Summer Writing Tips and Permission to Ogle

June 19, 2013

Song of the Day: Sunset in July by 311

Summer is here. For writers of school-age kids, that can all but bring writing to a screeching halt. Never fear, Jenn’s here! With a few tips to keep the muse occupied.RF getty bored

Let’s start with the obvious. Set a schedule. You should already have one. But, the summer break can throw a monkey wrench into even the most well-oiled machine. For the working mom, your schedule may just need tweaking to keep up with the ever-changing itinerary and continual I’m bored interruptions. For the Stay-at-home mom, it’s trickier. Dedicate an hour for yourself and tell the kiddos to color, play, do a craft, or *gasp* watch TV. If the offspring are young, utilize nap time to your advantage. Just remember to stay off the soul-sucking lure of social media. Right after you finish reading this post, of course.

RF getty hammockGoing on vacation? Don’t forget to pack a notebook. Inspiration often strikes with the force of lightning when away from home. For me, I have bursts of creativity, and I’m certain it is because my daily routine has been shaken up. Or it could be that people watching produces some incredible characters—the good, the bad, and the downright laughable. Careful, you’re genius is showing. Poolside, sight-seeing, hotel balcony, hiking, at the lake, at the beach, having lunch at an outdoor cafe, you don’t want to be caught without something to scribble your brilliance upon.

Speaking of people watching, there are a plethora of ripe candidates at the airports. Just sayin’. And whether traveling by trains, planes or automobiles, you’ll have loads of downtime. What better way to stave off the blahs than by whipping out that trusty notebook and jotting ideas, plot twists, character sketches, or a scene while losing feeling in your butt waiting.

Be inspired. Summertime offers so much incredible inspiration, especially for description. Listen to the cacophony of noises on a warm night. Feel the softness of fine White_House_Down_Theatrical_Posterbeach sand. Smell the barbecue on the grill. Taste the fruity, cold beverages. Smell the burning flesh, feel the scorching pain, hear the ringing in your ears after a firecracker you didn’t throw quick enough goes off in your hand. Commit those experiences to memory or write them down in the notebook you now keep with you at all times.

Go see a blockbuster movie. Not only will you enjoy a good story, you will likely analyze it scene for scene, mentally tallying the acts, inciting moments, character motivations, and zero in on the anomalies and suspension of disbelief. All great practice. And if you are anything like me, you’ll delight in ogling the eye candy. Hey, it’s called research of the male body.

Can’t write? Muse taken a vacation, too? Utilize your time by updating (or building) your website, blog, and/or author pages on social media.

Edit works in progress. If anything, when your Muse returns with a golden tan, you’ll have a jumpstart on getting back to work.

Before you know it, summer will be over (Nooooooo!) and you will have made forward strides in your writing.

How do you stay motivated during the summer months? What tips would you like to share?

Talk Back: Do you edit your manuscript as you go?

May 6, 2013

On my Kindle: “Super Secret Contemporary Romance” by Candi Wall and “Super Secret Pirate Romance” by Jenn Bray Weber – I’m Beta reading!!!

Talk Back – Tell us how you write!

You tell me: should I edit as I go, or will I write the whole dirty first draft, then edit?

You see since I finished my last manuscript, I have now started a brand new one. Well not so brand new since it’s the sequel to the previous one. Anyhow, as I was finishing that last manuscript, I got back into editing mode which I usually hate and towards the end, I was almost liking it.

Hence my dilemma, if I just go straight back to writing, I won’t be editing for a good 3 months. I will hate it again. And there is a nice feeling to get to THE END with a nice complete novel instead of going up and down in happiness with each draft (I’m done!!!! – but I am really done??)

But when I write the whole first draft without editing, the story grows on me and when I go back to edit the first chapter, I have a better sense of my story and characters – great way to put those unfired guns when you know there will be a gunshots at the end.

So I don’t know. I am 10,000 words into this story and I’m still going back and forth with this. I’ve tried to edit a bit, but my heart is not into it.

So what do you do? Are you consistent in your method or does it change with each project?

And by the way, if you need a little help with plotting, NYTimes bestselling author Bob Mayer was kind enough a couple of weeks ago to share his whole method on how he sets up conflict in his plots. Check it out – you’ll learn a lot!

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


Talk Back: Are you a happy writer?

April 1, 2013

On my Kindle: Blood Brothers: The Sign of Seven by Nora Roberts

Talk Back – Tell us how you write!

I do have to ask: what makes you a happy writer?

We had this meme from Chuck Wendig (and the associated blog post) circulating around the internet last week and it did get me thinking.

I can’t seem to find moments when I am truly happy with writing anymore. I remember the excitement I had when I finally told myself it was ok to try to write, and when I had, oh I don’t know 3 chapters written or so, I felt soooo happy.

I had spent most of my life dreaming of being a writer and believing that, because I never went to school to study writing, I could never get a book published, see a real book with my name on it in a big bookstore.

And I wish I could say that I was completely happy when it happened (and yes I was happy) but by that time I was so wrapped up in the crazies of the business side of it, that I was not as happy as when I sat down to write those words the very first time.

It took me quite a while to find my happy writing place again. It meant a lot of pulling out from writing groups, a lot of time thinking about what writing means to me and a total different mind-set where happiness comes from accomplishing my allocated daily writing time and spending time in a woken dream with my characters and none thinking about selling, reviews and money.

In Mr. Wendig’s words, for me happiness is when I “care less.” When I just write, have fun and leave the rest to the universe.

How about you? When was the last time writing made you truly happy? What do you need from your writing to find that bliss?

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


Talk Back: Do you track your writing progress

March 4, 2013

On my Kindle: A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Talk Back – Tell us how you write!

Do you track your writing progress? Experts tend to say that to keep a habit it helps to track it. Do you agree? Or is this obsessiveness getting in the way of your creativity?

I can be quite an obsessive person when I tackle projects and yes I tend to track things. Perhaps too much, which tends to make me worry more about the tracking then the actual project. But some tracking has its use.

I’ve done various form of tracking. I have used a wall calendar to write down my word counts each writing day. That was nice to look at the wall and see how much I was doing each month (and that blank spot guilted me into writing every day).

I also used a running list of word counts with one column for the daily words and the other a cumulative sum of words, which was really motivating.

Now my focus is much more on making sure I spend an hour a day – 6 days a week – on my manuscript so I’ve again changed my tracking method.

My trusty writing tracking bible!

I now have a huge log book that is really pretty and will last me for years. I log each writing session with the date, the type of work I’m doing (writing, editing, polishing) and the time spent on that session.

So far so good. It helps!

How about you? If you track your progress, how do you do it? What works and what haven’t worked? And if you don’t, do you find it easier to just focus on the work?

Please let us know. It’s so nice to hear from you all!

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


Link Of The Week- Writing Advice From The Masters

February 26, 2013

Want to know the secrets of the Masters? Wish you could have a pro whispering advice in your ear as you struggle with the next scene? Here’s the site for you!!th_poe







Talk back: Is your writing a job or your hobby?

February 25, 2013

On my Kindle: Silk Is For Seduction by Loretta Chase

So today I’m asking you a very simple question: how do you consider your writing, like a job? Or a hobby?

My writing is actually a hobby for me. Shocking? Well there are all kinds of hobby isn’t there? And mine is more of the marathon runner kind instead of the week-end photography kind. I’m pretty obsessive about it and I practice writing every day.

The truth is, it’s when I started writing as a job that all things went pear shape for me…

Because I was so scared of it, it all started as a hobby. But then I joined writers groups where I learned that to be successful I had to treat it like a job. So I did and it worked. I sold my first manuscript to a NY publisher very quickly. And I worked at my writing job daily: 8-10 hours a day. The problem was that even though I worked the hours, the money just wasn’t there. Definitely not enough to support a family of 4 in Seattle in this uncertain economy.

My new job made my family very nervous.

So stress started piling up and words were now preceded with dollar signs and I just lost myself as a writer.

So I went back to school and now have a regular day job. And writing is done before and after work. I tell my family that my writing is my hobby. I do it everyday and very seriously but the “hobby” label make them breathe easier.

I found my happy writing place.

So what is yours? Do you need to treat your writing as a job to get respect at home and motivated? Or has it backfired on you? What is your experience?

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


Talk Back: what is your writing plan?

February 4, 2013

On my Kindle: A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Do you have a writing plan? Do you have a good idea of where you are going with your writing? What will you be writing and where will you be submitting your stories next?

It’s been a long time since I have contributed to the blog and it feels so good to be back. I had to step away for a while as I went back to school then found myself a steady job as a science teacher, and kept my writing to just that -writing.

As I come back here, I am very curious to find out more about you all, wonderful readers and members our Musetracks community. I want to know more about your writing and how you survive this crazy endeavor that is stringing words together to delight others and perhaps make a bit of a little living out of it.

So I return here with a new feature to the blog. Please talk back to us by commenting below. I really want to know. Tell us here so we can all learn from each others.

This week I am very curious to know if you have a writing plan. Is it very organized or kind of loose? Do you have a plan A, B and C in case things don’t work out the way you want to? Are you writing your first novel? Your tenth? Are you submitting to New York or small presses? Or perhaps you have a solid self-publishing 5 year plan all laid out for you? Where are you going with this?

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


8 Tips for Writing During the Holidays

November 28, 2012

Song of the Day: Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne

We’re all slaves to the grind. For those who celebrate the holidays, it is especially so around this time of year. Braving the malls, planning festivities, wrapping gifts, baking, visiting friends and family (including those you’d rather not), mailing greeting cards and packages, tree trimming, searching for the perfect holiday dress or ugly sweater—the list goes on and on. This on top of all the *INSERT QUOTATION MARK FINGER WAGS* regular responsibilities we bear to our families, jobs, and home. It can all be overwhelming.

So who has time to write?

Here are 8 tips to keep the home fires burning, so to speak.

Set a realistic goal. It can be 100 words a day, 5,000 words for the month, or editing a chapter a week. A little can go a long way in the end. Whatever works for you. The important thing is to do something writerly, regularly.

Waiting for the cookies to bake? Before the next batch goes in, list the next chapter’s plot points.

Caught in line for gift wrap, post office, or customer service? Use your phone’s note pad feature to jot down story ideas, a dialogue exchange, or transitional paragraph. Don’t have a Smartphone, or ,if you are like me and still learning how to use it? Keep a small note pad with you.

Waking up early or going to bed late is laughable. But for some, it is conceivable. Let’s face it. You’re not getting any sleep. You’re too strung out on finding that perfect gift for that one person (read: in-law) who is impossible to please.

Use a voice recorder to capture your brilliant prose while you gift wrap.

Be inspired. The holidays bring out the best and worst (think Black Friday freak-out frenzy buying) in people. Watch and listen to those around you. From everyday heroes to Grinchy no-goods, great attributes abound for a cast of characters. Also take time to really appreciate the magic and beauty of the season. Record details or how you feel when you see a magnificent snow-covered landscape, a yard decorated Griswold-style, dressed storefront windows, children laughing on an ice rink, the twinkling lights wrapped around a palm tree on an empty beach. Don’t let that emotion or setting get lost in the hustle and bustle.

Change your venue. Got a half-hour to spare? (Stop laughing, it could happen.) Head to a coffee shop, get comfortable on a park bench, sit in your car, or wherever is not a normal place for you to write. Sounds odd, I know. But sometimes the change stirs the muse. Pop in your headphones, open your notebook or laptop, and give yourself over to writing.

Be held accountable! This is a fantasmic trick to use any time of year. Grab a few writing buddies, either in person or virtually, set your goals, and report your progress. It is amazing how productivity increases when you have to answer to your unforgiving friends.

Okay, so not everyone is a type-A personality like myself. But even I don’t manage all these tips at once. However, I adapt to the ones that work best for me. And I bet your ugly holiday sweater you can, too.

What do you do to keep writing during the holidays? Please share!


Keep It Real – by Candi Wall

November 3, 2012
“That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
That’s right. As writers of fiction, we’ve set ourselves the task of making our readers believe a complete fabrication as the truth.
Oxymoron much?
But there it is none the less. It’s our job to make it possible for a reader to choose to ignore what they know is the truth and put their trust in us to deliver an amazing product that they won’t hate us for after. And let’s face it, when we put our faith in something that lets us down, we usually don’t give it another chance. As a matter of fact, that product, its producer and any reminder of such becomes a bit of a dirty word. We might not malign it, but we certainly aren’t going to pass it on to our friends either. Death of said product…
Suspension of disbelief is a friend to any writer. But making it work for us can be difficult. Some may think paranormal or sci-fi genres have it even tougher, but the truth is, if you’re writing fiction, you’re playing in Coleridge terms. Like it or not. It’s up to you to write the unbelievable in a way that makes it believable. Or to clarify, make it good enough that your audience is willing to mute the portion of their brain that’s all but screaming bullshit. Keeping that mute button on is OUR job.
And it’s not easy. People are smart. (Yes, I know. I didn’t mean ALL of them.) Think of how quickly you question what you read, see or hear. Sorry to say it, but the same thing happens when a reader is engrossed in a book and the author makes too quick of a jump into fantastical. Readers can be pretty forgiving and even when they suspend disbelief intentionally and willingly accept that your hero is a vampire from page one, if you decide three chapters in, to try and con them into believing he was captured by aliens who turned him into a vampire, you’re going to have some serious shaking of the suspension bridge.
So here are some thoughts as you plot, pantser, edit or stew….
  • Build your world as you go – Layers and details help a reader fully engage in your world where more things than they ever thought possible, are possible. World-building is key to suspension of disbelief whether you’re writing a small town cowboy, a pirate on the high seas, or a shape shifter who fights other creatures at the back door of human society.
  • Keep it consistent – This example from Media College is stellar! ” There are many things about the Star Trek universe which are basically impossible in the real world, but because Star Trek makes an effort to work consistently within its own universe, the stories become believable. For example, as long as you’re willing to accept that the Galaxy is mostly populated by humanoids then there is nothing within the series that will break the believability.”
  • Put truth in your writing. Readers have to be able to believe to be willing to suspend their disbelief. Readers want to be entertained, so they come willing to suspend judgement. Don’t forget the grounding factors of realism so your readers will have something to relate to.
  • Remember that each action has to have a reaction, from your character – not YOU. Author’s tend to insert their own thoughts and feelings in their writing. Readers need to learn and live this world and its incredible developments through the character’s POV. Your character is the vessel through which your readers see and experience what’s happening. Readers can only see, hear, or feel what the characters POV allows them to experience.

Suspension of disbelief is what readers offer the writer.

What we offer back is a period of time where the reader can lose themselves in another world, time, or place. A break from reality. A good book to curl up with.

Don’t give them a reason to find something else to occupy their time.

Happy writing!

As Good As The First Time… by Candi Wall

October 28, 2012

My Bliss Track for the week – Watching my children jump in the huge pile of leaves we spent hours raking.

My Bitch Track for the week – Why is there always that one person at a party that has to get so drunk no one else can have a good time?

So hubby and I went to dinner the other night at a restaurant we’ve loved since the day it opened. The first time we went, we sat in our chairs, having food-gasms over everything from the wine and salads to the HUGE prime rib that covered his plate. I had steak tips, sautéed onions and mushroom and a slightly spicy rice pilaf. I ended with a huge slice of cheesecake and hubby had the molten lava chocolate explosion thingy.

Let’s just say, we just about rolled our overstuffed selves out the door.

I was satisfied. I was hooked. I was coming back for more.

Then a funny thing started happening. We don’t eat out very often, but around our fourth visit, we noticed the servings weren’t as large. The lettuce wasn’t as finely chopped or fresh. The ultra thin curls of Parmesan cheese that used to top my caesar salad were just crumbles instead. We ate and left satisfied – somewhat. But it wasn’t the mind-blowing, euphoric satisfaction we used to gain from this restaurant.

And instead of screaming out this restaurant’s name the next time we went out, we questioned if we wanted to go there or if we wanted to try somewhere new!

Ruh roh Raggy.

Then – as with everything – I started thinking about writing. About how often this happens with authors I fall head-over-heels in love with. And how easy it could be to become lazy.

When the restaurant owner opened the doors, he/she had passion in their heart. They were pouring everything they had into the endeavor. They were willing to spends HOURS and HOURS perfecting what they were going to give to the public. Sound familiar? Then, over time, the restaurant gained a following. “They love me! They really love me!”

So what happened then? COMPLACENCY.

Complacency can kill a restaurant, and it can kill a writing career. Don’t let your characters wilt. Don’t downsize the intensity or conflict. Don’t rush to give a product  that might make your readers think about going elsewhere. Remember, as you perfect your craft and write more and more novels, to keep writing with your heart. Keep writing with the passion and drive that you had when you first started out. Yes, as we write and learn and become more sure of our talents, we can complete a novel faster and cleaner, but in doing so, it’s easy to lose the passion that drew our readers in the beginning.

There’s the thought for the day. Write with the drive and passion you had when you started out. Make it as good as the first time, and you won’t have to worry about your readers going elsewhere to eat!