#MondayBlogs

DISTRACTIONS – THEY’RE EVERYWHERE

Like so many of you, I work a full-time job and squeeze in my writing here and there. I find it tremendously sad that the thing I enjoy most is the first thing that is sacrificed at the altar of not enough time.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels a bit brain-dead at the end of a work day. And to be honest, it’s not that my job is unduly stressful or that I work in an unpleasant environment. Hardly. I like busy days and I get along with my co-workers. But there is a certain frustration that lingers with me through out the work day. Story ideas are born. Characters stop by and introduce themselves and to be quite honest, distract me from my work. I might make a note or two, time allowing, and I usher them away. By the time five o’clock has rolled around, my eyes are tired from staring at a computer screen. And those characters – they are long gone…

A short drive home and I’m preparing dinner. I might go for a ride in the jeep just to unwind. And I might plan on getting a few words down only…

DISTRACTIONSDistractions.

Excuses.

Poor time management.

Whatever you want to call it – it robs many of us (writers) of valuable time. And it does so, so insidiously, we often fail to recognize it’s happening.

It starts out innocently enough. An internet search/fact check becomes a quick stop on Amazon… A look at a cute puppy video is followed by a notification of a friend’s Facebook update… A text message that leads to a phone call… A short break that turns into an hour in front of the television…

Before you know it, your best laid plans have failed and its time to go to bed and you didn’t make any headway on your latest WIP.

The frustration is real. So real in fact, that I decided I needed to be proactive.  Following the suggestions of many other writers, I made myself some rules.

  1. Turn off the cellphone.
  2. Turn off the television.
  3. Do not access the internet.
  4. Be committed.  Schedule writing time and stick to it.
  5. Go on DND (do not disturb) during scheduled writing time.

So this is the plan.

Got my fingers crossed that I’m disciplined enough to follow through.

 

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The Importance of Supporting Characters – Thoughts on Jenny from Forrest Gump

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about supporting characters and the important roll they have in telling a story.

Okay, she's not Jenny buthttps---unsplash.com-juliacaesar I thought the pic is a good representation of the character.I love the movie Forrest Gump.  One of my favorite characters is Jenny Curran, played by Robin Wright (adult) and Hanna R. Hall (child). Jenny is such a complex character.  At face value she’s a wild child – going through life making terrible decisions.  But when you look deeper, you see a character that mirrors Forrest in many ways.

Like Forrest, Jenny is an outsider.  While the reasons they don’t fit into local society are different, they recognize they are both outcasts, so to speak. Forrest is born with physical and mental disabilities. Jenny is born into poverty and sexually abused by her father.  Neither have the ability to save themselves.  But because of their life experiences, they recognize that they are safe with each other and they develop a beautiful friendship.

As the story progresses, we see Jenny continually running from her past, from her pain, from her feelings.  Not only does she choose men who abuse her, she abuses herself. She is a person that lacks a sense of self worth.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know Forrest falls in love with Jenny.  It appears to be an unrequited love.  At this point in the movie, my husband and boys are furious with her. (One son calls her the Mega Skankosaurus which loosely translates into the swankiest dinosaur ever.) But I can’t help but feel sorry for her.  The guilt she carries knowing that she is hurting Forrest. And then thinking of her love for him and the confusion that it might bring.  Does she love him as friend?  Or is it more?  And if it’s a romantic love, would she be happy? Maybe it doesn’t matter.  Maybe Forrest is a unwitting reminder of the past she longs to forget…

The beauty of Forrest is that he knows and accepts himself.

And then we have the night

Jenny and Forrest make love and afterwards, she runs away again.  Only this time, we see Forrest run, too.  While her running is more figurative, his is very literal.  He is actually running from the pain of a broken heart.

For me, it is this periodic intersecting of their lives that help to propel the story. Without Jenny, the story of Forrest Gump would be ho-hum at best.  It is precisely the solid multi-layer construction of a supporting character that helps make this story great.  And that is true for any story.  No matter how intriguing a main character might be, if the supporting cast is flat, the story will be too.  This is not to say that all of the supporting characters must be well-rounded.  However, those who frequently interact with the main character should be fleshed out. (Think Samwise Gamgee in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.)

These are some questions I ask myself when considering my supporting cast – particularly those characters who are more important to the story.

Supporting Characters

So – what about you? Any thoughts or tips on how you develop your supporting characters?

 

 

 

 

 

So You’re Booking A Virtual Book Tour?

Imagine if you will:

You’ve published your novel.  Your mom, sister and best friend have purchased it. Your cousin smiled and asked for a free copy while your neighbor has studiously avoided you since you announced your happy news.

Your sales report from KDP is nothing short of humbling.

Now what?

You’ve checked into several options and seeing as how your marketing budget is quite limited.  You’ve decided to take your book on tour – a virtual tour.

STOP!

Before you go any further, before you sign on the dotted line, let me share a little of my experience as both a touring author and hosting blogger…

thinkingClose your eyes and picture yourself sitting at a table in your favorite bookstore.  There’s a line of people eager to meet you, patiently waiting for you to sign their copy of your novel. Of course, you smile.  You schmooze. You pull out your trusty pen and you sign your name with a flourish – just as you’ve practiced so many times before.

Now:  Open your eyes and let’s talk about your virtual book tour.  Because while they are much the same, they are uniquely different. Instead of a line of people physically standing in front of you, there will be countless people sitting in front of their computer screens.

First:  Do your homework.  Make sure that the tour organizer you’ve selected is a good fit for your book.  This is easy enough to figure out. Sometimes, you can tell just by the name.  (ex:  Deb’s Chic Lit Tours) Other times,  the name won’t give you a clue. (ex: Deb’s Virtual Book Tours) This is when you need to look at the books that are currently touring and those that have previously toured.  Is your book’s genre well represented? If so, go a step further.  Visit the host sites.  Note the visits/interaction on the site or the lack there of. Remember: It’s up to each individual blogger to sign up to host your book. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to be featured on a site with heavy traffic. However, a blogger who wants to increase their traffic is going to do their best to help generate views by sharing the post on various social media sites.

Next:  After you’ve selected your tour organizer – you will receive requests for book excerpts, author interviews and guest posts.  Meet the requirements.  If a blogger is willing to participate with your tour, offering you space on his/her blog – then kindly oblige with the requested guest post or interview.

Finally:  This is important.  Be selective in the dates you choose as tours are time consuming.  Just like with a face to face book signing, virtual book tours require that the author be present.  This can get tricky especially when juggling jobs, families and other obligations.

On occasion, I participate with virtual book tours as a host.  What I’ve seen has left me scratching my head.  I share a post featuring the author and their novel.  My readers comment with things like:  This sounds interesting!  Or Sounds like my kind of book!  

And the author’s response:  imagine

Seriously?  Potential readers are being ignored.

While the author has paid for the tour, he/she must remember that is more of an organizational fee.  It isn’t the hosts job to sell your book.  The hosts offer you, the author, a seat at the table, a place at the podium, a little time in the spotlight. But – it’s up to the you to take advantage of the opportunity.

How?  That’s easy:

*Stop by and thank the host for having you on their blog.  (You may have to get up a little earlier than usual to make that early morning visit.)

*Check in periodically through out the day.  (Lunch, breaks, after work)

*Share the post on your social media sites.

*Enlist the help of family and friends by asking them to follow your tour and share the posts.

*AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE – Acknowledge the comments!  Those comments were made by people who found something interesting about the book, interview, etc. Failing to do so isn’t any different than getting up and walking away from that table in your favorite book store, paying no attention to those folks in line.

ChirpDon’t forget – The people who take the time to read the posts and comment are potential book buyers…

And ultimately, isn’t that the point of doing a virtual book tour?

Character Information Sheet

This past week, I was invited to speak about character development to a creative writing class at a local community college – specifically focusing on how I develop my characters.

To be honest, I never gave much thought to my process.  It was just something that happened.  But the speaking invitation gave me a reason to think about how it all occurs for me.

When it comes to my characters, I tend to spend a lot of time with them.  They hang out with me while I’m at work.  (I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t always convenient.  It’s not easy trying to focus on my job when my characters keep vying for my attention.)  They ride with me to the grocery store  and walk with me on the beach.  I guess you could say we develop a friendship of sorts.

As I learn about the characters, there’s so much information coming at me – it’s easy to forget the little details.  I’ve tried a variety of methods to keep my facts straight.  Not all of them have been successful.  If you do a google search, you’ll find bookoos of these type of forms.  After looking at several examples, I decided to make one that fit my needs.  If you find that the sheet works for you, please feel free to use it.

character development sheet 1

Lessons Learned

winnerI love winners.  I love underdogs.  I love losers when they don’t give up.  But I don’t love quitters. And that one thing – not wanting to be a quitter, not wanting to feel like a person who throws in the towel, has about wore me out.  It’s been two years since I published my first book.  Since then, I’ve worked on the sequel, written and published a novella and wrote another story.  But it’s that sequel that’s killing me. I think about the characters, how the story should go, what I want to happen.  It all sounds good in my head – and yet, when I sit down to write, I lose interest.

Other characters have popped in, wanting to tell their stories, and I told them to hold on.  It wasn’t their turn.  After a while, they stopped knocking on the door of my imagination.  And that’s sad.  It bothers me that I stubbornly clung to the idea that I had to do a trilogy – because that’s what YA writers do.  Those other stories, those other characters, are like smoke rising in the air.  How do you recapture those ideas?  Because it’s not like I haven’t tried.  I wrote down the ideas – I knew to do that much.  But going back a reading over those thoughts – I’m not finding the magic.

After so many hours working and reworking the sequel, I’ve got to admit it:

I’m a quitter!

Maybe one day, the story will flow.  But now is not that time.  I’m shelving the sequel.  I’m reclaiming the joy I had when I wrote the other stories.  It’s okay for me to put something aside when it becomes a burden.  And that is exactly what the sequel has become.  And it makes me sad to admit it.

But –

I’ve learned something important.

As a writer, I should have stayed true to my first instinct.

If I would have done that, then those other characters – their stories would have been told.

And –

I remembered something important.

Just because other people are jumping off bridges, doesn’t mean I have to.

If I would have worried less about what other writers were doing, I would have been satisfied with a stand-alone book.