My book Things Hoped For, the first book in the Of Great Value series, is coming out next month just in time for Christmas Shopping! As a bonus to my readers, I’ll be offering a free ebook, Faith, My Sure Foundation. I am looking for authors who would like to contribute short stories to this collection. It’s a great opportunity for you to market yourself to the LDS youth community and share your own testimony of the value of Faith. Click here for details and submission guidelines.
Summer is crazy in the Clawson household. My husband and children and I all put on a big event called Knights of Freedom Summit. We train boys ages 8-12 (and over 70 youth volunteers) in leadership skills. It’s a huge mountain of work and the best part of my year.
But it takes all summer which means that my writing time gets limited. Jennifer and I kept at it right up until the end of August but then I had to be done for a few weeks. Now we are digging back in and my brain is starting to fire in all those wonderful, story-creating ways. I’ve pulled out a project I’m working on for LDS Young Women and pounded through 50% of the revisions in the last couple of days and I’m working on the plot for a scary story in honor of October. I’ll be posting that as a freebie here next month so check back.
I find that getting back to writing means updating my entire routine. I can’t expect to have the time to dive into the delicious world of story, setting and character arc unless I carve it carefully out of my otherwise full day. I do have four children after all.
So I’ve had to make some changes for fall.
1 – Get up earlier.
During the summer I tend to stay up later and sleep in a bit. Now that I’m getting back on track I’m using an alarm again. It’ll only take a few weeks until I adjust completely and wake up naturally. In the meantime, I’m grateful for cheerful music to start my day.
2 – Walks in the morning.
This always gets the creative juices flowing. Being outside first thing, especially when it’s so beautiful outside, wakes up my body and my brain. And that’s a great combination.
3 – Work first, play second.
Of course, summer is completely opposite, but my kids and I are getting back in the swing of things with chores and school coming first (we home school). That allows the afternoon for writing (the play part). When I flip-flop things, we end up cranky and I get that guilt-thing going on. That’s not conducive to a happy family OR creativity.
4 – Take things a bit at a time.
Just because I’m back in the writing-groove, doesn’t mean that I can or even should do it all at once. There is no need to sprint to the
burn-out finish line. Working steadily not only makes my family happier, it trains my brain to think like a writer every day, instead of just during those slap-dash times.
So how about you? What steps are you taking to set yourself up for a successful writing Fall?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the creative process. It started with me “cleaning house” and releaseing unnecessary emotional baggage. One of the ways I’m doing that is by learning to let go of worrying about what people think. I’m trying to find ways to be happy and experience the journey of life, just because it’s my life. Not because it’s approved of by someone else.
While I’m in the middle of this learning curve I’ve questioned how writing falls into that. And it all boils down to a catch 22 about creativity.
I write the very best work when I am writing it for me and no one else. When it is something that I enjoy, that calls to me when I’m not working on it and whispers, “You’re happier here. Come and play. Sink into me.” That’s the kind of story that drags me through by my belly button. As soon as I start wondering what someone else is going to think about my writing I’m doomed to second guess myself, self-edit, and homogenize the characters all in an attempt to try to make that imaginary audience happy.
The catch? Without an audience, what is art? Art, in all its forms, is the medium by which ideas and emotions are portrayed the most powerfully. Can you imagine the sadness of an original Frederick Lord Leighton painting (“Flaming June” pictured above) hidden in a closet or Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor never being heard (my favorite piece of all time)?
I’m not going to even dream of comparing my writing to Leighton or Mendelssohn but I know that we writers desperately need an audience for our books. They are only brought to life once they are read.
So how do you not worry about what people think and simply allow the creative juices to flow?
Here are a few tips:
1 - Draft with the door closed. Revise with the door open. This comes from Stephen King’s On Writing (which is excellent if you can handle the foul language). He talks about the fact that when he drafts, and he is a pantster, he has to write it just for him. He just lets the story unfold for him and never lets anyone read what he writes until the first draft is complete. Then when it’s time to revise, that’s when hetakes to his readers and gets their input, fixes the things that make no sense, reworks character arcs, etc. I learned this in my critique group with Julie Bellon and Jordan McCollum. I found that when we were critiquing something that I was in the middle of drafting, it killed it for me. I couldn’t keep going. On the other hand, taking a finished draft to group was awesome!
2 – Never write to the market. The saying is often heard, “Write what you know.” I say, “Write what you love.” If what you love is dragon-slaying cowboy action romance, go for it. Even if you’ve heard that your genre is taboo (anything Dystopian right now) keep going if you really love it. When you write to the market without loving that genre, there won’t be any life in it. You won’t love writing it and no one else will love reading it.
3 – Keep the romance alive. Just like with a successful relationship, a romance takes work. Sometimes you start a story but halfway through that feeling starts to fade. You have to remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place. What were you doing when the inspiration for your story struck? Did you watch a movie or listen to a song that triggered the idea? Revisit the place or environment that first got your creative juices flowing. Fall in love again. Don’t just try to push through it without that loving feeling. Recapture it!
I’m taking my own advice today as I dive back into a big project that’s been somewhat on hold for almost a month. Best wishes on your goals for JumpStartWriMo this month! How are you doing?
My awesome and amazing critique partner, Julie Bellon, is hosting a JumpStartWriMo in June. I’ve accepted the challange which is basically to just set a goal for yourself, one that pushes you but is realistic, and make it happen.
This is just what I need to help me really focus on my projects and burn through them.
So here are my two June goals:
1 – Finish revising the 50 pages I am sending to a wonderful agent who requested them at a conference. I’m getting close with this one.
2 – Finish the first draft of A Sister’s Witness: The Powell Family Tragedy so I can start tearing it apart and rebuilding it. I always struggle with self-editing when I’m in the drafting process. I’m excited to have this goal so I can remind myself to focus on just letting the words come. I’ll fix ‘em later.
Summer is crazy for me, our Leadership Training that my husband and I do takes a huge, and I mean HUGE chunk of our time during the summer, our auto-shop is crazy busy meaning that my husband and oldest son are working all kinds of hours, and there is this wonderful sunshiny world that calls to me. All that being said, there is a time to buckle down and just burn through it and this is the time. Sister’s Witness is a story that needs to be told. I know in my heart of hearts that it will save at least one life. That can’t be forgotten.
If you would like to join JumpStartWriMo, hop on over to Julie’s blog and pick up this free badge for your site.
Spread the word and share your goals. We can do this!
I somehow missed this in the middle of all the trial stories but this story ran a couple of weeks ago detailing the wonderful healing process that writing this book has been for Jennifer.
She continues to amaze with the grace and dignity she has as she faces each new level of this trial. I am humbled to share this journey with her.
Everyone has no doubt heard about Josh Powell and his horrible actions. His wife, Susan Cox Powell, is still missing and presumed dead while family members continue to mourn the loss of Charlie and Braden.
No one can understand the story better than Jennifer Graves. As Josh’s older sister she has watched his downward spiral for years. But she never could have thought things would turn out this way. Jennifer is an amazing woman. She has stayed strong in her faith even though all of her siblings have caved in to the twisted control of her father, Steve Powell. She is a wonderful wife and mother and teaches leadership to youth. Most astounding to me is the level of peace that she has found even in the middle of all of this.
On that awful day back in February when Josh killed his sons and set fire to his house in Washington, I discovered for the first time that Jennifer was his sister. It wasn’t hidden, I had just not followed the case very closely. She was a friend, mostly because our children were involved in the same educational programs. We always enjoyed seeing each other but it was very casual. As dozens of people poured out their condolences over Facebook, I made the connection for the first time.
I hurried to offer my own sympathy, saddened by the fact that I had never been a good enough friend to understand what she was going through over the last two years. We talked a few times during the next couple of weeks, just quick words of comfort and encouragement. It was about that time that Jennifer’s husband, Kirk, mentioned to me that Jenn was writing and it was helping her process everything that had happened. I offered a listening ear or support if she needed it in the writing process.
Jennifer took me up on the offer and we spent some time chatting. She expressed her frustration with the process. She knew the story needed to be told but writing it was not something she enjoyed. I don’t know which one of us came up with the idea first but we left that conversation with the thought that maybe we could work together.
During our next meeting I made it clear to Jennifer that I did not want to pressure her into choosing me as her co-author. I feel that her story needs careful handling. She had already been approached by two authors who were interested in telling her story, both with more experience than me. I told her that I was happy to help in any area she needed, even if that meant helping her to hook up with someone else, or just giving her feedback on her own writing. We both decided that this was a decision best made by consulting with our husbands and praying about it. That is the way we each find inspiration and we applied it here.
The next morning Jennifer texted me and said that she felt without question that I was the one who could tell the story that she wanted to tell.
I have never felt more humbled than I was at that moment (unless you count every moment I’ve spent working on the book since then). Yes, I am a novice in this genre. I am not a published author yet (although I do have some good news coming on that front soon). But I can tell you this. I am passionately committed to telling the story that Jennifer wants to tell. And that is the most important part.
In the meantime, I am working away. Jennifer supplies the personal details that no one else could share. She witnessed things that no one else saw or did. The story is big enough that the hardest part is just managing the flow. I find myself more of a cowboy than an author, wrangling in and roping the beast.
Jennifer continues to amaze me. We are quickly becoming very close friends and our book is halfway done! The story is so amazing and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Due to a foul up with wordpress I lost all of my content and design for my site. Please be patient while I get it back up and running. I have exciting book news to share with you!