Monday, December 15, 2014

Storytelling

Again, this nugget I lifted from a longer blog I wrote earlier this year. I'm still so far into deadline mode I worry that I'll never get out. LOL



I love this! THIS is my philosophy of writing.



Enjoy...




Anybody can write a book. All you've got to do is think up a plot, give your characters some arcs, divide it into scenes and get it into your computer, and eventually onto paper. But how many people do you know who really know how to tell a story?



In my younger days, I had a friend who was a joke teller. It didn't matter where we were, fifteen minutes into any party or wedding or even funeral, my friend would have a crowd around her. Laughter would spill out into the room and her crowd would grow. Because her jokes were good? Some were. But, really, her jokes were good because she made them good. She knew set up. She knew how to deliver a punch line.

In thirty seconds, she could draw you in and then hit you with something that would cause you to belly laugh.

That's storytelling.

I talk about this a lot...especially after I judge contest entries...published or unpublished...because I think a lot of us "get it" that we have to be craftspeople, but few of us realize that, somewhere along the way, our process has to involve that magical part of us that knows how to lift the mundane into the sublime.

Is there something about your story, the way you tell your story, or your characters that lifts all those words on the page from the expected? Is there magic in your story? Have you every really tried to write beautifully? To create characters so real you expect them to show up for Christmas Eve supper?



If you've only ever crafted, if you've never let yourself look for the magic...give yourself that gift in 2015. Don't just be a writer. Be a storyteller.



Happy Reading

susan meier


BTW HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE is still FREE! Don't know how long it will last, so grab it while you can!


http://www.entangledpublishing.com/her-summer-with-the-marine/

Monday, December 8, 2014

What to do when you're too tired to think...

I have two proposals due this month, a story to write and ... well, there's a major holiday in here too. So as I mentioned last week, I skimmed all my blogs and came up with some short, but helpful things I'd said this year that bear repeating...





When you are too tired to think, you can do your manuscript a great disservice. You can delete good stuff and keep bad stuff...and not even know you're doing it.


So what do you do when you're too tired to think?

1. Step away. Get so far away from the computer that you can't even see it! Don't tempt yourself to work when you're too tired.
2. Give yourself options of ways to rest your brain. Normally housekeeping is my go-to mundane activity to heal my brain. Yesterday, it wasn't cutting it. Why? I think because it was still part of a routine. And my brain wanted something different. My something different and your something different could be two totally different things. Some people like bubble baths. Some people shop. Some people eat out. There are lots of things you can do to rest your brain. Write a list of 20, give yourself choices so you really will rest your brain.
3. Once you've decided what you're going to do...throw yourself into it. Forget your book. (Buy the popcorn!)
4. Remember to move. My trainer is a very smart woman. She can take one look at me and know when I need to push physically to help myself mentally. If you don't belong to a gym and/or don't have lots of workout tapes, ride your bike, take a walk, run up and down your stairs! LOL Do something to get the blood flowing.

And most of all #5...don't be mad at yourself for needing a day off. I usually work six days a week. Lately, I've been working seven. How fair is that to my poor brain?

Taking a day off rather than pushing can usually reap the reward of a fully cooperative brain the next morning. It worked for me. :) Don't push yourself so much that you hit that wall that totally stops you...maybe for a long time.

Happy reading...

susan meier

Monday, December 1, 2014

Focus


Because I have several projects due before 1/1, I went through my past blogs and chose bits and pieces of longer blogs to post this month. They are short...we're all busy in December...but have at least one important concept.

Happy Reading...Enjoy the post...



Time management lovers (myself included) can tell you a million ways to squeeze in another ten minutes of writing every day. Or we'll show you how to carve out blocks of time so you can write five pages, one page at a time, in between running your kids to soccer practice and dance class. We tell you to keep a notebook (small one) in your purse or pocket so that every time good ideas come to you, you can jot them down. I even recommend doing lists of twenty on the run, over the course of days, so that my bouncing brain can draw on multiple inspirations at church, the supermarket, a park, or from people I find at those places...



But the truth is, there are times when I really need to focus. I can't proofread quickly. I like to weigh every word. But you can't weigh every word when you have a cat on your lap, supper simmering and your smart phone pinging away with new Facebook messages.



When drafting, I can write a page and then do dishes. Write another page and vacuum the living room. Write another page and feed the cat. But when I revise, or proofread, or even read for continuity and consistency as I'm writing, I need a quiet room. I focus. I sink into my book. I [sometimes] pretend to be one of the characters and experience the book from his or her point of view.



I give my book all of myself, my attention, my focus, my dedication, because when a reader opens my book I want HER (or him) to give it all of her attention.



So think about that this week. When a reader opens your book, she slides into your story. She focuses on your characters. She falls into your world. If you haven't submerged yourself into the book before her, looking for inconsistencies or things that might jar a reader...she will find the things you missed.



Yikes.



Happy Monday

susan meier


Monday, November 24, 2014

Gratitude

This month I had two books release. Having two books out in one month seriously almost made me crazy. LOL ... Wait. I shouldn't laugh. Book launches are hard. And I was tired. My mom's in transitional care after being deemed too weak to have the heart surgery she needs. And I have a book due 12/1.

But amid the noise of everything that needs to be done...too much...and my worries...too serious for me to breathe some minutes...I heard that still small voice that said, Susan, do you know how lucky you are?

Lucky? I'm so busy and so stressed I barely get two minutes to myself. There isn't time to realize how lucky I am to have talent, to get to do what I love to do, to see my name on book covers and to get letters from readers who say my stories are magnificent...

Ah...

Maybe I am lucky?

Actually, when I stop long enough to think all this through, I KNOW I'm lucky.

So this week rather than give you a tip or a tool to make your writing smoother or easier, I'm going to suggest you walk to a mirror, look yourself in the eye and remind yourself that you are lucky.

I don't care if you've just been rejected.

I don't care if your last book didn't sell and/or all of your ##s are dismal.

If you have the talent to tell a good story, and you have a computer and can steal a few hours a week to whisk yourself away to another world...

You are lucky. You are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving

susan meier

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I only said that because I'm hoping to have a book and a proposal done by Christmas. LOL If I get them done, that will be a happy, lucky day for me. And I have a Christmas release THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS. Not to mention today's $.99 release CHASING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE. For $.99? ...go buy it. LOL

When I'm in the throes of deadline after deadline...which I will be until June 1, 2015, I have discovered that two things will keep me from going off track. Those same two things will give me "something to write" every day.

What are these magnificent things?

The one-line story summary...It's a book about a shy heroine who only makes sensible decisions because of her life as a foster child, who meets a temperamental chef who sweeps her off her feet, but she's terrified to commit to him.

And story high points.

These are the framework of your story. So even if your storyboard goes wrong or your synopsis suddenly becomes irrelevant -- because, as the story took life as you wrote it, something took an unexpected turn -- you can keep your story on point (even with the new direction) if you lead it back to your one-line story summary and/or your story high points.

For instance, in my story about the Italian chef, the hero kissed the heroine before he was supposed to. LOL But I didn't panic. I knew the next high point was to be that she told him she was already engaged and I used the kiss as the event that causes her to tell him. Then my story was back on track. Except the first kiss in the synopsis now became the second kiss. LOL

If, however, I have a character make a decision that goes against the one-sentence story summary, I might actually delete the scene.  If my shy character who only makes sensible decisions suddenly decides to go skinny dipping long before her character arc allows for her personality to begin changing...I axe that baby. Why? Because if you lose your connection to the one-sentence story summary, you lose your connection to the story.

I'm all for characters helping the story along with unexpected behavior. But note...The temperamental chef's unexpected action FIT the one-sentence story summary. The heroine going skinny dipping did not.

That one-sentence story summary should be the heart of your story. It should be the essence of the story you want to tell...if you go against that...you have a totally different story.

You don't want that...At least you shouldn't. When you wrote that one-sentence summary, it should have made your heart sing...if it didn't...maybe that version of the story wasn't the one you wanted to write?

Plus, if you can find the heart of your story before you start writing, you can save yourself a lot of woe. :)

So chew on that. And go buy my $.99 book. http://www.entangledpublishing.com/chasing-the-runaway-bride/

But stick to the heart of your story...Oh, and btw, if you don't like the heart of your story...or don't feel it's strong enough, I'd keep working on THAT before I wrote. Know that heart and your writing day will become a lot easier. :)

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading
susan meier

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Scientific Benefits of 20-Minute Writing Sprints

With a couple of deadlines looming, my friend Tamara Girardi volunteered to share her experience and wisdom on sprints. With NaNoWriMo on deck, it's the perfect time to think about productivity.

Thanks,Tamara!
 
 
The Scientific Benefits of 20-Minute Writing Sprints 

Guest Blog by Tamara Girardi

 

            The camaraderie of sprints such as #1k1hr on Twitter (which encourages you to write 1,000 words in an hour while other writers on Twitter do the same) has always appealed to me, but staying committed for the full hour proved difficult. I wanted a drink. One of my kids needed a snack, a diaper change, a fill-in-the-blank. Or I simply lost focus and momentum on my work-in-progress.

            Recently when I signed on to participate in NaNoWriMo, I decided I would sprint a bit with #1k1hr, but then something even better happened. A writer friend of mine and I started sprinting on our own - for twenty minute spurts. Twenty minutes work so much better for my brain (and my hectic environment) than hour-long intervals.

            Science just might explain why.

            Productivity blogger J.D. Meier promotes 20-minute intervals as very useful slice[s] of time noting the productive possibilities are endless, if you can sustain your focus. The key is to know that sustained thinking takes energy, and it burns out.

            In other words, the goal is to write nonstop and really push your mind (and your fingertips/pencil and paper) for 20 minutes. Then, the next piece of science comes in.

            To address the burn out, J.D. Meier says to take breaks to recharge and renew. Five-minute breaks are a great way to stay focused.

            Research supports J.D. Meiers advocacy for frequent breaks.

            University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras references his research, suggesting, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!

            One hour might not seem like a long task, but for me, writing nonstop for one hour, is unnecessarily challenging. My one-hour sprints tend to yield around 1,000 words (as the #1k1hr hashtag suggests), but when I sprinted for three 20-minute sprints with five-minute breaks in between, I wrote 1,943 words!

            That was a particularly productive session. They dont all go that well, but it certainly went better with shorter sprints and brief breaks than it would have with one hour of solid writing.

            For me, anyway.

            Of course, this does not suggest you shouldnt participate in #1k1hr. Just dont feel badly if you have to stop after 20 or 25 minutes for a 5-minute break.

            Additional research supports the value frequent breaks by categorizing our brain modes as focused mode and diffuse mode. According to research, diffuse mode is that time when our minds are daydreaming and wandering, and studies show that activity in many brain regions increases when our minds wander.

            Some scientists argue that the brain solves problems in diffuse mode, which could explain why writers are able to progress through their manuscripts more quickly with small breaks. Perhaps the brain works out manuscript challenges during the diffuse time, so that when we return to our focused time (in this instance, another 20-minute sprint), the brain can be even more productive than if the break never occurred.

            Perhaps 20-minute sprints arent your key time interval. Maybe you work best in 15 minutes. Or 30 minutes. In any case, try to determine what your most productive intervals are. Take quick breaks in between. Get up from your desk to grab a drink, throw the laundry into the dryer, watch the kids play. Transition your mind from focused mode to diffuse mode for just a few minutes before diving back in for another sprint.

            NaNoWriMo participants or not, we can all use a little boost in productivity, right?

            What is your sprinting style? How often do you like to take breaks? Share your experiences with focused and diffuse modes in the comments below.

           

 

 

Sites I refer to if you want to link to them:

 


 


 

Bio:

An English instructor for Harrisburg Area Community Colleges Virtual Learning program, Tamara Girardi holds a PhD in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews. Her YA fantasy DREAMSEER won the 2013 PennWriters Novel Beginnings Contest and is on submission with agents. Tamara is a member of Backspace, Sisters in Crime, and PennWriters. Follow her (and challenge her to a writing sprint!) on Twitter @TamaraGirardi.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hey guys! I could use some help

I have a new book out from Harlequin Romance...THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS. Harlequin has been losing shelf space so it's not in many bookstores. I'm sort of counting on online sales and it's not doing so well.

Could you share the cover on your Facebook page? Or tweet about it?

Catch Susan Meier's new holiday read THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS.


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373743122/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1NVNG18EM3PH3VQHYGM8&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-twelve-dates-of-christmas-susan-meier/1119564021?ean=9780373743124



All help appreciated. :)

The weekly writer blog is below.

susan