Join the Challenge: 15 Habits of Great Writers

I’ve enjoyed Jeff Goins’ blog for a while now. I love his style. He knows how to write. Then he put out a 15 day challenge to writers called 15 Habits of Great Writers. Today marks day three of the challenge—but it’s never to late to join. Click on the graphic to the left to find out how.

Being very goal oriented, I liked the idea of a challenge. As I signed up, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was to be an easy challenge—or a “straight-up-the-mountain-without-climbing-gear” type of challenge.

DAY ONE was easy.

Great writers declare that they are writers. It’s as simple as that. Having reached the point where I finally admitted I am a writer, I didn’t feel the need to restate it. (You may want to read my post called I Am a Writer.)

DAY TWO sounded easy at the get go.

Believe. Great writers believe they are writers. We need to believe we are writers. Okay, I’ll admit it. I was a bit disillusioned at that point. I had declared that I’m a writer. I believe that I’m a writer. Can we get to the nuts and bolts? Please? (The Canadian politeness in me had to shine through.)

I think Jeff must have heard me, rubbed his hands together, and thought, “She has asked for it!” … Well, not really. He’s nicer than that. But he did move briskly on from our need to “marinate” on the idea of our being writers to this bold statement:

And just so you don’t think this is all esoteric, you’re going to do something radical. You’re going to get up two hours early and write.

Gulp. Not a little sip or swallow, but a humongous gulp.

Two hours early? Are you crazy!

(Right, the Canadian politeness was in short supply in that initial moment.)

I sat back and pondered the idea. I pondered lunacy. And I pondered the fact that I was even pondering on the idea. Did I even dare consider the possibility? Or did I break the mold, be a non-conformist, and give in to my night owl tendencies?

I read through the comments. Someone had to back me up that waking up two hours earlier bordered on lunacy. I kept reading through the comments.

Admittedly, there were a few that expressed that they were night owls, not the early-bird-that-gets-the-worm type—but most were ready to try the morning thing. I must agree that there is the strange draw of community, of knowing other writers are up writing just when you are!

But the real concept? It’s about commitment.

It’s about not just declaring I am a writer, not just believing I am a writer, but consistently writing.

Not tweeting about it. Not reading about it. Not even facebooking about it. But actually writing.

The dilemma arises. To conform or not to conform? To be a part of the community that arises early and writes—or not to be a part of that community?

Being a night owl, I’ve reached a compromise. I’ll continue to get some writing in at night, but I will commit to experiment with how well the brain juices flow at five in the morning.  I may be pleasantly surprised. 

Who wants to join me? Who wants to be a part of this early morning community? I would love to hear your thoughts on when works best for you to write. If you decide to join the 15 day challenge, I would love to hear that too!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three Christian suspense novels: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

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Tethered to Technology

May 29, 2012 3 comments
English: I took this picture.

English: I took this picture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia – GNU Documentation License)

When a server goes down and your business requires the internet, you feel it. A friend of mine  felt this pain. Acutely. Several days of crisis management—with a bit of anger management—were the results of a server gone down.

It spawned a lot of comments on our dependence on technology. I found I agreed with it all. I’m tied to technology.

But that hasn’t always been the case. You would think that years of missionary work in remote jungle villages would have proved sufficient insulation from ever becoming technology-dependent.

Initially, running water meant we ran to the river, the “corner store” was a 2 1/2 hour flight away, and a precious can of soda was lukewarm—but still precious.

Electrical power was limited to what a few solar panels could pump into our batteries. If the sun refused to shine, power dropped and was saved for our two-way radio, our only contact to the outside, to civilization. The internet? An impossibility.

Life was primitive. We called it rustic, the word invoking a more romantic aura than primitive. Life was rustic, but good.

But now? Life isn’t so rustic.

I’m blessed with modern appliances, electrical power not dictated by the amount of shining sun, hot water in the shower—and technology. I’ve returned to the twentieth century!

I find myself happily tethered to my cell phone, computer, and the illustrious internet. I find myself groaning along with my friend as the server went down. I realize how quickly our lives changed. Rustic turned high-tech. The internet replaced the two-way radio as our connection to world.

Life is different, but still good. Now, if only the server doesn’t go down before I post this….

Any one else out there who’s willing to admit they are happily tethered to technology? I would love to hear your thoughts!
(This has been re-posted
 from my other blog, Rosie Rambles On.)

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three Christian suspense novels: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

 

Are Writers Actors of the Mind?

May 22, 2012 8 comments

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ~ Robert Frost

crying emoticone

(Photo credit: Wikipedia – Public Domain)

Robert Frost nailed it in this quote. If you want your reader to be moved by your story, you need to be moved by it. If you want them to cry, write yourself to tears first. If you want fear to immobilize your readers, to cause their breath to come in short gasps, write yourself into that fear.

You cannot write like an android. You must become a part of the story. You must get into the body of your character to make the emotions real.

I see your mouth open to protest: “But I don’t understand the fear I’m trying to write into my character.”

…or the anxiety of waiting all night for a child to return home.

…or the sorrow of losing a loved one.

…or the joy of childbirth.

No sweat. You are a writer. Writers are full of imagination—so imagine! Sit down and imagine the scene before you. Be an actor—an actor of the mind.

Imagine the anxiety as you wait for a child that should have been home hours earlier. Your mind races. Sleep won’t come. You’re trying unsuccessfully to not imagine the worst.

Can you feel the fear that creates a constricting band around your chest, squeezing the air from your lungs, as you see a police cruiser pull up in front of your house? As the officer gets out of the cruiser and walks solemnly to your front door, your heart is pounding so hard it hurts.

Pressure builds in your head as you force your hand to reach for and open the door for the officer. You’re not sure if you’re hearing him right. Is it because you really can’t comprehend—or because you don’t want to?

Maybe you’ve never faced that exact scenario. Thankfully, I haven’t. But we’ve all felt fear. We’ve all felt anxiety.

We know we can’t negate the importance of life’s experiences.

We know that writing from personal experience will always ring true, but we don’t want to have to live through every heart-wrenching experience that our characters face.

So we take what we know, we take what we understand, and we build on it.

For myself, part of the writing process isn’t even done with pen in hand—or laptop. It’s the time spent living the next scene in my mind. It’s feeling the scenario. It’s playing out the characters actions and reactions, their thoughts and actual words.

Not every thought, not every feeling will end up in writing. But they’re still important because they set the scene. They set the feel for the scene.

Could I write all their thoughts and feelings? Sure I could, but it would be overwhelming for the reader. The goal is to give enough to set the stage—and then give the reader credit to fill in the blanks.

Comments anyone? I would love to know how many of you sit and live your next scene before writing it. Or do you just write it as you go? 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three books: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

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To Outline or Not to Outline

May 15, 2012 11 comments

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. ”
― E.L. Doctorow

Agreed. Writing is writing. Planning, outlining and researching are a means to an end—a means to write.

Famous quotes are always a good jumping board. Let’s begin with one from Shakespeare:

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

Let’s make our own quote for writers:

“To outline or not to outline, that is the question.”

It’s a question that can divide writers. It’s a question that brings out extreme opinions. There are two camps—and both can be pretty headstrong in their opinions!

Here are the two extremes:

  • OUTLINES ARE ESSENTIALS: Some would insist that not writing an outline somehow disqualifies one from being a real writer. They would insist that an outline is not just necessary, but essential to a polished plot.
  • OUTLINES KILL CREATIVITY: Others argue that creating an outline stunts their spontaneity, stifling the creative force. They may even go as far as to say that an outline is a mere crutch.

Does one side have to be right—and the other dead wrong?

Not necessarily. … I believe it’s a matter of personal preference. We’re all different. Some of us are compulsive list makers; some approach life with a “winging it” type attitude. Some thrive and produce when surrounded by activity and noise; others need solitude and peace in order to produce. Like I said, we’re all different.

We need to accept our differences and quit trying to pressure other people to squeeze into our personal mold.

If you’re an adamant outliner…

…accept the fact that there are great writers out there that will never be able to formulate a workable outline. It really will kill their creativity—or frustrate them so deeply that they give up on writing. Do you really want to kill their creativity? I doubt that’s the case.

If you’re one of those that look on outlines as a crutch…

…you’ll need to throw away your prejudice and accept that there are some who would be forced to live on continual pause if denied the right to draft an outline before writing their next bestseller. They just can’t write without an outline. For them, it is essential. Do you really want to push their pause button until it’s stuck in place? I doubt it. I think you are much kinder than that!

And then there’s those personalities that straddle the extremes…

…of which I happen to be one. I see the values on both sides. I’ve done one. I’m trying the other. I like both. There are pros and cons to both sides. I’m guessing I’ll flip flop between the extremes depending on my inspiration at the time. Okay, you have my permission to call me weird. It won’t be the first time! But hear me out. Hear the why and how:

  • NO OUTLINE:
    Betrayed, my first novel, began as a thought that got stuck in my mind. It settled in and refused to budge.  It was the idea of a man standing accused of murder, but with no memory of who he was or whether he really were guilty or not. My novel began on what is now chapter six with Jeremi coming to consciousness after a blow to his head. Police are swarming him. He reaches for a gun—but doesn’t have one. He’s shot, arrested, and accused of murdering an FBI agent. But there’s no memory to back it up. Is he guilty or not?

    • PROS: The pure fun of having the story flow onto paper, of having an adventure each day I wrote, waiting to see where the story took me. Pure creativity that is not stifled one bit. That can be a pretty great pro!
    • CONS: After I began writing, I did have to figure out how Jeremi got into this predicament—which brought into existence chapters one through five. And yes, there are the inevitable tweaks to be made to be sure they story line agrees with itself.
  • CHAPTER BY CHAPTER OUTLINE:
    Always one to try something new and suggested—and not afraid to try it big—I’ve mapped out a chapter by chapter outline for a trilogy. I’m not that far into writing it yet—and I’m not dogmatic that I have to stick to the letter of the law with it.

    • PROS: I know where I’m headed. I can read the chapter heading and thoughts and start writing. Many of the kinks are already worked out.
    • CONS: If I take it too seriously, I may become a stickler for the outline, and lose creativity. But fear not, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m only three chapters into book one of the trilogy and one of those chapters didn’t exist on the outline—but morphed into being, seemingly necessary and appropriate! I think I’m actually going to like this outline concept—even if I’ve already written three books without one!

The real question is: What works for YOU? It doesn’t really matter what works for me. It doesn’t matter what works for J.K. Rowling or John Grisham. What matters is what works for YOU. Figure that out and keep writing!

Comments anyone? I would love to know which extreme works for you! Any practical suggestions to share? I’d love those too!

Related articles


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three books: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

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Writing Internal Monologue

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia, CC License)

If you dare, listen to yourself for a few hours. Don’t just listen to what you say, but to the internal monologue going on inside your head.

WARNING: If you really listen, it will be exhausting!

Listen to all those thoughts that would overwhelm the person sitting next to you—and maybe have them ready to commit you to some private place with tight white jackets.

Now think about your writing….

Narrating is NEVER enough. The mantra has been instilled within us: “Show, don’t tell.”  And by show, we’re referring to showing through dialogue—not telling through narrative.

Dialogue is NOT enough either. It doesn’t let us get inside the character’s head. It doesn’t let us hear what the character is thinking. What your character is NOT saying is at least important as what he or she IS saying. Writing your character’s thoughts into your story can add depth to your writing. Just be careful not to overdo it.

Your character’s direct thoughts are internal monologue. These are the actual words thought by your character.

Direct thoughts are generally written in italics. When you see what appears to monologue in italics, you can pretty much be assured that you are in the mind of the character.

Just as we do not always have to use he said in dialogue, we don’t always have to use he thought when writing out internal monologue. Use common sense. If the use of Jane thought clarifies the passage, then use it.

And now for some examples from my first novel, Betrayed:

EXAMPLE #1:

     Jeremi took note of the fact that Joe had chosen to sit in the chair that afforded the best view of the room. Is he a cautious man, or is it pure coincidence that he sat there? Jeremi wondered as he sat down, angling his chair so he could see the door.

EXAMPLE #2:

     Maria heard the car pull up the drive and hurried to the front door to greet her husband.
     After all these years, he’s still as handsome as the day we met. Maybe more so with the distinguished look his gray sideburns give him. She opened the door as Joe approached, a warm smile on her lips, her arms open to embrace her husband.

EXAMPLE #3:

     The deceit did not bother him. It was all for the Motherland. But to deceive one’s own children — one’s own flesh and blood…. Oh, was Maria right last night. They are so American. Will they ever forgive us?

Don’t exhaust yourself or your readers by letting all of your character’s random thoughts land onto the written page. You might think their thoughts for them, but filter them. Just as you don’t share all the internal monologue that goes on in your own mind, don’t share all of your character’s internal monologue.

Give enough to allow your readers to see the reasoning and motivation behind your character’s actions. Give enough to show your readers your character’s state of mind. Your end goal? To make your characters come alive to your readers—not just in word, but in thought, too!

 Comments anyone? 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three books: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

The Three Rs to Avoiding Burnout


A sentry of the Welsh Guards at Buckingham Palace

Change is inevitable….

Therefore, we need to live fluid lives. From time to time we need to step back, re-evaluate our priorities and goals, and then restructure as necessary.

We may find it necessary to shake things up and move them around.

We may need to breathe new life into the HOW behind reaching our goals.

We may need to discover if there is still reason behind our priorities. 

If your life gets as crazy as mine does, before you’re ready to re-evaluate or restructure, you’ll need to take time to…

…REJUVENATE

In order to rejuvenate, you’re going to need some down time. Presuming that there’s no way you can drop everything for a week of blissful nothingness, I would say you’re most likely going to have to choose something that you can afford to let go of temporarily. And, since you’re reading my blog, I’m going to guess you’re into social media, that most likely you are a writer. That being said, I have a question for you.

Have you ever thought of taking a sabbatical from social media?

Okay, I saw your head snap to attention at the suggestion. I can see the thoughts flashing across your forehead….

“A break from social media? Heresy! Writers need social media. Writers need to stay connected. Writers can’t take a sabbatical from social media!”

Why not? I didn’t suggest becoming fanatical and tossing out social media. I suggested taking a sabbatical from it. For how long? A few days? A few weeks? A month? That’s up to you. How much rejuvenating do you require? How out of balance has your life gotten?

Don't-overload-your-trailer

Overloaded? (Photo credit: Wikipedia ~ Public Domain)

Of course, maybe it’s not social media, but some other area of your life you need to temporarily disconnect from. Then do it. Take time to breathe. Give your mind a break. 

This is not the time for planning.

It is not the time to formulate strategies.

It is simply a time for rejuvenation.

Only after a time of rejuvenation are you ready to…

…RE-EVALUATE

Grab a paper and pen. Start writing. Start brain-storming.

Priorities:

Priorities can change with the season of our lives. When was the last time your priorities changed? What changes can be made in your life? Are the reasons behind your priorities still valid?

Goals: 

What goals are still valid? What goals are no longer valid? Do you have goals that can or should be postponed? Do you have new goals that have materialized but haven’t yet been worked into your life?

Non-essentials (Those things we do that are not essential to physical survival!): 

Of the non-essentials in your life, which ones would you not miss? Maybe it’s time spent watching TV, time spent reading magazines or the newspaper, a weekly game of golf, or something totally different.

Which ones add meaning to your life? We all have those “non-essentials to physical survival” in our lives that, nonetheless, feel essential to our mental and emotional survival. Can you list those ones?

What would you change if you could? … And can you change more than you’re ready to admit?

Brainstorm. Re-evaluate. Dream a bit!

Now that you’ve got these new and far out ideas on paper, get ready to…

…RESTRUCTURE

You may be clearing your plate of old debris.
You may be adding items that you realize are vital—and have been missing.
Or you may be restructuring the “how-to-do-it” behind your goals and priorities.

Balanced scale of Justice

Restructuring can involve new scheduling.
It can involve a re-balancing act.
It may involve all the old elements, but blended and/or prioritized in a new manner.

How this rejuvenating, re-evaluating and restructuring translates into action for each of us will vary. We’re all different. We each have our own unique set of dynamics in our lives. But taking the time to rejuvenate, re-evaluate and restructure is one of the essentials we all have in common. I’d love to hear how this works for you! Please feel free to comment!

Related articles


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three books: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

Creating Flawed Characters

March 28, 2012 3 comments

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.
~ Ernest Hemingway

Caricature of Aubrey Beardsley by Max Beerbohm...

Caricature of Aubrey Beardsley by Max Beerbohm (1896)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The characters we create in our novels must be more than characters. They must be real. If they don’t jump off the page and come alive to the reader, we have failed.

But how do we do that? How do we avoid creating characters that are mere caricatures?

How do we create characters that resound as real to our readers?

We may have the ideal character in mind for our story. What we must guard against is inadvertently creating our character to the point of perfection.

That would be a mistake. A big mistake! The ideal character must also be imperfect. Ideal characters are patterned after real people.

Real people have flaws.

Real people make mistakes.

Real people are imperfect.

If we want our characters to be believable, we must create them flawed. They must make mistakes. They must have imperfections.

People relate to flawed characters because we are all flawed.

As we write and review, we must critique our characters. If we don’t, for sure our readers will! And if they are too perfect? — Then we rewrite.

●  We give them realistic flaws.

●  We give them issues.

●  We don’t give them the ability to deal with every issue.

●  We make them vulnerable.

A too-perfect character? — Been there. Done that.

In the first draft of A Murder UnseenSandra was too perfect. She handled the tragic circumstances thrown at her with near android-like perfection. 

It was so wrong on so many levels. 

The rewriting began. The plot remained, but the humanity of the main character received an overhaul. Though Sandra essentially remained the same, deeper emotions were introduced, insecurities surfaced, and android-like perfection was replaced with the emotional vulnerability of a woman fighting the odds to survive. Sandra became a character that needed the reader on her side.

Face it. None of us are perfect. We don’t need perfect characters. In fact, we don’t want perfect characters. We want characters we can relate to, that inspire us. We want characters that overcome the odds—despite their imperfections and flaws.

If you go away with nothing else, go away with this: The ideal character IS flawed. Our perfect character must be imperfect. 

Comments anyone? I would love to know how you make your perfect character not quite so perfect!

Related articles


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran

I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three books: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Have a question? Email Me!

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