Creative Breakthroughs – Whew!

We’ve talked about where our creativity comes from this month, how our thoughts and feelings influence it, and when procrastination helps or hurts the creative process. Now that we’ve talked about the more difficult side, let’s look at what creativity looks like when it works.

Creative breakthroughs – whew! I don’t know if I could continue trying to live a creative lifestyle and work in a creative endeavor if I didn’t have frequent breakthroughs. I think we get an endorphin rush when the breakthrough is big enough. We’re happy to the point of laughing out loud and we’re filled with sudden energy to keep going! Yay! Thank God for wiring our brains this way!

This past week I’ve been working my way through a book I found in my library, The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee. Only two chapters in, and I love this book so much it’s on my must-buy list! The web site is also spectacular, full of colorful encouragement and happiness-inducing how-to’s! You may know that I started my own publishing company to publish my books. I did not jump into it with no business sense, though. I have a bachelor degree in business administration as well as a master’s degree in creative writing. I want to work in a creative industry, but I want to do it right.

I’ve written a few business plans in my life, done a halfway decent job with them, but I don’t think I ever looked at them again once they were printed and added to the 3-ring binder of “business stuff.” But the way Jennifer suggests creating your business plan – and I’m only two chapters in, but I think I’m right – both uses common business sense and business tools and the more visual creative side of your brain to create a bona fide business plan that doesn’t get filed away and that you’ll actually use. (Guess what optional reading is being added to my January online class on goal setting?!)

One of your writing routines should be to check in with yourself to see if you’re on the road you meant to be on. When I went to the RWA National Conference in July, one thing I wanted to verify while I was attending workshops and meeting agents and other publishing professionals was – am I on the right road for me?

By the end of the last day, I was doing the Happy Kitty Dance because I knew self-publishing and being a business owner was exactly where I wanted to be! Nothing had changed to make me decide to give it up. Hearing all about what’s going on in New York and who is looking for what didn’t make me want to re-start submitting to agents and editors. Now that I’m making a more visual and creative business plan (and giving myself permission to forego the look of a traditional business plan!), I’m more excited about doing more frequent check-ins with myself. I love Jennifer’s idea of using index cards to keep track of parts of the plan so you can add new ideas when you think of them. I’m sure Jennifer is a friend I just haven’t met yet! I love the way she thinks! 🙂 I’ve been trying to make my business background fit into my creative life, and I’ve tried to get my creative life to fit into a sound business mold, but Jennifer is the one who put the two worlds together.

Am I excited enough here for you to click on those links and check out the book and the web site?! The excitement is because I had a creative breakthrough last week! Something that I’ve been trying to create finally came together and I’ve got the endorphin rush to prove it. And not just an endorphin rush – meeting your friend for coffee and talking about your works-in-progress can give you that, but does it always help you write more and better afterward? Part of knowing you’ve had a creative breakthrough is when you have lists and pages of ideas, and when normal and unrelated “stuff” in your life sparks even more ideas.

Reading the first chapter of The Right-Brain Business Plan on the elliptical machine at the gym (difficult, but it can be done – just don’t fall off when turning pages!), I had so many ideas about getting back into teaching that I was afraid I’d lose some of them. I used to put on an annual one-day writer’s workshop called Write Now! Workshops. I stopped doing them when I started traveling so much. But I have plans for a lot of online and live workshops starting in January 2013. I knew I wanted to get back into teaching, but I wasn’t sure how and where I wanted to start. Jennifer asked all the right questions to get my little brain humming!

I’ve still got most of the work ahead of me in getting my business plan down. But the other thing that excites me is that I can spend a little time “playing.” I can use that drawing class I took two years ago to make little drawings on my business plan. (Oh, how my professors at The Wharton School would faint!) I can use some of the cool programs on my Mac to get more colorful and more creative. I can take pictures of myself in PhotoBooth and record me giving myself a pep talk in GarageBand and add those to my business plan. I’ve been praying for God to help rekindle the fire in my spirit for my work and I think this is part of His answer! I’M SO EXCITED! LOL!

Check out the book and the web site. Get yourself a plan that works for you, no matter how you get it written, and then work at making it happen. You can do this!

Speaking of creative breakthroughs, my friend Mona Hodgson had a creative breakthrough recently. She’s been writing children’s books since before we met (she’s one of my first writer friends!) and has published over a dozen of them. But she wanted to write adult books, too. In 2010, her dream came true. Two Brides Too Many, the first book in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series, was released by WaterBrook Multnomah. Too Rich for a Bride followed in 2011, and The Bride Wore Blue came out in May of this year. On October 2, the fourth and final book, Twice a Bride, will be released.

Today Mona is celebrating the release of her very first book trailer! You get to be among the first people to see it! The trailer is beautifully put together. You’ll want to visit these four sisters yourself. Celebrate with us by picking up a copy of Two Brides Too Many, or finish where you left off if you’ve already started the series. I think you’ll enjoy it. Congratulations, Mona, on your wonderful series and the beautiful book trailer! I can’t wait to see what your next series will be!

You can visit Mona at her web site www.monahodgson.com/ and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Author.Mona.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation – Kitty

What a quick two months it has been! Another month and summer will be over?! Holy smokes! So what have I been doing? Well…

As many of you know, my mother died in May. That was rough, and I don’t seem to remember much about June. In that respect, I’m glad that we decided to take a summer break here at Routines for Writers. I needed time. (And I thank all of you who have commented or sent me encouraging notes or hugged me when you saw me. You’re all such a great group of people!)

In July, I hit the restart button again. (We’ve talked about that before. I love that button.) I got back into my writing groove, finalizing a short story for one anthology and writing a new one for another anthology.

In August, “Hero in Disguise” will be published in Romancing the Pages, an ebook anthology of 17 short stories by writers of the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. (See a picture of the cover here by Winterheart Design.) My story is the romantic meeting of the hero and heroine in my upcoming superhero romantic comedy series, The Adventures of Lewis and Clark. I love the way they meet, all dressed up on Halloween, lots of secrets between them.

Later this year, “Rescue at Loon Lake” will appear in Moonlit Encounters, an ebook anthology of 10 short stories and novellas written by my Sydney chapter-mates of the Romance Writers of Australia. Mine is the funny story of a newcomer, a lost dog, and the dog catcher. It’s part of the Strays of Loon Lake romantic comedy series about lonely men and lost dogs finding love and a good home with women who are learning to find their strength. The first book in the series, Love at the Fluff and Fold, will also be out later this year.

In addition, John and I have been taking advantage of a break in his schedule to get cracking on the print version of Little Miss Lovesick. You may remember that I signed up to attend the Self-Publishers Online Conference in May. Due to my mom’s illness, I wasn’t able to participate at the time, but I am catching up. The suggested reading (Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, and Publishize) has been extremely helpful in putting together a nice looking print edition of the book. This also will be available later this year. You can see how busy I’ve been!

Last week, I attended the RWA National Conference in Anaheim, CA. I expected to learn a lot about craft and self-publishing and spend lots of time and energy networking – and all that happened to an even greater degree than I had hoped. But before noon on the first day, I had an unexpected surprise – I won a brand new Sony Reader!

I was so excited, I was jumping up and down. Here is a picture of me moments after Stephanie Beam Warner from the Sony Reader Store announced I’d won. I haven’t figured out yet how to get Little Miss Lovesick on it without having to purchase it, but I’ve got a nice “bookshelf” full of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells already.

Because I love excellent desserts, I have to admit – I took a picture of the amazing chocolate something-or-other we had on Friday. I texted my author friend Kathleen Wright and told her I wanted to lick the plate. She texted me back to do it, but I restrained myself. Barely. Oh my gosh, it was delicious! Of course, I remembered to take a picture of the food, but I was so focused on what I was doing and learning during the conference that I forgot to take pictures of anything else. Not even a picture of me with my friend and roommate, Lauraine Snelling. Darn!

Lauraine and I had some great brainstorming sessions and great conversations with some of our other friends who were there – authors Charlotte Carter, Nancy Farrier, and DiAnn Mills especially. I also met the president of the Independent Book Publishers Association and had a great talk with her about that organization. I now have in my budget the amount of the membership dues so I can join as soon as possible. Plus, I think I know who I want to contact when my budget can support an attorney. One of the speakers was excellent and practices law in the publishing field (and in my state!).

Finally, to round out my busy July, the day after I got home from the conference, Lauraine and Kathleen and I spent another half a day brainstorming. Exhausting, but so worth it! During five hours of using Fring and Skype, we worked through some issues for the fourth book in their S.A.V.E. Squad series and the first book in my Strays of Loon Lake series. Both books are so much better for our time together.

So there you have it. That’s more or less what I did on my summer vacation. And it doesn’t even include all the non-writing things I did! Like most good vacations, I sort of wish it wasn’t over and I still had lots of extra time to work on my book instead of our blog. But like most good vacations, I’m also glad to be back.

Now tell us what you’ve been up to this summer!

Research Changes Everything

I’m in New York City right now at the 2011 Romance Writer’s of America National Conference. Woo-hooo!! Over the next few days I’ll attend numerous workshops, learn a lot about the new ways we’re creating and selling books (i.e., digital solutions), meet new people, and hug old friends.

While I’m here, I decided to add a few extra days to my stay to do some research for my current book, which is set in New York. There are sooo many things that have changed my perception of this city – which, it must be said, I got primarily from TV shows and movies.

1. New Yorkers are not the rude, fast-paced, get-out-of-my-way people they are portrayed as being. Yes, the traffic is crazy, there is a lot of honking (near Times Square, at least), and pedestrians are either foolish or fearless (maybe both). But one-on-one, outside of the crowd mentality, they are friendly and helpful. I’ve met some really wonderful locals, and I’ve had some of the best retail customer service I’ve had in years.

2. Harlem is not the gangster-infested, poor and downtrodden neighborhood it’s said to be. Sure, there are probably lots of gang members and crushing poverty in areas other than where I went. (There is in every city I’ve lived in.) But I’ve never seen on TV the part of Harlem I visited. It’s beautiful and historic and much of it is expensive and high end or upper middle class.

3. The sunset cruise around the Statue of Liberty is even more beautiful than you can imagine.

I know none of us rely solely on movies and TV shows for research. But it colors what we put on the page if we don’t find a tactile, emotional way to connect ourselves to what we don’t really know much about. If we’re not well-connected, it will be all but impossible for us to write in such a way that our readers are connected. I was blessed with an opportunity to visit the city I was writing about, and now my book will be significantly richer for the experience.

What can you do to emotionally connect to your subject matter? (Example: If you write historical fiction, is there a costume shop where you can try on clothing similar to your character’s mode of dress?)

P.S. I won’t have Internet access from now until I get home middle of next week. Forgive me if my post is a day late, but I’ll be traveling until just a few hours before my post is due.  🙂  Happy Writing!

Conferences – It’s All Good

If there’s one thing I love more than writing classes, it’s writing conferences. There is no end of good that can result from attending one! Do I sound overly optimistic? Probably because I am the kind of person who looks for the good in anything. So I generally end up finding it.

The first writers conference I attended was the first annual Glorieta Christian Writers Conference in 1997. I went with two other first-timers and the three of us freaked out together. We learned so much about what expectations are and are not realistic! LOL! But even with the low point of bursting into tears seconds after leaving my first editor appointment, it was an amazing learning experience. I learned about the different publishing houses and what they buy and how they buy it. I learned about the craft of writing, and that my business networking experience was a huge asset in publishing as well.

The last writers conference I went to was the 2008 Romance Writers of America National Conference. By then, I was a pro. I researched which agents and editors were the ones I wanted to meet, and I went to their workshops. I gave out business cards right and left – with stickers on the back also advertising that I was looking for online class instructors for my chapter. I went to the classes at every session and printed out the handouts beforehand. I even bought the CDs of the recordings of every single workshop (and have listened to most of them, many more than once!).

In the last ten years I’ve not only attended a lot of conferences, I’ve put on a few myself. And I’ve taught at a lot, too. I cannot overemphasize the importance of meeting people in your field, being friendly, offering to “give” something when you can as well as being willing to “ask” for something. I personally find trying new methods to be the best way to find methods that work best for you. But give yourself a time limit on how long you’ll try something new before you decide if it works for you.

That first conference I’d been writing Christian romances just because I knew a lot of Christians and I liked the romance in my own marriage. Beyond that, I had no idea what I was doing. Turns out Christian romances don’t have the things I, a Christian, have in my regular life like occasional cussing, occasional drinking, etc. I tried writing regular romances and that worked better for me – so long as they were fairly sweet!

After this last conference I heard a couple times that Love Inspired was looking for new authors. I decided to try again, picturing one of my somewhat conservative friends as the heroine. It worked much better – but was still not inspiring me. After a couple months of trying to get my heart into a story that I really liked but didn’t love, I decided I needed to go back to the story of my heart. That’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learned.

I’ve also learned quite a few ways to plot a book, to develop characters, to get the first draft down, and to polish the final draft. In being willing to try new ways, I’ve created my own best way to write a book. I’m still willing to learn – and that’s sooo important – but I also know myself and what works for me well enough to know when to stick to my own way.

The costs of going to a conference are high, I know. I try not to think about what last year’s RWA conference cost me! But there are all kinds of choices. Find out what is happening in your area, or an area you can drive to. Look into cities where you have family or friends you can stay with if necessary. Look for one-day conferences, book fairs, and other events where writers are gathering and sharing information. I’ve heard there is even an “online conference”! Do an Internet search and see what you can find. Do you have event planning skills? Create your own writers conference and invite local published authors to be the speakers.

Like with the books and the online classes – everything in moderation. I wouldn’t suggest you go to four conferences a year! LOL! In today’s economy, that’s probably not an option, but do try to save up your money and go to a least one every year or two. You’ll find it a great boost to your self-esteem, and a real boost to your writing!