Return To Writing – End Your Writing Hiatus Today!

Yesterday, I posted a comment to the forlorn-looking Crafting Fiction Page on Facebook. The page is forlorn-looking because I’ve been on hiatus (for the most part) for several months. While I have posted here sporadically and occasionally drifted through Facebook with a question, comment, or recommendation, it has been mostly quiet on the writing front in my life. And I have missed it. Every day, at some point in the day, I’ve thought, “I should write today.” It’s a drifting thought, usually followed by a great big dollop of what Steven Pressfield in The War of Art calls, “Resistance with a capital R”.

One of the things I noticed during my hiatus is that the writing, the characters, tear away flesh from the inside-out of my body. The book I started working on in December of 2006 claws against the inside of my skin. The characters are screaming; I had turned the volume on their voices down to a mouse-whisper but behind my eyes I can see their mouths gaping in muted cries of terror. Honestly, they are like b-grade horror movie stars. They plead and quiver as if some great monster threatens their very existence. And I suppose it does, it’s name is Resistance.

Every day the pain and emotional turmoil of not writing has been splitting my heart. I have excuses, the primary being that I was busy with full-time university study on top of single parenting, a new romantic relationship, keeping a house, and all the other million things that make up living a normal life. The point is, while I was living a life of sorts I wasn’t really living. Without my writing I feel more like I’m ghost-like, moving through the motions of pretending to be alive but intangibly ineffective in the real world. My mind and body participate but my soul is absent. Do you ever feel that way about your writing? Is it such an integral part of the person you are supposed to be that not writing feels like a kind of death?

Eventually, in the pain of not writing it occurred to me that the simple fix would be to write. Of course, simple fixes are never simple. I turn my computer on with the intention of putting words to the page and there it is again, that demon, Resistance. I experience it in a profoundly tangible way as anxiety attacks. Every time I contemplate writing my heart thuds in a rapid staccato that might lead to the explosion of arterial walls. When I, for the barest moment, dwell on my novel, or the non-fiction book at the top of my ‘in progress’ list, or even this blog my breath catches and my lungs grow tight so that I think the cavity of my chest is being crushed in an ethereal vice. Right now, my fingers are brushing across the keys but my hands are quivering, my stomach is churning, and inside my mind the voice of Resistance is yelling “Run!” I want to give in to that plea because I know the moment I stop writing all of those sensations will disappear and I will feel this overwhelmingly beautiful sensation of relief. But I won’t stop, do you know why?

I won’t stop tonight because I remember the pain of my not writing tearing like ligament-by-ligament slices with a dull scalpel. If I don’t write tonight then instead of this anxiety that I’m feeling right now, instead of this Resistance, I’ll feel shame and resentment and guilt. If I don’t write tonight then I’ll be failing to live into the person I truly am. I’ll be less of myself and less of the person I was created to be. I choose to be here because I’ve weighted the two experiences and I believe that writing is worth more to me than not writing. I actively choose to defy Resistance, and it’s a difficult and demanding choice, but it is one that has to be consciously made.

So now, I’m asking you what I asked on Facebook, “What’s the longest hiatus from writing you’ve ever taken and why did you stay away so long?“, and then I’m going to say: If you are still on hiatus, choose to end it today. There is no reason you can give that justifies not living into the person you are meant to be and if you are meant to be a writer, if you believe your writing is a part of the soul-creature you are in this lifetime then you owe it to yourself to begin again. All it takes is a promise to yourself, an active choice, a commitment followed by action. Start small, a paragraph, a page. Decide that you will write today, and do it.

You know that horrible anxiety I was feeling? It’s easing up because I look down at my word count and can see I’ve written over 800 words. That’s pretty good and I’ll give myself kudos for that. I did it. I sat and I wrote and I survived the blaring of my heart and the crawling of my skin and I came through. That sense of incredible relief that I would have got if I had stopped earlier will come soon but the shame, resentment and guilt will not because today I wrote. Today I lived into the person I am supposed to be and I’ll do it again tomorrow. Will you?

Self-Acceptance: A Hard-Fought Battle, Even for Accomplished Authors

Meet Nava Atlas, author of The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing LifeRebecca says: I’m excited today to be able to introduce you all to Nava Atlas, a talented writer who is blog touring this month and through April with the fantastic ladies of WOW! Women on Writing. Nava has written a fantastic book for writers, rich with the stories and truths of talented female authors across time. I’ll be sharing a full review of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life on April 14th and between now and then you have a chance to win your own copy by writing a short blog post about your own experiences with self-doubt, self-acceptance, and writing. But before I tell you more about that, let’s hear from Nava about her own experiences and those of three exceptional women of literature.

Self-Acceptance: A Hard-Fought Battle, Even for Accomplished Authors

by Nava Atlas

There’s a cartoon on my bulletin board of two caterpillars creeping along, with a butterfly hovering above them. One caterpillar eyes the butterfly suspiciously, and says, “You’ll never catch me going up in one of those things!” Maybe it isn’t what the cartoonist intended, but I see it as a metaphor for the sad state of women’s self-esteem. We’re destined to become glorious butterflies, yet we persist in perceiving ourselves as caterpillars, opting for crawling the safer but less exciting ground, instead of allowing ourselves to take flight.

It’s a tough task to reach the level of self-acceptance that allows a writer to feel she deserves to let her talent shine, and reap the rewards of hard work. Think of favorite classic authors such as Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and Louisa May Alcott, with their distinct styles and personas. It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t burst forth with the kind of self-regard that would allow them to write and succeed gloriously. And yet—they didn’t. Like most of us, they struggled with self-acceptance for years, sometimes for decades. Consider:

Edith Wharton, a wealthy heiress, was surrounded by disapproval, from her snooty mother and society friends to her gadfly husband, who scoffed at her literary pursuits. She tiptoed haltingly into the world of print, hampered by crippling insecurity. It took many small victories — published stories, books, and warm reviews — before Wharton believed she was worthy of success. Finally, “The reception of my books gave me the self-confidence I had so long lacked…” It took the reinforcement of the public and her peers for her to acquire a new image of herself as a capable, talented author—one who, before very long, became the first female author to win the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1921 for The Age of Innocence.

Like Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf’s need for approval was vast, and she sought it from her husband, friends, publishers, and critics. But unlike Edith Wharton, those closest to her gave her just that. That didn’t allay her constant struggle with self-doubt, seeing herself as somehow “less than.” “I can assure you,” she wrote to her friend Vita Sackville-West, “all my novels were first-rate before I wrote them.” When her publishers or husband praised her efforts, it meant everything to her. Woolf needed the reinforcement of others to build a foundation of self-acceptance, which in turn gave her courage to create works that were experimental and far ahead of their time. Though self-doubt never left her, it was a catalyst to constantly do better, not a signal to stop growing.

Louisa May Alcott was determined to make a living by writing, no small feat for a woman of her time. To support her family, she wrote thrillers, gothics, and “sensational tales” under pseudonyms. After years of toil, she took up her publisher’s request to try a “girls’ story,” and reluctantly cranked out Little Women. Though neither she nor her publisher thought highly of the results, the book became an immediate best-seller. When she learned of its embrace by the public, Alcott changed her tune: “It reads better than I expected. Not a bit sensational, but simple and true…” No longer going from one anonymous literary identity to another, self-acceptance came after the “simple and true” novel that emerged from the pen of its reluctant author met an enthusiastic audience. Her career blossomed, as did the fortune she had long craved.

Once I learned of the universal struggles of authors like Wharton, Woolf, and Alcott while researching The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, I realized that I was behaving more like the two caterpillars in the cartoon than the butterfly. I’ve played it safe by accepting only a certain version of myself as a writer, one that’s occasionally at odds with the “real me.” I think that’s about to change!

Like the two caterpillars crawling ever so slowly on the ground, the illusion of safety can get in the way of progress. After all, caterpillars are vulnerable to getting smooshed on the road. Sometimes acceptance of a new version of ourselves—as writers who have arrived, or are just on the cusp of doing so—lags behind what others have already perceived about us: we’re already aloft, like the butterfly; we just need the courage to lose sight of the ground below.

The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life by Nava AtlasRebecca says: Nava is available today to answer questions if you’d like to ask them by leaving a comment or say hi and let her know what you think of her post and her book.

Now, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life there are a few opportunities over the course of Nava’s blog tour that you can find on the WOW! Women on Writing blog along with her other stops.

To win the copy I have available for a loyal Crafting Fiction reader, share your own experience with self-doubt as a writer in 300 to 600 words. Have you experienced self-doubt? Are you searching for approval, and acceptance from others as well as yourself? How has this influenced you as a writer?

You can share your blog post in one of two ways: either post it to your own blog or website with a link back to this post, or send it to me as a guest post for The Craft of Writing Fiction (either by email or in the dashboard).

In Due Time – Writer’s Block

It’s amazing to me that I’ve spent a year blocked in many of my writing mediums. Blogging became a chore that caused more stress than pleasure, writing a short article came with as much pain as a tooth extraction and everything else, down to advertising copy, seemed “blah.” I was fighting an enormous block, mostly surrounded by medical conditions, treatments and therapy. But blocked, I was.

I finally went out and purchased a brand new journal and wrote only when something incredible happened. Not all those incredible moments were good, but incredible still. As I found comfort in working with words again, I ventured outside of my self-imposed barricade and began taking note of extraordinary happenings in the world around. With that, I had a little more fuel for that only-sometimes-used journal.

I decided that I was going to no longer work as a paid writer.

Yep. I said it.

I evaluated why I once loved writing and why that changed. I received my first-ever blue ribbon that came from writing almost twenty years ago. I loved words then. I explored new avenues of writing, didn’t harbor any self-doubt. Everything I did was perfect, because it was done. I cherished that time in my life as a writer.

But today, I can say that I don’t like deadlines. I do not like stress. Simplicity is what I need; in writing, living and life. So simplicity it is. And a very long hiatus from writing, at least writing anything for anyone.

And now, I have a great relationship with my Muse again. I only write inspired words and write them when inspired. I keep my notebook and pen handy for the moments when I cannot devote hours to writing as to retain that which my Muse delivered. And I play. I am nurturing all aspects of my creative self – including painting, again. The process of keeping myself readily available for my muse in all creative aspects has made me able to write again, for an audience.

Every writer experiences writer’s block. Good writers know when to put down the pen. For me, that pen was down for nearly a year. And now, it feels good to write.

Do you spend time nurturing other creative avenues in your life?

What Color Is Your Creativity? AW’s August Blog Chain

My muse wears a kaleidoscope of blueMy muse is a closet chameleon. She shifts and changes color at whim to suit the inspirational environment she brings in any moment. Like an actress or model who changes wardrobe every time she steps out on the stage my muse loves to embrace dramatic inspiration with her dress sense.

Today she’s wearing a taffeta summer dress of light coral and corn. Vibrant colors that often make me want to get out and enjoy life. There is a chill in this Australian winter morning but I see the cerulean sky and bright, early morning shades of daffodil, sunshine outside my window. I want to be out there, playing. I wore pink today too. A shade of orchid rather than coral but it suits the cheery mood of my muse. It’s a nod to her effervescent enthusiasm. When she wears pink I think of painting and ice sculpting. I think of synchronized swimming and dance. Dramatic, full-body expressions of creativity rather than the physical stillness facing the page.

When I’m focused and resolute in my work she shifts into ocean waves of blue, a mixture of blue colors that flow and swell. The ultramarine glisten with iridescence cornflower. There is never a single blue but every shade of blue from cyan to midnight. A kaleidoscope of turquoise and sapphire. Holograms of denim and periwinkle that never appear the same way once your lose sight of the first glimpse.

When my muse wears blue she draws me to the page. Blue communicates. It is open and giving. Calm blue waters darken in the depth of emotional intensity. Bright blue skies transcend us, lifting us into the heavens where blue darkens again into the inky black beyond.

Red Velvet Fairy Medieval Renaissance Theme Wedding Gown with Cape and Jewelry on EtsyI surround myself with the color blue when I want to write. Blue, and purple. Purple is for reaching into the imagination and spirituality. It is flights of fantasy. It is the open communication of blue mixed with the vibrant passion and fire of red and orange. Sometimes when I’m writing fiction my muse wears an indigo gown made of velvet. But when I’m working on my current novel she wears a medieval gown in scarlet, and black, with cords of gold.

When I knew I’d be trying to choose one single color for August’s Blog Chain at Absolute Write I knew I’d have trouble. So many colors speak to me creatively and like my muse, the connection to color changes from moment to moment with my emotions and with the specific project I’m working on. So, I thought I’d ask others what color they associate with their writing.

Like me, Kari Wolfe feels her writing through “all different colors”. She said, “Currently, I write with multicolored gel-ink pens. Each paragraph is a different color…”

Laura Campbell said, “Purple as I mainly write about fantasy and purple is the magic colour!” and Cari Lynn Vaughn also thinks purple represents her writing, “The Purple Rose is a symbol for perseverance and transcendence.”

Lorraine Powell‘s chick-lit is pink. While Susan McCabe‘s pink is for, “calmness and serenity.”

Misti Bailey Sandefur writes in yellow. She said, “I like to write stories that will inspire my readers and warm their souls, and to me, yellow is a happy color.” Another reader, Cheryl Grey, describes her writing as, “Emerald green” because “it’s one of the most peaceful parts of my life.” While Evea Morrow has connects her writing to “blue- because most horror movies are shot with a blue filter” and Anthony Jennings to black who’s “stories have dark endings or plots.”

The range of colors we each gravitate to is broad and I found reading the other entries in the blog chain just as fascinating as the comments from The Craft of Writing Fiction readers. Check out these other entries and leave a comment below or write a blog post of your own describing the color of your creativity. “If you had to pick one color for any aspect of your writing, which one would it be and why?”

Photo Credit: 阿乃
Photo Credit: Red Velvet Fairy Medieval Renaissance Theme Wedding Gown with Cape and Jewelry on Etsy

Fiction Characters: Do You Need A Mental “No Vacancy” Sign?

Do your fictional characters keep you awake at night?It is 3:57 in the morning. Do you know where your characters are? If you are like most writers, you know exactly where they are because they refuse to let you get a proper nights sleep, or bath, or read, or time alone to enjoy the minutiae of life.

Once you have given life to someone, sometimes they do not shut up. I find this to be true of children, and characters. I rarely get to spend my hour commute listening to the radio, or relaxing with the windows rolled down and my mind on mute. As soon as the fiction characters in my latest story realize I’m alone the chatter starts.

The first time this happened to me, I was sure I was schizophrenic. When I stopped at each red light while driving, I tried to jot down an idea but, by then the characters had told their friends that I was free, and I forgot what I was noting in the first place.

Forget taking a bath. I used to think the kids, and the dog were most deft at keeping me from taking a bath alone. No, it is the antagonist calling to say he is ready to kill my main character, and by the way, …I need to shave my legs.

Sleeping can be like running a relay race. When I sleep someone shouts something into my psyche, and I have to jump up to write. My best stuff comes at 3:00 A M decidedly, because like an infant, that is when my fiction characters are awake. After I have pecked the brainstorm into my computer, I head back to bed. Usually, I can fall back asleep. At least until, the protagonist finds out what his adversary said about him.

When I first started writing, it drove me mad to share my brain with all the people who were crashing my psychological party. Now, when I’m done with a story, and things get quiet, I have let down.

I want to throw up the No Vacancy Sign!I sit in the tub and wait for someone to say something. Then I lay in bed, and listen to the quiet wishing my fiction characters would “throw me a bone.” When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of jabber going on in my brain, and I want to throw up the NO VACANCY sign, I remember how lonely I am without them.

I just flipped my sign over, reads Vacancy – welcome all night owls. I’ll probably catch you all at about 2:30…in the morning.

Do your fiction characters keep you awake at night? When was the last time you were able to have a relaxing bath or drive from one side of town to the other without their company? How do you deal with the lack of mental vacancies?

Photo Credit: Nathan Barry
Photo Credit: DG Jones

Inspire Your Children to Write Fiction

Inspire Your Children To Write FictionFor most of us, the gift of writing is cathartic and freeing.  I received the first gift of a journal, full of empty pages just waiting for my words, sent me into bliss at the ripe ole’ age of eight.  My memories of being given this gift at an early age inspired me to pass on a love of writing to my own two rug rats.  It may seem like a daunting task to have a thirteen-year-old sit down at his computer to write a story.  Especially, if you consider that this type of request from a teacher would send him into a complete tailspin.

How do you get around this?  All kids are inspired by what their parents do.  Sometimes we miss the subtle clues screaming “Hey this kid has talent.”  However, you know that within each of them a story lives.  The basics for employing a love of writing start early.  If they can pick up a pen, they can describe the way it felt to jump in the pool the first time the weather permitted, or how meeting their new teacher felt.  Wonder of wonders, they may write something they hadn’t expected, and that clues you in to their intimate childhood worlds.

Of course, how the concept is presented will influence your chances to inspire you children to read and write.  This is the difference between a frown when you suggest they write about their trip to zoo, and “Good Idea!”.  Making the idea their own is important; you need to show interest, and spur their imaginations.  Simply saying, “Don’t you think it would be cool to write about our vacation?”, may not work.  However, you may be surprised by their response if you say, “Help me think of a character who lived in this area… do think they would have special qualities?  What do you think their problems, fears, and dreams would be?”

My oldest child loves to get involved in my stories and help me develop characters.  He is also a deft creator of turmoil and drama.  During our conversations about my own writing, I sometimes suggest that he would better communicate the intricacies of the character.  Now he has a small book of his own writing and is quite proud of it. Of course, I’m very proud too.  My hope is that he will learn to purge his frustration into his stories, a benefit to him, and his characters.

We should all inspire the writers of the future so a truly beautiful art form is never lost!

Do you inspire and encourage your children to write fiction? What are your own earliest memories of being encouraged to write?

Photo Credit: 07-24-08 © Yucel Yilmaz

Motivation Techniques To Reduce Writing Job Stress

Motivation Techniques to Reduce Writing Job StressHas a lack of motivation ever seen you sitting at your desk or curled up in your favorite chair with your laptop—and no inspiration to work on your writing? Not even one word?

This is how I feel today. And I thought I’d blog about it here because surely other writers and bloggers have experienced this same thing.

Some days I’m on fire, writing and writing. The ideas are endless. My passion for words keeps my fingers tapping away at the keyboard. Then there are days like today. Days where I just want to crawl back under the covers and stay there until the inspiration comes back.

Folks, the muse plays tricks on our minds!

Whether it’s a headache, feeling blah – physically or mentally/emotionally – or dealing with life, there are times when I feel like I can’t bring myself to purge one word from my soul.

Of course, if you’re building a career as a writer, crawling back under the covers until the muse comes back to sprinkle her inspiring dust about, is out of the question. When writing is your job you can’t always afford time to give into job stress.

Here are 5 motivation techniques that keep me writing—especially when I don’t feel like it:

  1. Connecting with my writing friends. Communicating with other writers and bloggers, who know exactly what I’m going through, is crucial to the health of my writing craft. They do this job too so they know the stress I’m feeling. By the time they’re finished tossing out quotes, words of wisdom, advice, encouragement, and even a joke here and there, I’m feeling refreshed, confident, and ready to take on the words. This motivation technique’s added benefit is motivating the friend too!
  2. Reading quotes, blog posts, or a few pages from my favorite authors. I find great inspiration from motivational people like Maya Angelou. After drawing strength from her words, anything is possible!
  3. Yoga. I’m a huge fan of yoga (particularly Ashtanga style) and have found that my writing is much more prolific, inspired, and meaningful when I practice regularly. You don’t have to take an hour to feel the benefits and motivation of this technique. As little as five to twenty minutes of yoga can reduce stress, clear your mind, stretch and warm your muscles, and inspire your creativity!
  4. Gardening. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a few minutes strolling through the garden, inhaling fresh air and seeing the fruits of my labor, to feel my motivation levels rise.
  5. Eating or drinking something nutritious. My brain needs food as much as my body. So if I’m hungry or have forgotten to eat, I’ll notice it affects my writing. Whether it’s a salad chock-full of veggies and a little protein, a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, or a raw juice or smoothie, fueling up my body results in filling pages!

I hope these motivation techniques have sparked your interest and given you a few ideas you can try for those days you can’t find your motivation – or muse – but need to get the job done.

What do you do when you have to write through lack of inspiration, motivation, and/or chaotic, disruptive days? Do you ever just throw up your hands and crawl back under the covers or hide away somewhere in your house? Or do you press through? What tips and tricks do you have? Do share!

Photo Credit: wagg66

Talent Casting: Audition Your Fiction Character

Selecting the talent. Casting the fiction characters of your story.Writing fiction is sometimes about finding the right talent, casting the right fiction character for the role, or creating a cast of rich and multi-dimensional personalities. There are a number of character creation methods and each writer learns their most effective character development tools through research and experience. My own process continues to grow and develop as my writing grows up.

Click here to get your copy of James Chartrand and Taylor Lindstrom's How to Create Believable CharactersA few months ago I bought myself a clever e-book called “How to Create Believable Characters” by James Chartrand and Taylor Lindstrom. It’s packed with practical information on how to build your very own fiction character, or role-playing alter-ego, from scratch. I read it eagerly, already fascinated with character development and creation.

As I read, I drank in every piece of advice it offered. I gained a better understanding of why I write the way I write and I improved my character creation skills. I learned how to choose and create talent; casting the “right” protagonist for each fiction story.

There are two “schools” when writing fiction. One is a “plot-driven” story where you develop an intense plot, a situation into which you place characters. I am in the other “school”, a writer who discovers a protagonist first and then writes a plot that gives that star her life and purpose. This is a ‘character-driven’ story. Can you think of any “character-driven stories” you’ve read recently?

Who is she?

When I first decide to write a new story, I visualize my heroine. Most of the time it’s a ‘she’, simply because I’m used to thinking like a girl. I do know female writers who prefer to write male characters (and do a fantastic job of it too) but for some reason I prefer writing women.

My heroine may be young or old, clever, stupid, pretty, dull… I spend some time trying to get to know her. I don’t decide ‘how she is’ instead, I get a feel for ‘who she is’.

Who is your protagonist?There are some elements I decide up front. Is she stubborn, or reckless, or depressed? I follow my instincts and she becomes whatever most sparks my interest at that time.

Other aspects come naturally as I continue to think about her. It might fit her to be afraid of dogs; maybe she is a school teacher. Does she have any particular talent casting her into the spotlight? Is she likely to go for the bad boy type, or does she prefer the office underdog. (Oh, perhaps she would usually go for the bad boy type but falls for the office underdog!)

Becoming Herself

After developing my protagonist’s traits and personality, I give my fiction character a life. Some of her past was determined earlier in the character creation process. Now it is time to explore her history and to decide what has happened to shape her into the person she is. Plot elements begin to emerge as her life takes form.

Here’s where it gets tricky. After the fun of writing, planning, and mapping out my heroine’s intriguing story, I notice aspects of her that no longer “fit”. As I focus on plot development I sometimes find that, this protagonist isn’t right for this plot.

Why not add that lacking ‘something’ to my original character? That would be the obvious and easy way to fix my dilemma, wouldn’t it? Couldn’t we force her to be what we want, gift her with that particular skill or talent? Casting her into a role that doesn’t suit her, however, is not a simple solution.

My characters become “real” the minute I start developing them, which means they have their own faults, traits, and personality. They are imperfect in a carefully balanced way – each and every one is unique.

Giving my heroine a new flaw or quality, just because the plot calls for it and not because it feels a part of her, causes her to lose that sense of being “real”. It makes her thin, stiff, two-dimensional; the organic creation process has been broken.

(There is of course another side to this. The needed flaw or quality could be a part of her in-story development or personal development goals… But that is for another post.)

It’s Talent Casting Time!

Now, I have this great story, all lined up for exploring and turning into a masterpiece, but my protagonist just isn’t right for the part. Do I scratch it and start over? No way!

I do a talent casting call.

I have tons of talent on hold that got dumped from other stories because they didn’t fit. Are any of them perfect for this role? If none of those characters are suitable, I think about which traits this protagonist needs and make that aspect a starting point for a new rising star.

By now I’ve changed the story several times and every time I do another call. I change the story a little for every character. After auditioning many people for the job they have all influenced the final story and add to it’s richness and depth.

Once I’ve my found leading lady, I can begin talent casting the supporting roles.

While this method can be time consuming in the early planning stages of fiction writing, the outcome is a full cast of strong characters I know and understand like old friends. They are the “right” characters for their specific role and are a good fit for the story. The writing process becomes easier because I’m no longer struggling with uncooperative, pigeon-holed characters. Now, when I’m writing fiction, I don´t “decide” my character likes or does things, I “know” she does.

The Final Curtain Call

In the end, my story becomes both plot-driven and character-driven. It is packed with a powerful selection of multi-dimensional, realistic personalities. The cast of characters live their own lives and I record it rather than control it.

Have you tried talent casting your characters? What other methods have you used to develop the star of your story?

Click here to get your copy of James Chartrand and Taylor Lindstrom's How to Create Believable Characters

Photo Credit: 01-12-10 © John-Francis Bourke
Photo Credit: 04-10-07 © Sean Locke

Writing Inspiration From Simple Living On An Amish Farm

The windmill on Michele's Amish farm.

Where do you find your writing inspiration?

“The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” ~ Doris Janzen Longacre

Writing from an Amish farm? Sounds serene, right?. That’s what you think!

“Really,” you ask?

“Yes, really. And I’ll tell you why.”

The Truth About Farm Life

Many of you may envision me sitting on the porch with my favorite (green juice or smoothy!) and happily tapping away at the keyboard. And that does happen, some of the time. But there’s always behind-the-scenes stuff too.

You know, there’s a thing called chores: tending the animals, planting, watering, weeding, making homemade laundry detergent, hanging clothes on the line (aka solar dryer!), carrying water (this is improving as we now have upgraded the system and have water hoses but there’s still places on the farm the hoses won’t reach and that equals carrying buckets of water) and a ton of other odds and ends things

There are, however, many advantages I am thankful for:

  • fertile land to grow colorful flowers and harvest organic foods
  • the whippoorwill’s song – sound-chi – every evening
  • the entertaining antics of our working farm animals — plus rabbits, squirrels, and birds
  • horse-drawn buggies passing to and fro, driven by the local Amish
  • the careful, hand-crafted structure and sturdiness of an Amish-built home
  • an opportunity to learn new things (like the Amish water system!) that many people may never know
  • and so much more…

Finding Ideas and Writing Inspiration through living

And what do these things have to do with writing? Well, first of all, I’ve sold stories (including ghostwritten ones) on some of the above topics. Second, without the experiences I’ve had here on the farm, I’d probably have never sold–or even written–those stories. Sure, I could have researched those things but they’d never have the character and spin I was able to put on them had I not lived these amazing experiences.

I meet new Amish folk and I continuously learn new things about them and the life they lead. Every person I meet is uniquely individual; many defy the “stereotype”; A lot of them are more modern these days (like eating at McDonald’s, buying processed food, etc.) but there are also quite a few of the old-school Amish around. They grow a huge garden and adhere to the old Amish path; their deep roots in tradition and simple living.

All of the adventures on this Amish farm give me writing inspiration. While I’m gardening, my mind-wheel begins turning; new articles or blog posts are born. The fresh air, sunshine, and rich connection with Mother Earth that comes from working so closely with the land rejuvenates me. It provides me with that breath of fresh air, that new-found inspiration, I need to crank out quality writing.

Maybe someday I’ll write a book about it all–possibly even fiction! For now, making time to write articles in-between all the chores and busy Amish style livin’ is just fine with me.

Do you find writing inspiration in the simple act of living? How do you squeeze in your writing amid the chores of your chosen lifestyle? And what about the Amish? Are you as fascinated with them as I am? Do you know any Amish people? Let’s hear it!

Photo Credit: Michele L. Tune
Quote Credit: Quote Garden

A Fear of Change from Freelance to Writing Fiction

Did you love fiction and make believe as a child?When Writer’s Round-About became The Craft of Writing Fiction I felt experienced a fear of change because I’m a non-fiction writer and rarely spend time writing fiction. As I was chatting with my writing colleague, Kimberlee Ferrell, about the changes, I realized my relationship with fiction isn’t as distant as I thought.

Precious Memories

In fact, while reading Kim’s latest post (Reading and Writing: Develop Your Child’s Love of Language) I realized that fiction hits close to home–real close. Not only was my childhood passion for reading based on fictional books and stories, it’s the genre I first started writing!

One of Kim’s tips from that post is:

“Of course, before kids can learn to write well, they need the fundamentals of the alphabet, and reading. I try to read every day with them. Right before bed is the traditional reading time, but don’t be surprised if they come running to you with their favorite story in the middle of the afternoon. Anytime is a good time to share a story with your kids.”

And she goes on to suggest the library as a fabulous place to nurture your children’s reading and writing skills:

“Be sure to take them to the library as often as possible, to expose them to the wide variety of books available. Many libraries have summer reading programs that encourage children to read (or be read to), with many rewards along the way. You could also join (or create) a parent-child book club to encourage the sharing of books and stories.”

Wow. Kim’s words jostled my memory of the countless trips my parents and I made to the library when I was growing up. And they read to me, bought me (both new and used) books to keep in my personal library, and always, always encouraged my passion for reading, writing, and spelling. Those were the days!

Fear of Change

But see, I’ve been hesitant about the new turn this site has taken. As someone who simply detests change – even though I know in my heart and soul it’s usually always for the better in any situation – my heart kind of sank when I found out that Writer’s Round-About had become a new and improved site: The Craft of Writing Fiction.

Here’s a snippet of what the site owner, Rebecca Laffar-Smith, has shared regarding the changes:

We’re still Writer’s Round-About deep within our souls but we’re so much more than that too. And we want to develop a powerful presence, an inspirational community, and a go-to resource for writers.

The new domain name, craftingfiction.com also has a strong sense of purpose and commitment. It is a strong foundation for growth and expansion. It’s forward thinking and innovative. It’s driven to succeed and we are too.

I’m sure these changes are for the better. And, just like children learn and grow and change, so do we as adults. It’s how we improve and move further down the path of success.

I think my hesitation comes from feeling such a closeness to Writer’s Round-About’s history. I’ve read this blog from the beginning—when it was born on Blogger! And I’ve been around for the switch to self-hosted WordPress. I eventually shared a few guest posts with readers here and now (with close to 40 posts published) I guess you’d call me a regular contributor.

Rebecca and the other bloggers here have become more than writing colleagues or friends—they’re family. And this blog feels like a place I’ve always been welcome to come to, kick off my shoes, grab my favorite drink, and get comfy.

And that hasn’t changed, I know.

My (Comforting) Epiphany

The epiphany I’ve had about this whole “fiction theme” –and what Kim helped me see during our talk today—is that my roots with fiction date back to my earliest years.

Although I love writing non-fiction and telling real-life stories now, my passion for reading and writing was actually born as I read countless pages of fictional stories.

When I was a little girl, my all-time favorite book was Danny and the Dinosaur. Next in line was Charlotte’s Web and Judy Blume was one of my favorite authors. As a child, I felt such a sense of peace with a book in my little hands, reading a make-believe story that took my mind to far away places. And even today, when life overwhelms me, there’s nothing like a good novel to help me cast my worries to the wind and transport my mind to another world.

And now, finally, I’m at peace with the new direction this site has taken.

I owe a special thank you to Kim and Rebecca, for helping me search my heart and remember how much fiction has played a significant role in my life. Thanks, ladies!

What about you? Do you gravitate toward non-fiction? Or does your imagination carry you away to a place of innocent make-believe? Do you love the new look, feel, and theme of this site? ‘Fess up!

Photo credit: mexikids