Lessons Learned: Getting Refreshed

Image result for free thanksgiving clip artI hope everyone enjoyed their long Thanksgiving weekend. My husband and I hosted dinner on Thanksgiving Day, having family join us for a great afternoon and evening. I then had three full days to tackle my writing goals and knock off some items on my chore list. For the first time in ages, I did not leave my house for the entire four-day weekend. I can’t even remember the last time that happened.

I had an amazing time battling the Morlorns as I worked on the draft to my next book, the third in the “Dream or Reality” series for “The Calling.” While most of you were shopping on Black Friday or on the weekend, I decided to hibernate inside my happy little home. Not only did I write, but I also put up the Christmas decorations, paid bills, cleaned, and spent time with Mike.

Now that I’m refreshed, I’m ready to start the week feeling better about myself, my accomplishments, and happy to get through that battle near the stone dwelling. My characters never get a holiday, but this year I did. I’m ready to rejoin society and take on the outside world once again.

Beth M James

Novels based on strong characters and elements of romance.

http://www.bethmjames.com

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Writing Retreats

Two weekends ago, I went on a writing retreat with five other Chippewa Falls Area WisRWA group members. Getting away for the purpose of writing, brainstorming, and/or honing our craft was a great way to renew our dedication to what we love the most – writing.

Us Chip girls try to have a weekend writing retreat once a year. In the past, we have had our retreats at hotels with adjoining rooms. This year we rented a house near New Auburn, Wisconsin. Yep, on a lake. The house gave us ample space, and I would highly recommend it if thinking about your own retreat.

So, what do we do on our retreats? Besides making sure that we have enough food, snacks, and beverages (of all kinds) that are readily available, we create a scheduled plan for the weekend to make sure we keep on task.

The first thing we do after arriving and getting settled in is to have each person list what she would like to accomplish at the retreat. This could be writing 10,000 words, editing three chapters, brainstorming, creating an outline, or creating a synopsis. We will have at least three goals (or more) per person that are written on large paper and taped to the wall to keep us accountable (and so we don’t forget).

Based on everyone’s goals, our second step is to create the agenda for the retreat. The agenda includes time each day for personal writing, group brainstorm sessions, walks, meals, and cocktail hours. For example, we may eat breakfast at 7:00 a.m., write solo (personal time) for two to three hours, gather in the living room for the group brainstorm session, eat lunch, walk, and then write solo again until cocktail hour. After dinner, we’ll talk about our work, play one or more games, and catch up on personal events.

Throughout the day, we will look at the agenda (large sheet of paper also taped to the wall) and cross off what we’ve accomplished. We’ll also discuss if we need to make changes to the agenda for the next day. After having some writing time, one of us may need to brainstorm ideas with the group. We’ll also mark off the personal goals we’ve accomplished. Yes, we’re list people who love to check off tasks when they are completed. Strikethrough, star or check mark – it doesn’t matter.

At the end of the retreat, as we’re eating lunch (all the leftovers), we’ll see how much we’ve accomplished as a group. The best feeling in the world is to see how much we’ve accomplished. When it’s time to leave, we may be tired from writing, but we also feel satisfied and eager to continue the pace once we get home. I cannot wait for next year.

Beth M James

Novels based on strong characters and elements of romance.

http://www.bethmjames.com

 

 

 

Spring

Rainy and cold days at this time of year can be good and bad. The bad part about it is that I want nice, warm weather. Isn’t this SPRING after all with sunny skies and flowers blooming? After the cold of winter, I long to soak up the sun and walk barefoot outside. I want to sit on the porch and enjoy a morning cup of coffee with my hubby. I want to listen to the birds sing and the neighborhood kids play ball in the park.

Spring fever takes its toll on me. I always think that April/May should have warmer weather than what it gives us. We get blasted with wind, rain, and sometimes snow. I have to be a little more patient before the winter chill leaves us and I can open the door to summer.

The good part about this time of year is that we get the rain to help turn everything green. It also keeps me indoors a while longer so I can focus on my writing. I don’t mind sitting up in my office at my desk. I don’t feel guilty because I can’t enjoy the beautiful warm day outside. Now is the time to focus and get The Calling – Book Two completed. I’m halfway there.

Writing Romance

Saturday, March 7, I attended a writer’s group event in Amery, Wisconsin, that was hosted by the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. One of our WisRWA members, Helen C. Johannes, spoke at the event to discuss romance and what it means. The writer’s group in Amery, chartered by the Wisconsin Writer’s Association, wanted to learn more about what constitutes a romance novel and how to write one. Tina Susedik, Danielle Johnson, and I, members of the WisRWA – Chippewa Falls Area, went to support Helen and to help answer questions about romance writing if needed.

Helen did a great job explaining the definition of a romance novel. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) organization defines a romance novel as having a central love story with a happy or optimistic ending. She explained how romance writing received a bad rap in the 80’s when people began to stereotype romances as “bodice rippers.” Not so much anymore. Today, romance is a big business with over $1 Billion in sales.

Today’s romance stories are sophisticated, fun, comedic, smart, suspenseful, etc. There’s different genres within romance which includes, but not limited to, historical, young adult, suspense, contemporary, and erotica. The question was asked whether or not Romeo and Juliet was a romance. The classic is a love story but not a romance because the ending is tragic. A few good examples of romance in movies include: The Princess Bride, The Sound of Music, and Shrek. I remember my nephew, a producer, telling me that romance doesn’t sell. I beg to differ – note the three movies above.

Helen also discussed how she writes. Her style is pretty much free form. She creates the story in her head, she may have a loose outline, but mainly she writes. She won’t know how the story ends until the last word is written. Tina Susedik is the same way. For me, I will create a detailed outline, but it always changes.

I think the writer’s group enjoyed learning about romance. I had a fun time as well. It’s nice to have a refresher on the basics of romance and to confirm why we write. In the world that we live in today, it’s nice to read a story with a happily ever after or an optimistic ending. We can live in someone else’s world for a short period of time.

 

Lessons Learned: Reading Books as an Author

I love to read novels, and I have enjoyed reading hundreds of books throughout my life. What I didn’t realize, until recently, is how my style of reading has transformed in the last few years. I learned that I have different ways of reading books, a perspective that has changed since becoming a professional writer and author.

My boss from my full-time job was the one who got me thinking about this. He said that when he read my book “Gitana – Life Plan,” he could “hear” me tell the story. I didn’t think too much of his comment until a few weeks later when I started reading “Click. Date. Repeat.” by K. J. Farnham. I found myself doing the same thing. I read the book as if K. J. was telling me the story. Thinking back, I did the same for Tina Susedik’s book “Riding for Love.” Because I knew the authors, I could “hear” their voices as the narrator. I really enjoyed reading their books having that different perspective.

I then thought about books that I read because I’d met or heard the author speak at a local or national conference. Authors will provide their point of view on how to construct a plot or to give characters depth by using examples from their books. Later on, I’ll read the books to understand more on what they were referring to within those sessions. By doing this I can improve my writing skills.

Next, I’ll read books by major bestselling authors. I’ll read their books to find out why the novels became hits. Was it the action? The way the story was written? The characters? I read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fifty Shades Freed” to understand why they were popular, especially after hearing the negative feedback about the books. I also wanted to read the books to see how E.L. James continued the storyline of Christian and Anastasia since my next writing adventure will be a trilogy. Could I have read the Hunger Games trilogy? I could have, but the Fifty Shades books had me curious.

And finally, which I’m pleased to say, is that I still have my old style of reading as well. I enjoy reading books by authors that I’m not familiar with. I’ll pick out the book by its cover, by the way the back blurb sounds interesting, and or if I’ve heard about the book from friends or in reviews. I’ll then snuggle in and read the story. I love discovering new favorite reads.

So which perspective do I like best? I like them all. I’m glad I have the variety.

Lessons Learned: Routines are Temporary

Everyone has certain routines that turn into automatic pilots. For example, I get up at 5:54 a.m., exercise, get ready for work, eat breakfast, and then head out the door. I’ve been doing this routine for quite a while now so my body goes where it needs to while my mind wanders to other things. This routine has morphed from different routines throughout the years. When the kids were little, I’d have to get them ready for daycare or school. When I experimented with writing in the morning, I woke up 40 minutes earlier to handwrite my novel. Routines are great and keep you moving but they are not permanent. You can’t get so hooked on them that you can’t function without them. I’m guilty of it. My husband’s guilty of it. Just remember…routines are temporary. They need to or will change based on life events.

Getting up every morning and getting ready for work is pretty common and will change to a degree. Other routines are pretty drastic and can take their toll on you or the people around you. For example, my husband and I walked during our lunch hour for over ten years. Two years ago I started a new job. Our buildings are farther apart, and my schedule doesn’t allow for a set lunch hour so it’s rare when we have the opportunity to meet. In many ways you can say that we were blessed being able to walk for as many years as we had. But when you suddenly don’t have that time anymore, the routine is sorely missed. I had to adjust based on schedule. My husband was forced to accommodate. He still continues to walk like we used to which makes it harder on him to adjust. He misses sharing the time with me, and I feel guilty, having been the one to break that routine. It’s been two years since our routine has changed, and we still haven’t fully recovered. We continue to look for that new routine to help us gain more time together.

Being aware of routines and adapting when they have to change can help you transition to your next routine. Nothing stays the same. Even if your routine is changed temporarily due to an illness, you may not go back to the original way of doing things. Be accommodating. Try making it better. Work on compromises as new events or ideas come along. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. You have to adjust to new ways, try different things, until one can fit your needs for the time being.