Dramaquill's All Things Writing

March 27, 2008

The Power of Chocolate

With Easter just behind us and several chocolate eggs still sitting on my counter, I am reminded of the many comments I’ve read over the years on writers’ forums and listserves.

A writer posts the sad news of yet another rejection.  His/her fellow writers chime in with supportive comments and one common suggestion:   Eat some chocolate.

Another writer posts the jubilant news of an acceptance or even better, a payment from a publication.  His/her fellow writers chime in with congratulatory comments and one common suggestion:  Eat some chocolate.

As I stare at a small pile of brightly wrapped chocolate eggs, I begin to wonder why chocolate seems to be the treat of choice, whether it’s to console the rejected writer or help the published writer celebrate a success. 

What exactly is the power of chocolate?

One site online suggests that chocolate effects the same parts of the human brain as marijuana, however, it would likely take 25 lbs. of the yummy confection to create the same buzz as smoking one joint.

Another website tells of a study where the results suggested eating chocolate might actually enhance cognitive performance, including verbal and visual memory.

And I’m sure we’ve all heard that dark chocolate, in small doses (like the equivalent of 2 Hershey kisses/day) is actually good for our hearts.

There are even studies debating the positive and negative effects of chocolate on our moods. 

But as writers, does any of this apply to our reasons for eating chocolate as we are subjected to the ups and downs of the writing biz?
I don’t think so!

The power of chocolate is that it makes us feel good – at least temporarily. 

Now put down that chocolate easter egg and get back to the business of writing.

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March 16, 2008

Getting inside your characters

We’ve all read articles aimed at helping us create more believable, three-dimensional characters.  We’re told to give them mannerisms or expressions that make them unique.  Most likely we’ve gone to coffee shops or food courts to people watch, scribbling character descriptions into our notebooks.

And that’s all good.  Listening and watching are two very effective ways to add depth and believability to the characters we create.  We want our readers to identify with them as people and care about what happens to them.  That keeps our readers reading.

I’ve tried something new for a couple of recent projects, one an MG book and the other a YA chicklit type novel and it has really helped me shape my main characters into “real” people.

I’ve created a journal for each of them – not the online kind but an actual, handwritten journal in a journal book.  Even picking out the book to use helped me define more of each character’s personality. 

My MG character half prints and half writes in her journal.  Sometimes she uses short forms, like the text message kind except they are her own creations.  My YA heroine likes to dot her i’s with little circles instead of dots and her writing is very feminine and flowing. 

I don’t write in the journals everyday, but whenever I’m working on an aspect of the story where my character might have something to say that won’t make it into the actual pages of the book, that’s when I let them journal.

Who knows – maybe some of the journal entries might end up in the manuscript, but I doubt it. 

But sadly, there’s one downside.  I rarely write or reflect in MY journal anymore.  Oh well.  Until I use myself as a character in a book, I guess it’s really not necessary…haha!

Try it and see if it works for you.

I’d love to hear from any of my readers who try this form of character development or those who have other ways to really get inside the heads of their characters.

March 4, 2008

Sidetracked

It’s happened to all writers at one time or another, from the newbie to the seasoned author.  You’re working away at your latest project and bam…life hits you with circumstances that won’t be ignored.

So what about your writing?

Well, if you’ve got a deadline and it’s looming close, don’t disappoint your editor by missing it.  If at all possible, get the assignment finished.  However, if the circumstances won’t allow it, then contact your editor immediately and explain the situation.  But…don’t make this a habit.  If life is always getting in the way of your deadlines, your career will be short lived.

But what if it’s not anything monumental?  What if it’s just life getting in the way?

That’s what I call getting sidetracked.

Sometimes we all get busy…too busy.  Sometimes life throws us a monkey wrench (overtime at work/visiting relatives/not enough sleep) but if we really want to be taken seriously as writers, we have to find ways to keep on track no matter what comes our way.

This past week I’ve been at a music festival with several of the singers from our studio.  Most days I had to be there from early morning until around nine in the evening.  I knew this would be a challenge as far as keeping on track with my writing.

Here are a few things I did to help get through this “crunch” time.  Maybe some of them are tools you already use or maybe they’ll give you some new ideas.

1.     Try to work ahead on a project since you know you won’t have
        much time for a few days.  (I wrote a new chapter for my novel
        revision two days before my schedule got crazy.)

2.     Take a notebook with you and jot down ideas or write even a
        paragraph or two whenever you get even a short break. (I did
        this instead of socializing on the breaks.)

3.     Force yourself to get up even 30 minutes earlier and use that
        time to write or revise.

4.     Stay up 30 minutes later and promise yourself to accomplish
        something before you head to bed (This is tough if you’re really
        tired so for many, early mornings work best.)

5.     Whenever you’re driving, use a portable recording device to keep
         track of any thoughts about your project, or keep a what to do
         list of things for the next day.

6.     Eat well and get enough rest so that you stay healthy.  Also, if you
        are sleep deprived, it’s much harder to be creative.

7.      Know that this glitch in your regular writing routine won’t last
         forever and make plans to work a little harder/longer as soon as
         you can.

8.     Don’t get discouraged if you have abandoned your project for a
        few days.  Get back on track as soon as you can.

Life can be full of sidetracks.  Don’t let your writing take a backseat to all of them.  Know when you really have no choice and when you just have to be flexible and adjust your schedule.

When our performing arts students begin preparing for an audition or a performance, I always ask them, “How badly do you want it?” whenever they get sidetracked.

You say you’re a writer?

How badly do you want it?

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