Procrastination: the dirtiest P word any writer knows

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I’ve plotted and outlined my story, I’m excited. Inciting incidents and an ending that will cause my readers to ugly cry are dancing in my head. I’ve spent hours curating the perfect writing playlist on Spotify and making inspirational pinboards on Pinterest. My desk is clean, I have a notebook at my side, ready to write down anything that may come to me when I’m in this heightened state of inspiration.

Then I stop.

I’ll do almost anything to avoid being productive, maybe not intentionally, but I will… I’ve cleaned my house top to bottom. Suddenly remembered that I need to clean out my closet or garage. I have chores, errands. Then I start binge-watching shows on Netflix and getting stuck for hours on Youtube watching other authors talk about writing. And then suddenly – it’s gone. I can’t write. The motivation deflated.

So how do we kick procrastination in the ass?

Procrastination is all in my head. It’s about my fear of failing and comparing myself to others. It’s about thinking that I need to be perfect, and re-reading my work and thinking that I’m a complete fraud who can’t write and my words suck and I become my own worst enemy. it’s obsessing over creating beautiful passages and similes, going back and correcting things before I can move on.

Writing isn’t pretty. First drafts aren’t pretty.

When I get stuck on certain passages and can’t move on, that isn’t writing. When I’m constantly re-reading my work and trying to perfect it before I can move on, that isn’t writing.  That interrupts the flow of my story and zaps my creativity.

Step one: TURN OFF THE INTERNET!!!

If you’re like me, you might head to Pinterest or whatever website inspires you, and then three hours later you’ve planned your cats birthday party in great detail, and you haven’t written a damn word. No, you don’t need it for research. No, you don’t need it to come up with a different word for arsenal because you’ve just written it four times in one chapter (true story – and there was never any weapons…). That comes later. Right now, you just need to get those words on paper.

Step two: Baby steps

Set a timer. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. And tackle something SMALL. Tackle a small scene, not even an entire chapter. Are you trying to nail a fight scene, or a kissing scene or maybe an important internal monologue. Take a small amount of time and just write that one thing.

Step three: Stop self-editing before you move on

That’s what your second draft is for. That’s what a proofreader is for. You’re too close to your work at this point, it hasn’t had time to breathe and sit. If you continually take time to self-edit (especially AS you are writing, you aren’t doing yourself any favors) The focus on perfection is a doom spiral, trust me on this.

Step four: Allow yourself to take a break.

Take a ten-minute walk around the block. Pet your dog. Go outside and pull some weeds. Whatever it is that clears your head and allows you to stop thinking about your damn book for a minute – do it.

Step five: Bones

No, not like a dog. This has been the biggest a-ha moment in my writing. I just get the bones or the skeleton of a chapter or scene written. I worry about the meat later when I revise. So what does that mean? That means – maybe I have a pivotal conversation and I just write the dialogue. No tags, no action, no scene setting. Just the conversation. And I move on. Yep. I just move on. It’s ugly and anxiety producing at first and if anyone ever read my first drafts of certain chapters, they’d think a five-year-old wrote them. But I swear by it and it’s really helped me become more productive.

The final step: Be nice to yourself.

Stop beating yourself up for not hitting a word count goal. Stop focusing on everything wrong with your first draft and focus on the fact that you started the first draft. Reward yourself for the baby steps. Reward yourself for completing a chapter. STOP comparing yourself to other writers and how fast they write.

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Writer Wednesdays: Chemistry vs Attraction

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What better way to celebrate Valentines Day than to talk about creating chemistry between characters?

As a romance writer, my job at the end of the day is to create a love affair that leaves my readers without a shadow of a doubt that the two people I’ve written should be together. No matter how different they are, no matter what path they took to get there or how much growth it took – they belong together.

Love affairs do not spark from physical attraction alone. (That means all those flooded panties and hidden erections do not a love affair make) Think about it. There are A LOT of attractive people in this world. Do you fall in love with every person you find attractive? Physical attraction may lead to sexual desire based on that attraction – sure.

But chemistry is the magic sauce. It’s that inexplicable draw that two people have to each other. It’s an intimacy that goes well beyond the physical and the sexual – and it’s often times confusing in the beginning.

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book where in the end – the couple fell flat? You had no buy-in that they belonged together at all or that they’d last past the manufactured happily ever after? Maybe all they did was have sex and the relationship was never built. Maybe there weren’t enough deep conversations to build on the characters and their relationship(s). Maybe there was no growth or change.

Most likely – there was no tension. That chemistry special sauce. There was no flipping of pages or waiting to get up and get a snack because you just had to know what was going to happen next. Would they end up together? Would they overcome all the obstacles in their way?

So how do you cook up that chemistry?

First, you should figure out what your characters want (even if they don’t know it yet) in the end. Plot out your characters interactions and plot out the tension in each scene. Tension makes readers want to know what happens next – this is especially effective when you create mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter.

When you plot out the tension – don’t get it confused with conflict. You don’t want them constantly fighting. Playful fight/flirting – tension. Actual fighting – conflict. Both equally important, but also important to know the distinction. If your characters are constantly fighting, why would we want them to end up together in the end?

(In romance, fight flirting is wildly popular and done right, adds so much romantic tension. Fight flirting is all about who gets the upper hand in an interaction. It’s fun. It’s a verbal sparring that feels like foreplay.)

What does romantic chemistry look like?

  1. They can let their guard down (eventually) with each other. They may smile more when the other person is around. Feel relaxed, happy and warm.
  2. They want to be near each other whether that is a conscious or subconscious act. They lean in closer when the other is talking. Maybe a hand reaches out to touch a forearm – and that electric connection between them ignites. They stand close to each other – and maybe even invade that personal space bubble because the draw is so strong.
  3. Arousal. Shortness of breath. Pounding heart. Mouth running dry for a moment. Pretty sure this one needs no explaining.
  4. EYE CONTACT. Eye contact is magic. It’s that smoldering thing that Edward was always doing to Bella. It’s that thing that connects two characters – when they look into each other’s eyes and see deep into each other. Maybe they don’t need words after they stare into each other’s eyes. Sounds cheesy – but it’s true. Early in the relationship, the eye contact may be so intense with things unsaid that one of them has to look away. Later in the relationship – it’s that silent communicator of emotions.
  5. Physical awareness of the other persons nearness. Not just flooded panties and unexpected erections.
  6. Being happy when they are around. Being with them makes the other character feel good. Laughing more. Smiling more.
  7. Compromise. They take the other persons feelings (again – if you are creating tension this may be subconscious or they won’t admit it to themselves) they WANT to grow. They WANT to change.
  8. Lastly – they have empathy for each other. One hurts, the other hurts. One grieves, so does the other. They have a shared joy.

Have fun with your words and your characters. Writing scenes that drive your characters to fall in love and not just into bed is the difference between an erotic romp and an epic romance that leaves your readers feeling satisfied!

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