Monday, July 31, 2006

Contest Finalist

Well, I’m feeling pretty good today. My entry in the PASIC Book of Your Heart contest is a finalist in the paranormal category. (The PASIC contest is either the only one or one of the very few for unpublished manuscripts open to published authors.)

Why did I enter a contest instead of submitting directly to publishers? One reason is that my agent retired a year or so ago and I haven’t gotten around to getting another one. What with moving and working on building my coaching practice and other work and the emotional fallout that’s inevitable with divorce, I wasn’t doing a lot of writing. In other words, life happened. That plus a gap in publishing due to a couple of years of LOTS of life happening, I had that inevitable bout of self-doubt that all writers go through.

If you’ve ever been to one of my workshops you know that I talk openly about that—the fact that all of us who are writers go through moments of self-doubt with every book we write.

I share that with fellow authors (and would-be authors) because I think it’s important to realize that feeling those doubts does not mean they are accurate. We may be really good writers—no matter how we feel!

The manuscript that finaled in this contest is one that has been so much fun to work on! If you’re a writer, then you know the joy of those moments when you surprise yourself and laugh out loud at what you’ve written. It’s been that way with this manuscript. I always fall in love with my characters and even so, these two (hero and heroine) feel special to me. As I’ve worked on this manuscript I’ve found myself thinking: I can’t wait to see what they say or do next!

It’s not that I hadn’t planned out the manuscript; it’s that this is one of those ones where the characters came alive almost at once and started writing their own dialogue and action. If you’re not a writer you’re thinking maybe the men in white coats should be coming for me. If you are a writer, you know exactly what I mean.

Anyway, I wanted to share with all of you my delight that the manuscript is a finalist in the PASIC Book of Your Heart contest.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Interesting Exercise

Here's an interesting exercise that can enrich both your life and your writing:

What are your daydreams? If you’re a writer, what are your characters’ daydreams?

Some people think of daydreams as wasted time but my view is that they are clear indicators of both who we want to be and what we want to have in our lives. Often, they are things we want to have in our lives but don’t believe are possible.

If you’re a writer, then daydreams your characters have can help cue readers into the character’s true internal goals and how that character wants to live his or her life. When the inner daydreams match the character’s outer world in some significant way, the reader will know that the character has found happiness. Unless, of course, when it happens the character realizes that it isn’t what he or she wants, after all. In other words, there are lots of ways to use your character’s daydreams to craft an emotionally satisfying and powerful story.

Does your character put his or her energy and focus into daydreams rather than taking action to make changes in his/her life or does he/she use the daydream as motivation to go after that goal? Is a character in your story bitter because he or she chose not to go after his/her goals and now only has daydreams instead? Does or did a character use daydreams to get through impossible situations that had to be endured and couldn’t have been otherwise?

See? Lots of story potential right there.

In my own life, I’ve lived out some of my daydreams, not gone after some of the others because I didn’t think they were possible. But the last couple of years have shown me that what seems impossible often isn’t—if we find the courage to try. Like living in California, in the Bay area, for a while. Like traveling across country and seeing things I always wanted to see. Like starting a coaching practice for writers. Like buying a house with a fireplace and bay windows. Some were as good as I thought they would be, others turned out to be something I needed to achieve and then, after a little while, let go of.

Funny how my daydreams have become starting points, now, for my life rather than something I did to escape from it.

Wishing all of you daydreams that enrich YOUR lives and if you’re a writer, the lives of your characters as well.


Sunday, July 16, 2006


One of the really useful questions for a writer to consider when creating a character is: Identity. Who is the character as perceived by others and who is the person as perceived by the character him/herself?

Sometimes these two images are the same. Often they are not and much of the character growth in a story can involve bringing the two images closer together in some way.

This gap can be a powerful emotional element of the story. Think about how you feel when your internal image of yourself does not match how the world perceives you. Think about how you feel when your image of yourself does not match your perception of who you ought to be!

Just as these have a profound impact on YOUR emotions, they would have a profound impact on your characters’ emotions and therefore it becomes one more tool in creating both the person growth arcs within your story and the plot itself.

Why do I bring this up now? In my own life and with people I coach, this issue comes up over and over again. There is always a gap between who we believe we are and who we believe we ought to be and in how the world perceives us. Those gaps create tremendous emotional frustration at times.

Part of what I do for myself and for my clients is remind myself and them that:

1) Life is a journey, a process, a series of steps toward our goals.
2) The ideal strategy is one that honors who we are RIGHT NOW and the steps we take toward achieving our goals of who we want to be and how we want to be perceived by the world.
3) The optimal strategy is one that maps out steps to achieve those goals and builds fun into the process.

The irony is that the easier we make the journey for ourselves emotionally, the more likely we are to achieve the goals.

What steps will your characters take to achieve their goals? What steps will you take to achieve yours and how will you build laughter or fun into the process?

Happy writing everyone!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Habit of Hope

I’m going to post something that may at first glance seem a bit odd for a writer’s blog. The thing is that I believe that we who write hold tremendous power in our words. We can help readers imagine places and people and situations and POSSIBILITIES they might not otherwise ever know. When I write, I try to imagine how my characters can overcome whatever challenges might be in their lives.

Part of this, of course, grows out of the fact that in my own life I’ve faced a number of challenges and had times when it was easy to feel overwhelmed. I know the difference it made in my life when I began to create a Habit of Hope.

I put that in capital letters because it’s important and not something our culture always encourages. But it’s something I try to give my characters and it’s the way I try to live my life. It’s my hope, often, as I write my books that seeing my characters triumph over difficult odds may encourage readers to believe that they, too, can triumph over the challenges in their lives.

So...what do I mean by a Habit of Hope? Well, let’s begin with what it’s not.

For many people, it’s far too easy to fall into a pattern of feeling discouraged or sad—and often with good reason, given what’s happened in their lives. Unfortunately, this makes life an uphill battle.

So how can you—or your characters!—replace this with a Habit of Hope?

1) Surround yourself with things you LIKE. This includes wearing clothes that make you feel happy and confident, eating foods that are HEALTHY and make you smile, doing things you love.

2) Find ways, EVERY DAY to smile, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE. If you do this when times are good, then when you hit a rough patch you already have this habit. And by smiling, even in the midst of difficult times, you are promising yourself that you will not always feel this way. You are promising yourself that no matter what happens you will ALWAYS be able to find moments of happiness.

3) Make and hold onto a list of everything good about yourself—all your strengths, all your successes, all the good things about who you are. And every time you feel stressed or scared, look at that list and remind yourself of these things!

When we do these things, it changes our lives. We feel more confident, we have more resilience, we see other people and the world in new ways, and our brains literally begin to function more efficiently under stress. And as we change how we see the world, we change how the world sees us as well.

So please, begin today. Seek out things you have that make you smile. Surround yourself with them. Make it a point to find reasons to smile at least three times every day (and even more if you can!), and make that list of successes and strengths and good things about yourself. Create that Habit of Hope. And if you’re a writer, look at the ways in which your characters might be able to have or learn to have habits of hope as well.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Today we remember the courage it took to declare more than 200 years ago that all men were created equal and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Eventually we realized that everyone, EVERYONE was entitled to those things. Today we remember that freedom carries both rights and responsibilities, including not taking it for granted.

To all those who have worked for freedom, I salute you.

Today it’s also important to remember that no one, NO ONE, has a lock on knowing what’s right or best for our country. We need ALL the voices because it is in listening to other voices that we have the chance to understand factors we may not have taken into account when we formed our own opinions. Other people may have had experiences we never did that are important in understanding what the “right” choice might be in a given situation.

Right now, though, I’d like to talk about a different kind of Independence Day.

Those of you who have read my blog all along, and particularly those of you who followed my journey across country two years ago as I tried to discover where I wanted to live and what I wanted to do after my divorce, you know where I started out. You know that I wasn’t sure if I believed I could do it, you know I wasn’t even all that sure who I was after 28 years of marriage. You know that I had people in my life who didn’t want me to make that journey and didn’t understand why I was. And you know that for most of my life I didn’t believe that I deserved to be treated with respect.

What changed everything was making the decision that I was going to be free of the past and become who I was meant to be. I was going to make that journey and look for a place where I could be happy and successful. I was going to declare myself free of all the old assumptions I had about myself and free of being bound by the opinions of others. That was MY Independence Day.

And because this is a blog for writers as well as a blog about life, I’d like to suggest that if you are a writer, you ask yourself:

What is my hero or heroine’s Independence Day? What is the moment when he or she realizes that life will never, can never be the same again? What is the moment in which he or she lets go of the assumptions and conditioning of the past to reach out and grab for happiness? What triggers that Independence Day and what happens because of it?

Happy writing and Happy Independence Day!