Practicing Postcard Fiction

My post today is about practicing a new form of writing. New for me, that is. Postcard Fiction. Last week someone liked my post so I clicked on her icon. That led me to this wonderful blog:

http://postcardfiction.com/

I loved the combination of photos and fifty-word parameter for each story and wanted to try it. Hope you like it and if you have similar sites to recommend, please do!

Filling the Well

A crescent, an arc of landscape cradling an ocean, holds her.                                Waves entice her toes, grateful for the lick.                                                                         A crescent, an arc of landscape, a lick, and what was empty overflows.

How NaNoWriMo Changed My Writing Habit

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times Sunday magazine about how Target goes to great lengths to pinpoint our buying habits.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

What really stayed with me was the research about how our habits develop. It made me wonder if I could apply that information to understand why my writing habit changed after the NaNoWriMo challenge last November.  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

I wrote 2,000-plus words a day for a month during the nano challenge. Before that, I could be distracted by anything, even housework. It took me two years to write the 90,000-word mystery novel I’m finishing now, and about forty-five days to write 85,000 words of a new mystery using the nano schedule.

The Times article offered insight in the form of a three-step formula for creating a habit. Cue, Routine, Reward. And the author even put it in terms I could relate to by using an example of a chocolate-seeking rat.

I applied that formula to explain what happened to my writing output during nano. My cue: open my laptop; my routine: write until I hit the daily number; and my reward: watch the total number of words substantially increase each day. Deeply satisfying.

Beginner’s Mind

Beginner’s mind is what I loved about the NaNoWriMo process. It reminded me of my first mystery. I wrote it in a few months and had fun with it. I rarely stopped to edit, simply enjoying getting the story and characters on the page. But my novel didn’t attract any agents. This was before the self-publishing and eBook phenomenon. I put it in a drawer and tried again.

The next time I made sure all the parts fit before moving on to the next what if. I edited as I went. I agonized over every word, toggling between the creative mind and editor’s mind. No wonder it took so long. Now it’s being reviewed by colleagues. So far, I’ve had good feedback so the effort was worth it even though I did it the hard way.

I’m excited about digging back into my nano rough draft. Granted, writing the nano way is probably easier if you’re working with a series as I am. I already knew my core characters and setting.

How did the Nano cue, routine, reward process change my writing habit long-term?

Every day, I open my laptop, I get my writing done, and I feel good about it. Everything else is secondary. Keeping track of words might seem mechanical, but having a goal keeps me going and when I run out of ideas generated by my brain, my inner self speaks. That’s when my best writing happens.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on what influences your writing habit.

Believe

Last week I wrote about my Amherst Writers and Artists group. This week I’d like to write about another group I belong to—Sisters in Crime—an international organization that promotes the development and advancement of women writing crime fiction.

I have been a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC) International and both the Sacramento Chapter, Capitol Crimes and the Orange County Chapter for five years. This organization is made up of authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians, and others who love mysteries.

It’s where I go once a month to learn from authors who write in the “mystery” genre: cozy, hardboiled, noir, historical, sci-fi, paranormal, romance, thrillers, suspense, literary, and so on. Most recently, an author who writes the steamier romance mysteries set her story in Pelican Bay prison. That was an eye opener.

Our speakers are not always authors. They are often experts in peripheral fields such as law enforcement, victim advocates, forensics, or the medical profession to name just a few.

We are a community

We all help each other along in this organization. Experienced authors advise new writers, and some of us meet in writing and critique groups. Yesterday morning I met for breakfast with one of my Sisters in Crime to exchange suggestions on our works in progress. I can’t wait to dive in today and use her invaluable insight on my mystery. Writing is solitary work, but groups like SinC and the friendships we make help us to feel connected.

Between meetings, I visit the SinC online community where I can learn about the changing publishing scene and navigating the latest advances in social media, in addition to the craft of writing. So far, I have been a lurker. I’ll write more about that another time.

But what most often stays with me, especially at our monthly meetings, are the inspirational words the speakers leave with us, what has helped them to survive doubt and rejection.

At our last meeting, the speaker offered this:

“Believe. You will never get anywhere in this business if you don’t start with that.”

One of the reasons I started this blog was in hopes that writers attracted to this site will find something useful that might help with their own journeys. I do know one thing for sure, when one of us thrives, we all benefit.

Capitol Crimes, The Sacramento Chapter of Sisters in Crime

My First Time

What I expected: A tiny, cold tin building where fifteen or twenty people huddled in a circle in metal chairs to read from the ‘zine Jan Haag and Laura Martin put together from the drafts we wrote from prompts during our Friday and Saturday Amherst Writers & Artists group meetings.

What happened: The warm and inviting space was filled with all ages of writers and their supporters: friends, spouses and significant others who knew each other as old friends. I stopped counting at forty people. Local artists’ paintings lined the walls. People helped themselves to cookies and drinks. Latecomers happily stood at the back as Jan Haag, leader of the Friday and Saturday groups introduced each of the nineteen writers to come to the mic and read their own words from The Soul of the Narrator.

How I felt: Anxious. Would I measure up? Jealous, at first. I’m new to the group and didn’t know many people. I started to slide into that old familiar feeling of not belonging when I realized I did belong. Each person there had a first time just like me. Maybe I didn’t know everyone, but I knew my Friday group. My dog story wouldn’t be as good as some of the wonderful poets and writers in the room, but they would welcome me anyway. I knew that instinctively.

I had reluctantly agreed to read my piece at Jan’s coaxing. She said, “We’d really like it if you would read.” I’m uncomfortable in front of a group, but if Jan had asked me to stand on my head and sing opera I would have done it. She has a super power; the power of compassion.

How it ended: I read. People smiled and clapped. I went home and ate chocolate and thought about the writing group that led to my doing something I had never done before.

I’ve been working on writing a mystery series for several years. Very few people have seen my drafts. The process of writing a mystery is all about what happens next. The Friday night writing from prompts is all about what happens now. Even if it triggers past memories or imaginative flights of the future, it’s filtered through what’s in our hearts at that moment. I’ve been known to hide my feelings from myself, let alone strangers, and there I am, every Friday night writing from that place, the heart. Those glimpses of my truth make me a more honest writer, and every writer in our group inspires me with their own soul-filled writing.

It’s clear to me why many of the people who gathered at the Poetry Center on Saturday night have attended Jan’s writing groups for so many years. After a long week, where we are engaged in activities with responsibilities to others or to our outer needs, we can gather to return to our own souls to feel what’s happening now, where it always feels like the first time.