Archive for the ‘#writing’ Tag

Writing Passion   Leave a comment

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

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So, I wrote this great article on this topic and accidentally swapped it for last week’s blog hop article. Have I mentioned I suck at math? Yeah, I do. And calendars, apparently.

Here’s a link to the original article, and I’m starting this one with the same intro. It was a great article in which I explore novels written by Artificial Intelligence. Yes, that’s really a thing, though neither a good one nor a real threat to legitimate novelists, in my opinion. It’s probably before its time, just like my article was. Great ideas are always jumping the gun.

Do I believe a writer can be a good writer if they don’t feel strong emotions?


Let’s define our terms first. A writer is someone who writes. An author is someone whose writing is published. A novelist is someone who writes fiction.

Do we assume the author who wrote Essentials of Modern Refrigeration (a book on my husband’s shelf in the family library) had strong emotions about refrigeration? How about the Chilton’s Manual on Ford Taurus 1995-2010?

Yes, writers produced those books and I’m thinking neither of them wept over any chapter of them, although I can assure you my husband has shed a few tears over that stupid California car in our driveway. Essentials of Modern Refrigeration didn’t even put me to sleep (I am my husband’s study partner, so I am obligated to read his technical manuals before he has to take licensing tests, so he can use me as his pre-tester). So, yes, a writer can write without feeling any emotion whatsoever about a topic that really doesn’t stir a lot of emotions. Trust me, absolutely nobody is passionate about how to change an oil filter on a 2005 Taurus.

I think the question we’re really asking is “Can someone be a novelist if they don’t feel emotion strongly?”

In my other article, I focused on the writer’s job to draw out the emotions of the reader regardless if we feel the emotion. Yeah, I’m not writing the same article, so go read it if you didn’t already.

I don’t think you need to have experienced the exact same emotion your character experiences in order to illicit an emotional response from your readers.

Writing about a hot mess doesn’t mean you have to be a hot mess yourself. I work a responsible job and have managed to stay married to the same man for more than 30 years. I raised two reasonably well-adjusted children (okay, one of them is a gypsy musician, but she’s a functional gypsy musician. I did MY job and she’s feeding herself, though the roof-over-her-head thing is still debatable). I would not define myself as a hot mess.

On the other hand, I’ve lived a life. I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it. I’ve been scared. I’ve faced loss. I’ve been angry. I’ve been lonely.

But I’ve never killed anyone in a drunk driving accident and I’m writing a character who has. How can I write that character if I’ve never felt that emotion? Well, maybe I can’t. We’ll see how the readers like it when it’s finally published.

I’ve never shot anyone in a war either and I don’t suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from an experience I’ve never had. Yet readers seem to think I do a believable job of portraying Shane because they read all the published books in the series and enough people have read the most recent book in Transformation Project that I’m guessing they were waiting for it to come out. Do you think they read the whole series (to this point) because I did a bad job of conveying emotions I’ve never experienced?

Probably not.

Though I’ve never actually experienced those emotions, I know people who have and I can sense by what they say and, more importantly, what they don’t or can’t say what some of their emotions are about those past events. My job as a writer is to give expression to the groanings of a soul that has no words for what has wounded it. And, yes, of course, I feel empathy for their emotional turmoil, but frankly, if my response was to weep, I’d not be able to interview them dispassionately and that would, I believe, harm my purpose. If you’re feeling too deeply, it’s hard to put the words on the paper. It’s hard to even understand the other person’s emotions. As an author, I need some distance from the character to write their pain effectively.

My job as a writer is to give expression to the groanings of a soul that has no words for what wounded it.

When I experience the emotion is when I read the manuscript as if I were a reader. And, if I get that tingling sensation in my soft pallet and my eyes start to gloss up, then I know I’ve done my job, because if it makes me cry, it’s going to illicit a strong response from the readers who encounter it for the first time.

I trained and worked as a journalist where you typically have less than 350 words to convey something to a reader – the horror of the car accident, the fear of the burning building, the passion of the City Councilman. In my day, journalists were supposed to report the news, not insinuate their opinion or feelings into the news, but certainly good reporters understand word choice and how to tug on a reader’s emotions without saying “Hey, cry about this.” My News Writing professor used to say “Be dispassionate to bring out the passion.”

I don’t have to feel the emotion strongly to write strong prose, but absolutely, I have to understand what elicits emotions in others in order to draw an emotional response from them. But there comes a place and time where writers must not manipulate the readers into feeling passionate about the character’s experience. Instead, we need to set up a scene where the reader follows the character through an emotional roller coaster and then provide an opportunity for the character to reflect on that now-past shattering event. While the character is unpacking their own response, the reader may process theirs as well, if they choose, and if I’ve done my job as a novelist correctly.

Toiling in My “Fields”   10 comments

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

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Writing is something I can’t not do, so a lot of my process feels like breathing and breathing is usually pretty easy for most of us. Characters appear in my head , often while I’m doing something that has nothing to do with writing. There’s something about doing a big filing project, folding laundry, quilting and picking blueberries that makes my muse active. I don’t really think about it. Characters start talking in my head and I feel compelled to write down the stories they tell me. That doesn’t necessarily lead to a novel, but it often does.

I enjoy the first draft, that gravelly diamond-in-the-rough that just appears from beneath my fingers. And, I actually really enjoy the act of rewriting, of taking a rough story and improving it, pruning what isn’t necessary and adding what would enhance the tale.

And then we get to the critique and editing portion of the process. Submitting for critique is scary because you don’t know what people are going to think of your story and it’s just possibly that you’ll discover you’re crazy. I haven’t had that experience in submitting to sane people. I did have a Authonomy review by a notoriously cruel reviewer, but his (or her, that was always uncertain) review was so vitriolic that I didn’t mourn for long. I read what he had to say and considered the points, but I used my own judgment. He made The Willow Branch a better novel, but it surely wouldn’t have been published if I’d accepted his analysis whole-cloth.

That part is scary, but scary isn’t hard. Alaska’s a dangerous place and you enjoy it a whole lot more if you’re brave. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. I’ve lots of practice overcoming scary. Nowadays I ask for beta readers before I’ve even finished the rewrite.

I’d say the hardest part of my writing process is marketing. I’m not a naturally outgoing person and I’d prefer not to have to interact with people to sell books, but alas, I’m not independently wealthy so I have to market my books myself. It’s all the hours it takes and trying to balance that with time for family and writing. The good news is, based on the KENP reads, if people find my books and read the first one, they tend to read the whole series. I keep trying to find a sweet spot where the books more or less sell themselves with just some promotion, but I’m not there yet.

I’m all about doing hard things and not complaining about it. I believe it’s the key to success. So check out my author page and find your next series to love. I’ve got fantasy and apocalyptic, a political satire and anthologies. See how easy that was? Hard part taken care of.

Book 5 in Transformation Project “Gathering In” will be out sometime before the end of the year.

Open Book Blog Hop – July 22nd.   1 comment

Posted July 22, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Watch This Space   3 comments

March 25, 2019

What are the best sites you use for publicity?

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Like most writers, I didn’t decide to publish books because I wanted to market them. Marketing books cuts into writing time and I’m not sure how effective it really is. That said, if nobody knows your books are out there, they can’t read them.

So …. most effective sites …?

That I’ve used?

I am an unashamed capitalist, which means I believe my books need to support themselves in the marketplace. Yes, of course, I will give some money to my books to get them started, but I won’t pour good money after bad in hopes that if I keep doing the same thing over and over something will eventually stick to the wall.

What worked last year doesn’t necessarily work this year. My daughter tells me I need to be over on Instagram. Too bad you have to work off your phone or tablet for that, because I really hate working on tiny screens using my thumbs instead of full-sized screens using all 10 fingers.

Thunderclap gave me most exposure and the best sales bumps I’ve had from any “free” campaign I tried, but that went away last year. Pity, but that means I needed to move on.

I do belong to a few sites that for a small fee allow me to post my blurbs for long periods of time and I do see an occasional bump from these sites, but they aren’t all that useful. I also get some bump from my website occasionally. The discussions I post on Facebook sometimes gain interest for my books.

Posting in Facebook groups – not so much, although occasionally I can see a visit from that post over to my website where I hope they go onto Amazon. Twitter – doubtful. I’ve never tried Twitter ads because I really think Twitter is too ADHD for people to buy books from. I still have a presence there but I don’t waste a lot of time with it.

I do occasionally toss $20 at Facebook for an ad because I have seen verifiable sales from advertising there. And, of the sites that still exist, Facebook ads has been the most marketable. That said, Facebook has gotten far too bossy lately, so I’m not probably going to advertise through them any longer. I don’t want to give them my driver’s license. That’s a violation of my privacy and an invitation to identity theft. So unless nothing else works to sell books, I’m done with Facebook ads for the time being. I will still host discussions there until they ban me (or until MeWe or some other platform presents viable competition to the behemoth would-be monopoly that is Facebook. All is not lost, however.

Craig Martell, a fellow Alaska author who is selling about 100,000 books a year (he’s a retired attorney who is writing about 20 books a year compared to my one, so …), has convinced me to give Amazon ads a try. I’m not going to buy in as big as he does – at least not unless my small ad campaigns make a substantive dent in my sales. Again, I’m a capitalist and so I only spend money when it will net me a return. But I’m willing to experiment a little over the next year and see what happens. After all, it makes sense that people who want to buy books are on Amazon, so you’re best marketing dollars are spent on that platform. Amazon is just that much more expensive to buy-in to that I’ve hesitated, but now Facebook has given me a reason to try another platform.

Ultimately, folks, I suspect the best marketing technique is to write the next book. When I published my fourth book in the Transformation Project last fall, I set off a really good quarter of sales for all of the rest of my books and the only marketing I did was to announce (through a $20 Facebook ad) a giveaway of the first book in the series and a sale on the others. I sold more books in that one quarter than I’ve sold in the previous four years. Now, let’s see if I can manage to repeat that using Amazon ads.

I’m curious to see what my fellow bloghoppers have found works for them because they might know things I don’t know.

Posted March 25, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Daydream Writer   6 comments

When you are daydreaming, what do you dream about?

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Daydreaming is a controversial topic. When I was a kid, schools really hated daydreamers because they thought we wouldn’t learn whatever nonsense they were trying to teach us. Yeah, I mean you, Mrs. Fischer.

And apparently, some neuroscientists worry that adult daydreamers may fixate on negative emotions and harm themselves, so they suggest we don’t daydream.

Other neuroscientists point out that we’re more likely to be creative if we daydream and that some of the greatest leaps in human intellectual history may have been a result of daydreaming.

I think there’s merit to all three of these arguments, but I also see problems with all three. The fact is daydreaming is a great creative tool that can distract from the world around us and can lead us into dark places … or light places as well.

I love to daydream. I get a lot of writing done while I daydream. And my best daydreaming times are:

  • 1) when I’m trying to fall asleep at bedtime;
  • 2) when I first wake up in the morning;
  • 3) when I’m on a long car trip;
  • 4) when I’m doing something boring and mundane at work.

Seriously, the more boring the job, the more productive I will be at writing when I get home that night. Filing doesn’t really require a lot of mental effort, so why not put my brain to productive use?

I try to spend at least a half-hour stretching before I get up in the morning. There are health benefits to this, but I also tend to daydream/pre-write while I’m doing it.

I almost never fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow, so why not use that half-hour or so to think about something writing-related?

Alaska is a big state and it takes 5-7 hours (depending on season) to drive from Fairbanks to the “big city” of Anchorage. And, while most of my attention is on the road while I drive, daydreaming keeps me from zoning out and potentially falling asleep at the wheel.

I don’t often plan what my mind will work on in the daydream state. It’s whatever my imagination wants to focus on. Sometimes it’s a conversation between characters. Sometimes it’s a beautiful scene of fantasy landscape. Sometimes it’s a character having an emotional rant about something that is unfair in his/her “life”. I welcome it. I embrace it. And then when I’m able to, I sit down at the computer and I transcribe it. Sometimes I’ve spent days working on something mentally and when I sit down at the computer, 2000 words will spill out in an afternoon. So, yes, daydreaming is highly productive for the writers among us. We only look like our minds are wandering.

Posted March 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Here Comes the Sun   7 comments

How do you recharge?

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Everybody gets tired and reaches the end of themselves at some point in life and I am no different. So how do I recharge the cells and renew my interest in life?

I work full-time, have a family, attend church and write novels on the side. And sometimes I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel and I just want to get off and go lay down to sleep for a day or a year and even that might not be enough.

My recharge methods vary depending on season, how much time I need, and what it is that has exhausted me.

Often when I’m tired, I feel cold. I think it’s my body’s way of tricking me to lay down under the covers and sleep. And sometimes that is what I do. There’s little more recharging than sliding under the covers for a full eight hours. But my internal clock appears to be set at seven hours and in the summer it’s daylight or dusk 24 hours a day, so I’ll only sleep five … maybe. A psychiatrist I used to work with at community behavioral health told me that is quite normal. Not everyone needs eight hours and, yeah, the variable light levels around here mess with circadian rhythms.

I love hot baths. There’s something so soothing about sitting in a hot bath in a dimly lit bathroom and just letting the warmth soak into your bones. Sometimes that’ll get me a full eight hours if I go to bed right afterward.

If I’ve got the time and it’s winter, we drive the 60 miles to Chena Hot Springs Resort and do our recharging there. There’s something about that drive that just gets you in the mood for relaxation. If it’s cold out, you can spend hours in the hot pools. When your core temperature reaches fever level, you just stand up into the frigid Alaskan air and cool yourself down. If you go midweek, there’s mostly Japanese and Chinese tourists there, which means conversation is limited and Brad and I can manage the drive back saying no more than “pass the water, please” and “there’s a moose” for an hour. Ah, so refreshing.

Chena Hot Springs is no fun when it’s warm out. You spend five minutes in the pools and then you’re too hot to enjoy it. So in the summer, we head out on the hiking trails. More than 95% of Alaska’s millions of acres are public lands, so a hiking trail is easy to find, though it may come wrapped in a bow of federal red tape. We finally purchased 20 acres out northeast of town. We still haven’t built a cabin on it because there are logistical issues like access and Borough taxes, but we go out there and clear brush, pick blueberries or – my favorite – sit by a shallow waterfall along the creek and watch sunbeams twinkle off the fast-moving water. Like Chena Hot Springs a part of the appeal is that it doesn’t have internet or cell phone access. It’s a day or two away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. We usually return home feeling tired and dirty, but after a shower and a night’s sleep – ah, so ready to face my life again.

Last night, we turned off the phone and closed the laptops to play bacgammon and watch a Jason Stratham movie. Why? Because we could and it feels so good to not do modern life for a while. I think we might be on a theme here.

I love going to church, studying the Bible, hearing what my fellow “ordinary” Christians think about what we’re studying, lifting my hands in praise during the song service and learning from our pastor. I’ve sat under a lot of great pastors (and a couple of duds) and they each have drawn me further along on my spiritual journey. And, sometimes when I’m just feeling empty, I flip open my Bible and do some study of my own. I suspect, I’d feel let empty less often if I were more consistent with opening my Bible before I start writing.

Oddly, the most recharging activity I know of is writing something exciting. I’m working on a short for an anthology and it’s a great story centered around a great character and I can see where he might become the center of a novel someday. And while I’ve been pouring my talent and energy into this character’s story, I can actually feel myself recharging. That might have somewhat to do with the reality of our outdoor world. We’re up to 10 hours of daylight now and I spent yesterday afternoon writing in a pool of sunlight. And when I finish the short, I’ll knuckle down to my primary project once more, fully recharged and ready to go … with short breaks for water, sunlight and family.

And there you go – Recharge!

Posted March 4, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Keeping It Fresh   4 comments

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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This was actually a hard question for me because I am always trying new things … new recipes, new hiking trails, new ideas, but those seem like they aren’t all that new because I’m always doing them. Does it count if I make a new recipe using techniques I’ve mastered decades ago? I didn’t think it did.

I eventually hit on what I am doing this November. I’ve done NaNoWriMo before as a challenge with a friend and wrote a deeply-flawed novel I have no interest in ever rescuing. I wrote myself into a corner and the main character refuses to speak to me, so it will languish on a disc in my archives and that’s probably it.

This year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo to rewrite a novel I think could be a great story with a main character that has been talking to me for two decades. When I write, I usually loop back to re-read portions of what I’ve written and to rewrite so things flow in context, but the rules of NaNoWriMo are that you write it in one run and you don’t edit. There’s no way I could do that with a new novel. I am firmly convinced the flaws of that earlier novel are a function of that process and it’s dead to me since I can’t write if the characters don’t talk to me. Apparently, I can’t even rewrite without character interaction.

This current novel concentrates on a young recovering alcoholic getting out of jail for a crime he deeply regrets. He wants forgiveness but knows he’ll never receive it. It’s loosely based on a  friend’s unfortunate years that deeply affected me when he told me about it. My novel is not his story, though he has been an adviser for some aspects of it.

What If Wasn’t has been written over several years. The plot makes sense, but a beta reader pointed out a lot of flaws. It’s episodic. The main scenes don’t appear to build on one another. It’s filled with bumper-sticker recovery language and way too much self-analysis by the main character.  A romance buds in it but I never pursued it because I was focused on the MC’s damage and painful past. The story itself needs to be deepened and made emotionally compelling.

So I’m going through and rewriting some scenes and then adding scenes that link the major scenes together. In the process, I’ve discovered a larger backdrop story that I didn’t realize existed that can act to drive some of the narrative. This time, I’m concentrating on making Peter more human and focusing not on his past, though he still has to haul that rotting baggage with him, but his way forward.

What I’m doing is a complete rewrite, save for a couple of scenes that impressed that beta reader, and I’m not looping back. Looping back is part of my established process, but this time I’m not doing that. I’ve written/rewritten 70,000 words this November and I’m getting to a great place in the story where the climax is about to happen. Peter thinks he’s ready to move forward and he’s about to be blindsided by a tidal wave he doesn’t see coming. I already wrote that – it was a point the beta reader thought worked well, but what follows it needs a huge rethink, to resolve that romance and to point Peter down the road to his future. I know there are continuity errors and that has me itching to loop back, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to write those scenes this coming week. November 30 I’m going to close the rewrite, hopefully with the last scene written, and take a break from that story.

I’m learning a new skill, a difficult skill, a discipline I am not certain I will use in the future and know I won’t make it a centerpiece of my process, but I want to see if it can be a useful tool that improves my final product, maybe something to be added to a rewrite process. It certainly has sped up the rewrite and we’ll see if the novel is improved by it. I know this rewrite is better than what was written before. I also know it won’t be the final draft of this novel.

So when was the last time I did something for the first time? I’m doing it right now. 

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