Category - Tuesday Talks

Tuesday Talks: Busting Through Writer's Block

TuesdayTalksCCochetSome writers don't believe in writer's block, some simply refer to it as being stuck or hitting a wall. Whatever you call it, it's frustrating. You feel you've nowhere to go, can't push through. You glare at that blinking cursor or that blank page, sitting there, waiting for you. It can happen any time, either right after a submission, when starting something new, or during a work in progress. I've had both.  I have my story to work on. I want to work on it, yet when I sit down in front of my PC, nothing happens.

I've started plotting out all my books, outlining everything that happens which has helped me a huge deal in getting it done, and motivating me, but what if you can't get the plotting? What if the story isn't coming to you? You've hit a wall before you've even started.


There's a reason all those great ideas, scenes, and pieces of dialogue come to you as you're falling asleep. You're doing your best to relax your body and mind, you're allowing yourself to do nothing but rest, something I know I find difficult to do during the day. I feel that if I'm just sitting there thinking, even if it's about my story, that I could be doing something, that I'm somehow wasting time, and it keeps me from relaxing. So what to do? I pick a slot of time where I tell myself I'm allowed to do nothing but think. I put my feet up with a pad and pen next to me, and I think about my story, what tone I want it to have, who my characters are. I ask myself all sorts of questions about them.

  • Music and Setting the Mood: Another thing that helps me greatly, is music. I'll pick music that fits the tone of my story, and I start playing around with scenes that would fit the music. Sometimes that one scene will kick things off. For example, I was stuck on how to start Jack's book. This was messing with my mojo and the rest of the book. I allowed myself an hour to just sit and think. I knew I wanted to start out light and fun. I put on a jazzy, fast-paced song, fun with a bounce in its step, and BANG! A party, a Christmas party. The annual Silver Bells Christmas Ball where the first book ended would be a perfect place to open this book. As the music played, I could see my fellas enjoying themselves, and that got the ball rolling. What would be the consequences of this party? That led me to the events which would make up the second chapter. What were the results of that encounter? And it went on and on from there. The block was obliterated.
  • Prompts: If music doesn't do for you what it does for me, think of a situation that would be relevant to your story, and write out a scene between your characters. It doesn't matter if you'll end up deleting the whole thing. It gets you into their heads. Write out a big quarrel between them, some major angst, or maybe a sweet scene, some kissing or making up. Find a prompt and just write. The point is to get into the flow of things again. Even if it's just dialogue. I often kick things off with dialogue. My fellas love to talk.
  • Read: Another way to get the gears moving is to read. Read a story of the same genre as the one you're writing. Sometimes, taking time away from my characters and spending it with someone else's makes me want to get back to my fellas. Sometimes I'll go back and revisit a work in progress I haven't touched in a while, not with the intention of working on it, but because reading my writing sometimes gives my brain a jump-start.
  • Allow yourself some time away: Telling myself I have to work on something is a surefire way to bring it to a screeching halt. Now if I take myself away to read or watch a movie, tell myself I can't write for a while, I find myself needing to get back to my story. The longer I pull myself away, the more I'm dying to get back to it. I allow myself to make quick notes, but I don't sit there and start working things out. It's funny how the mind works.
Most importantly, just write! There's time to edit later.

How about you? What do you do when you get stuck?    

Tuesday Talks: Between Plotters and Pantsers

TuesdayTalksCCochet180As a writer, one of the questions I'm asked often is in regards to plotting. "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" What if you're a combination of both? I can safely say I fall somewhere in between. I don't plan out every single detail before I start my story, nor do I sit down in front of a blank document and allow my muse to take the wheel. Heaven knows where I'd end up.

My method of writing has been changing and evolving since writing my first short story for publication. I was once a panster, but I soon discovered I needed some form of structure. Before I start writing any story, I allow myself time to brainstorm my plot, get to know my characters, research my setting, and figure out POVs. I ask myself what my story is going to be about, what's going to happen, what's the tone, then I start collecting information into my Evernote, everything from inspirational imagery, character descriptions, to maps. After I've done this, I start a loose outline.

CCOutlineInitially, it's more a list. At first, it's very basic, a rough sketch of what's happening to who and when, conflicts, resolutions, and timing. There's pages and pages of information, of ideas, and snippets of conversations. Later, as I start developing my story, and as my characters become fleshed out, I start adding to this list, removing, changing, and eventually I start breaking off chapters, expanding on those until I've planned out each one. Here's an example of an early outline for Johnnie's book (click image for full view). It might look like a list of random words to you, but I know exactly what they represent. Sorry, no spoilers, you cheeky monkey.

I have a notebook for each book or series, and I start everything out handwritten. When my list starts growing, I start typing it up. Soon I end up with a nice little synopsis of my whole book, yet at the same time, I've given myself room to let inspiration flow. If my characters decide to take a different direction, I go back to my list/outline and make the necessary changes.

I try to write straight through when I can, but if a particular scene comes to me, or inspiration hits, I never put it off. If I ever sent anyone a WIP they would run screaming in the other direction. It's usually a mass of random chapters, paragraphs, and scenes with highlighted bits, a bunch of *** and notes to myself, but that's fine because it doesn't have to make sense to anyone but me. It's a first draft, and the last thing I want to do is interrupt my flow.

With my historical stories, I research enough details beforehand to give me a sense of time and place, the bigger picture, while smaller details are researched later. I tend to work out big emotional scenes first because they have a habit of sweeping me away which helps with flow.

I need some structure to guide me toward that HEA and keep me from wandering aimlessly, but I still need the freedom to let my characters surprise me, and well, these fellas have a way of changing their own destinies.

Conclusion: Write however it feels right for you and don't think because you've been doing things a certain way for a long time that you can't change. There's no right way or wrong way, as long as you get there in the end.

What about you? Are you a plotter, pantser, or both?

Tuesday Talks: A Hero's Heart. Who's Your Favorite?

TuesdayTalksCCochet180Hello all! Welcome to another Tuesday Talks. Today I'm asking about our heroes of romance. We all have out favorites who we love to read and write about. The bad boy, the boy next door, the alpha male. Something about them makes our hearts beat fast and our knees weak. They keep us glued to the page or the silver screen.

The Tortured Hero

I admit, I love reading and writing about these heroes who always pull at my heartstrings. What is it about these fellas that I love so much? For me, it's not just about piling on adversity or angst, it's about characters who have truly struggled and somehow found a way to persevere. A character doesn't have to be an alpha male to be a tortured hero. One of my most troubled characters is Chauncey Irving, from The Auspicious Troubles of Chance--though I would stick to calling him Chance or it could get ugly. He's not a big tough alpha, but he is a force to be reckoned with. I love my fellas, but Chance is one of my favorites. (Shsh, don't tell the others!)

GC - ChanceChance is a tortured hero, not only because of the circumstances he found himself in throughout his life--some within and some out of his control, but for Chance, like some of my other heroes, there is no magic cure. His past broke him, and although he wanted to move on, to make a better life for himself, he just couldn't find a way to do it, and in the end, he learns he can never truly leave it all behind. His pain is a part of him, but he manages to turn his life around and find happiness with help from those he comes to care about, his unconventional family who teach him he doesn't have to go at it alone.

In His CornerCCochetChance grew up on the streets of New York City in the early 1800s after running away from the orphanage his parents dropped him off at when he was just a kid. He survived on his looks and his smarts. He gained everything he had ever wanted only to lose it in one fell swoop. This set him on a path of self-destruction. Booze, drugs, violence, and lots of meaningless sex. He didn't care about anyone, least of all himself. He wanted to be a better man, but didn't know how. His desperation leads him to the French Foreign Legion in the 1920s, where he meets Jacky Valentine--his new commandant, a man who his superiors believe can set Chance straight--so to speak, as well as the three misfit teens Jacky has taken under his wing. With Jacky and the 'brats', Chance learns that not only is he capable of love, but that he deserves it as well.

You can read the blurb here or Chapter 1 here.

Warning: Story contains good old fashioned romance, foul language, and a good amount of grumpiness. Pet names such as hummingbird, snugglepup, and buttercup may be used to infuriate said hero.  

What's your favorite type of hero to read or write about? What kind of hero do you want to see more or less of?

Tuesday Talks: Motivation Cultivation

TuesdayTalksCCochet180Hello all! Welcome to another Tuesday Talks. Today I'm yammering on about motivation. I consider myself to be very lucky. I have the opportunity to do what I love. I've sacrificed a good deal in order to do that, but I still consider myself very lucky. It should come as no surprise when I say being an author isn't easy, and although I knew that when I started this venture, I really had no idea.

Being an author is more than just writing, it's being part of something bigger. There's a lot more to do than finish that manuscript. The whole process is rather crazy when you think about it. I sit down with an idea, work and work until that idea blossoms and characters become real, a story emerges, type, type, type until it's ready--though to you it never feels ready enough. After the initial readying of your manuscript, with the bouts of "oh-my-god what if they don't like it", comes the putting on your big girl/boy pants, preparing your synopsis after the initial groaning and moaning and "how am I supposed to condense 100k into 5 pages?!!", you survive that, sort out your blurb, general description, feel your heart beating against your chest as you compose your email to the publisher, remember to attach everything--very important, and hit send. Then you wait, wait, wait, oh my god you wait.

ccworkIn the meantime you work on something else. You blog, and tweet, and post to Facebook. you play Candy Crush Saga, and you say "please" every time a new email enters your inbox, and you wait some more. You try not to let it get to you that everyone seems to write so much quicker than you, that new contracts are popping up every day like daisies, that everyone seems to be celebrating, and you wait. You mope and play more Candy Crush and then one day, out of the blue, you open your email, and there it is. New contract. And you squee so loud they can hear you in Jersey. Then a few months later, you start your edits, and in between you blog, and you tweet, and you Facebook, and as the day gets closer you start to freak out because "what if they hate it?!" and then you have to figure out what you're going to do for your launch, and you have to write how many blog posts? Galleys, and cover specs, and then your baby is unleashed upon the world.

You feel proud and happy and a little queasy, and you do your promos, and you start getting the reviews in, and some make your heart soar and some tear you apart, some are beautiful and some are just plain mean, and you keep going and going until the time comes when you start the whole process over again. There's gallons and gallons of coffee involved, sleepless nights, stress, and headdesk moments. You have a dozen social media platforms to keep track of, a community to be a part of, a family who's trying to drag you away from your PC, and you grab your keyboard because Ha! it's wireless, and take it with you as they wheel you away--I knew I should have gotten a chair without wheels! What's the signal range on this thing? And you have days where you wonder what the hell you're doing with your life and why? And then you pull yourself together and get your keister back behind that desk.

yepSo no, being an author isn't easy, but I love it, and I'll toil and work, and not sleep, and fret, and do it all over again because I love what I do, and I love all my readers, and I love all my author friends, and I love my publishers, and I love my reviewers, and it's one big love-fest. It's not easy, but you pick yourself up and you try, one day at a time, and you do your best, and you KEEP GOING because you're important and what you do is important, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! There's ups and downs, but it's worth it. It's hard work, but you keep going. You find ways to keep yourself going, because the world needs stories, and people to read those stories, and someone's gotta do it, so what are you waiting for?

How do you keep yourself motivated?


Tuesday Talks: Relationship Drama-Rama

TuesdayTalksCCochet180Hello all! Welcome to this week's Tuesday Talks. Today I'm rambling on about something that comes up quite often in reviews: Conflict. In every book, the characters face conflict, whether internal or external, sometimes one or the other, at times both. When it comes to writing romance, one conflict which is usually a given is the relationship between the main characters. Will they get together? Won't they? If they're an established couple, does something come between them?

Then among the characters relationship there's external conflict as well. Someone's trying to kill them, people are out to separate them, aliens have landed and the fate of the human race is down to Carl and his sexy lover. I've been told, the more conflict the better, but sometimes, the main conflict in the romance is simply the relationship and the struggles the protagonists have to face to attain their happily ever after.

I've read plenty of romances where the main focus is the relationship. Heck, I've got a few myself. One thing I'm seeing is reviews where folks are saying something akin to: there was no conflict, or the story was boring, nothing happened, it was just about the characters and their relationship. Obviously it also comes down to the reader.

If the characters are well written and I enjoy them, I'll be drawn into their world and care about what happens to them and their relationship. There doesn't need to be a whole lot of external conflict or three separate plots going on. I'm happy to read about their relationship and how they get together. Some folks believe as it's romance, the main focus should be the romantic relationship, while others believe there needs to be more to keep the story interesting.

What do you think? How much conflict do you believe a romance novel should have? Should it always include action? External conflict? Angst?  

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