Coming this spring to a bookstore near you!
Coming this spring to a bookstore near you!
Tags: Authors, creativity, Denise A. Agnew, horror, horror novelists, horror novels, horror short stories, Little Bag of Fears: A Horror Anthology, short stories, writers
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A recent conversation prompted me to think about intuition, passion and how we can create and live from the heart. Creativity can relate to anything, not just words put down on paper, a painting or perhaps an actor on the stage. Deciding to run our lives based on intuition of what is right for us can influence our entire lives, including the quality of that life.
So I’m going to get down and dirty here. When I was a kid I was bullied extensively. I’m not revealing that to elicit sympathy. No, not at all. I’m no different in that respect than many people. It took me a long time to understand how I made it easy for people to bully me. You see, I spent considerable time negating and ignoring my intuition even when it proved extremely accurate. Intuition, if I’d listened to it, would always tell me what was right for me whether it was choosing what book to write, what to wear, what to say…you name it. When I allowed others to influence what I was going to write, wear and say, I wasn’t being true to myself and sometimes the misery that resulted proved acute.
When I create passionately I’m coming from the gut. That part that says, “This feels right.” Back in the day I heard people refer to creating a book this way as, “Writing the book of your heart.” The controversy comes when some writers think this is bunk and say creating with your heart is dumb. Yes, I’ve heard some writers say this…really.
How does it relate to everyday life?
People seem to have a heck of a time with the concept of live and let live. Group think, whether it be creativity, politics, religion, trends…well…it can influence many of us to pretend to be something we’re not. Of course, this creates all sorts of problems within us, a lack of authenticity that eventually bites us in the ass. Being inauthentic always, always catches up with us. I’ve seen this happen to authors and I’ve seen it happen in so many other avenues of people’s lives.
So this holiday season, think of ways you can be authentic. Think of ways you can be who you are without demanding others be the same.
Hi everyone! For those of you in the USA, I hope you enjoyed your July 4 festivities. Back to work today with a new announcement. I’m now a mentor at RT Academy and will be able to help writers who are either just starting out or have some experience in the writing journey. Several programs are available, so be sure to take a peek. You can find all the details at: RT Academy.
RT Academy is part of the amazing Romantic Times Magazine enterprise (RT Book Reviews) that has been working with readers and authors for decades. Be sure to check out the link and see how I might be able to help you on your writing journey.
Later this week, a little exciting news about my novel Blackout!
As a certified creativity coach and as a writer I run into creative people every day on the verge of giving up, giving in and losing the joy that writing can bring. If you’re a writer who would stop writing if you couldn’t make money at a writing career…that’s your choice. No sweat. This isn’t directed at you. If you hurt when you can’t write, you long to write, and you feel empty if you don’t write…read on.
You stop writing because:
You used to make money at this writing thing (and sometimes a lot of it), or you never did make any in the first place.
You become disgruntled because you see books you consider crap making a ton of money. (Green-eyed monster run rampant).
You pay too much attention to other people’s careers instead of minding your own situation and just doing what you want to do and damn the torpedoes.
You follow herds because it is a group think situation, and you believe that if you only follow the herd you’ll have the same results. Maybe you will and maybe you won’t. When you don’t you throw up your hands and ask, “What’s the point?”
You sometimes follow the herd because you don’t understand or believe that you don’t have to follow it.
You don’t allow your own instincts to tell you which way to create a writing career and rely too much on the previously mentioned herd.
These are some really BIG reasons why people jump ship. They certainly aren’t the only ones. Every single writer/creative person is different.
What’s first and foremost among all of the reasons many stop writing?
YOU FORGET WHY YOU STARTED WRITING IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Return to your original reason for writing. Ask yourself what it was and use it as an anchor point when the going gets tough. Keep it in the back of your mind when you’re having that rotten day where you feel like throwing your hands up. Now, get back to work and create!
As a creativity coach I witness it over and over again. Writers blocked and conflicted, agonized, depressed. While every writer having issues is an individual situation and can’t be lumped into the same container, I can tell you the number one problem I’m noting with authors who are having long-term issues with their creativity.
They aren’t writing what they want to write.
One of the most freeing things I’ve ever experienced is realizing creativity doesn’t always operate well inside a box. The publishing industry won’t tell you this. Most other authors won’t tell you this. In fact if you say it out loud many people will roll their eyes. After all, if you write what blows your skirt up there’s even a chance some of your friends, family, and perfect strangers won’t like it or won’t approve. So you should conform, right?
Not if you want to create for the long term, be authentic, and be genuinely happy.
For ninety-nine percent of you who are in this writing gig to please yourself (which in the end is the only way creativity flourishes long term) you’ll find that going against your creative instincts can lead to ninety-nine percent of your writing career problems.
The message perpetuated in the writing world comes out in the wash as, “If I write what the market is telling me to write, what readers are telling me to write, what publishers, and agents say to write and what makes money, I’m doing the right thing.” Can an author do this for a long time? Of course. But often it catches up with them in the most unpleasant way. Unfortunately, for many writers, this can be the end of their creativity.
Let me describe a scene from long ago in my writing career. By 2001 I’d decided I wanted to write erotic romance and to write about creepy bad guys. I was jazzed every time I wrote both of these things. It felt right and it felt good. At the same time, I needed variety in order for my creativity to flourish. Maybe I wanted to write a sweeter story one month. Another month I wanted to write a historical romance set in Jack The Ripper’s London. Another time I wanted to write a story about a modern day soldier with PTSD. In yet another moment I wanted to write a romance set in World War II London. Sometimes these stories were erotic, sometimes super hot, sometimes a lot tamer. The characters dictated how hot these stories would be based on their personalities. My instincts told me what type of story I’d write next.
In the conventional romance writing industry this is often considered professional suicide.
Authors are told to have a pen name for every genre, and for goodness sake never write in multiple subgenres within romance. Conventional publishing is still (even with the advent of self-publishing) about “branding.”
Several years ago I attended a writer’s organization meeting and heard this sentence come out of an agent’s mouth. “At some point you’re going to have to stop writing what you want and write what sells.” She was talking to our group and not to me specifically, but I was hacked-off by this statement, and it was then I realized this issue was a hot button for me.
What was she really saying? My interpretation was that if an author wants to sell any book, if an author wants to make money writing then the author may have to deny her own creativity.
It may not be exactly what she was thinking. She may not have connected the ability to create with being “happy” with what an author creates. Yet, I realized in that moment that a lot of people in that room might take it as gospel.
I understood if I followed that particular agent’s advice I might as well quit writing, because it would suffocate me, strangle my creativity and make me miserable.
If writing what I didn’t want to write was the only way I could get a publishing contract, what was the point?
With the advent of ebooks and even more so with self-publishing flourishing, it became apparent that far more people could create what they wanted and publish it. Could they make money? Some could and some couldn’t. Good, right? Yes and no. Many people are still sidelining their true creativity in favor of following trends in hopes of landing big money.
Is this a bad thing? Sometimes yes. When you wake up one morning with money in your pocket from writing the one-hundredth story in a series, but are utterly and completely sick of writing, it isn’t a good thing.
At this point, many authors give up writing, because they can’t achieve their goal of making a lot of money. Many authors write with the sole intent on selling a ton of books (it’s never been about the creativity specifically), and these authors also have a different idea of what amount of money qualifies as “successful.” These authors do not find this stifling to their creativity. However if you’re a creative person who needs to write like you need oxygen, the pressure of writing “to market” can be damned painful. You may not even understand why you’re blocked.
Sometimes you don’t want to write that twelfth Navy SEAL novel. Or that twenty-second shifter or mixed martial arts novel. You’ve done one thing for too long and now the creativity inside you is drying up. Every book is starting to sound the same. Yet you’ll ignore it because conventional publishing wisdom tells you that you should go where the money is. Even if it means torturing yourself to get there.
What’s the cure?
If you’ve been writing in a particular genre or subgenre for a long time, delve into another fiction or nonfiction arena that excites and thrills you. Write what makes you happy and you’ll have a much better chance that your creativity will flourish and grow. Let me say this as both as someone who has been doing this writing thing since I was fourteen, and as a creativity coach….if you write in a different genre you won’t die.
Disclaimer: Every writer’s experience and every writer follows a different path. I can only tell you what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced both as an author and creativity coach. I was inspired to write this piece by a blog written by author Shoshanna Evers (which you can read here). I applaud her for following her heart when it comes to her writing, and wish her tremendous creativity, satisfaction and fulfillment in her new creative journey.
Pardon me if I’ve posted this blog before! I just emerged from several hours of writing. I’m still in that fog, that ecstasy stage when I’ve written a scene I’m very pleased with. I’m planning on jumping straight into writing more this afternoon. Strike while the iron is hot. Lately I’ve been compelled to talk more about writing and what a writer needs to keep that iron hot. Writers listen to far too many shoulds I think. There’s a lot to be said for doing things your own way and to use another tried and true saying…damn the torpedoes.
Don’t daydream. Don’t be unrealistic. Don’t have fun.
As children we are sometimes lectured to rein in our creativity, and as adults the admonitions are often equally as powerful. Adults often forget or perhaps we’ve never known, that in order to create we must daydream and we must open ourselves to possibilities. And by gosh we’ve gotta have fun.
Whether we’re painting, dancing, sculpting, drawing or writing, we have limited ability to create satisfying art if we don’t daydream. As children we did it naturally. As adults we often need to relearn how to discover the beauty of daydreaming and the benefits it can have for our creative practice.
Rediscovering daydreaming can be as easy as taking the time to remember our childhoods. As a creative people we can usually recall those blissful moments of staring outside and being fascinated with the world. Play was the ultimate in creativity.
Few things are more exciting than finding that much talked about inner child. Because without that innocence, that piece of us that says it’s all right to play, creativity can escape us.
How do we recapture that bliss? It could be as simple as trying this one simple idea:
Take a pad of paper outside wherever you won’t be disturbed. It could be a park, your backyard or even your front porch. Breathe deeply and absorb what you’re hearing and seeing. Reconnect with the part of you that wants to return to basics. Scribble. Sketch even if you aren’t a painter or into drawing. Brainstorm a story idea based on what you see around you even if you aren’t a storyteller. Color outside of the lines. No idea is too strange. No picture is too ugly. This is your recess. Children don’t know they “can’t” do something until they’re told they can’t. Remember what it was like before someone told you “no.”
Try this whenever you’re feeling creatively stifled and discover how much easier it is to access the beauty of daydreaming.
Denise A. Agnew is the author of over 60 novels. Denise is also a paranormal investigator, Reiki Master and Certified Creativity Coach. Visit Denise’s websites at www.creativepencoaching.com and www.deniseagnew.com.
Please give a warm welcome to true crime author and fiction novelist Diane Fanning! I had the honor of hearing Diane speak about some of her true crime work recently on Darkness Radio and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Diane is the author of 21 published books: 12 true crime, 8 novels and 1 anthology. In addition to Chain Reaction, she has two more books releasing in 2014: Scandal in the Secret City, a World War II mystery, and Under Cover of the Night, about the murder of Jocelyn Earnest. Diane has been seen on 48 Hours, 20/20, The Today Show and a wide array on programs on Biography, E!, Oxygen and Investigation Discovery. Diane lives in Bedford, Virginia, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A novel is born in many different ways—by character, by setting, by plot by whatever inspires the author. Something just bites our instincts and holds on for dear life. With the Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce series, the first thing that came to me was the character. I wanted a strong woman who bore internal scars. While I was thinking about her, I ran across a blog about facial disfigurement. One of the complaints I found was that in television dramas and novels, the person with the damaged face was almost always a bad guy. And it hit me: what a better way to give an external face to Lucinda’s wounds from the past than with a façade that painted a portrait for the world to see.
I suddenly had Lucinda: a tall, beautiful woman, as tough as dried venison with partially disfigured facial features. At the same time, I was living in Texas but longing for my old home in the mountains of Virginia. For that reason, I then decided that is where Lucinda would live and I created her back story.
Then, I needed a criminal case for her. It had to be murder—I’d been writing about the real thing for quite some time. Something about it, though, had to be different. I’d studied and read about a lot of serial killers and that’s where I the twist came. A killer who took a trophy from a victim and left behind the souvenir he had taken from his last murder. The concept for the first book in the series, The Trophy Exchange was born.
I did worry a little bit about the plot concept and whether or not it was credible enough. Criminal Minds put my mind to ease about that when a little more than a year after the release of that book: they used the same device in one of their episodes—not a real life validation but close enough for fiction.
Since then, I’ve written six more books featuring Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce. The seventh one, Chain Reaction, is out now. When I describe this book as explosive, it’s not hyperbole. It opens with a bombing at a high school, a runaway dog and two dead victims on the scene. In trying to solve the case, Lucinda tangles with grieving parents, faulty stereotypes, a prickly forensic lab administrator and federal investigators—including the recurring character, Special Agent Jake Lovett, who was introduced in Punish the Deed, the second book in the series.
At the same time, she’s trying to help young Charley, who has been a constant present in the series, since the first book when she discovered the body of her murdered mother. In Chain Reaction, Charley made friends with a classmate experiencing sexual, emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. Horrified, Charley believes the only person who can resolve the issue is Lucinda Pierce.
Add in personal complications and the political entanglements of her job and Lucinda is challenged as never before. If she fails on any of these fronts, she may not be able to live with the outcome.
Chain Reaction and the rest of the books in the series are available in hardcover and digital formats. The first six books in the series are also downloadable audiobooks.
Diane will be giving away a hardback today so be sure to comment! We’ll pick a winner later tonight so be sure to stop by the blog again.
This year I’m a bit stunned. I’ve got a lot of stories coming out or that have already been released. Pretty much it was by accident because the universe lined up that way. But how many books is too many? Bear with me. I have a point to make eventually. Here’s what I have out this year:
Before There Was You (March 10–Available for preorder now)
One Chance With You (release date TBA)
Cooper’s Haven (release date TBA)
Double Threat (release date TBA)
Meet Me At The Castle (May 12, 2014 release)
Body Language (July 7, 2014 release)
WHEW. That’s a lot. Eight stories. I must qualify by saying that Under Fire, Once Chance With You, Cooper’s Haven, Double Threat, Meet Me At The Castle and Body Language are either short stories or novellas. Only Before There Was You and One London Night are novel length.
That being said, there are authors who average writing twelve books/novellas a year. I couldn’t do it. Probably not even if I had to. Why? Because my creativity doesn’t work as well under the pressure of deadlines or “shoulds.” It shuts down and has a temper tantrum. Not only does my creativity demand I write what I want when I want, it won’t create series that goes on forever or allow me to stay in one genre of romance. That’s why I can’t say I have a “brand” because I refuse to be slotted into being one type of romance writer. I’m just not happy if I’m not writing whatever blows my skirt up and when it blows my skirt up. Man, did it take a long time for me to understand that.
Under Fire and Double Threat are in the erotic military romantic suspense arena. One London Night is World War Two romance, Body Language is erotic romantic suspense, Before There Was You qualifies as contemporary with a little romantic suspense, Cooper’s Haven and Once Chance With You aren’t erotic, but they do have suspense. Meet Me At The Castle is a historical paranormal romance. So I’m all over the map. And that’s the way my muse likes it. Body Language and Meet Me At The Castle (in their original form…they’ve been revised) were written several years ago. It took me two years to write Under Fire and Double Threat (and the first story in the trilogy, Sudden Heat) because I was writing other stuff and paused. One London Night, with research and writing, took about five or six months to write in first draft. Before There Was You took about two months, and it’s a good size novel, but it is unusual for me to crank out a first draft that fast. Cooper’s Haven and Once Chance With You took less than a month or two to write both, but again they are short.
What’s my point in telling anyone this? Because as a writer and creativity coach, I’ve seen many writers beating themselves up because a New York Times best seller they know writes ten or twelve books a year. The author lamenting that they don’t write that many books thinks they should. I mean, isn’t that what “real” success is? Nonsense. The only number of books an author should write is what keeps them sane. If that means one book a year, so be it. Writing twelve books a year or publishing six a year means there’s all the promotion and other add on that goes with it. Writing sixteen hours a day, seven days a week isn’t generally healthy either, but some people do it.
Point is this…the number of books you write a year should be what is comfortable and feels just right. Not so many that your health suffers, your relationships suffer and you never leave the house. When you start to feel stress, it’s time to reassess.
Your public service announcement for the day. 🙂
*New writers often think there must be a wrong way and a right way to create novels. They eagerly join writing groups and devour how-to books with the idea that a gold answer on “how to write a book” will be dropped in their lap. There’s nothing wrong with this. Wanting to learn something new guarantees you’ll be curious enough to ask plenty of questions.
*In the process of learning, writers hear two words tossed around frequently. Pantser and plotter. There are plenty of pros and cons for both types of approaches to writing a novel. Contrary to what a writer may hear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing either way.
*What becomes a problem is when an author tries to jam a square peg into a round hole and allows someone to tell them they should be a pantser or a plotter. This doesn’t mean new writers shouldn’t learn craft. It means they have to take care that they are not writing according to so many strict rules there is no creativity left in their writing process. I’ve seen new writers become so frustrated that want to stop writing because the “rules” suck the creativity right out of them.
Plotter vs. Pantser
*A plotter needs structure when they write. They often need charts, diagrams and outlines to feel comfortable. Many times they need to understanding what the beginning, middle, and end of the book before they start writing. Not knowing things ahead of time can create significant anxiety for the writer who is a plotter.
*A pantser needs varying degrees of freedom. A pantser may have a title or an overarching idea for a book based on a time period, a concept, or an individual character. They may know one or two of these ideas up front. Or they may start with a single scene that intrigues them. They will rarely know the end of their book. (I’ve known the ending for a book a couple of times before I even started the book and I’m a pantser.) Pansters may have basic knowledge who their characters are and may do character charts, but creating a synopsis can sometimes destroy their desire to write a book. Most of the time outlining their books beforehand damages their ability to write with authencity. Writing a synopsis of their book beforehand can destroy the muse and create writer’s block.
*Many authors discover they work best combining these two ways of doing things. It’s even possible an author may be a plotter for one book and a pantser for another if it feels right.
*There is nothing wrong with either way of writing if it gets the job done. I have run into plotters who think pantser writers waste time. They honestly can’t understand how not outlining or plotting up front can prove productive. Whole books have been written on if you “only do it this way, your book will be easier to write.” Well, it might. And it might not. No one ever said writing a book was easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.
*In Anne Lamott’s fantastic book BIRD BY BIRD, she describes the problem many pantsers encounter if they try and force themselves into being a plotter when it isn’t natural for them, “Characters should not, conversely, serve as pawns for some plot you’ve dreamed up…I say don’t worry about plot. Worry about the characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, ‘Now what happens?’…Your characters had something in mind all along that was brighter and much more meaningful than what you wanted to impose on them.”
Writing In Flow
*Personal Definition of Flow: A sublime state of being unaware of your surroundings, steeped in ecstasy, contentment, a sense of rightness. A natural high when the entire universe seems to surge through your fingertips and onto the page. This state doesn’t materialize for most authors on an everyday basis, although it can be coaxed to emerge. What does all this have to do with the difference between a pantser and a plotter?
*Recognize what type of author you are and honor that. If you are a new author, chances are you’ve started out as a panster. This doesn’t mean that you will stay that way. It may mean you decide later on that plotting, outlining, and diagramming everything from the get go is what you need to write the best book possible. If, however, you try to do all these things and find it gives you “creative constipation” where you can’t write a thing, chances are you are not a plotter. I decided some time ago that while I am mostly a panster, I am a bit of a plotter when I create historicals. If I find myself clogging up, it’s usually because I’ve tried to “direct” the book too much with a plotter frame of mind.
*How does this pantser plot when she does plot? Sometimes when I write a historical I start off by interviewing the hero and heroine. I ask them questions, write down their answers. This helps me to get inside their heads. If there is a bad guy, I question him as well. I also write down what my hero and heroine look like, their mode of dress, what they like too eat, etc. (I also do this with contemporary novels). I read a few books dealing with that time period. This gives me ideas about some plot points I may want to put in my book, and I write these ideas down as they come to me. I also do some research before I start writing. However, I do not use researching relentlessly as an excuse not to start writing the book. I soak my head in the ideas long enough to absorb the information into my bones.
*When I write a contemporary novel I still sometimes soak my head in information before I start the book. A good example of that is my firefighter novel, COMBUSTION. I wanted to be accurate, so I made sure I had all the firefighter resources I needed to keep my facts straight. With my SWAT series, HEART OF JUSTICE, I made sure I did the same by taping into police sources.
*In conclusion, stay true to your writing dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make this journey as a plotter, pantster, or a combination of both.
Hello everyone! I hope if you’re in a snowy part of the world right now that you’re cozy and warm. We woke up to a frosty start with a tad of snow on the ground.
Today I wanted to share with you the cover of Cook Like A Writer by the Book Posse. The Book Posse consists of me and fantabulous writers Selena Robins, ACatherine Noon, Kimberley Troutte, Nancy Lauzon, and Renee Wildes.
The book release is coming soon. I don’t have an exact date yet, but as soon as I have a date I’ll scream. In the meantime, jump on over to the other authors in the book and see what recipes they have for you. Enjoy
You can find yummy recipes at the following links:
Tags: ACatherine Noon, Authors, Cook Books, Cook Like A Writer, Denise A. Agnew, Kimberley Troutte, Nancy Lauzon, Renee Wildes, Selena Robins, The Book Posse, writers
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