Raritan Valley Community College author panel–and the anthology arrives!

Last night I spent a fun evening at Raritan Valley Community College library. A panel of 4 authors–Keith Fritz, Anthony Giordano, Mercedes Rochelle, and me–met with a group at the college library. We had at least 30 people in the audience to watch the author panel, maybe more!

The author panel had a good mix of genre and form–adult horror/dark fantasy, middle grade and YA sci-fi/fantasy, adult historical fiction, and a playwright. Discussion was lively, covering everything from our process, to our greatest challenges. The audience asked about self-publishing, writer’s block, and memoir writing. The group was engaged and attentive, and it was a pleasure to talk with them. Many came up afterward and chatted with us one-on-one.

Thank you so much to Carina Gonzalez, the Raritan outreach librarian who set up this author panel, and to all the people who came to see it. It’s always gratifying to share what I’ve learned with others just starting out. I remember how overwhelming it all seemed when I first began my journey, and I am happy if I could help give someone the advice they needed to better understand something they’re struggling with.

In other news, my copies of the Silver Pen Magazines 2017 Anthology arrived today! They landed on my doorstep after I had left for my author panel, so I couldn’t take them with me, but I am so happy they are here!

Anti-Climax–Getting Writer’s Block at the Climax

I normally don’t get writer’s block. If one story isn’t humming, I’ll jump to another until my subconscious has time to sort out the mess going on in story #1. So I’m a bit surprised at my current situation. My WIP was rolling along fine in first draft—rough, some ugly, but words on the page—when I got to THE climactic battle scene. Forces of good and evil, all that happy stuff.

And I couldn’t write it.

I can think of 3 reasons for the block:

  1. I am a bad writer without the skills needed to write it.
  2. I am afraid to write the scene because it won’t match what’s in my head.
  3. I don’t know enough about what needs to happen in the scene.

Okay, so even though I have days where I wonder why the heck I am doing this writing thing, I know I am not a bad writer. My skills are up to this task. So it’s not that.

I am always afraid to write every scene, because it never does match up with what’s in my head. At least, not in first draft. That’s what revision is for. So that’s not it.

Which leaves #3—I don’t know enough about the scene. Now, I outlined this entire book, so I am fully aware of what needs to happen and what the stakes are. So that part isn’t the problem. I think it comes back to my less-than-stellar world-building skills. Why? Because I know what has to happen, but am blanking on how it has to happen. I mean, we’ve got magic and spirits and stuff like that going on. Personally, I’m no good in a pillow fight, let alone a battle for the fate of the universe.

So I think that’s my problem in a nutshell. The magic and power of these beings is tremendous, but I’m not precisely sure a) how to depict it and b) what the upper limits are. Can they hurl suns and planets at each other? Are their spirits indestructible? Since they are top of the food chain, is there anything/anyone below them that can stop them?

Since I have plotted out the entire book, I’ve skipped writing the battle scene for now and moved forward. Since I know who wins and what the consequences are, I am able to do that. I am hoping that while I work ahead, my wonderful subconscious mind will simmer away and eventually come up with what I need.

Have you ever been blocked on a certain scene, but not the rest? How did you solve your problem?

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Confessions of a Conference Virgin: Day 2 of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

For me, today started with the mind-boggling 1-day workshop Writing for New Media/Webisodes. Filmmaker and educator Ian Markiewicz gave us an overview of webisodes and their transmedia interactive offshoots such as ARGs – Alternate Reality Games.

In today’s Novel: Plot, author Kelly Simmons focused on Coordination – making sure your Action, Voice, Setting, Language, and Premise all match to create a convincing, coherent world for your reader.

In Novel: Character, author Gregory Frost spoke about adding complexity to characters, which adds depth to the characters and can revitalize a tired, clichéd plot trope.

In today’s YA workshop, author Catherine Stine talked about common plot structures for children’s literature, how to add tension, and common plot flaws.

I wrapped up the day with Jerry Waxler’s 1-day workshop I Don’t Brake for Writer’s Block, where he explored some of the common mental obstacles writers encounter and gave us some strategies for overcoming them.

I skipped the banquet tonight, but I was already overloaded with new information, new creative ideas, and new enthusiasm to do it all again tomorrow! Day 3 awaits!

My Writing Process, Part 1

Every writer has a writing process. Good writers take the time to figure out the process that works best for them—the one that gives them maximum creativity, maximum writing time, and maximum output. When you find that process, you are lucky. When your process breaks down, it is catastrophic.

My own process grew organically, and from a young age. I loved to write all through grade school, and when I got to high school, I found a new best friend—Donna Hanson. One of the things that drew us together was a shared passion for writing. From the age of 14 on, we churned through multiple novels, authoring some of the worst writing ever penned.

But we learned. Together, we explored what it took to tell a good story: plot, pacing, character development, and all the rest. We learned how to create new worlds, how to craft interesting, believable characters, and how to keep readers turning the pages. (One of our friends, who is not a writer, once graced us with this gem: “The way to create a page-turner is to never end a sentence at the bottom of a page.”)

As we matured, Donna and I continued our collaboration, and we worked out the kinks. She and I both hammered out the ideas, the plot, and she would “supervise” some of the main characters, and I would take the others, thus building in differing points of view. Donna rarely did the actual writing, which allowed us to have a single voice throughout the work. She did the proofreading, and (in the early days, when I wrote longhand because I had no computer), she did the typing, too. And always, she was there when I had writer’s block. I could pick up the phone and we would talk for hours until the logjam was broken, the problem solved. In later technological times, it was emails 3 or more times a day, whenever a question arose.

Having two brains is always a plus, but the advantage was also in the synergy of two people who shared a passion for the craft. Writing can be a lonely undertaking, and having someone eager to plunge into the imagination with you at a moment’s notice can be a godsend. I still recall some of her more memorable quotes:

“Wouldn’t you be afraid of you, if you were you?!” (Enthusiastically exploring a character’s fear of herself, and mangling the pronouns while doing so.)

“Ker, what planet are we on?” (Brainstorming a science fiction book that took place on several planets.)

And the ever-present, “Umm, Ker…” which always preceded her pointing out something incredibly ridiculous that I had written.

So, my process grew intertwined with Donna, and hers with me. The juices flowed, the writing came, and everything ran with a humming smoothness that became second nature—it became like breathing. Writing equaled Donna, and it worked wonderfully.

Then she died.

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