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Collaborative Writing

         

 Writing is often a very individual endeavor. But sometimes collaborative writing can bring a wealth of inspiration, experience, knowledge and support.

I always loved writing and have written a certain amount of articles, ideas and started my share of novels. Then there was a period of time when either life was getting in the way of writing – too much work, no energy, too tired – or any number of fears and inhibitions.

It was the decision to work on writing a novel as collaboration with a dear friend that pushed me out of the slump. First we had a few meetings to hash out our story. Then we started meeting once a week, after our karate trainings. We would go to the same diner every time, our favorite one (which closed down since then to our disappointment) and work on our novel while devouring the food to satisfy our ravaging appetites after a good workout. Suddenly, I had very real deadlines to keep to. We would divide up the chapters and work on them during the week, then bring them to our meetings. At times, we would reach a point where we had to hash things out further, work on developing the characters or outline the next chapters. The brainstorming of ideas was almost always gratifying, not once sending us into fits of laughter that would alleviate the frustration and aggravation of being stuck any day.

This was a really big push in my life for my writing aspirations. I now had more of a purpose and less of that gnawing fear that what I would write would not be good. A fear that I’m sure many writers have felt.

The collaboration have also taught me new techniques, new ways of writing. Our writing, while distinct and individual, also meshed well together. When going through revisions, it helped to have two sets of eyes for both of our chapters.

 But above all that, however, this collaboration helped me to move forward with my individual writing, to set my own goals and deadlines more consistently and to keep to them more strictly.

We were already very dear friends when we started this collaboration project but one more benefit from it was the strengthening of our friendship.

 Have you ever collaborated on your writing with anyone? What lessons did you learn from it? Would you do it again? If you haven’t, would you consider doing one?

Motivation and Inspiration for Writing

On Inspiration and Motivation For Writing            

The “writer’s block” tag is cliché, but there’s no other way of putting it clearly. And it can occur because of various reasons, not the least of which are lack of inspiration and fear of failure.  For me personally, it often comes down to having seeds of a story but a fear that the whole story will escape me, that I will start writing and eventually I won’t know where to take the story, how to end it. And the best cure for this is to get over the fears and write. We have all heard that to write is to be brave, to be courageous (something that as a Martial Artist I try to understand every day). And, of course, the cure is to find inspiration anywhere you go and in anything you do. Because I firmly believe that a writer, same as an artist, can grab inspiration everywhere. It is our gift, it is what makes us writers and artists. Inspiration for creation is out there for us to capture. The opportunities are boundless. The key is to want to see these opportunities, to consciously identify them and use them in our work.

So here’s a few ways to find the inspiration and capture the opportunities. These are nothing new but I wanted to put them all in one place to look over every day and remember to consciously seek them out. Hopefully it can help a few of you out there as well.

  1. Listening in on people’s conversations (and no, it’s not eavesdropping when you can’t avoid the loud voice of people in public transportation or a restaurant!).  It’s not as hard as you think, especially in large cities like New York.  Overhearing people’s conversations in the subways, buses, restaurants and stores is a great way to gage the appropriate interaction and dialogue style for your own characters. Two middle-aged businessmen in a fancy restaurant will talk quiet differently than twenty-somethings hanging out in a club. A conversation between a mother and a daughter will differ vastly in style than one between a girlfriend and a boyfriend.  A dialogue will seem out of place in a novel if it does not use words and style appropriate to the characters’ age, location and time-period.
  2. Another value in overheard conversations is the seeds of stories that they might contain. Our characters may have super powers and amazing talents, but we have to base them on real people, because that‘s where our experiences are based in. And, as they say, sometimes reality can be stranger than fiction.
  3. Read, read and read some more! Personally, I usually get my greatest inspiration from books. I can’t imagine going a day without picking up a book, or at least a magazine, to read (often both!). Even on the busiest days and if it’s only for half an hour, I’ll find time to read. It helps that my commute is an hour each day.     Read books in the genre you write. Read books in other genres. Again, inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere. Plus you never stop learning as a writer and, while it’s extremely important to find your own voice and style, there’s always something that you can learn from others. It may be how to do something better or it may be how not to do something. Either way, your own writing will become better for it. 
  4. Quotes. I love quotes. I have them everywhere – pasted to my file cabinet at work, in my email, in my notebooks. They are from different people and various times in history. They are on different topics – motivation, courage, love, perseverance. But they all serve one purpose – to give inspiration. And just glancing at some every day gives me a little inspiration to do something that day.                           Post a few of your favorite quotes somewhere where you can see them every day. Sign up for “quote of the day” newsletters. Or follow twitter accounts like this one: @GreatestQuotes.
  5. Make sure to have a great support network. This network should include family members and good friends who believe in your and can push you forward or just listen to you rant and rave once in a while (I will repeat that – once in a while, not all the time!) and give you moral support. It should also include other writers, established and/or aspiring and those who can critique your work in a meaningful and productive/constructive way. It’s helpful to tell people in your support network of your goals because then you have more of a motivation to actually keep them.
  6. Capture your inspiration and motivation everywhere. Go out for walks and observe nature. Carry a notebook with you and write down descriptions of locations, weather, how the light hits a lake at different times during the day, everything! Describe people’s facial expressions when they’re on their way to work compared to their expressions when they’re on their way from work. Note the obvious and the minute differences. Some of these notes will remain just that – notes, scribbles. Some of them you may end up incorporating into your work. But just the act of writing will get you motivated and inspired to write more! Believe me, it really works.
  7. Be brave and write. Don’t be afraid of failure. Because if you don’t start something, you will never have an opportunity to finish. If you don’t let yourself do something and suck, you will never know if you had an opportunity to see something you’ve done/created become a success!Again, I know you have all heard this before and it is nothing new. It’s been said in many different ways by many people. But take some time to really meditate on these concepts and see what that meditation takes you.

Now go and write! You’re still here?

What are other ways you know of motivating and inspiriting yourself or others to write? Please share.

Martial Arts in novels

Martial Arts have always been my passion. I don’t remember exactly how it all started, but as long as I can remember, the fighting arts (key word is arts) held my interest. You may wonder if I’m a violent person by nature. The simple answer would be I am not. But it’s too simple. I believe we all have violence in our nature to an extent. It’s how you chose to channel it that makes all the difference. Let’s be honest here, not many of us would shy away from violence when it comes to protecting ourselves or our loved ones. Now, don’t be too fast to deny that. Think about it first. Would you do what you have to do to protect your child or your spouse? Would you use violence if necessary? I should hope so.

But Martial Arts are not about violence, not at its core.  It’s about learning to defend your life and the life of those you love. But it’s also much more. In Japanese, “martial fighting technique” is called bu-jutsu. It is quite different from the term bu-do, which means “the martial way”, the way referring to the way of life. What differentiates the two, besides the obvious, budo encompasses a lifelong pursuit for the perfection of character and technique, while bujutsu is just that – learning to fight with no concern for one’s personal development as a human being. One of the main precepts of the Japanese style of karate called Shotokan is “to seek perfection of character”. This is what got me involved with Martial Arts in the first place.

I love when I find a novel where the hero or the heroine is practicing a form of Martial Arts.  I mean, I enjoy any kick-ass heroes but I feel that the actual practice of Martial Arts by a character lends them more depths and gives more of a glimpse into their personality. Generally, it would tell the reader that this character has enough patience and diligence and willpower to push their bodies and minds for years and reach for something beyond the physical. The training scenes in particular often reveal much  about a particular character. It also humanizes them, makes them more easily relatable.

Here are just a few examples of the novels with a character that practices Martial Arts or has some kind of a connection to it. These are novels that I really enjoyed reading and would suggest.

The Ninja Series by Eric Lustbader – Martial Arts in this series has an almost mystical nature but nevertheless, it makes for a great character and interesting insights.

A Devil In the Details by K. A. Stewart – I’m partial to the Japanese Martial Arts, so I’m partial to Jesse’s way of life and connection to bushido. Lots of quotes and mentions of such great classics as the Book of Five Rings and the Art of War.

Night’s Cold Kiss by Tracey O’Hara – Includes good training scenes

 Please add your favorite novels with Martial Arts connections.

Plans for the year ahead

It’s 2011 out there and I had a couple of weeks to think about what I want to accomplish this year. So far this year (or at least this month) has been fairly productive and I hope to keep my enthusiasm and productivity for the rest of the year. Sometimes it’s so much easier to give up (especially after the rough year that just passed) but it’s so much more fun to push forward!

As of yesterday, my writing partner Tina Moss and myself have finilized the revision of our manuscript and have sent out more queries. Although editing and revising is never easy and usually is not a favorite activity of most writers, this time I actually found it enjoyable. Perhaps that is because I love to see how the story is smoothed out and made better by the revisions. Having said that, sometimes you want to bang your head against the wall during this process.

But now it’s time to step away and concentrate on other projects, one of which is continuing our work on the manuscript of book 2 in the series. I’m also in the concept stage of figuring out my project on an urban fantasy invovling martial arts (my other favorite activity besides writing).

Speaking of martial arts, the women’s classes I teach at our dojo (karate school) have been fun planning and executing lately. But I also have to concentrate on getting back to my own training heavy duty and maybe start thinking of getting ready for my second degree black belt…(Oooo, did I just say that? *Scampers back into a corner and hides face from the amount of work this entails*)

So on with the new year and may it be a productive one!

What are your goals for this year?

P.S. RIP Captain Kirk!   

You were an amazing cat!

Life gets in the way of writing

It can be very frustrating when life literally gets in the way of writing. You give yourself goals, get yourself excited about writing but just can’t get to it, sometimes for days at a time because there’s something else going on in your life that takes all your physical and/or emotional energy. I find myself going through this right now. Even if I find a little time to sit down in front of the computer and write, my head is just not in it. My head and my emotions are entirely on a different project which, at the moment anyway, seems so much more important for my life that there is no question of what the priorities are. But meanwhile, I fully understand that the longer I don’t go back into the writing mode, the harder it will be to go back to it.
How do you handle the problem of “life getting in the way of writing”?

Well, I’m finally here!

My website is under construction by my wonderful co-author Tina Moss and it looks really great, so I’m excited. Hopefully, it’ll be up in the next couple of weeks. I’ll start blogging the good stuff at that point.

We’re still sending out quiries for our finished paranormal romance novel, the first in a series.  Fingers crossed!