Okay, Everybody, What Are You Doing for NaNoWriMo?

THE REAL REASONS YOU HAVE WRITER'S BLOCK... AND HOW TO FIX IT! #nanowrimo #writingtips

Happy Halloween, and Happy NaNoWriMo Eve! National Novel Writing Month is, of course, when many writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.

I think NaNo is a lot of fun, and I think most of the arguments against it are silly. At the same time, it isn’t for everyone, and if it’s not for you, that doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer. Let’s face it, very few of the published novels in existence started out as NaNo projects.

Last year, I finished the first book of a trilogy, The Phoenix Codex (which I later re-wrote from first person to third person.) After that, I wrote the novella Wicked Garden that came out in a boxed set earlier this fall.

Arguably, I should use NaNo to work on the second book of that trilogy, but I’ve been getting such good feedback here on another project that I’m going to finish it instead.

 

 

 

A Knight Restored is about a museum employee who discovers that a sculpture is actually an English knight who was turned to stone by a sorcerer’s spell. What happens after a modern-day fair maiden rescues a knight in shining armor?

I expect it to run about 90K, and I’m at over 30K of the first draft now, so with NaNoWriMo, I should be able to get the first draft very close to finished.

I only have one caveat about NaNo this year. There’s a possibility that something will happen at work that will require just about all of my waking attention (which is as much as I can say about that). If this does happen, I won’t finish NaNo. Either way, I’m going to be excited about what I’m working on this month!

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, let us know what you’re working on, and either way, let us know your thoughts about the whole thing! And don’t forget that this Wednesday is WIP Wednesday, so think about sharing an excerpt of your work-in-progress then — I always love seeing what everyone is up to. Happy writing!

 

The World Wants You to Focus On Your Weaknesses. Focus On Your Strengths.

The World Wants You to Focus on Your Weaknesses. Focus On Your Strengths. #writing #success #motivation

I’ve written about this before, but one of the most widespread misconceptions in writing is the idea that you become successful by focusing on your weaknesses. By identifying every single thing we do wrong and correcting it, we’ll be perfect at writing! Right? Most writing workshops and critique groups operate from this point of view.

Career development and performance reviews at companies sometimes make this same mistake of disregarding people’s talents. Managers identify their employees’ weaknesses and ask them to focus on improving them, sometimes assigning them to projects that will get the employees to do more of what they’re naturally bad at so that they can improve.

In our day-to-day lives, we get messages all the time about identifying and fixing our weaknesses. For one thing, it’s a common strategy companies use to sell things. They remind people that they’re overweight and that it’s a big problem in order to sell them weight loss products, or they point out that their living room doesn’t look like one in a home décor magazine in order to sell them furniture.

Many of us, unfortunately, often fall into the bad habit of focusing on the weaknesses of the people closest to us and trying to reform them. The people who love us may be reminding us of our shortcomings all the time.

 

 

Focusing on weaknesses leads to mediocrity.

The writer who only concentrates on eliminating their mistakes may end up with lifeless, technically correct stories.

The company that only focuses on developing its employees’ weak spots will be like a track and field team on which the hurdler does the pole vault and the shot put thrower runs the sprints. That’s not the way you win.

The person who only fixates on their shortcomings neglects all of their natural-born charms and talents.

There’s a popular quote, frequently and incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein, that expresses it really well:

Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

 

Focusing on your strengths leads to distinctive success.

The most important way to improve your writing is to figure out what kinds of stories you love, and what you excel at in prose, and do more of that.

The best way companies can succeed is by identifying their employees’ strengths and encouraging them to do more of that. (There are managers at my workplace right now who do this, and it’s so smart.)

On a personal level, knowing what you’ve got going for you and working it will make you irresistible and unstoppable.

 

 

 

But here’s the most important thing:

Focusing on your strengths will give you a happier life.

Of course, it’s always good to improve at things, and learning new things throughout our lifetime keeps our brains sharp and clear.

But when we focus too much on our weaknesses, we fall into the trap of thinking we won’t be worthwhile until we are perfect in every way, which is pure insanity.

When we spend time doing the things we’re best at, and we highlight our best qualities, that’s when we feel good, and no one can resist our sparkle.

And while we’re at it, we can help other people recognize and focus on their unique talents and their best qualities, too.

 

The World Wants You to Focus on Your Weaknesses. Focus On Your Strengths. #writing #success #motivation

 

I may do a few posts in the future to encourage you to think about your strengths: as a writer, in your day job, and as a person. It’s important stuff to think about, and it has the extra advantage of being really fun.

Do you feel pressured to dwell on your weaknesses? Have you seen great results from focusing on what you’re best at? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Thanks for reading!

 

 

What Is “Head-Hopping” In Writing, and Why Shouldn’t You Do It?

What Is "Head-Hopping" In Writing, and Why Shouldn't You Do It? #what does head-hopping mean #writing advice

A lot of writers have never come across the term “head-hopping” or its definition. I was one of those writers when I completed my first novel (which is unpublished, and will probably remain that way forever.) That’s why I thought I’d take some time to explain it here.

 

Read and pin to avoid this rookie mistake. || What Is "Head-Hopping" In Writing, and Why Shouldn't You Do It? #what does head-hopping mean #writing advice

 

Head-hopping is something that typically happens in stories written in third person. The writer fluctuates between the thoughts of one character and another within a scene. Head-hopping looks like this:

Josiah froze behind the bar of the saloon as Emmeline pointed a pistol directly at his heart. Hatred burned in her eyes, and he knew that she must have heard about what he did at the brothel. Holy mackerel, Bob thought, and stopped playing the piano. After all, the song “Git Along Little Dogies” didn’t seem like appropriate music to die to. Emmeline wondered if Josiah would try to come up with some excuse, and whether she should even wait to find out.

We’re in the heads of three different people in the space of five sentences.

The more generally acceptable way would be to pick one person’s point of view and stick with it. Here’s the whole scene rewritten so that we only have access to Josiah’s perceptions.

Josiah froze behind the bar as Emmeline pointed a pistol directly at his heart. Hatred burned in her eyes, and he knew that she must have heard about what he did at the brothel. Bob stopped playing the piano. Just as well, maybe — Josiah didn’t want to die to the sounds of “Git Along Little Dogies.” Would Emmeline even give him a change to explain?

Head-hopping does not refer to alternating points of view. If a scene from Josiah’s perspective is followed up by a scene from Emmeline’s point of view, that’s fine.

Plenty of novels tell their story from two or three points of view. If you have more points of view than that in the same story, you are giving yourself a big challenge as a writer, because it’s going to be difficult to get the readers to care about all of those characters.

With multiple points of view, you just need to avoid switching back and forth mid-scene. (Some authors don’t switch within a chapter, which keeps things very clean, but it can be difficult to write your whole story that way.)

It’s all right to switch a point of view once in the middle of a scene (though I wouldn’t do it in every scene.) To indicate a point of view switch, leave an extra space between the two paragraphs.

 

 

Whenever you switch from one point of view to another, you want to make the switch clear in the first sentence or two of the new point of view. Here’s an example of a mid-scene point of view switch from the novel I finished last month, The Phoenix Codex. In this scene, Cassie just tried to kiss Jonathan, but he backed off (even though he’s very into her) because he was afraid she had Stockholm Syndrome. This is in Jonathan’s point of view and then switches to Cassie’s.

She hugged her arms. “Okay, let’s stop talking about this. When people are telling me why they don’t want to kiss me, I like to keep the conversation short.”

Frustration rose up in him. “It’s not about what I want!”

She jumped. He was scaring her again. In a quieter tone, he explained, “Whatever you’re feeling right now is a response by trauma. Trauma I caused.”

“Right.” Her eyes flashed with annoyance. “Because my hitting on you has nothing to do with you being a good person or hot as hell.”

A smile crossed his face before he could stop it at the unexpected compliment. She said, “I know how I feel.”

Maybe she did. Maybe she genuinely liked him. His resolve was slipping, but he made a last-ditch effort to resist her. “You’ll feel differently later.” His phone buzzed.

 

Cassie mentally cursed whoever was calling for his shitty timing. Jonathan gave her a pained look. “I have to take this.” He answered it, saying, “Salam, Nic.” After listening for a moment, Jonathan said, “Yeah, I know.” He got up and strode into the living room.

 

Getting access right away to Cassie’s thoughts and seeing Jonathan through her eyes makes the point of view switch clear.

You’ve probably read novels with head-hopping. If you’ve read a lot of Victorian and Regency novels, you’ve definitely encountered it. So what’s wrong with it? Why do editors hate it?

Staying in the point of view of one character for a while means that you’re not just telling your readers a story. You’re allowing them to really experience it, through the thoughts and the perceptions of a character.

This helps them get completely lost in the story. It also makes them bond with your characters more strongly. Both of these things will make them love you as an author, and that’s what you really want.

Have you experienced challenges in handling points of view, or do you have any advice for others? Let us know in the comments! Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!

TGIM! Let’s Hear It for Clean Slate Monday!

TGIM! Let's Hear It for Clean Slate Monday! #monday motivation #best week ever

Last week I wrote about how much my online friends have meant to me over the years, and I gave a shoutout to the now-defunct site 43Things. One of the friends I made on 43T, a foodie and rescue dog enthusiast, introduced me to the concept of Clean Slate Monday. (Thanks, John!)

Clean Slate Monday is a way of embracing Monday as the best day of the week. Most people view Monday as a drag, because they’re going back to work or school. But let’s face it: if you only enjoy Saturday and Sunday, you’re not enjoying life.

To me, Clean Slate Monday means that no matter how messy, hectic, or disappointing last week was, guess what? It’s over now! You get a whole fresh new week!

 

 

Maybe this week is going to treat you better. More important, maybe you’re going to treat yourself better.

Maybe you’re going to worry a little less and enjoy yourself a little more. After all, this week is only coming around once, and it’s a time that you’ll get nostalgic for later. If you were 110 years old, you’d probably go back to this week in a hot minute. So go ahead and appreciate the good stuff.

If you messed up last week, well, forget about it, or re-write that history, if you choose. Either way, it’s gone. It’s Clean Slate Monday.

And if last week was amazing? (I’ll go ahead and admit here that last week was amazing for me.) Even better! You’ve got another week to prolong those good vibes.

Maybe this week you’re going to be more of the person you want to be. Maybe you’re going to kick ass.

Every Sunday night, I write down my week’s schedule and set goals in my planner. I love doing this. (I have all these pretty stickers, which helps.)

And honestly? I never accomplish everything I set out to accomplish in the course of a week.

But I get a lot of it done. And one of the reasons is that I have a great attitude toward Monday. I wake up and think, “Yes! Let’s do this!”

If it’s useful to you, then adopt the idea of Clean Slate Monday. And if you want to share any thoughts about how to get the week off to a good start, or what you’re looking forward to this week, please leave a comment! Happy Monday, and have a great week!

 

 

 

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels #master plots #idea starters #NaNoWriMo #novels

Hey, everyone! Some of my most popular posts of all time are about master plots, and since NaNoWriMo is coming up in a few weeks, I thought I’d do another list of ideas for stories!

These are so simplified that that they’re really just idea starters for novels. It’s easy to take them in a whole new direction, in any setting or time period you like. In some cases I’ve taken liberties with the description to make them more general, and they’re often just a part of the plot of the novel.

It’s absolutely fine to take plot inspiration from another work. The award-winning novel On Beauty by Zadie Smith was loosely based on E.M. Forster’s Edwardian-era novel Howard’s End. The delightful 1990s movie Clueless was a contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen’s EmmaAusten’s Pride and Prejudice was a huge inspiration for Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, a book which I think is underrated in terms of literary quality, probably because it’s such a fun read.

It took a while to put this together, but it was really fun, because some of these are my very favorite books. Here’s the list, and you might want to bookmark it or pin it to Pinterest for future inspiration!

 

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels #master plots #idea starters #NaNoWriMo #novels

 

  1. A man who was framed for a crime he didn’t commit escapes prison, makes a fortune in another country, and returns in disguise to get vengeance on his enemies. (Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas.)

 

  1. An orphan boy falls in love with his foster sister. As an adult, he’s still obsessed with her even though she’s married to somebody else. (Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë.)

 

  1. Members of a club decide to each travel to a different place and then report what they learn back to the group. (The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens.)

 

  1. A rich man proposes to a young employee of his only to learn that she’s already secretly married to his son. (Vanity Fair, William Thackeray.)

 

  1. A man searching for a sea monster meets a guy with a fantastic submarine and they explore the ocean depths together. (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne.)

 

  1. A guy falls in love with a woman who spurns him. Later, he gets a job and then realizes she owns the business. (Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy.)

 

  1. In the future, humankind has evolved into two separate species. (The Time Machine, H.G. Wells.)

 

  1. A woman who’s new in town believes the owner of a local business is unfair to his employees, but later she falls in love with him. (North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell.) (There is a fantastic miniseries of this one!)

 

  1. A young man steals money from her father in order to leave the country and elope with her boyfriend against her father’s wishes, but then her fiancé gambles the money away. (The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope.)

 

  1. A man is found dead in a room with a word written in blood on the wall, but there are no wounds on the corpse. (A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the first of the Sherlock Holmes stories, when he and John Watson are just becoming friends.)

 

  1. A man believes a woman he loves is having an affair, but she’s actually meeting with her brother. (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë.)

 

  1. A man arranges for the abduction of his recently orphaned teenage nephew because the kid is the rightful heir to a family estate. (Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson.)

 

 

  1. A poor child falls asleep in a stream and becomes a magical water creature. (The Water Babies, Charles Kingsley. When I was a kid, this book blew my mind.)

 

  1. A woman refuses two marriage proposals from good guys and marries a foreigner who winds up being mean to her. Much later, one of her former suitors takes an interest in her daughter, while the other one tells her he’s still interested in her. (Portrait of a Lady, Henry James.)

 

  1. A boy fakes his own death, runs away from home, and teams up with another runaway for adventure. (Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.)

 

  1. A mistreated animal comes into a better situation. (Black Beauty, Anna Sewell.)

 

  1. On his deathbed, a father leaves his son a mysterious artifact with an equally mysterious message inside. (Little DorritCharles Dickens.)

 

  1. A young man falls in love with the girl next door, but she rejects him because she sees him as a brother. Later, when he’s on vacation, he crosses paths with the girl’s sister, and those two fall in love. (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott.)

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels #master plots #idea starters #NaNoWriMo #novels

  1. A cynical slacker redeems himself by trading places with a great guy who’s been imprisoned and dying in his place. (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens. Sydney Carton is one of my literary crushes.)

 

  1. A rich man runs over and kills a poor child in the street, but he shows no remorse. Later, he is murdered in his bed. (Also A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.)

 

  1. A woman is caught in a love triangle between her fiancé and her fiancé’s father. (The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.)

 

  1. A man desperately seeks money to pay what he owes to his fiancée so that he can leave her and run off with the woman he really loves. He then finds out that the woman he really loves has taken up with a former boyfriend again. (Also The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.)

 

  1. A person never ages due to a sinister spell. (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde.)

 

  1. A girl follows an animal guide to a strange new world. (Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.)

 

  1. Facing the facts of his mortality, his unpopularity, and his worthless existence, a man makes a drastic change for the better. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.)

 

  1. A man forgives his wife and his wife’s lover for having an affair. His wife’s lover is so embarrassed he attempts suicide, but fails. The adulterers then run away together. (Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.)

 

  1. A young woman teaching at a school abroad develops relationships with both the schoolmaster and a rich doctor. (Villette, Charlotte Brontë.)

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels #master plots #idea starters #NaNoWriMo #novels

  1. A respectable man has a secret and horrible past: he sold his wife and baby daughter. (The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy.)

 

  1. A bitter old man gets robbed and becomes the foster father for a little girl. (Silas Marner, George Eliot.)

 

  1. A woman marries an old man who has no interest in her, but becomes friends with an interesting guy her own age. When the woman’s elderly husband dies, he leaves a note in his will that she can’t inherit anything if she marries the younger guy she’s friends with. (Middlemarch, George Eliot.)

 

  1. A woman only realizes she’s in love with her good friend after another woman falls in love with him. (Emma, Jane Austen.)

 

  1. Nobody knows that this beautiful young bride faked her own death, abandoned her child, and assumed a new identity in order to find a wealthy husband. (Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon.)

 

  1. Aliens attack a country on planet Earth and crush its human army, but then they all die of some alien disease. (The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells.)

 

  1. An orphan becomes a criminal’s apprentice. (Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens.)

 

  1. A woman gets news that the man she was once in love with has gotten married to girlfriend. Later, she learns she was mistaken – the man’s girlfriend dumped him to marry his brother instead. (Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen.)

 

  1. A young woman is heartbroken when the dashing and charming man she loves ignores her and then breaks up with her. After she recovers from a dangerous illness, she receives attentions from a man who’s loved her all along. (Also Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen.)

 

 

  1. After discovering that his grandmother was a fairy, a young man’s room turns into an enchanted wood in Fairy Land. (Phantasies, a Faerie Romance for Men and Women, by George McDonald.)

 

  1. The statue of a woman comes alive. She runs away, and man searches for her. (Also Phantastes, a Faerie Romance for Men and Women, by George McDonald.)

 

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels #master plots #idea starters #NaNoWriMo #novels

  1. A woman is punished and ostracized for adultery while her husband, in disguise, seeks revenge on her lover. (The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne.)

 

  1. In a remote location, a scientist creates grotesque human hybrids. (The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells.)

 

  1. A young man manages to pick fights with three different guys in one afternoon, but they all wind up being friends. (The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas.)

 

  1. A young man impersonating someone else has a romantic rendezvous with a rich woman. In doing so, he learns a secret about her that leads her to try to get him killed. (Also The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas.)

 

  1. A man makes a large bet with his friends that he can travel a large distance in a short time frame. (Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne.)

 

  1. A mild-mannered teacher at a school snaps and beats up an abusive headmaster. (The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens.)

 

  1. A man is in love with a woman who’s marrying some rich and selfish old man who’s offered to pay off her father’s debt in return. (Also The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens.)

 

  1. A young woman falls in love with her employer only to learn that he’s married to a woman he keeps locked up. (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë.)

 

  1. A man falls in love with a woman, but she’s pretty mad at him because she found out he talked another guy into breaking up with her sister. (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.)

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels #master plots #idea starters #NaNoWriMo #novels

  1. A mischievous boy develops a huge crush on a girl at school, but he keeps messing things up with her. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain.)

 

  1. A boy secretly witnesses a murder and is scared to tell anyone, even when the wrong man is blamed for it. (Also The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain.)

 

  1. A relentlessly cheerful man’s good nature is tested when he moves to a dangerous and difficult new place. (Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens.)

 

STEAL THIS PLOT: 50 Plot Ideas from Victorian and Regency Novels #master plots #idea starters #NaNoWriMo #novels

 

I hope this was helpful for you, and if you want more plot ideas and inspiration, check out Master Lists for Writers, if you don’t have it already! Whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or you’re just writing at a pace more suited to a sensible human being, I wish you the best. Thanks for visiting the blog, and happy writing!

 

Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan

My Online Friends Are As Real As It Gets

My Online Friends Are As Real As It Gets #online communities #friendship #social media

Earlier this month, I opened up Facebook to see a post from my friend Rebekah about what a wonderful person Amy had been. Past tense. She had died.

“No, no, no,” I thought. “This isn’t Amy S., right?” It sounded like it was describing the Amy I knew, but I thought maybe it was a different Amy, one that Rebekah had gone to high school with, perhaps. Which wouldn’t be okay in any way either, but it’s only natural to say, Not MY Amy.

It was Amy S., who, like Rebekah, I knew exclusively from interactions on Facebook, mostly in private groups. Amy and I weren’t close… but if that were true, why was I crying so hard?

Amy and I had talked about makeup and fashion (about which we always agreed.) We exchanged direct messages after an upsetting event. I smiled at her posts about puppies and Tom Hiddleston. I learned a little from her about politics in Taiwan. More than once, she’d sent me a supportive and kind message at just the right time. I thought she was sweet and smart and pretty much perfect.

Like  so many online friendships, this one had sunk in and become a part of me almost without my noticing it.

How Online Friendships Work

Often, you don’t make each others’ acquaintance in the usual  way, with questions like What do you do for a living? Instead, you bond over shared interests or similar philosophies, and sometimes that’s a quicker way to lead to a real connection.

In my online communities, when you have something you need to share, you put it right out there with no preamble: the private details of your relationships, the small victories that not everyone would understand. This also helps you get to know others fast.

You don’t always have long conversations. Instead, you may have many brief conversations, sometimes over a period of years. You may not have photos of you and your online friends (though one of my 101 Life Goals is to meet many more in person), or any other traditional proofs of closeness. When you have online friends, it’s like a cloud of stardust that follows you around wherever you go, making the world a softer and brighter place to be.

We all know how the Internet offers a protective distance for many people to unleash the worst aspects of themselves, spreading hate and cruelty with impunity. The opposite is also true. Online, I can dare to be more warm and effusive, because I’m less worried about rejection or fitting in. In “real life” I’ve often felt obliged to act more reserved, but my online enthusiasm is the real me, and I’m being my authentic self more and more in other parts of my life as well.

 

 

Empty Criticisms

I frequently see online relationships disparaged. For instance, I’ve seen a quote that said something like, “Online friends can’t take care of your dog or give you a ride to the airport.”

Setting aside the fact that I would never ask a friend to watch my wonderful but challenging terriers for free, I think this is silly. I don’t need friends so that they can work for me. I need them to laugh with, commiserate with, and talk about life with.

I’ve also seen a cartoon of a funeral with almost no attendees. One of the guys there says to another: “I don’t understand it. He had so many Facebook friends.” But geographical proximity or the ability to travel aren’t true measures of friendship.

My Online Friends

I made my first online friends even before Facebook, through a now-defunct website called 43Things where people cheered each other’s progress on their goals. (Anyone who knows me, including people who read this blog, can imagine how much I loved that.) I’m still friends with many 43Ters. We’ve seen each other change and grow over more than a decade now, and I can’t even say how much it means to me.

I’m in groups with former 43Ters, groups that love Supernatural and nerd stuff, a community of fellow romance writers, a group of writers who do NaNoWriMo (but chat all year), a makeup and fashion group, a political group, a group where everyone can talk about whatever’s on their mind… and a few more. I’m just regular Facebook friends with dozens of people I met elsewhere on the Internet. Through this blog, I’ve gotten to know some regular commenters who are kind, interesting, and funny, and I’m always learning from them.

If I’m connected with you online, I want you to know right now that our talks about TV, movies, books, writing, politics, aspirations, and our day-to-day experiences and feelings, mean so much to me. They’re one of the realest things in my world, and I’m so glad we’re here for each other.

 

WIP Wednesday — Share What YOU Are Up To!

WIP Wednesday Bryn Donovan

Hey, welcome to WIP Wednesday! If you follow my blog, you know the drill: we all share an excerpt of a story we’re working on, just for fun. It’s a critique-free zone, since we’re mostly sharing work that’s not ready for that yet (but it’s always nice to leave an encouraging word!)

First, I’ll talk about how much writing progress I made in September! This was where my word counter (which is on the lefthand side of this page) was on September 1st:

 

WIP Wednesday Bryn Donovan #paranormal romance #manus sancti

 

And here’s what it looked like on October 1st. (You can see that I adjusted the word count on the last project, because my original scope was, let’s say, a tad ambitious.)

 

WIP Wednesday Bryn donovan

 

Not bad, right? I am thrilled to have finished the rewrite of The Phoenix Codex, which is the first book in a trilogy, and I’m putting book 2 in my writing rotation.

Today, though, I’m sharing a scene from  A Knight Restored. Gryffen is an English knight who was turned into stone hundreds of years ago. Emily is an art conservator at the museum in Kansas City that just acquired Gryffen in his statue form. Earlier, I shared part of a scene where Gryffen visits her in her dreams. This is a continuation of the same scene.

 

 

She sighed. “There must be some way to undo the spell.”

He gentled his voice. “Sweet lady, there is not. Grant pardon for burdening you with my trouble.”

“It’s not a burden to hear about it.”

The distress on her face pained him now. “We should speak of other things. What do you seek, in this library in the greenwood?” He recalled her conversation with her friend. As well as he could, he’d committed all of Emily’s words to heart. “You seek your planner!”

She blinked and then gave an incredulous laugh. “You know what a planner is?”

Gryffen smiled. By the Virgin, it felt good to do so. “I do not, save that you cherish it.”

“Of course. You heard me talking to Gen.” She released his hand to smooth her hair away from her face, leaving Gryffen’s fingers as bereft as five beggars by the side of the road. “Well, uh… a planner is like a book where you write down all of the things you need to do, and thoughts you want to remember, and dreams for the future.”

He nodded, sobering. “Such a book would be a precious thing. I cannot wonder that you grieve its loss.”

A soft light kindled in her eyes. “Thank you. Everyone else thinks I’m being ridiculous.”

He wished he could help her find it, but knew this to be impossible. “Though I am loath to say it, you shall not find it here.”

A furrow appeared between her brows. “Why not?”

“Lost things are rarely found in dreams,” he said. “And even if they are, it matters not. In waking life, they remain lost.”

She looked around her at the towering bookshelves. “You’re right. I’m dreaming. But you seem real.”

Gryffen straightened. “By the Holy Rood, I swear I am.”

She drew closer to him again. “So you’re real, but I can’t help you?”

“I cry you mercy, but I said not so. If you will have me here, in your dreams, might not we enjoy all manner of mirths? That would be a help to me indeed, and perchance an entertainment to you as well.”

His fair Emily said nothing. He took the long moment of silence as an answer and looked away. “I have asked too much.”

“What?—No! I’m just confused. How do you get into my dreams? Are you a sorcerer, too?”

Hope crept back into his soul. “Nay, demoiselle. In life I had not this skill. After I was confined to stone, my soul learned other ways to wander.”

She nodded. “So when you lost some capabilities, you developed others to compensate.”

“As you say.” In truth, she used some words he did not know. “If I know the dreamer, full able am I to enter.”

Emily nodded. “How many other people have you talked to like this, in dreams?”

“No more than a few. I treasure their friendship, and learn about how the world changes, as much as I may. And then they die, and I am alone once more.” He thought of his friend Arthur Burke again with a stab of loss.

“My God,” Emily said. “You must be so lonely.”

He allowed himself to be more vulnerable than he ever would have in life. When one had so few chances, it was unwise to dissemble. “Yea, lady, more than I can say. But your fair company is a blessing beyond hope.”

 

WIP Wednesday Bryn Donovan

 

Go ahead and share a paragraph or a page or two of your story in progress in the comments! And if you want to make sure you don’t miss future WIP Wednesdays, follow the blog if you aren’t already — on the lefthand side of the page, there’s a place to sign up for notifications. Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

What If We Revised Some of the Memories That Hurt?

OVERWRITE: What If We Get Rid Of the Memories That Hurt?

I’ve always loved stories about amnesia. The Jason Bourne movies are some of my all-time favorites, and the only show I watch besides Supernatural is Blindspot, whose main character is slowly regaining a few of her long-term memories. When I read the book Beware the Wild last month, I was fascinated by the way that characters’ memories were replaced with new ones.

I never knew why I was attracted to this theme… until now.

 

 

I’ve written before on this blog about a few of the things that have helped me overcame deep depression and become a positive, joy-filled person. And I’ve written before about having been a grade school pariah (a post I’ve deleted, for reasons that will become clear in this post.)

Growing up for me was hard for other reasons as well. One reason was that as a five-year-old girl, I was the one-time victim of an awful crime, and nobody else knew about it. I thought it was my fault, and I wrongly believed my parents did know, but what I’d done was too sinful to discuss. I thought that when I died, I would go to hell.

As an adult, I know this incident wasn’t my fault. I don’t dwell on it because I don’t consider myself a victim or a sad figure.

But every once in a while, a similar crime shows up in the news, and as happy and positive as I am, the story takes hold and I kind of lose it. This happened last week. I couldn’t stop reading about a particular court case, I got weepy, and I drank too much wine.

When I woke up early in the morning with a headache and got to work on the big novel revision I was in the middle of doing, I had a revelation. Enough was enough. This memory had caused me too much pain already. I was going to replace it.

 

Your Own Revisionist History

 

You know how you can completely rewrite something in a Word doc, and when you hit “save,” the old version is gone? That’s what I wanted to do. Not just about this particular crime, but also about many negative things in my past – and we all have them.

Our bad memories are toxic. They tell us that we’re neither loveable nor good at things. They suggest that the world is a bad place to be, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Bad memories aren’t only depressing, but also limiting. If you didn’t remember messing up an oral report in grade school, would you be more confident about giving a presentation now? If you didn’t recall failing Spanish in high school, you might think to yourself, “I bet I could learn Arabic.” If you didn’t remember being poor, you might be more likely to believe, “I could make myself rich.”

Because of the associative structure of the brain, bad memories spur additional negative thoughts. When you remember something sad, your brain says, “Totally, and also, do you remember this other terrible thing that happened to you? Hey, and you know what else is bad? Global warming.”

(Fortunately, your brain does this with positive thoughts, too. If you think about how grateful you are for your family or your job, your brain will say something else like, “You know what else is great? Kittens.”)

There are some bad memories I wouldn’t change. If I were grieving for someone’s else’s loss or their suffering, I would have no desire to set it aside. That would be disrespectful to them and to my own feelings for them. But a lot of negative experiences aren’t rooted in love and significance like that. They’re just stupid and pointless.

 

How to Revise Bad Memories

 

Overwrite: What If We Get Rid of the Memories That Hurt? #selective memory #happiness

 

I haven’t done it yet, but here is my plan. I’ll  have a ceremony soon where I write on slips of paper representing bad memories. Some of them will be basically a category of bad memories: “almost everybody hated me in grade school,” and so on.

Then I will write out alternate, positive narratives for each of them, and I will burn the little slips of paper in a fire.

Imagination is powerful and memory is malleable. I’m sure you’ve heard about people having a hard time knowing whether they actually remembered something from their early childhood, or just remembered a family member’s account of it. You’ve heard about people confessing to crimes they didn’t do, and becoming more or less convinced that they are guilty, after being told repeatedly that they did them.

Neuroscience has proven over and over that the brain is not that great at distinguishing imagined events from real ones. Why not use that to our advantage?

 

 

If you really think it’s impossible to get rid of bad memories, let me share this timeline with you:

Last Monday, I had that bad night after thinking about a court case involving a crime similar to one I experienced as a victim.

Last Tuesday, I told myself several times: That’s not me. It didn’t happen to me. I no longer claim that experience.

Last Wednesday, we watched Blindspot, and one storyline involved a character who is starting to have flashes of memory about his childhood victimization.

I said to Mr. Donovan, “I bet that’s really hard.”

Not, “I know how hard that is.” My first thought was, “I bet that’s really hard.” I didn’t have the usual deep-down pang of recognition.

My guess is that rewriting a bad memory will be more effective than just trying to erase it, because it’s hard to hold two conflicting narratives in your head at the same time.

 

Keeping The Advantage of Bad Memories

 

Our bad memories serve a few purposes. Most negative things in our life do.

Whenever we talk about our bad memories, we get automatic sympathy from our listeners most of the time.

Our bad memories can give us excuses not to succeed or reach our potential. “Hey, that’s just the way I am. I can’t help it, considering what I’ve been through.”

My own feeling is that sympathy is not worth the poisons or the limitations that bad memories impose on us. We all deserve love and understanding whether we’ve been through terrible things or not. And I don’t want excuses. I want to live up to my potential every day.

However, we do learn valuable things even from our worst experiences, which I am going to build into my ceremony. For instance, I might say: “I hang on to empathizing with the outcasts and the unpopular. That will always be a part of me. And now I destroy this memory.” And then I’ll burn the slip of paper called “almost everybody hated me in grade school.”

 

End of the Day Revisions

 

Overwrite: What If We Get Rid of the Memories That Hurt? #selective memory #happiness

 

Maybe even day-to-day bad memories need to be rewritten. I have inched toward this by choosing not to commemorate too many frustrations and disappointments on social media (let’s face it, who wants a gripe to show up in Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, years later?) and by keeping a Happiness Jar, where I record only the best part of every day.

What if, at the end of every day, I consider whether I had any negative experiences? If I did, I can make a mental note of whether there’s anything to learn from it. Then I write out an alternate history. I love this idea because if I somehow screwed up during the day, I am scripting how to handle the situation differently in the future, rather than just simmering in feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

Finally, I can write down the best thing that happened and put it in the Happiness Jar. Now, even a bad day is recorded in my soul as a good day… which will give me happiness and optimism for a good night’s sleep and a better tomorrow.

This isn’t a new idea. I’ve come across a quote before (and I don’t know who said it first) that says:

[bctt tweet=”Write your hurts in sand… carve your blessings in stone.” username=””]

I’m just suggesting to send the tide in to wash away those hurts written in the sand, and to imagine even more of the blessings that are possible.

Are you intrigued by the idea of overwriting bad memories? Is it something you have experience with yourself? Or is this the first time you’ve considered it? Share your thoughts in the comments! And if you’re not doing so already, follow the blog for future posts – there’s a place you can sign up at the lefthand side of the page. Thanks for reading!

Friday Happy Hour: What’s One of Your Best Qualities?

Hey everyone, happy Friday! Here’s one of those open threads where you can answer a question, or just tell us what’s on your mind or how your week went. This post contains a tiny brag, but I think that’s okay, because you’re going to get to brag, too.

The best thing that happened to me this week was that I found out that one of my coworkers, a couple of months back, had nominated me for a “Heroes of Optimism” thing sponsored by the company Life Is Good. The Life Is Good people (I love them, by the way) liked the story and featured it on their website!

I was really proud that he thought of me, because I’ve worked really hard to become a positive and optimistic person over the past few years, and it was great to know that other people could see it.

So what’s one of your best qualities? (Or a few — I know you have a bunch!) Optimism, courage, patience, a sense of humor? Tell us all about it in the comments, or if you’d rather, just share what’s going on with you. Hope you’re looking forward to a great weekend!

September 2016 Recommended Reads — Feel Free to Share Your Own!

September 2016 Recommended Reads -- Feel Free to Share Your Own! #paranormal romance #scifi #science #young adult #good books

Hey friends! I did a lot of reading in this past month, and I have great recommendations!

Beware the Wild, Natalie C. Parker

September 2016 Recommended Reads -- Feel Free to Share Your Own! #paranormal romance #scifi #science #young adult #good books

I read this for book club the day before book club. I’m not the only one who does this, right? Well, no matter when I started this book, I would’ve read it like I did, in one sitting. Holy smokes.

This Southern gothic young adult novel in a strong first-person voice is beautifully written and fast-paced, with supernatural elements that go from eerie to over-the-top bananas — just the way I like it — and plenty of twists and turns. It’s so good I’m kind of mad at her, except that I think she’s local, so I’m going to try to get her to do an interview for this blog instead.

 

Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book I), Octavia Butler.

September 2016 Recommended Reads -- Feel Free to Share Your Own! #paranormal romance #scifi #science #young adult #good books

I had this one on my list of 50 books that might make me smarter because I haven’t read much hard scifi. What I loved about this one was how alien the aliens truly were. Their whole culture was so detailed, and the story really captured my imagination. The humans were mostly awful, in a way that reminded me of the Nobel Prize-winning novel Blindness by José Saramago. Even Lilith, who is mostly admirable, makes one terrible ethical decision. Dawn is truly unsettling, but it stayed with me.

 

 

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World, Mark Miodownik.

September 2016 Recommended Reads -- Feel Free to Share Your Own! #paranormal romance #scifi #science #young adult #good books

This was another one from my list of books that might make me smarter. The author discusses eleven different materials, including steel, paper, glass, plastic, and foam. He’s an endearing and frequently poetic writer, if someone obsessive. I hadn’t thought much about how humans created some of these materials, and it’s a history as well as a science book. It’s a quick and mind-expanding read.

 

Ecstasy Untamed, Pamela Palmer.

September 2016 Recommended Reads -- Feel Free to Share Your Own! #paranormal romance #scifi #science #young adult #good books

Last month I read book #8 from Palmer’s Feral Warriors paranormal romance series, and this one is book #6. I’m always reading series out of order. The heroine in this one, Faith, is particularly easy to root for, and the bad guy is very, very bad (one scene in particular with him is horrifying.) Hawk is an honorable and sensitive hero. The emotion and passion in Palmer’s series is what hooks me. I’ve ordered books 1 through 3 now.

 

Have you come across any good books lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Thanks for reading!