Tag Archives: writing

Productive? Prolific? Sign Me Up!

I am so happy to bring my first book review to the Waterworld Mermaids’ lagoon immediately after posting on the problem of Fear.  Being a writer who spends way too much time worrying about not writing, I am always hoping to find words of wisdom that might help me embrace my craft.

       The Productive Writer, by Sage Cohen, is one book in my arsenal.  Ms Cohen writes as both a business professional and a poet.  She believes, as she states early in her introduction, that productivity is a lifestyle choice.  I used this book extensively last winter, carrying it in my satchel and dipping into it for reading on my train rides to and from the Bronx each weekday morning.  I could dip into a chapter (“Transforming Your Realtionship with Time,” or “Writing in the Margins of a Full-Time Life”, among others) and meditate on ten or so pages.  Even if I only scanned the headings of part of a chapter, I felt comforted and reinvigorated, ready to face the task ahead.  Productive Writer remains at my elbow here at home most days.  After Thursday’s post and responses, I think it needs to go back in my satchel.

Last Saturday, I was the lucky winner of Hillary Rettig’s The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.  I’d just been treated to a presentation from this speaker at a CTRWA monthly meeting, and was thrilled to know that I would be taking her wisdom home with me.  Ms. Rettig writes that, yes, writers procrastinate for many reasons.  She takes time to examine perfectionism, resource constraints, time constraints, bias, internalized oppression and exploitation, just to scratch the surface.  In discussing these, she seeks to help us change our inner dialogue and unsnarl the spaghetti that keeps us blocked from fully embracing our mission to be productive. 

I know that these two books, alone, won’t make me the writer I dream of becoming.  They are tools.  But the wisdom and insight contained in each helps provide a re-dedication to my talent and goals.  Suddenly, I’m looking forward to all those train rides this winter…


The Productive Writer is available in print and as an ebook at both amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com

The 7 Secrets of the Prolific is available as an ebook at amazon.com. Print copies can be purchased at http://hillaryrettig.com.




Fear is good.  It keeps you safe.  Fear keeps you from going down the wrong street, trusting the wrong people, taking risks that are bad for you.  Fear that runs amok and takes control of your life, though, keeps you from enjoying some of the most productive and marvelous moments possible:  working on your chosen craft and enjoying the fruits of your work.

Witness my inability to contribute to the Mermaid short story effort this Fall.  I was silent, unable to compose even a scrap of an idea for that wonderful festival of creativity.  Yes, I was trapped in a web of fear, a crawling, deadly hive of poisonous fear that kept my fingers frozen for weeks that stretched into months.  Why?

Because I was silly enough to trigger a word count on my Lake Effect manuscript instead of just keeping on with the writing.   Argh!  I wasn’t going to finish by my self-imposed deadline!  I’d failed!  Again!   At which point I took refuge in endless edits of material that I wrote last year, instead of taking time to reflect and re-evaluate, to mourn and then do the brave thing:  work forward.

Even now, I get distracted by the details of my story.  Is the father alive or dead?  If I use the alternate opening for Chapter One, will it be possible to achieve the light-hearted style I’d embraced in the original?  Is there a sister or not?  And should Desmond and Nicole break up at the very start of the book, or should I shift that scene back to Chapter Ten (which remains suspiciously blank)?  Do I need to take a break and do my makeup?  Isn’t there laundry that has to be put on?  How tidy does the house need to be before the plumber arrives?  And, oh yeah, how about registering for the RWA Anaheim conference?

my life on jan 18!

You know what that is?  Uh huh.  It’s my fear, taking it out in the sneaky distractions of every day life.  I’m not going to see anyone today, I have clean clothes, the plumber already called and said he can’t be here until next week, and Anaheim isn’t sold out.  Stop making excuses, girl, and get back to work!

Do you make excuses?  I do.  Let’s share and see if we can unsnarl the distractions and excuses we make to justify not getting our work done.



Getting To Know You

Okay – I’m at the crossroads in the cycle of my writing life. I’m done with one manuscript (although I may switch some chapters around do some rewrites – but I digress) and chomping at the bit to start the next one. And, this is my honeymoon period, my magical time when I am getting to know my characters and seeing where they want to go with this story. Why do they need this story told?

I have a process for this and a place where I deposit all of this crazy information that I glean and will probably never use.  I dump all this stuff – photos (Like the inspiration for my latest hero), maps, research – into Scrivener for Windows in the WIP Notebook I bought from Jeannie Reusch and loaded into the Scrivener tool.  This allows me to keep track of the details of names, places etc of the main characters and the secondary characters as well. It’s a little anal but it keeps from calling the mailman Bob in Chapter 1 and Skippy in Chapter 6.

But, this really doesn’t help me get under the skin of my character. Yep, their eye color is important but it doesn’t get to the essence of my character.  So, I’ve developed a few questions that help me get down to the grit of who the hero and heroine are:

1. What do you want out of life?

2. What is keeping you from achieving that goal?

3. What is the one thing you wouldn’t want the hero/heroine to know about you?

4. What is your biggest regret?

5. What are you most proud of in your life?

6. What are you most ashamed of in your life?

7. When you walk in a room, what are the three things people will notice about you?

8. What would you be willing to lie about?

9. How would you like to die?

10. What are the most important traits in a true friend?

That’s my list.  Pretty grim but I think that the darkest parts of ourselves are what really counts – the rest is a facade for the comfort of other people.

So, what are your questions? What is your process?




My New Snoopy Lunchbox

For a week now I have been in limboland – in between writing projects and recharging my battery.  I’ve caught up on some TV (Royal Pains and Rizzoli & Isles), read some great books (“Plus Ones” by Hank Edwards and “Everyone Loves a Hero” by Marie Force), studied some craft (Save the Cat!) and indulged in a little Jake Gyllenhall nudity in “Love and Other Drugs”. (and, in answer to my Main Man – no you cannot wear out a DVD by watching it constantly – I think.)

But now I’m ready to start on the new book targeted for Harlequin Blaze and while I’m not going to go too crazy – I’m going to do things a little differently this time. While I usually create a loose outline (I’m a plotser), I’m going to write my synopsis first.  Now, I hear the groans out there, but I don’t mind writing a synopsis but I usually leave it to the end. I just want to see how it works for me this way.

The second thing is that I am going to try and write this book in the Scrivener for Windows writing tool.  My friend, Gwen Hernandez, challenged me and so I’m going to venture out of Word and take the plunge. And I’ll admit something here but only to you  . . .  so . . .  lean in closer while I whisper . . .

*it’s kind of freaking me out*

But, not in a I-need-to-call-Dr.Phil kind way.

It’s kind of exciting and edgy and  . . .  yes, I need to get out more . . . it’s really getting my creative juices flowing and my fingers itching to hit the keyboards. It’s similar to the thrill I got with my new school supplies. I  just KNEW that the Wonder Woman folders, new pencils and Snoopy lunch box were going to make school so fun and easy.

It’s THAT kind of exciting.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

What writing methods do you have and do you ever shake them up?

Robin Mermaid






#amwriting Word Metrics

Project: Exposure

Deadline: Oct. 31, 2011

New Words Written: None. Pre-plotting.

Present Total Word Count: zippo.

Ain’t Nobody Gonna Mess With My Nora Roberts!

The Setting: A Barnes & Noble in Southwestern Pennsylvania
The Characters (emphasis on characters): Me, My Mom & My Dad Driving the Getaway Car 

I attended my first RWA Nationals this past June in New York City. Many, many things stood out to me but one thing that really caught my attention was the use of Nora Roberts. Nora was mentioned in almost every workshop I attended. People brought her name up at lunches and dinners. She was quoted left and right.

Annoying? Hardly. I know you all say you’re Nora’s biggest fan. But you are not. I hold that title and here is why.

About seven years ago, I was visiting my Mom and Dad in Pennsylvania. As with most visits to my parents’, we ended the night at a Barnes & Noble. If we’re in a Barnes & Noble, my Mom and I are in the romance section. And if we’re in the romance section, you know we’re checking the Nora Roberts section within the romance section … on the off-chance we haven’t read every title.

We have.

What should we find on this particular night? The Nora books were NOT in order. They weren’t even alphabetical. No, they were just sitting there all willy-nilly. Trilogies weren’t shelved together. The Stanislaski’s were miles apart. The O’Hurley Triplets were practically in different zip codes. And do not even get me started on how Cameron, Ethan and Phillip Quinn from the Chesapeake Bay series were placed between various single titles.

For two people who discuss Nora characters more often than some of our relatives, this is NOT okay. In fact, I dare say it was disrespectful.

So we did what any fan of Nora would do. We took every book off the shelf and re-shelved the entire section the way we felt it should have been. The way a reader needs to experience Nora.

Now don’t get your panties in a bunch. We did mankind a favor. Just think of the poor virgin Nora reader who could have possibly gone into that store and picked up Amanda Calhoun’s book and read it before knowing what happened in her sister C.C.’s book. What the hell kind of world is that? Certainly not one that I want to live in.

Of course, halfway through this little escapade my Mom and I looked at each other and just lost it. That’s right, in case the massive mounds of books all over the floor weren’t telling enough, my Mother and I were cackling like crazy people (or “laughing like loons” as Nora always says) in the middle of Barnes & Noble while my poor Dad just rolled his eyes and went on to buy a Venti Caramel Macchiato from the in-store Starbucks and pretended not to know us.

So take that supposed fans of Nora. While I may never be a speaker at RWA Nationals, I feel better having shared my story with you.

And yes, I fully intend to smile pretty when the cops show up with my restraining order about two hours after I post this. Viva la Nora!

Exercise and Writing–Yea, Write! . . . I Mean Right!

How many of you find yourself working on that scene—you know the one where your characters are finally getting into the juice of the story, working on that love scene you just can’t walk away from until it’s finished and bam, another day has gone by while you promised yourself you’d start exercising again?
Okay, maybe it’s just me. Lately I’ve been so focused on my writing/editing/researching and yes, checking out blogs/websites/Tweeting—all in the name of my writing career. In the meantime, I’ve managed to find my clothes a bit snug and soda cans piling up in my trash can.
My favorite words lately—‘Just a few more sentences. Let me finish this scene.’
By the time I’m done I don’t have the energy to work out or it’s time to fix dinner, or some other excuse. That was me, a year ago. I was spending time applying to jobs on-line along with my hubby who’d been laid off (I was the stay at home Mom for many years), working on my novels and trying to keep up with my teenagers schedules. One was in college locally and the other active with theater and art. Where was I supposed to find time to exercise, finish a novel and do everything else? My idea of exercise was walking up and down 3 flights of stairs to do laundry and then I was winded—no, I was out of shape!
It took me getting into my favorite Renaissance dress (or barely) to realize something had to give. I had gained a size in my upper body, my clasps barely fit around my bodice and though the dress hid a multitude of sins elsewhere, I realized my jeans weren’t fitting as well and I had those wonderful muffin tops hanging over my stretch Lee’s.
I evaluated what I’d been doing. We started buying sodas, something I rarely kept in the house, when my hubby was home. My routine had changed drastically now my hubby was home and I busied myself with my books to stay with him and look for employment. Just a few things were making my life different. I didn’t feel like exercising—I hate to when someone is home, I prefer alone time for that.
So now hubby is working again, even though the kids are home for the summer, I’ve gotten back into power walking in the morning and playing Kinect on the Xbox in the afternoon when I begin to get sluggish. Yes, it breaks up my writing but it also keeps me alert and wakes me up. As far as eating/drinking—I’ve gone back to flavored waters, juices and one cup of coffee in the morning and air popped popcorn or fruits and veggies when I’ve got the munchies.
Is it working? Let’s say, I’m maintaining a ten pound range—not going under but not going over either. Any suggestions?
How do you find time to stay fit and write, live, etc?

What Is It Worth To You?

Being at the RWA national conference must have triggered some deep-level thought processes I was unaware of.

What do you want? What are you prepared to do?

Here’s the story – I was a member of NYSC for several years.  I loved that gym and all it had to offer.  I’d  joined with a friend who later discovered that she would get a cheaper membership with her school district’s corporate membership, and she loved getting that bargain.  I tried every trick in the book but I couldn’t match her. She worked closer to home. I didn’t. She made more money. I certainly didn’t! Even with a husband who’d been tossed out of work, there was no mercy. Pay the price, or take a hike.

But, because her school district had negotiated a corporate membership, she had advantages I didn’t. And I was supposed to be happy. I wasn’t. I kept thinking about leaving, but couldn’t find a gym that would make me happier and I didn’t want to leave her behind.

Finally, when family finances forces her to reconsider the cost she was paying even then, we both moved to a gym that was closer to home and a lot cheaper to join. And it wasn’t the same. At all.

Being part of a gym that didn’t offer the machines I worked best on, had locker rooms on the first floor, didn’t have towel service, didn’t have a pool, or the showers I loved, or the soaps I enjoyed, or a sauna — those were losses I had to live with. I thought I could probably be happy. I was keeping a friend happy and saving money.  I should be happy. Right?

Wrong.  As time went on, I didn’t use the machines that were available. I was intimidated by the few aerobics classes that were offered. There were two classes I liked and no machines. Finally, in a Zumba class of all things (and I don’t really like Zumba), I stepped on my own foot and fell, and cracked my wrist.

I had to re-evaluate. Was saving money and keeping a friendship worth cracking a wrist?

And, after visiting my old gym this morning, I began to think – taking the easy way out on a gym membership, favoring the cheaper, closer gym that offers fewer classes and services is like taking the easy way out on writing. My former gym offers a new membership, just for teachers, and at a reduced rate (my former director fought for this with me and all the other teachers in mind).  It will cost $5 more a month and be a longer drive.  It will also give me back a facility I loved and benefits I’ve missed.

Yes, I will be re-joining the original gym.  And, in thinking this over, I come back to a central question: what is it worth to you?  What is writing worth to you, and what are you giving up to pursue this? When you are tempted to throw in the towel because of too many rejections, too many nay-sayers, too many days without making a word count or a meaningful connection to your work, what do you say?

Are you willing to pay the price?


Happy Fourth of July!!!

July 4th is my favorite holiday. I could watch fireworks on a nightly basis. Perhaps my love of glitter and sparkles has something to do with it.

Happy July 4th!

Plus, the Fourth of July is fun. There is no present-buying-stress like Christmas. Sure, you may get some picnic or barbecue food together, but that doesn’t seem to be as stressful as a huge Thanksgiving dinner.

Instead, July 4th is easy. It’s summer, the weather is (hopefully) beautiful and you can just relax and celebrate with friends and family. Again, hopefully with fireworks.

But the real reason why this is my favorite holiday is the meaning. Let’s take a moment to remember the significance of this day; what it represents and why we celebrate it. The Fourth of July is about freedom.

I’ve been thinking about my love for this relaxing holiday and how it makes me feel. Interesting that that same easiness and carefree feeling used to be applied to my writing. Before I learned about publishing contracts, query letters, protecting your rights and pitching to agents, writing was fun, relaxing and, in a way, celebratory.

I’ve just finished my first RWA Nationals in New York City. I definitely left the conference feeling inspired, rejuvenated and ready to write. But my goal for this coming year is now to remember that I write because I love it. While I understand the importance of these things, writing isn’t just about agents, editors, contracts, websites, twitter feeds and meetings.

For me, I need to return to the real meaning of writing. My freedom to create, inspire and have fun.

So, let me wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July and a Happy Year of Writing!

For Those Going to Nationals . . .

If you’ve seen this already, I hope you enjoy it again.

To all my writing sisters out there going to RWA Nationals—

• Be careful on your trip.

• Stay safe

• Have fun

• Learn lots

• Meet new friends (finally meet face to face with those you’ve only talked to via on-line loops, chats, etc.)

• Be inspired

• Be amazed

• Be safe (again)

• Be supportive

• Be loving

• Be kind to others

• Don’t sweat the small stuff

• Don’t forget 7 pairs of clean panties (read about forgetting underwear on trip—not good unless you are used to going without)

• Don’t walk out of the ladies room with t.p. stuck to the bottom of your shoe (or your dress caught in your pantyhose)

• When squeezing lemon into your water, cup both hands around your lemon wedge to keep the juice/ seeds from flying in a potential agent/editor’s eyes. (I saw it in a social film once—don’t ask.)

• Remember to warm the cognac in your hand—should be served at room temperature in a snifter . . . oh, wait a minute, those are notes from my recent research—never mind. (Use the information only if needed.)

• If hot, male romance cover model comes up to you and asks if you are his next cover partner . . . say “Heck yes!” and you need lots of practice with him before the photo shoot (just make sure hubby is not around—best if you are single)

• Be Safe (can’t say it enough)

• If asked how you come up with sex scenes for your novels just smile and give them a look of pure, thought-provoking enjoyment. (They’ll get the picture. No words needed.)

• Remember—before you can take over the world, you must first be able to make a really flaky pie crust. (A guy in my senior high school class wrote that in my yearbook. I didn’t understand at first—I thought he was crazy—but it makes sense. If you can make a really flaky pie crust, you probably can take over the world. Whoever came up with the phrase ‘simple as pie’ was an idiot!) Doesn’t have much to do with conference or writing but…thought I would share.

• Oh and finally . . . stay safe.


Loni Lynne

Writing Right Where We Are

With laptops at our hands, it’s easy to write almost anywhere. I’m writing this post on my living room couch.  It’s not my favorite spot, but it’s where I am this evening.

Do you have a favorite spot to write?  I’ve had several.  In my first house, I wrote in the back bedroom.  I had a view of the forsythia bush planted against the fence, and loved watching its changes through the year.  My second house had a view of a suburban street, beige walls and very ugly blinds left behind by the prior owner.

I’ve also written in a nice, private study with a view of the front yard and the court where we live now.  I earned my Master’s Degree in that downstairs study.  It was quiet and private, a professional space I shared with my husband without problems. Then my son entered a private high school and that was the end of the study!  Five years later, I’m still wondering what happened.

Since re-entering the ranks of fiction writers, I’ve been camping out in the dining room.   Our property is wooded, so I have a view across our deck of squirrels, birds and the flowers I keep on the deck during the summer.  Also deer who love to eat my daylilies (grrr).  I’m close to the coffeepot, the telephone, and (oddly enough) the TV.  There’s plenty of room to spread out my work.  I hope I don’t have guests for Thanksgiving.  Or Christmas.

I’m at the point, though, where I might like to have my own quiet, private place for writing.   Just like I’ve insisted on a sewing room, where the cats couldn’t bother my projects, I could have a writing room.  A writing room, all my own.  One that is close to coffee, phone and TV.  Like my dining room!

Where do you write?  What type of space feeds your creative soul?  Do you need a window?  A view?  Photographs?  A special chair?  Does writing in one particular spot, or with a special talisman nearby, make us feel more like a writer?

Share your thoughts, please.  Perhaps we can gain inspiration on what makes a perfect writing space, just for ourselves.