POWER WRITING

I recently started writing a new book, along with a new writing process, and decided to journal my journey. Be warned, I journal as though I am talking to you in person and this means I can be a very chatty, talkative person!

This all started when I decided to self publish my SpiritWalker series. Book one, Summer of the Eagle, had been published many years ago in print format. The publisher went belly up and I got my rights back. I decided to make it digitally available. Book two, Autumn Dreams had been around the publisher/editor block and back and I have two more unwritten books to this mini-series.  With no publishers interested in the first two books, I decided not to even try to sell the other two. But in order to build my readers again after so long a time since the first book came out in 2007, I knew I had to power up my writing, set up a production schedule and treat myself as though I were under contract and deadline.

First, a bit about me.

I AM A PROCRASTINATOR

I WORK MY BEST UNDER DEADLINE

Being out of contract for so long has been horrible because I had no one to answer too. So putting these books out there on my own is a great way to put pressure on myself.  But one of my problems is, that although I am a fairly fast writer, I am extrembly slow to start. When I start a new book, it takes me forever to get the first 3 chapters solid. This is due to the fact that it can take time to get to know the characters, the setting, and even the theme, even if it is plotted out. It can take me as much time to do the first three-four chapters as it takes to write the remaining fifteen chapters!!

This process does not make for very productive, fast writing. I can take three-six months on the first part of a book, then finish the rest of the book in two months or less—that’s when a deadline looms! And my writing is more polished and needs less rewriting once I’m past the beginning.

So I set my own production schedule and it is brutal, much more demanding than when I had contracts and deadlines. I’ve set myself the task of completing seven books by the end of 2014, (2 are done) seven books for sale, and at the end of 2014, I’ll be half way though book eight.

HELP!!!!

At the time I was setting this up, and getting Summer of the Eagle ready for release in July (I did my own covers, readied files for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, sent out for reviews, and created my own trailer and am working website updates), I was rebuilding my social media presence and noticed on facebook that an author friend was doing something called Power Writing and was very excited about it. I called her up and we chatted. Before I could ask her about it, she told me all about it and how wonderful it was for her.

Here’s what Power Writing is (at least the way she and her friends work it)

The rules are simple: write for one hour.

No interruptions

No stopping to research

No going on the internet to check facts

No distractions period.

No checking email, facebook, twitter, etc.

No phone calls.

Write. Write. Write. THIS IS SO SIMPLE

Warn your family that you are taking an hour—JUST ONE HOUR—to write.

My friend’s group scheduled 3 separate writing sessions during the day—early morning, afternoon, and evening.

At the start of the hour, everyone gives their word count for their chapter or document. Those in edit mode stated their goals. One person had taken charge of figuring out word and page count using a spreadsheet.

At the end of the hour, everyone reports their word count and is told how they did. After, figure out who is joining in the next session and who is in charge of calling.

The beauty is, you are held ACCOUNTABLE by people who are not going to sabatoge your writing time. It’s not like you’ll be yelled at or publically shamed, but you’ll know that everyone is expecting you to produce and no one wants to admit to others that they failed. A procrastinator like me needs to be held accountable!

Also, with a couple to a few hours in-between power writing sessions, there is plenty of time to do plotting, rewriting, as well as marketing and promotion and unfortunately, housework and other mundane chores. If you have kids, they can be given a timer and can look forward to some mom/dad time when the timer dings! Another plus is the fact that you can get up and move. Much healthier for our bodies than sitting for 4-6 hours or more.

I had tried something similair with my critique group. Problem was, we chatted too long before starting—you know, “how is everyone?” which always leads into long, drawn out conversations that often end in woe is me or bitch sessions or problem solving. Sometimes more than 30 minutes was spent on our greetings before we got to work.  Although we wrote for much longer, two or three hours before reporting back in, we were often back on the phone for another hour or more. Some of that was discussing our writing sessions but more often, it was gabbing. And because it took so much time, it didn’t work.

So back to my story. My friend invited me to join her group and try it. I jumped at the chance, and was hoping she’d ask!  On my first day, I was called and conferenced in to the others taking part in that writing hour. I was asked for my current word count. After, everyone hung up and the writing began. When the hour was over, one person called and we reported our progress. I was impressed with “the call” because:

There was no chatter.     No gabbing.     No wasted time

We were all told how we did—how many words we wrote that hour. Another great thing—each writer pretty much writes about the same number of words from one session to another and once you know what your average is, you can tell whether you had a good session or a not so good hour of writing.

That is what Power Writing is and how it works. Now I’ll take it a bit deeper for me—for this journal.

Day One I got “the call”. I was asked where I was. Well, I was staring at a blank page. I had not started this book which made it perfect for this experiment. Trouble was, I only had the basic premise of the story. I knew who the heroine was as she was a child in a previous book. I knew she had a grandfather looking for her and I knew she didn’t like the man. Being a romance, there was a hero in there somewhere—maybe hired by grandfather—but he had no name, no face.

Normally, I spend some time plotting a book before typing that first word and plunging myself into the writing process.  During this call, I almost said that I was going to be plotting for that first power hour of writing.  But the purpose of this hour is to write. To produce. So I took a deep breath and told everyone my word count was zero! I jumped in with both feet and figured I would drown!

After I hung up, I stared at the horrible blank page, not knowing where I was going to start or even which character to start with. But the clock was ticking so decided to start with the hero with grandfather in grandfather’s study.

I started writing. I pulled a name out of the air for the hero and just applied butt to chair and fingers to keyboard. I resisted all urges to do plotting, look up names, or research what city this first scene takes place in. I kept my focus and just wrote.

At the end of the hour, the phone rang. I was in the middle of a sentence but the rule is, you stop. No matter what. So I did. And a funny thing happened when I checked my word count for the report:

I had over 400 words!

The scene was solid.  And I already knew a lot about the hero and his goals and conflicts just from being forced to put words to that blank screen.  That first day I think I did 2 or 3 sessions with working on the plotting and characters in-between. And of course, in order to finish this book, I’ll add more Power Hours into my day.  What I came away with was a good, solid start to my book. I was jazzed, and wowed and impressed that I was able to break my “normal mold” of writing.

I didn’t start this journal from the beginning so don’t have a day by day to accounting, so to start, I’ll sum up the first 2 weeks of doing this.

Week 1, I ended with over 6000 words.  Unheard of for me. 

Week 2, I ended with 8584 words. I think I did around sixteen-eighteen sessions total for the two weeks and have an estimated page count of 50. This is 2.5 scenes, almost three complete chapters!

I am so happy with this progress. In the first scene in chapter three, the hero told the heroine something I didn’t know! It just came out and appeared on my monitor. I love it when that happens because it means I’ve breathed life into the character, or maybe it means he’s taking over—whatever—it’s a pretty heady feeling. My first sessions netted me 4-500 words. In week two, I was writing 6-950 words!! Whoo hoo!!!

June 18 The last three session were less as I am going back into each scene I wrote and doing some rewriting. So much was revealed that for me to continue, I have to get those early scenes set to reflect what is happening now. I liken my writing to pulling taffy.

I write until the “taffy/words” start to thin and become so stringy that it breaks. By going back and fixing and strengthening, I can then zip forward. I have a feeling that this method of focused writing will mean less having to go back and shore up my story, that I’ll be able to produce a more polished draft of at least the story/plot/character elements. I do write in layers, and part of revising, is adding layer upon layer, like a painter applies paint to the canvas, until there is a finished “picture”.

I will get one session in tonight and start off at 8772 total word count.

I will be adding my progress, thoughts etc. for this book, as much as for my own growth as for your look into the mind of a writer (I know, scary!) and even for your entertainment as I have at least 3 cats who do  not understand the concept of 1 hour, leave me alone.  Sigh.  I don’t have a door to my office as my office is the family room…

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MY WRITING SPACE

01c89-img_1299Today, I, and other Carina Press authors were challenged by fellow Carina Press author David Bridger to show a pic of ourselves at work in our office, or in our favorite place to work.  Sounded like fun, and of course, an excuse not to write.  I write here in my office, at Starbucks and in a comfy chair in my mom’s room.  Lately, a friend who went back to school has been coming over to do her homework so we end up in the livingroom.  Have laptop/netbook, will travel!

We converted our family room into office space.  With no children at home, our living room serves as a very lived in room and my mother has a studio set up in the master bedroom which just leaves 2 very small bedrooms.  MY WRITING SPACEOne for us and the other a cozy TV room/craft room879fb-img_1276 (my stash of yarn!).  The family room works nice and if there isn’t stuff piled in front of it, there is a fireplace for cool winter days or nights.  I used a roll top desk and hutches to form a wall blocking the kitchen and bookcases to make a “hallway”.  The other entrance is partially blocked by a hutch which if I suck it in, is my entrance/exit.  Hubby uses the kitchen “hall entrance”.

I love my office.  Before my mother came to live with us, I had the masterbedroom as my office as I also ran a home business.  This room serves us very nicely.  The walls and ceiling are 4 shades of blue which a73cc-img_1296I love.  de692-img_1290I surround myself with my books, and all my “pretties” and always have music of some sort playing and candles as well. A high up window has cystals and dream catchers and Native American is sort of the theme in my office along with my collection of cat statues and photos of my family. At the moment, it’s also shared by more than few webs and dust bunnies…

I usually end up sharing it with my animals who have to be with me. Out of 5 cats, there are usually 3-4 somewhere in the room. I have to reserve space on all flat surfaces and even one drawer for cat beds or else there are some unhappy felines.  Sometimes a cat bed and a fleece on my main writing desk!  Below is Snowy.  In his defense, he is a huge cat.  Nearly 3 feet in length stretched out, not including tail.  He is about 2-3 lbs too heavy.  And he is going to get a lion cut as he’s getting too old to groom his fur and he and I fight like cats and dogs when I decide the mats have to go..

My pups sleep on bedding under the desk at my feet. Especially at night as I am a night writer.  Snowy claims the round bed if he wants.  At 2.5 times the weight of the pups, he wins….  Moments ago, the pup on the yellow blanket was curled up in the bed.MY WRITING SPACE

 And this blog on my writing space would not be complete without a picture of my office-mate and husband.  Yes, he has just a corner of this room that used to be ALL mine.  One of these days we’ll get him a  nice desk instead of a table.  He gave up the small bedroom office so we could have a cozy TV room.  What a guy!

ROMANCING THE — PAST

All historical writers in someway, and in various degrees do exactly that: we Romance the Past. You know what I’m talking about here. Take myself for example.

I write Native American Historical Romances. I have young, virile, handsome warriors who carry off (sometimes) helpless (well, how about victims of circumstance) women not of their culture and take them back to their tribes where the man and woman from two complete different worlds fall in love and overcome any and all barriers–including language!

Realistically, life for those women did not have a happily-ever-after. Sure, there were some who found happiness–maybe. I am hearing my husband snort of disbelief in my head as I write for he is a realistic person down to his engineering bones. I like to believe that not all were treated cruelly.

Okay, so why do we authors do this? Why take an era in time like the old frontier, the Civil War, any war, pirates, etc. and turn the ugly truth of what life was really like into stories of true love overcoming the impossible?

I can think of one reason: it is the era of that time period, the world long gone from us, that is somehow appealing. I’ll use my own expertise here. When readers of Native American stories, in the era where the white man and Native were dealing with territory issues, we aren’t seeing the spread of disease the white man brought to the Natives or the starvation during harsh winters or the savageness and slaughter that certainly was a big part of that time period. No, we see a freedom of living that we will never know in our lifetime no matter how many times we go camping or hiking.

The appeal is in living off the land, having no cumbersome possessions, no work demands, no bills in the mail box, no mortgage, no threat of foreclosure, no job layoffs, no mean, insensitive or jerk of a boss and–well you get the idea. When we look back, we don’t see people how they were. We see what we long for–if even for a few short hours. Sometimes, less is more?

Sure, there was work, hard work way back then. From sunrise to sunset and often long into the night but there was also plenty of time for celebration, for visiting the other women while working, the chatting and laughter, the bonding of males going off on hunts or a raiding party.

Then there is the appeal of never being alone, never wanting. Never having your children go hungry unless the entire tribe was hungry. For in those days, people shared. To own and collect and keep for the sake of owning was not a good thing. People shared what they had with those in need.

And the children! They were valued. Treasured. You’ve all heard the saying: it takes a village to raise a child? It’s true. Parents did not have to pay outrageous daycare fees so that they could attend to their duties for the children were looked after by everyone. Children were never tossed away like garbage. And a child grew up knowing he was loved. He was treated with respect, and taught to respect. After all, if a child is never given respect (or love etc) how can he give it later. Okay, there was probably mistreated children back in the era I write about but from what I know, in the pre-white man days, with most tribes, children were treasures. Unlike today where many are forgotten and swept away.

Hmm, I seem to have stepped a bit onto my soapbox. But I think you can take all my points using the Native American culture and apply it to any popular historical time period that we romance authors romanticize.

Does that mean its harmful to do what we do? I don’t believe so. There were storytellers in every culture, and not so surprisingly, stories of the same type (creation myths, moral stories, advice stories, and I’m sure some just for fun). But no matter the story, there were lessons buried beneath the words.

Today, we don’t have a tribal storyteller to pass down all that was learned from one generation to another. Instead, we have books and those books have themes that touch on all walks of life.

We today have so many things vying for our attention. I’m not even going to try to list those activities and chores, etc. I joke to my husband that if I were to write down everything I NEED to do, WANT to do, SHOULD do, FORGOT to do, I’d have a list a mile long and no hope in this lifetime of completing it.

So to keep from going slightly mad, many of us look to a time we believe or at least pretend to believe was much simpler and maybe a bit more rewarding. Sure, those stories are fiction but the world is at least in some part real but best of all, those wonderful characters in those fictionalized places become real. For at least the time we spend with them. If I as an author can take a reader out of the stress of daily living and bring them back feeling good about themselves and their world, then I’m happy.

And maybe, there will be something to be learned that can apply to our lives today. Some moral lesson, a bit of advice, that can ease the passage of our own day-to-day experiences. Most of all, when we read true-to-life stories about people facing tough times just as we are facing tough times, we know we are not alone.

Check back at my website for excerpts, reviews, and contest information (pages being updated over the next week)
http://susanedwards.com

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