Category Archives: Dana Rodgers

Guy Day — International Style

As a writer it is always important to tell a good story, but a large part of that is world building. If you do not portray a
believable backdrop, accurately reflecting the place and culture your characters live in, then it doesn’t matter how great your plot is or how dynamic your characters are… your story will fall flat.

Today is guy day and in honor of all the sexy, diverse men of the world I thought we’d give it a more international twist. I have called on friends throughout the world and they’ve agreed to help by answering a few probing questions about the culture they live in, their daily routines and their views on marriage and family. So let’s give these brave men a round of applause for being so forthright with their answers and see what they have to say.

1.  What would you typically have for breakfast in your country? Lunch? Dinner? Snacks?

Argentina: Breakfast: coffee, tea or mate with milk, toasts or croissants with butter and jelly

Lunch: pasta, beef or fish; salad, potatoes or rice; as dessert fruit or ice cream  Dinner: idem lunch/ Snacks: fries, peanuts, cheese, olives, salami….

Japan: Breakfast: steamed rice, miso-soup, grilled fish, milk

Lunch: pasta, salad

Dinner: steamed rice, soup, fish or meat

Snacks: rice crocker, cakes, etc

The Netherlands: Breakfast: Slices of bread with butter and chocolate sprinkles or with cheese or jam with tea or coffee or milk.

Lunch: Sandwich with butter or cream cheese and thin slices of meat and cheese.

Dinner: Meat and vegetables

Snacks: Fruit, peanuts

Scotland: Breakfast: Toast, cereals, porridge

Lunch: Sandwiches

Dinner: Meat potatoes and vegetables

Snacks: Chips, chocolate, etc.

 

2.  In your country how is your time usually divided over a typical day? (Work hours, breaks, lunch, dinner, etc.)

Argentina: Work hours: 8 am to 5 pm / Lunch 12 pm to 1 pm / Dinner 9 pm

Japan: 6am – wake up + breakfast

7am -go to work

9am – start work

noon – lunch

1pm – back to work

6pm – go home or have dinner with friend

11pm – go to bed

The Netherlands: Working hours are in general between 8am and 5pm with a coffee break around 10am. Lunch at noon for 30 minutes. Dinner at 6pm and coffee at 8pm. People go to bed between 10pm and midnight.

Scotland: Usual work day approx 8-5 with an hoor fer lunch. Dinner usually aroond 6-7pm and bedtime aroond 11pm-midnight.

 

3.  What would you typically wear on a workday?

Argentina: Coat and tie or military uniform

Japan: Uniform

The Netherlands: Business suit

Scotland: Depends on yer job.

 

4.  What would you typically wear on a weekend or holiday?

Argentina: Shirt, jeans and sneakers

Japan: Pants style or Uniqlo wear, casual

The Netherlands: Casual, jeans t-shirt and sneakers

Scotland: Jeans, t-shirts, sweats, etc.

 

5.  What do you do for fun?

Argentina: I do travel, work out, go to a shopping mall, watch movies or have dinner out.

Japan: Gardening, travel, singing

The Netherlands: Sports activities

Scotland: TV, movies, play and watch sports, pub

 

6.  What is your favorite sport to watch or play?

Argentina: Professional soccer

Japan: Figure skate, football

The Netherlands: Soccer, field hockey, track

Scotland: Soccer

 

7.  If you find a woman attractive and you want to take her out, what would you consider a perfect date?

Argentina: A fine dinner at a cozy restaurant.

Japan: Take her out to his familiar bar or restaurant to show she could be special for him. The first date would be a weekday, if it was fun he would make the next date for the weekend.

The Netherlands: Dinner with good conversation and good wine.

Scotland: Dinner, pub or movies, or all 3.

 

8.  Is it acceptable for a man to date more than one woman at a time? If so, would it also be acceptable for a woman to date more than one man at a time?

Argentina: If they are not married it would be acceptable to date more then one in any case.

Japan: It depends how serious the relationship is for them. If it’s serious, both man and woman would be upset if we found out that the other was dating someone else.

The Netherlands: Yes, if both agree and vice versa.

Scotland: Nae really acceptable although obviously it does happen, both ways.

 

9.  Is it socially acceptable for a man to date a much younger woman? And would it be acceptable for a woman to date a much younger man?

Argentina: It is more acceptable for a man dating a younger woman than vice versa.

Japan: Yes for man, recently it is getting popular here. Sometimes for woman. Its interesting when woman gets young man, its still negative feeling or jealous among neighbor.

The Netherlands: Yes it is.

Scotland: Definitely more popular for men tae have younger partners and, aye, I’d say it’s acceptable fer both…just rare.

 

10.  After marriage, what is the general feeling about infidelity in your country? Is it accepted or not? And if it would be considered acceptable for a man to have a mistress, would it be equally acceptable for a woman to have a lover?

Argentina: The general feeling about infidelity after marriage is rejection. It is generally not accepted. It would be almost equally not acceptable to have a woman or a lover.

Japan: Generally ‘not acceptable’ for both, after marriage they believe they need to be faithful but it happens everywhere.

The Netherlands: No, that is not acceptable.

Scotland: Nae

 

11.  Beyond conception what role does a man typically play in child rearing in your country? Would he actively participate in raising children? (Changing diapers, feeding, taking children to sports or activities, helping with homework, etc.)

Argentina: A man does play an active role in child rearing.

Japan: Changing diapers, taking bath together with children, play with children. Most of the case woman needs to take care of children in all field so man tend to help mothers rather than taking care of child.

The Netherlands: Yes, he will help out with everything in the household.

Scotland: I cannae answer this fae personal experience as I dinnae have any wee uns, but fae what I’ve heard, men play some part in everything nowadays. Apart fae breastfeeding – that just does nae work!

 

12.  Is it socially acceptable for a man to be a stay-at-home dad in your country?

Argentina: No, not much.

Japan: Some men stay at home with their children or work from home but this is not popular, especially belonging to company. There are many stories of men losing their positions in companies because of working from home or taking leave for a child.

The Netherlands: Yes, if the wife has a fulltime, good paying job he will stay home.

Scotland: Nae sure if I would call it socially acceptable but it does seem tae be happening more.

 

13.  In your country is it acceptable for a married couple to have independent activities, interests and friends? Or is it more typical to do everything together?

Argentina: It is more typical to do everything together. Although this behavior is lately changing and couples tend to be more independent between each other.

Japan: Of course, yes! If we have child, we tend to do together as family but we also could have own leisure time.

The Netherlands: Everybody does their own thing. Some couple have the same interests and do their sport activities together, others have separate interests.

Scotland: Aye, that’s pretty normal tae have independent interests.

A huge Waterworld Mermaid thank you goes out to all the men who made this interview happen! 🙂

 

Show vs. Tell

Have you ever been told that you are telling rather than showing in your writing?

I think most of us have at one time or another.When someone first pointed this out in my own writing I had no idea what the person was talking about. Today I’m going to try to enlighten anyone not already familiar with this concept.

Basically, think of showing vs. telling as living the experience vs. someone telling you about it. It’s always going to be more powerful if you  give your reader sights, sounds, smells, etc. and really let them know what the experience is like. While I have never been shot at, I can easily imagine it is a lot different to have someone actually shoot at you than to have someone tell you about it. Or, imagine being home alone in the middle of the night and hearing someone break in. If someone tells you about the experience it doesn’t have the same visceral reaction as living it first hand.

Here are two examples to help you see what I’m talking about:

Jasmine was climbing into bed when she heard the sound of glass breaking. She went to the closet and pulled out her pistol then walked down the hall. She rounded the corner, looked into the living room and saw that the cat had knocked over, and broken, a vase.

Or,

Jasmine was climbing into bed when she heard a crash followed by glass shattering. She froze, heart racing, and listened, but the only sound was her own harsh breathing. Swallowing the lump of fear lodged in her throat she rushed to the closet. Standing on tippy-toe she pulled down the black box. With practiced motions she opened the latch and carefully removed the flat black Sig P-225 pistol from its case. She’d never wanted to need this, but now she was thankful that her father had insisted she learn how to use it. She checked the clip, yanked back the slide to chamber the first round and flipped off the safety with her thumb.

Taking a calming breath she stepped into the hallway. The short passage seemed to stretch before her eyes, transforming into something sinister where death loomed around each corner. Like a wraith she crept from one shadow to the next, pausing at each doorway for any sign of danger. Each step ratcheted her anxiety. It felt like a swarm of bees had taken up residence in her stomach and every footfall sounded too loud, echoing through the still house. With shaking hands, she held the pistol out in front of her and whipped around the corner into the living room flipping on the light.

The cat blinked back at her. Deciding she was unimportant, he returned to his bath sitting in the middle of the coffee table surrounded by the shattered remains of the crystal vase her mother had sent for her last birthday.

Exhaling the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, Jasmine lowered the Sig and sagged against the wall. “Damn it Henry, you scared the crap outta me.”

The second example is a lot longer than the first but it also allows the reader to experience more of what the character is experiencing. Another tool I used in the second example is word choice. Using stronger, more descriptive, verbs like crept instead of walk, or shattered instead of broken enhances your writing. Using vivid imagery and adding specific details like pistol vs. Sig P-225 pistol can help a reader better visualize what is happening in the story and allow them to relate to what the characters are experiencing.

I hope this helps any new writers out there to understand the difference between telling your readers what is happening and showing them first hand. Also, maybe it will remind the rest of us to show, not tell! 🙂

Happy writing!

Driven To Distraction

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was summer break…

Does it ever seem like the sun, the moon and the stars are aligned against you? Like life goes out of its way to throw obstacles in your path? That your family just doesn’t equate writing with working? Well, it sure as heck does at my house! Especially in the summer when my kids are home from school.

I swear some days it feels like no one wants to talk to me until I sit down at the computer. Then, of course, the phone rings, someone comes to the door, the dog is barking and the kids are peppering me with questions—all at the same time!

A typical day in my house involves my youngest daughter walking into the room and breaking down, in minuet detail, how some computer game about dragons’ works. I’m sure this is very important in her twelve year old brain, but for me… well, not so much. Especially when I’m trying to get words on the page.

Then the phone rings… My brain is now torn between the phone call, the scene I was writing and my daughter who is not taking the hint and still rambling on about the skill points you get for capturing a rainbow dragon.

Giving up on writing for the moment, I tell my friend to hang on, save my WIP, close my computer and quietly explain to my daughter that I would love to hear all about rainbow dragons, later, preferably when I’m not writing. I leave the room and walk outside to soak up some sunshine and have a relaxing conversation catching up with my friend. Until my older daughter comes along asking me about whether or not she can meet up with her friends later. Younger daughter then arrives to ask about a snack. I resolve their issues and send them away so I can talk in peace… which works for about five minutes until the UPS man shows up. Did I mention my dog despises the UPS man and always tries to eat him? Usually wagging so hard her entire body is moving side to side, but she still sounds like a vicious killer and the UPS man is terrified of her. So I tell my friend I’ll call her back, lock up the killer dog and sign for the package. I go inside and ask my kids if they need anything else… Snacks? Questions? Permission to run with scissors or perhaps jump off a bridge?

I then go back outside, redial my friend and about ninety-seven seconds into the conversation my youngest child comes bounding outside and says, “If we won the lottery could I have a horse?”

Yeah, that wasn’t random at all… but it is the story of my life. So anyone out there who is under the delusion that a writer’s life is glamorous. Think again. Most days involve spouses, kids, day-to-day life, and those pesky day jobs. However, on occasion something happens that surprises me.

Allow me to set the stage for you… It’s last Wednesday afternoon, and my children have been finished with school for approximately five minutes, when I hear the chant of summer for the first time, “Mom, we’re bored!”

Me: “Girls, mom’s working. Please go find something to entertain yourselves. I promise we’ll go do something fun as soon as I finish this scene.”

I return to the computer and just as I get into the groove and the scene really starts to flow, I hear screaming as my children run through the house. So, like any other parent with any sense, I’m thinking this can’t be good.

Me: “Girls, what are you doing?”

Them: “We’re making a movie.”

Me: “Okay, just don’t destroy anything or kill each other.”

I should have known I was in trouble as soon as I heard the maniacal laughter. But instead, I choose to enjoy the relative peace and quiet while I could get it, and continued working. About half an hour later my kids come in and drag me downstairs to see their horror movie trailer. I couldn’t believe MY children had put something this incredible together. And done so in less than an hour… Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IjE_KQlEf8

Time To Recharge

Last weekend was definitely stacking up to be busier than usual, and that’s saying something in my life.

Friday—Pick up race packets for my husband and fifteen year old daughter for Sunday’s Fredericksburg Historic Half Marathon. Translation: Drive over an hour through I-95 traffic, which is typically thicker than molasses, then wade through crowds at the Fredericksburg Convention center to pick up race numbers, etc. then fight I-95 traffic, again for over an hour, get back home where my fifteen year old daughter would be getting off the bus along with friends for a study group/sleepover combo (this is an every other week event and it was our turn to host).

Saturday—More teenagers coming over to work on major English project due this week. Translation: My house is going to be invaded by teenagers eating me out of house and home while they make a movie for a school project.

Sunday—Husband and daughter running Fredericksburg Historic Half Marathon. Translation: Get up at the crack of dawn to drop them off close to the start line, drive across town, park, then walk as fast as I can from one location to the next along the race course to take pictures and cheer on husband and daughter while they run 13.1 fun miles followed by a lot of Advil and an afternoon spent on the couch.

And write. I desperately needed to write because I have a mid-June deadline I’m trying to meet and unfortunately life keeps getting in the way. You know what I’m talking about—dishes, vacuuming, laundry, errands, and don’t forget that pesky day job. But I had everything under control, until

Yep, the monkey wrench that seems to get thrown into the best layed plans. This time it came in the form of a phone call Wednesday evening…

“Hello Mrs. Rodgers. Do you remember your 12 year old daughter registering for the James Madison University Spring String Thing?”

Yes, indeed, I did remember. However, she had been third on the wait list since oh, late February or so… and now it’s May… “Yes, she was placed on the waiting list and we hadn’t heard anything back.”

“Well, congratulations to your daughter, a slot has opened up if she wants it?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t recall, exactly when is the JMU Spring String Thing?”

“This weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

This weekend!?! My brain quickly whirls through the possibilities. My youngest daughter really wants to do the JMU music thing, but JMU is at least 3 hours from my house. I’ll have to take her there Friday morning, because registration starts at 10:30am, then auditions, get her moved into her dorm and feed her lunch. Then drive to Fredericksburg to pick up race packets, then miracle myself home for the sleepover. Then, on Sunday, after the half marathon, drive another 3 hours back to JMU, to see the 2 hour long final concert, before driving another 3 hours home. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our children!

“Of course, my daughter will be thrilled. We’ll see you Friday.”

So I hung up the phone chanting another chorus of, “Oh crap, Oh Crap, OH CRAP!” and running through scenarios of how useful it would be to have the power of teleportation before going to tell my husband there has been a slight change to our weekend plans.

Thirty minutes later, my husband comes in from mowing the lawn, takes one look at my still panicked face and makes it all better with the words, “Why don’t you just stay at JMU this weekend and write? I can handle everything here.”

And this, my friends, is why I LOVE my husband. He knew I have been running at cheetah speed for weeks and needed some down time. So, I quite literally kissed him right smack dab on the mouth and said, “I think I will.”

JMU was still a long drive, but my 12 year old had a blast and learned a ton. At the final concert it was mind blowing that these were middle and high school kids who hadn’t even seen the music they would be performing until 4:30pm on Friday. And my 15 year old daughter got her project done and beat her previous record, running the half marathon in 2 hours 25 minutes.

And me? I relaxed. I drank a couple of glasses of wine. I took a hot bath where no one felt the need to parade in and out of the bathroom or bang on the door asking questions that could have easily waited another thirty minutes. And I finally got some alone time with my characters without all the usual demands of my life. I got some solid writing done and I recharged my batteries. And it was marvelous!

So do you ever feel overwhelmed? What do you do to recharge your batteries?

 

 

The Naked Truth About Conferences

 

Veronica Wolff, Brooks Johnson, Kim Killion, Cathy Maxwell and Katharine Ashe at a workshop.

April is always busy in my household because it’s birthday month. Between my immediate family, siblings and grandparents we have six birthdays between March 31st and April 19th. But April has been crazier than normal this year. Why, you ask? Conferences! Two of them in one month!

Writing is such a solitary endeavor, just you and your computer, and in my case, diet coke and a large black and white cat who thinks lying across my keyboard is the perfect way to get my attention. But, regardless what your normal writing routine is, it’s nice to get out into the world once in a while. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to go to my first conference three years ago and discover there are other people in the world that talk to fictional characters as if they are real people. And for the most part,these other people are completely sane!

At the Foxy Dames Speakeasy.

They are also kind, considerate and some of the most supportive people you’ll ever meet. They understand how important a kind word of encouragement can be for a new writer, or how someone who has been writing for years may be going through a rough patch with a current work in progress. Writers, by and large, are happy to offer support and advice to all those around them. To sympathize over that latest rejection letter or celebrate your new release, to share what promotional tools have worked best for them or lament over painful rewrites and edits.

The Clan McFae Magical Scottish Fling and Costume Competition.

Every year I try to attend one or two conferences. Some big, like Romance Writers of America (RWA) Nationals, and some small, like Washington Romance Writers (WRW) Retreat. I love going to writing conferences because they are a great way to meet people who understand the challenges of balancing writing, family, and that stupid day job many of us depend on to pay the bills. Conferences allow you to network, promote your latest release and can be a great way to get in front of agents and editors.

I can’t say conferences are particularly relaxing because every time I come home from one I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation. Most conferences offer a wide range of workshops on craft, promotion and trends in the industry during the day, followed by an opportunity to cut loose with friends, old and new, at socials, mixers and parties in the evenings.

RT and Heather Graham’s Night of the Stars Gangster Cafe Talent Quest

Two weeks ago I attended The RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago. What a blast! This one is special because it is not only open to authors and other industry professionals but also caters to librarians, booksellers, and readers. There were a ton of fabulous workshops offered, a Pitch-A-Palooza that gave writers face time with as many agents and editors as possible in a 2 hour period and multiple theme parties every night sponsored by publishing houses like Kensington Books, Carina Press, Harlequin, Samhain Publishing, Avon and Ellora’s Cave. And as you can see from the pictures, writers love to play dress up!

Cover model, Brooks Johnson and Dana Rodgers.

This weekend I’ll be attending the WRW Retreat in Maryland. This is the same Retreat where the Waterworld Mermaids met as “first timers” last spring. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already! I can’t wait to hang out with my sister mermaids again but what I’m really looking forward to is a fun-filled weekend full of workshops and opportunities to make even more new friends.

Do you attend conferences? If so, which ones have you found to be the best and why?

How Important Is A Review?

When I was growing up my father used to say, “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you’re never going to please all of the people all of the time, so stop worrying about it and please yourself.” I have found that little pearl to be wise advice because let’s face it, everyone has an opinion.

Reviews are part of every author’s life whether they like it or not. It doesn’t matter if the review comes from family, friends, a critique partner or the intended audience of readers and reviewers. For most of us, those reviews represent a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, it’s nice to know what you are doing right and that there are people out there who love your work. On the other, who enjoys hearing how much someone disliked something that took months to write?

I always find it interesting how different people deal with the negative feedback. Some authors just laugh off a bad review while others take every word to heart and carry those negative feelings around for years. I have even heard horror stories of authors abandoning their writing altogether after being discouraged by a callous critique.

With that said, I’m going to show you why harboring those negative feelings over one person’s opinion may not be the best course of action. As you’ll see from the following reviews what one person loves, another hates.

 

Anita Clenney—”Awaken the Highland Warrior”

“After 20%, the amount of leaps in logic and lack of world building have me at a loss…”

* * * * *

“…the world that Clenney has created is fascinating and has great potential for many books. I enjoyed the fact that the author paid attention to every detail, she gave you enough information to keep you puzzled in one chapter but held the answer until further into the book. I just couldn’t put the book down… I can’t wait for the next book!”

* * * * *

“I am glad I only paid 99 cents, but am disgusted at my wasted hours spent hoping it would get better. It never did. It had a great premise. If it was edited to 1/2 the pages and their attraction was more believable, I may have enjoyed it. Instead I am just angry about my invested time.”

* * * * *

“The storyline that ran through-out this book was fantastic. I really liked the whole Warriors vs. Demons. The story had so many twists and turns, it constantly keeps you guessing. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen and who the bad guy’s are… something else happens and completely throws you off the scent. It was beyond genius!”

 

Alethea Kontis—”Enchanted”

“Basically, the main word I’d use to describe Enchanted is bizarre. Even before I ultimately decided it wasn’t going to get any better and I couldn’t care less about the characters, I thought that this was a very bizarre story… Fairytales are supposed to revolve around circumstances that are unnatural, for lack of a better word. But I’ve never read a story as flippant and (it appears to me), careless as Enchanted…”

* * * * *

“…Sunday’s grand adventure and magical story of love and redemption ensnared me with all it’s glory. Alethea Kontis made me remember why I used to beg my dad to read me fairy tales at bedtime. She reminded me why I still wish upon a star and believe in true love. This enchanted story about a girl named Sunday will make you dream of your own fairytale and yearn for the next installment of this bespelled series!!”

* * * * *

“Rare are the books I find so painful that reviewing them becomes a chore; writing a review means thinking about them when I would rather leave them forgotten. Despite hopes that it would not turn out as such, Enchanted is one of those books.”

* * * * *

“Alethea Kontis’ “Enchanted” is a mixture of all the endearing fantasies we enjoyed as children… I must applaud on the author’s effortless delivery that comes out undeniably appealing. This is the kind of book deserving of your attention and holds it inescapably.”

 

Nora Roberts–“The Next Always: Book One of the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy”

“…I’ve never contemplated not finishing a book of hers until now. I love how she usually finds an area of interest to focus on in books… I’ve learned so much about ballet, fire jumping, flowers, wedding planning and so much more. However, the detail that she goes into with this book is just ridiculous. I’m about a third of the way through and it feels like I’ve spent about 5 minutes with the characters and hours reading about fence pickets, color schemes and copper tubs. I’m so disappointed…”

* * * * *

“I enjoyed the relaxed pace, the cozy and lovely setting and the lovely characters… Boonsboro is a great place to set the book and thanks to all the little details Nora Roberts added to the story I was able to imagine the town and it’s buildings very easily… The love story was very sweet and I loved the way it progressed.”

 

This shows how subjective reviews really are. They are one person’s opinion and are colored by that person’s life experiences, reading preferences, preconceived ideas and the reader’s frame of mind when they were reading your story. What one reader loves, another may hate. And that’s okay, because everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

If you are a writer then you have to accept that you will have both good and bad reviews. No matter who you are or how great your writing is, even the fabulous Nora Roberts, there will be some people that won’t enjoy your work. But before you decide to stop writing forever because of someone’s callous remark, or before you decide that everyone who does not love your book is an idiot, I will offer some cautionary advice: If you are being told the same thing over and over again by different people, then you may want to consider that there is validity to that criticism. And if someone tells you something that you don’t want to hear, it is always better to respond with an, “I’m sorry that you did not enjoy my book, but thank you for taking the time to read it,” rather than attacking that person’s opinion. You can always tell them they’ve been taken over by demented brain weasels in your mind. 🙂

Just remember, reviews do not define the writer but, taken with a grain of salt, they can help us improve our craft. Please tell me how reviews, both good and bad, have influenced your own writing.

Rachel Aaron Swims In The Mermaid Pond

Today we are joined by the very talented Rachel Aaron, author of The Legend of Eli Monpress novels, an adventure fantasy series from Orbit Books starring an irrepressibly charming wizard thief and the poor saps trying to catch him. “The Legend of Eli Monpress,” an omnibus of her first three books, is available at bookstores everywhere. Her fourth book, The Spirit War, comes out June 2012. Yesterday Rachel shared her secrets to increasing her writing productivity from 2,000 to 10,000 words a day, now we are going to learn more about Rachel and her latest release.

Welcome back to the mermaid pond Rachel. Please tell us a little about yourself.  I’m the author of The Legend of Eli Monpress, a fast, fun adventure fantasy about a charming thief and the band of colorful characters who make his life more interesting. The first three books are out now in The Legend of Eli Monpress Omnibus , meaning you can get all 3 for $10 on Amazon right now, which is a crazy awesome deal considering they were $7.99 each when they first came out! Of course, you can get samples of my writing and more info on all my books at my site, www.rachelaaron.net.

On the personal side of things, the most important fact about me is that I’m a huge nerd! I read tons and tons of genre books including Fantasy, UF, SciFi, Paranormal Romance, and Historical Fantasy. I also read manga, watch anime, read webcomics, and I play tabletop RPGs as well as PC games (I’m a big RTS fan). I used to play World of Warcraft, but I quit a year ago because I was unable to play that game responsibly (and because they nerfed Shamans). In my non-leisure time, I spend about 8-10 hours a day working on writing, but since I write swordfights for a living, it’s not really work. I’ll be 30 this year, I have a 2 year old son and a fat sausage of a dog, and I live in Athens, GA in a house in the woods with my loving husband.

How long have you been writing and do you recall what originally sparked your interest in writing?  I’ve been making up stories since I could talk, though I used to lie to my parents and tell them they were stories I “heard” because that way if they thought they were stupid, it wouldn’t reflect on me. Of course, this meant I also couldn’t take credit if the stories were good, so I got over it quickly. Still, I didn’t initially want to write. Mostly I wanted to draw comics, but my lack of artistic talent and visual thinking sort of nixed that. In the end, I moved on to writing, and I’m really, really happy I did. I’ve been writing seriously since I graduated college in 2004, but it took me 2 books before I got my contract with Orbit in 2008.

What author or books have most influenced you?  My influences are all over the map. I would say the books that have stuck with me the most are Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion, Peter S Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, and CS Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, mixed in with a generous helping of Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, and Robert Jordan. I drew a lot of my dramatic inspiration and pacing from anime and movies. This means my books move very quickly, but if the popularity of Urban Fantasy has taught us anything, it’s that many readers appreciate a more action movie pace to their adventure reading. Probably because we’ve been trained by Hollywood to like that sort of quick clip, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?  See question 1! Actually, that’s kind of a trick question. I’m always writing. Even if I’m not actively at the computer, I’m always thinking about my stories, especially when I’m reading other people’s stories (you can learn so much by watching how other authors solve problems). When I can tear myself away, though, I enjoy playing games of all sorts. Mostly, though, I fight to keep entropy from reclaiming our house. Keeping things clean against a toddler is a Sisyphean task. I did not know so much laundry could exist.

If you could have a superpower what would it be?  The ability to wish for more wishes :D.

Do you have a favorite author or book? If so, what is it that attracts you to the work?  Ack, don’t make me choose! This answer changes every week, I swear. Well, right now I’m still in the thrall of Ender’s Game, which is unceasingly amazing. On the pure escapism front, I’m hugely addicted to Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. In terms of wonderful, underrated books, Sarah Monette’s Melusine books are dark and beautiful.

I would say what draws me into a book is a combination of a writer’s style, characters I want to read more about, and an interesting world. Any one of these can be enough to keep me reading, but all three together send me into bookgasms. A good example of this would be Linda Barry’s Cruddy, which has all three of these in spades and a terrifying and amazing plot. Cruddy isn’t genre, but it is well worth a read. Really amazing book, but be ready to cry.

Tell us 10 random things about yourself.  I’m addicted to Diet Coke, red wine makes me the happiest drunk in the world, when no one’s around I tell my plots to my dog, I can’t have any music when I write, I’m still shy to tell people I’m a writer even though I make a living from it, I assign songs to all my characters (even though I don’t write to music), I get more articulate as I get angrier, I can’t read print books anymore now that I’m used to my Kindle, I chat only with Bestselling UF author Kalayna Price most days, I don’t ever let anyone read my unfinished work.

Is anything in your books based on real life experience or is it all purely imagination?  The important stuff (human interaction, emotional responses, ambitions, friendships, basic physics) and the small stuff (the way rain feels, the taste of common things, the irritation of waiting) come from real life. Most everything else is made up. Not to spoil anyone’s opinion, but I’ve never actually killed a man with a magical sword. 😀

How do new stories evolve for you? Do you come up with your characters or setting first?  New stories always start with a flash of inspiration. I see something or hear a cool phrase or think of a neat scenario and I just know there’s a novel in there. These inspirations usually spend a few years mulling around in my head, breeding with new inspirations until I’ve got enough for a book. After that, I follow my plotting steps, found here; http://bit.ly/ngHrqv

This flash of inspiration is very, very important. I never throw an idea away. Just because something isn’t strong enough to carry a book on its own doesn’t mean it can’t be a cool part of some other story. I actually keep a big old document full of these little scraps called The Idea Bucket, and I try to read over it frequently to keep myself inspired.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?  Bad reviews mostly roll off me. Usually, if someone has criticisms of my books, I either already know about the problem in question (no book is perfect, and the Spirit Thief was my first published novel, of course I made mistakes) or the reviewer wanted something from the book that I didn’t (like a darker, more serious plot). Of course, good reviews make me happy all day long. The toughest stuff comes from my agent and editor, because I actually have to fix those problems. The best complements I’ve gotten are from the people who write me to tell me how much they love the book. The fact that someone took the time out of their day to write me a gushing letter never fails to make me feel like a million bucks. I LOVE fan mail!

What advice would you give an aspiring writer?  Write what you love. Don’t listen when people say this is hot or that will never sell. Just write the story that makes you excited, the story that begs to be told. Also, never be afraid to abandon a story that clearly isn’t working, but never give up on writing itself. If you’re a writer, then you have many, many stories in you. Just because one didn’t work out doesn’t mean that’s all you get. Learn to love the process of story telling itself and everything else will come on its own.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?  Eli loves you all, each and every one! Seriously, I could not do what I do without readers, and thank you never feels like enough to the people who make it possible for me to live my dream. All I can do to show my gratitude is do my absolute best to write the most amazing books I’m capable of. I write with my readers in mind at all times. These books are for you!

What was the inspiration behind your most recent story?  My latest work is actually the Miranda Novella set in the Eli Monpress world that’s out right now from Orbit Short Fiction. My editor asked for a short story to promo The Omnibus, and I’d just come off this huge Regency Romance reading binge. So I got this idea, what if I took my incredibly magical, powerful, dutiful wizard and stuck her in a comedy of manners? The result was actually pretty awesome, especially when you consider the hero is a 15 foot long magical dog. Just goes to show how everything can be inspiration if you keep your mind open.

What was your favorite chapter (or scene) to write and why?  That would actually be a spoiler for the Eli series. Suffice it to say, Eli actually meets his match in guile and charm in Spirit’s End (the fifth and final Eli book). Probably the single funniest moment in the whole series. I still laugh every time I read it.

Thanks again Rachel for sharing your productivity secrets yesterday and dipping your toes in the mermaid waters again today. Check out Rachel Aaron at www.rachelaaron.net and if you are new to her then here is a link to sample the first chapters of Rachel’s first novel The Spirit Thief. http://www.rachelaaron.net/thespiritthief-sample.php

You can purchase more works by Rachel Aaron at the links below.

http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Thief-Legend-Eli-Monpress/dp/0316069051/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281028971&sr=8-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/legend-of-eli-monpress-rachel-aaron/1100737227?ean=9780316193573&itm=1&usri=the+legend+of+eli+monpress


Rachel Aaron — How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day

Back in December, when I was sick and not feeling very productive, I stumbled across this wonderful blog post by Rachel Aaron, author of The Legend of Eli Monpress novels. Rachel has found a way to manage her writing goals and increase her productivity dramatically. I was so wowed by Rachel’s no-nonsense approach I asked if I could share it here. She has graciously agreed, so join us as she discusses her process of discovery and path to success.

This is a long read, but if you haven’t seen it before you’ll be glad you took the time. If you don’t have time now, please stop back when you can or go to Rachel’s blog for the original post.

And don’t forget to join us here tomorrow, when I will have the honor of interviewing the very talented Rachel Aaron.

 

How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day

When I started writing The Spirit War (Eli novel #4), I had a bit of a problem. I had a brand new baby and my life (like every new mother’s life) was constantly on the verge of shambles. I paid for a sitter four times a week so I could get some writing time, and I guarded these hours like a mama bear guards her cubs – with ferocity and hiker-mauling violence. To keep my schedule and make my deadlines, I needed to write 4000 words during each of these carefully arranged sessions. I thought this would be simple. After all, before I quit my job to write full time I’d been writing 2k a day in the three hours before work. Surely with 6 hours of baby free writing time, 4k a day would be nothing….

I guarded these hours like a mama bear guards her cubs – with ferocity and hiker-mauling violence. To keep my schedule and make my deadlines, I needed to write 4000 words during each of these carefully arranged sessions. I thought this would be simple. After all, before I quit my job to write full time I’d been writing 2k a day in the three hours before work. Surely with 6 hours of baby free writing time, 4k a day would be nothing….

But (of course), things didn’t work out like that. Every day I’d sit down to add 4000 words to my new manuscript. I was determined, I was experienced, I knew my world. There was no reason I couldn’t get 4k down. But every night when I hauled myself away, my word count had only increased by 2k, the same number of words I’d been getting before I quit my day job.

Needless to say, I felt like a failure. Here I was, a professional writer with three books about to come out, and I couldn’t even beat the writing I’d done before I went pro. At first I made excuses, this novel was the most complicated of all the Eli books I’d written, I was tired because my son thinks 4am is an awesome time to play, etc. etc. But the truth was there was no excuse. I had to find a way to boost my word count, and with months of 2k a day dragging me down, I had to do it fast. So I got scientific. I gathered data and tried experiments, and ultimately ended up boosting my word count to heights far beyond what I’d thought was possible, and I did it while making my writing better than ever before.

When I told people at ConCarolinas that I’d gone from writing 2k to 10k per day, I got a huge response. Everyone wanted to know how I’d done it, and I finally got so sick of telling the same story over and over again that I decided to write it down here.

So, once and for all, here’s the story of how I went from writing 500 words an hour to over 1500, and (hopefully) how you can too:

A quick note: There are many fine, successful writers out there who equate writing quickly with being a hack. I firmly disagree. My methods remove the dross, the time spent tooling around lost in your daily writing, not the time spent making plot decisions or word choices. This is not a choice between ruminating on art or churning out the novels for gross commercialism (though I happen to like commercial novels), it’s about not wasting your time for whatever sort of novels you want to write.

Drastically increasing your words per day is actually pretty easy, all it takes is a shift in perspective and the ability to be honest with yourself (which is the hardest part). Because I’m a giant nerd, I ended up creating a metric, a triangle with three core requirements: Knowledge, Time, and Enthusiasm. Any one of these can noticeably boost your daily output, but all three together can turn you into a word machine. I never start writing these days unless I can hit all three.

Update! The talented Vicky Teinaki made a graphic of this metric and let me use it! She is awesome!

Side 1: Knowledge, or Know What You’re Writing Before You Write It

The first big boost to my daily wordcount happened almost by accident. Used to be I would just pop open the laptop and start writing. Now, I wasn’t a total make-it-up-as-you-go writer. I had a general plot outline, but my scene notes were things like “Miranda and Banage argue” or “Eli steals the king.” Not very useful, but I knew generally what direction I was writing in, and I liked to let the characters decide how the scene would go. Unfortunately, this meant I wasted a lot of time rewriting and backtracking when the scene veered off course.

This was how I had always written, it felt natural to me. But then one day I got mired in a real mess. I had spent three days knee deep in the same horrible scene. I was drastically behind on my wordcount, and I was facing the real possibility of missing my deadline… again. It was the perfect storm of all my insecurities, the thought of letting people down mixed with the fear that I really didn’t know what I was doing, that I wasn’t a real writer at all, just an amateur pretending to be one. But as I got angrier and angrier with myself, I looked down at my novel and suddenly realized that I was being an absolute idiot. Here I was, desperate for time, floundering in a scene, and yet I was doing the hardest work of writing (figuring out exactly what needs to happen to move the scene forward in the most dramatic and exciting way) in the most time consuming way possible (ie, in the middle of the writing itself).

As soon as I realized this, I stopped. I closed my laptop and got out my pad of paper. Then, instead of trying to write the scene in the novel as I had been, I started scribbling a very short hand, truncated version the scene on the paper. I didn’t describe anything, I didn’t do transitions. I wasn’t writing, I was simply noting down what I would write when the time came. It took me about five minutes and three pages of notebook paper to untangle my seemingly unfixable scene, the one that had just eaten three days of my life before I tried this new approach. Better still, after I’d worked everything out in shorthand I was able to dive back into the scene and finish it in record time. The words flew onto the screen, and at the end of that session I’d written 3000 words rather than 2000, most of them in that last hour and a half.

Looking back, it was so simple I feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner. If you want to write faster, the first step is to know what you’re writing before you write it. I’m not even talking about macro plot stuff, I mean working out the back and forth exchanges of an argument between characters, blocking out fights, writing up fast descriptions. Writing this stuff out in words you actually want other people to read, especially if you’re making everything up as you go along, takes FOREVER. It’s horribly inefficient and when you get yourself in a dead end, you end up trashing hundreds, sometimes thousands of words to get out. But jotting it down on a pad? Takes no time at all. If the scene you’re sketching out starts to go the wrong way, you see it immedeatly, and all you have to do is cross out the parts that went sour and start again at the beginning. That’s it. No words lost, no time wasted. It was god damn beautiful.

Every writing session after this realization, I dedicated five minutes (sometimes more, never less) and wrote out a quick description of what I was going to write. Sometimes it wasn’t even a paragraph, just a list of this happens then this then this. This simple change, these five stupid minutes, boosted my wordcount enormously. I went from writing 2k a day to writing 5k a day within a week without increasing my 5 hour writing block. Some days I even finished early.

Of the three sides of the triangle, I consider knowledge to be the most important. This step alone more than doubled my word count. If you only want to try one change at a time, this is the one I recommend the most.

Side 2: Time

Now that I’d had such a huge boost from one minor change, I started to wonder what else I could do to jack my numbers up even higher. But as I looked for other things I could tweak, I quickly realized that I knew embarrassingly little about how I actually wrote my novels. I’d kept no records of my progress, I couldn’t even tell you how long it took me to write any of my last three novels beyond broad guesstimations, celebratory blog posts, and vague memories of past word counts. It was like I started every book by throwing myself at the keyboard and praying for a novel to shoot out of my fingers before the deadline. And keep in mind this is my business. Can you imagine a bakery or a freelance designer working this way? Never tracking hours or keeping a record of how long it took me to actually produce the thing I was selling? Yeah, pretty stupid way to work.

If I was going to boost my output (or know how long it took me to actually write a freaking novel), I had to know what I was outputting in the first place. So, I started keeping records. Every day I had a writing session I would note the time I started, the time I stopped, how many words I wrote, and where I was writing on a spreadsheet. I did this for two months, and then I looked for patterns.

Several things were immediately clear. First, my productivity was at its highest when I was in a place other than my home. That is to say, a place without internet. The afternoons I wrote at the coffee shop with no wireless were twice as productive as the mornings I wrote at home. I also saw that, while butt in chair time is the root of all writing, not all butt in chair time is equal. For example, those days where I only got one hour to write I never managed more than five hundred words in that hour. By contrast, those days I got five hours of solid writing I was clearing close to 1500 words an hour. The numbers were clear: the longer I wrote, the faster I wrote (and I believe the better I wrote, certainly the writing got easier the longer I went). This corresponding rise of wordcount and writing hours only worked up to a point, though. There was a definite words per hour drop off around hour 7 when I was simply too brain fried to go on.

But these numbers are very personal, the point I’m trying to make is that by recording my progress every day I had the data I needed to start optimizing my daily writing. Once I had my data in hand, I rearranged my schedule to make sure my writing time was always in the afternoon (my most prolific time according to my sheet, which was a real discovery. I would have bet money I was better in the morning.), always at my coffee shop with no internet, and always at least 4 hours long. Once I set my time, I guarded it viciously, and low and behold my words per day shot up again. This time to an average of 6k-7k per writing day, and all without adding any extra hours. All I had to do was discover what made good writing time for me and then make sure the good writing time was the time I fought hardest to get.

Even if you don’t have the luxury of 4 uninterrupted hours at your prime time of day, I highly suggest measuring your writing in the times you do have to write. Even if you only have 1 free hour a day, trying that hour in the morning some days and the evening on others and tracking the results can make sure you aren’t wasting your precious writing time on avoidable inefficiencies. Time really does matter.

Side 3: Enthusiasm

I was flying high on my new discoveries. Over the course of two months I’d jacked my daily writing from 2k per day to 7k with just a few simple changes and was now actually running ahead of schedule for the first time in my writing career. But I wasn’t done yet. I was absolutely determined I was going to break the 10k a day barrier.

I’d actually broken it before. Using Knowledge and Time, I’d already managed a few 10k+ days, including one where I wrote 12,689 words, or two chapters, in 7 hours. To be fair, I had been writing outside of my usual writing window in addition to my normal writing on those days, so it wasn’t a total words-per-hour efficiency jump. But that’s the great thing about going this fast, the novel starts to eat you and you find yourself writing any time you can just for the pure joy of it. Even better, on the days where I broke 10k, I was also pulling fantastic words-per-hour numbers, 1600 – 2000 words per hour as opposed to my usual 1500. It was clear these days were special, but I didn’t know how. I did know that I wanted those days to become the norm rather than the exception, so I went back to my records (which I now kept meticulously) to find out what made the 10k days different.

The answer was head-slappingly obvious. Those days I broke 10k were the days I was writing scenes I’d been dying to write since I planned the book. They were the candy bar scenes, the scenes I wrote all that other stuff to get to. By contrast, my slow days (days where I was struggling to break 5k) corresponded to the scenes I wasn’t that crazy about.

This was a duh moment for me, but it also brought up a troubling new problem. If I had scenes that were boring enough that I didn’t want to write them, then there was no way in hell anyone would want to read them. This was my novel, after all. If I didn’t love it, no one would.

Fortunately, the solution turned out to be, yet again, stupidly simple. Every day, while I was writing out my little description of what I was going to write for the knowledge component of the triangle, I would play the scene through in my mind and try to get excited about it. I’d look for all the cool little hooks, the parts that interested me most, and focus on those since they were obviously what made the scene cool. If I couldn’t find anything to get excited over, then I would change the scene, or get rid of it entirely. I decided then and there that, no matter how useful a scene might be for my plot, boring scenes had no place in my novels.

This discovery turned out to be a fantastic one for my writing. I trashed and rewrote several otherwise perfectly good scenes, and the effect on the novel was amazing. Plus, my daily wordcount numbers shot up again because I was always excited about my work. Double bonus!

Life On 10k A Day

With all three sides of my triangle now in place, I was routinely pulling 10-12k per day by the time I finished Spirits’ End, the fifth Eli novel. I was almost 2 months ahead of where I’d thought I’d be, and the novel had only taken me 3 months to write rather than the 7 months I’d burned on the Spirit War (facts I knew now that I was keeping records). I was ahead of schedule with plenty of time to do revisions before I needed to hand the novel in to my editor, and I was happier with my writing than ever before. There were several days toward the end when I’d close my laptop and stumble out of the coffee shop feeling almost drunk on writing. I felt like I was on top of the world, utterly invincible and happier than I’ve ever been. Writing that much that quickly was like taking some kind of weird success opiate, and I was thoroughly addicted. Once you’ve hit 10k a day for a week straight, anything less feels like your story is crawling.

Now, again, 10k a day is my high point as a professional author whose child is now in daycare (PRICELESS). I write 6 – 7 hours a day, usually 2 in the morning and 4-5 in the afternoon, five days a week. Honestly, I don’t see how anyone other than a full time novelist could pull those kind of hours, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a pro to drastically increase your daily word count.

So 10k might be the high end of the spectrum, but of the people I’ve told about this (a lot) who’ve gotten back to me (not nearly as many), most have doubled their word counts by striving to hit all three sides of the triangle every time they write. This means some have gone from 1k a day to 2k, or 2k to 4k. Some of my great success with increasing my wordcount is undoubtedly a product of experience, as I also hit my million word mark somewhere in the fifth Eli novel. Even so, I believe most of the big leaps in efficiency came from changing the way I approached my writing. Just as changing your lifestyle can help you lose a hundred pounds, changing they way you sit down to write can boost your words per hour in astonishing ways.

If you’re looking to get more out of your writing time, I really hope you try my triangle. If you do, please write me (or comment below) and let me know. Even if it doesn’t work (especially if it doesn’t work) I’d love to hear about it. Also, if you find another efficiency hack for writing, let me know about that too! There’s no reason our triangle can’t be a square, and I’m always looking for a way to hit 15k a day :D.

Again, I really hope this helps you hit your goals. Good luck with your writing!

– Rachel Aaron

 

Thanks again, Rachel. I’m more encouraged than ever to keep up with the goals I’ve set and, thanks to you, I think I can achieve even more. Join us here tomorrow to find out more about Rachel Aaron and her new release.

In the meantime, you should check out Rachel Aaron’s website and here are a couple of places you can purchase her The Legend of Eli Monpress novels.

http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Thief-Legend-Eli-Monpress/dp/0316069051/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281028971&sr=8-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/legend-of-eli-monpress-rachel-aaron/1100737227?ean=9780316193573&itm=1&usri=the+legend+of+eli+monpress

 

 

Season of Change

I’m an overachiever. Yep, I’m admitting it. And if you don’t believe me just ask my husband—it drives him crazy. I tend to organize and make lists, heck even my extensive movie collection is alphabetized and categorized by genre. Not kidding. My books would be too if I could talk my husband into building me more bookshelves. Maybe when the basement is finished?

Every year for the holidays I wind up making a giant list of what needs to get done, then when I accomplish it… I celebrate for about thirty-seven seconds before making another list, and then another. So in truth I probably got the important stuff done way back with the first list but then I spend my holidays killing myself to achieve more and more, and only wind up making myself crazy.

But this year was a little different, I got sick right after Thanksgiving and I’m still recovering. I’ll just say that bronchitis sucks and I found out the hard way that you can actually tear muscles in your chest wall from coughing. Not fun! But being sick has taught me several valuable lessons and helped shape my New Year’s resolutions this year as well.

1. Priorities

What’s important and what’s not. Spending time with family and friends is important; having everything “perfect” is not. I mean really, is the house going to fall down if it doesn’t get vacuumed? Apparently not. And besides, there is no such thing as “perfect”, and even if there were, “perfect” would look different to everyone. Writing is also a priority I have been denying myself. Don’t get me wrong I write but it is usually in fits and surges where I write for like ten hours a day for a week and then not at all for a few days, then pull a couple of all-nighters. By the way, I don’t recommend this writing style to anyone. I have to stop scooting writing down on the old priority list and make time for it everyday. You know the drill, sit down and write a good story, the rest will take care of itself. To be successful you have to show up everyday and you have to work hard, but I know it’s worth it because nothing worthwhile ever comes easily. Come on, if it were easy to climb Mount Everest, everyone would do it.

2.  Friends And Family

Friends and family have always been important to me but since my dad’s sudden death last December this point has really been driven home. Once the people you love are gone there is no going back so it is important to love the people in your life well NOW. Not tomorrow. Not next week. It is important to forgive perceived wrongs, to send a card or pick up the phone to tell someone you are thinking of them, to look up that old friend you were thinking about, and above all treasure today.

3.  Unclutter

Not just getting rid of the clutter in the attic or the basement (Lord knows mine currently need attention) but also throwing out what is not working in life and incorporating more of what is. I think it is always important to reassess, figure out what is important to you and go after it. Like writing for example, I have to stop putting obstacles in my path, sabotaging my own success. I need to stop being afraid to go after what I want and just do it. No more excuses. I have to stop running the other way by switching which story I’m currently working on when I hit “the wall.” It’s time to pick one story and finish the damn manuscript come what may.

4. Live Healthier

Hi, I’m Dana and I’m a diet coke addict. I could also stand to cut back on the junk food and move more. I love writing, but it’s kind of a fat girl sport. When I’m writing, I’m sitting on my butt behind a computer and let’s be honest, that does not lend itself to exercise. I need to force myself to get back to a regular exercise routine and eat the salad not the cookie currently calling my name from the pantry, and take the walk instead of sitting down with a book when I’m not writing.

Now you’ve heard some of my New Year’s resolutions–my promises to myself. Me, yelling at me to get it in gear and make better choices. I would love to hear some of yours.

I wish you all a 2012 full of health, happiness and writing inspiration.

Just Show Up

It takes a brave man to swim in the mermaid pond but I think today’s guest is up to the task. Derek Dodson has a Master of Education in professional counseling, and was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for a number of years working with at risk kids and families. He is an accomplished musician (guitar/bass), has a number of black belts in martial arts and is knowledgeable in Chinese, Okinawan and Japanese weapons. Derek has been a college athlete, a rodeo rider, fought as a semi pro kick boxer, and even worked as a bouncer in some really bad bars when he was working his way through grad school. This has probably come in very handy as Derek is also married with four—yes, you heard me right—FOUR beautiful daughters.

And did I mention he also writes romance?

Derek has published several “forgettable articles and lots of academic crap” in his areas of interest, as well as written music and poetry. He began writing fiction a wee bit more than a year ago and is taking that on like he does everything else—full steam ahead. Today he’s here talking about the long road to mastering any skill. Take it away Derek…

The past 30 or so years I have had two great loves in my life beyond family, martial arts and music. During these three decades, I somehow managed to complete a couple of college degrees, get married, raise 4 kids, and change careers three times. All through the demands of job, school and family, I found time for the two pursuits I love the most. Martial arts and music. Certainly there were breaks during times of illness, births, etc., but for the most part, I continued to show up.

Teaching has always been a favorite activity, and with the many years I’ve invested in my two hobbies, I am now viewed as a bit of an authority by some. I think maybe it is just because I am getting old. Over this span of time I can’t tell you how often I have heard people say they wished they could do martial arts or play guitar, but they don’t have the time, talent, money, etc. They often go on to opine about how gifted/talented/blessed/unique I am. BS.

In Geoff Colvin’s excellent book, Talent Is Overrated He lays out all the research done thus far around the topic of talent as it relates to things like business, science, music and other arts. What he so convincingly shows is there is NO evidence for what we call talent when it comes to these interests. What the research does show is those who are considered “talented” in their field are individuals who have a single-minded focus on their one activity to the exclusion of others.

One of the books Colvin cites is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell takes a close look at the habits of those who are highly successful in their field. He is most often quoted for coining the 10,000 hour rule. That is, mastery of most subjects require approximately 10,000 hours of focused practice.

As a novice writer, I am swimming in a sea of amazingly talented people for whom writing seems to flow as effortlessly as breathing. Since I have chosen romance, most of these uniquely gifted people are women. Being active in two local and two online RWA chapters, attending over a dozen online workshops, and reading several of the “must have” books on the topic, I have come to a conclusion. Writing is no different than anything else.

The reason I am surrounded by this chorus of amazingly talented writers is because you ladies put in the time and work your butts off. Jobs, kids, spouses, PTA, etc., all pull you in different directions. Still you find the time to write. The 10,000 hours is no guarantee of success, as there are other factors involved when it comes to publication. However, the self pub world has exposed us to wonderful writers and to those who haven’t reached the 10k mark yet.

Perhaps there is some hope for me as a writer, as I spent 500 words to basically say “just show up”. I would love to hear what others think.