-ending war within me. I still struggle with the inner demons like Rebecca — I’ve merely found ways to overcome them.

  1. Just start somewhere. In the Dos and Don’ts of Social Networking, I shared a few things you need to be aware of while surfing the social media circuits. While these tips may seem unattainable for some of you who are at a loss when it comes to socializing, they are certainly reachable. You have to start somewhere. I did, and that’s how I’ve learned these things.
  2. Dig deep to muster up the courage that’s dormant. It’s there. You just have to find it. I’m not a bold, courageous kind of gal, but I’ve forced myself to look within and absorb strength and drive I didn’t know I even had. That’s how I met an Editor and an Editor-In-Chief this year.
  3. Want to be a social butterfly? Start writing down everything you aspire to be. When I was locked away in my home, terrified of the world, I found myself journaling more than ever. Writing down my dreams and goals seemed to drudge up determination like never before. Everything from “I will lose over 100 pounds” to “I will be a published writer” graced the pages of those cheap notebooks. Write your social etiquette desires into reality!
  4. Learn from others. Do you see other freelancers bouncing around the Social Media sites, chatting casually with editors, making small talk with CEOs of companies? What are they saying? Do they share networking tips on their blogs? Learn from them.
  5. Learn from your mistakes. It’s what I do! Since I first started freelancing, I’ve learned which types of emails or Social Media comments I’ve crafted that get a positive response — or a response at all. I’ve found that most of the time it’s the simplest techniques that help you find the courage to sell yourself , really.
  6. Move outside of your comfort zone. Force yourself. Plan to attend a local writing event or other event. You never know where you’re going to meet potential clients, editors, or even fellow freelancers you can glean wisdom from, and become sincere friends with. Rebecca has already done that herself! Remember Swan Valley?
  7. Baby steps lead to social success. It’s not that there’s one specific answer to conquering social phobia and enhancing your business, but the fact that all those little things you do add up to increasing your courage, self-esteem, and network: emails, Social Media accounts, comments, and mingling with people in the real world.

Happy Ending Beginning

I’ve discovered that the rewards of putting myself out there and either introducing myself in person or emailing someone or any of the other things that come with the social aspect of freelancing, far outweigh the fears and insecurities I might be feeling at the time. Thankfully, each day represents a fresh, new opportunity (several, actually!) for us to try again. I believe social etiquette is forgiving and there isn’t a mold set in stone that we’re required to follow in order to succeed. We each have different personalities and a myriad of knowledge and humor and interesting stories to tell.

Learn to tap into your heart’s reservoir, reach out to your online community (like Rebecca) and you’ll become the Social Butterfly you’ve been admiring in others. That’s a happy beginning, if you ask me!

Did you enjoy this article? Feel free to visit the other articles Michele has written for The Craft of Writing Fiction or contact her to write for you.

Have you dealt with social issues? How do you try to resolve them? Do you have special tricks to share? Or, are you bold and have never had to deal with social phobia? Let’s discuss!

And stay tuned, to discover more inspiration and ways of coping with social phobia while striving to achieve freelance dreams….

Photo credit: Joana Croft

A Pirate On The Social Scene

Arr, me hearties! Send up the mainsail and draw in the anchor. All good Capt’ns, ship dogs, and wenches be casting off their harbor shackles for that thar high seas. Ahoy, matey!

Last Friday, September 19th, was International Talk Like A Pirate Day! This unique event created an opportunity for many people around the globe. For one day, differences were cast aside and a child-like freedom and joy-filled silliness reigned supreme across the world.

Did you take advantage of this jolly event to do something special?

I sure did! – Perth Pirates of PTUB

Devar aka Ben from PTUB. Photograph by Tillee aka Tracy-LeeThanks to the wonders of Plurk and Twitter, a group of Perthites got together at Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle, Western Australia. We weren’t just the average Perthite computer geek however, we were PIRATE geeks.

From frocks to eye patches, tattoos to frills, and bandanas to booze, up to twenty men and women between twenty and forty years of age dressed for the high seas. This was one gathering more than merry enough to shiver me timbers. Thankfully, we didn’t raise too many eyebrows as even the staff had joined the fun of Talk Like A Pirate Day.

But what does a fun night out on the town really mean to freelancers?

Events, like Talk Like A Pirate Day, or upcoming Halloween, are opportunities to celebrate a social connection. For freelancers it is a fabulous excuse to connect in a diverse range of personal and professional capacities.

Pillage The Pirate Plunder

lu_lu aka Louise from PTUB. Photo by Tillee aka Tracy-LeeHow can we get the most out of social celebrations?

  • Send greeting cards or gifts.
    • Remember:
    • Keep your greetings short and simple.
    • Personalize when possible.
    • Acknowledge any greetings you receive.
  • Organize or attend parties
    • Remember:
    • Get invitations out early.
    • Respond to invitations swiftly.
    • Plan in advance to increase likelihood of attendance.
    • Send out an event reminder as it approaches.
    • Add events to your schedule.
  • Schedule a product launch
    • Remember:
    • Write High Seas Fiction or Maretine Non-Fiction? International Talk Like A Pirate Day might be your ideal launch date.
    • Horror or Supernatural? Try Halloween
    • Family and Children’s Books are great around Christmas
    • Self-Help, Finance or Health at New Year’s
    • Romance Novels for Valentine’s
    • Books with religious foundations suit Easter.

    Kitta from PTUB. Photo by Tillee aka Tracy-Lee

  • Write event specific content
    • Remember:
    • Publisher’s create their lists well in advance.
    • Pitch or Query your time sensitive content early.
    • Consider requesting a publication calendar.
  • Theme your site, blog, office, etc.
    • Remember:
    • Keep any changes low key rather than dramatic.
    • Follow standard Web Tips regarding font sizes, accessability, and color standards.
    • Back up your original so you can switch back simply after the event.
    • Sticky tape and paint are not friends.
  • Host a themed contest
    • Remember:
    • Themed contests deserve themed prizes
    • Carefully plan your deadlines
    • Keep things simple.
  • Consider, then share, the lesson
    • Remember:
    • Every experience offers an opportunity to learn.
    • Not everyone learns the same lesson.
    • It’s important to have fun regardless of the lesson.

Share The Rum With The Crew

Grum from PTUB. Photograph by Tillee aka Tracy-LeeThere are a number of reasons these actions can reap rewards but the number one is that you’re getting your name, your brand, out there. Every time you put your name in front of a friend, client, editor, etc. you’re reminding them who you are and what you can do for them.

Often, freelancers spend extraordinary quantities of time in physical seclusion. Human’s flourish in social proximity. Being able to see, smell, touch, (and taste?), other people enhances the depth of relationships. Physical contact strengthens emotional bonds. These bonds lead to personal, and career, opportunities for the future.

Also, putting an image to a word is one of the most powerful memory tools available. A face to a name makes you more memorable. Your imprint on their mind means they are more likely to think of you for future business.

Finally, lets admit it, being social makes you more human. There are some ways you don’t want to be remembered; dancing on the table, or upchucking all over the shared nachos for example, but by letting your hair down you create a depth to the persona you’ve developed in your work environment online and off. You become human, and humans always appreciate knowing they aren’t the only imperfect being. Humans are more likely to hire or recommend other humans.

Find reasons to get out there and celebrate. Give of your time freely to social situations where you can have fun and be around people with whom you enjoy spending time. Share your contact details and make yourself available to these people. Be where people can know you. Be a friend!

Ultimately, getting into the social scene is great for your own sense of self, but it’s also fantastic for your business. Do you have other tips or ideas about ramping up your social networks to enhance your business prospects? Did you have a fun night out you want to share? Please, feel free to have your say in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

Are You A Lonely-Heart Blogger?

The cyber world is a complex maze of sites, sprawled in haphazard excess. We create our online presence with a desperate need to find each other. We blog to be heard, and sometimes our voices are lost in the vastness of cyberspace. In this echoing virtual reality, how can we project our voices, connect with others, and ease our lonely hearts?

1. Be Selective – Choose Your Niche Topic
It can be tempting to want the love and adoration of everyone you meet online. The key to success, however, is to be selective. Choose your friends carefully and get to know people who share your interests. You’ll have more in common, find it easier to get to know each other, form stronger bonds, and have more time to maintain your connection.

2. Be Hospitable – Write For Your Readers
Be warm and inviting in your cyber home. Offer your guests what they want and give them the opportunity to feel comfortable. Having familiar mainstays can help your visitors feel at ease and it is important to talk directly to them, and invite their responses.

3. Be Honest – Tell The Truth
Trust is a vital factor in all friendships. You might fool someone, some of the time, but if you can’t be honest your friendships will wither in the darkness of secrets or lies. You do not have to reveal every facet of yourself, indeed you should not, but be real and be your self.

4. Be Entertaining – Write Interesting, Active Posts
Entertaining your guests is more than telling ribald jokes and offering nachos and soda. When you associate with others you should share topics of interest to them, not just yourself. An entertaining host invites interaction amongst all her guests, she stirs the pot of her party community, and draws her friends together.

5. Be Attentive – Listen And Respond
The final key to creating friends is to listen, be responsive, allow your friends to have a voice and tell their own stories. If they ask questions, take the time to answer. If they speak, acknowledge that you heard them. They are looking for a connection too and truly appreciate a friend who offers them an opportunity to share themselves.

I’d like to thank Michele of Writing The Cyber Highway for inspiring this post with her “How To Blog” meme. Thank you for the tag, Michele!

If you’d like to share your thoughts feel free to comment or consider yourself tagged and leave a link to your own blogging secrets. For more blogging tips check out Seven Surefire Ways To Commit Blog Suicide and 10 Tips To Blogs That Get Read.