Tag Archives: Creative Writing

Write for Joy

Thea Devine today, urging you to take a time out from all the industry turmoil, questions, opinions, critiques, disappointments, marketing questions, publicity plans, and opportunities, and just sit down and write something for the pure joy of it.

Write something you want to write exactly the way you envision it and want to write it. Don’t think about editors, critique groups, beta readers, marketing requirements, anything. Just write.

Write the way you used to write before the idea of publications was even a gleam in your eye.

Write what interests you. I believe with all my heart that what interests me will interest the reader. You see that when there’s a wave of books centering on the same elements: babies, vampires, billionaires, surviving a dystopian future.

Writing for joy doesn’t require any critiquing except your own. Guard what you’ve written with all that’s within you. And you must not only like what you write, you must LOVE what you write.

If you love what you’re write, your conviction and the love shine through. A reader can tell. So write for joy because you’re a reader and there’s a story you want to tell that you would want to read.

I love what I write, every single word, even the mss that have been rejected, even things I wrote years ago.

Write for joy because it’s so liberating.

Write for joy because there’s no one standing over your shoulder saying, “you can’t.” You absolutely can.

Write for joy to reconnect with why you love to write in the first place.

And most of all, write for joy because — you can.

Have you ever written for joy? Just for you? Did you love it? Was it different? The same? Did you let go more than you thought you would?

Thea Devine is the author of more than two dozen erotic romances. She’s currently at work on a contemporary erotic romance and happy for the reissue of five of her early backlist titles in Kindle editions.

What John Said

I’m going to tell you what John said. John is the calm waters next to my endlessly churning hurricane.. John is orderly, logical and precise. I am way on the opposite side of that. So John keeps me sane during these crazy publishing times.

Arguably, every time in publishing has been a little crazy, so this is one thing John said to me when I was suffering my huge writer’s block year. He said, books get written one page at time (a journey of a thousand words?). One page at a time. If I didn’t write that one page, there wouldn’t be a page 2,3 or even page three hundred.

That was very comforting. I mean, who can’t write one page, even if it’s gibberish. But you know this writing secret – whatever you write, it’s not gibberish and it may be the start something wonderful at some point.

Or it may not. But putting words on paper is so satisfying in and of itself that it’s worth galvanizing yourself to write that one page even when you think the water’s muddy and the well is dry.

And, as it turns out, the well is never dry. The creative waters may scrape the rocks at times, but — as John said when I was reluctant to use an idea in my current WIP that I was saving for another book — there’s always another idea. Seriously. He said he’d rarely seen me run out of ideas.

Really. There IS always another idea. Aren’t our antennae always out, searching for the snippet of conversation that could be a head-snapping opening line, the thing in the news from which we can invent a high concept novel, the personal experience we can spin into an inspirational romance?

Aren’t you talking to people everywhere, listening to conversations, asking questions, reading everything, studying your husband who has had your number all the years you’ve been married?

Aren’t you trying really hard to fit a plot around the fire at the pharmacy? Are you writing everything down?

If you had to plot in 100 page chunks? That’s daunting. One page — focusing on what the reader needs to know? No problem. Only that and nothing more. Okay, got it done. Oh wait, you have to keep going — you can’t stop there. You seeded the first page with all kinds of things you need to carry forward. Keep going — page two and three, four, five … and then — maybe — the magic starts to happen.

Or not. But you’ve got a nugget you can save for another day, another plot, another WIP.
Remember what John said: you write it one page at a time, and there IS always another idea.

Thea Devine really loves John. She’s working on her next erotic contemporary romance.

THE BOOK I HAVEN’T WRITTEN

Thea Devine today.  I’m working on a variety things, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the book I haven’t written.  We all have one of those, the one you started, wrote, rewrote, set aside, tackled again, fell into a rut long before the middle, and packed away because you knew you were absolutely going to finish it — someday.  I think mine is buried in the attic right now just because I’m itching to get my hands on it and of course, Murphy’s Law, I can’t.

I started this book back when I was working for that big multi-national advertising agency I wrote about previously.  In fact, nearly everyone in the copy department, when they weren’t working on copy, was writing a book.  I had no idea what I was doing — I was maybe twenty-three or four.  I just loved to write and the intermittent stabs I made at writing advertising copy petered into one interesting idea one of my bosses used in a tv commercial she pitched which ultimately got shot down.

So definitely not copywriter material (remember I was very young).  But a book … that was a whole other story.

There was small branch library across the street from where I worked, and there I came across a pictorial history that piqued my interest.  From that I devised a scenario with an unconventional heroine,  her male friend, a missing family member (little did I know then that I had one too), an ambitious father, a prim and proper older sister, the daughter of a family friend who comes to stay with the heroine’s family, a housekeeper with a mysterious past, a stranger in town who falls for the heroine, and the town madam.

Sounds promising, right?  I had NO idea how to write it.  I started with the heroine and her male friend on an adventure, but that seemed to go nowhere.  I wrote a prologue with the missing family member, a brother, which made more sense, but then what?  Okay, so what about the daughter of the family friend?  Or better yet, what about the interconnections between the families, and why was the old friend’s daughter even there?  Yikes.  Now I had to go back and account for that somehow, but if I did that, I’d throw some other plot points off kilter.

So — send the family friend daughter back to her father.  But then, the only ones the heroine is at odds with are her sister and her father and maybe the housekeeper.  I also had the mystery of the long-gone brother permeating everything, because the heroine wouldn’t let go of the hope he’d return someday.  Well, okay.  But what if he didn’t?

Put the mss aside for a bit.  And then — start the story with the stranger coming to town who will fall for the heroine.  How do they meet?  Should they meet?  What’s his business in town anyway?  Is he a good guy or is he dangerous? Did I really have to know all that before I started writing about it?

You bet.  And worse, as I continued flailing along, the daughter of the family friend started taking over the story. She was beautiful, greedy, outspoken — that girl could have been the heroine but that wasn’t how I envisioned the story. I wanted unconventional girl to be the heroine.  She flouted conventions.  She was at odds with her family.  She had more at stake.  Wait — what did I mean by that?  So time to put the thing down and think about it some more.

So I thought about it some more — like, oh, 40 years, and now, even though there are days I don’t think I know what I’m doing, I do think I finally know how to write this book. I think it could be pretty good.

I could be wrong.

I still haven’t found the original mss pages I wrote, but I do remember the plot points.  I’m thinking I should just start all over, divef in and see what happens. We all should start all over and see what happens.

After all, we all know how to write it now.

Do you have a book you haven’t written?  Or you want to write?  Or never want to tackle ever, even though the idea of the story haunts you?

Thea Devine is working on her next erotic contemporary romance (and peripherally the book she hasn’t written).  Her sequel to The Darkest Heart. Beyond the Night, will be a September 2013 Pocket Star release.

Three Chords, One Premise, A Dozen Changes

Thea Devine today, remembering how my mom loved country music. She had a really nice singing voice, and oh, be still my heart, she could yodel.  I mean, really yodel, with that back of the throat crick that you can’t just learn ( I tried).  And folk music. Mom loved folk music;  Burl Ives.  Susan Reed.  Names you probably don’t know any more.  Names I grew up with so of course, I was going love folk music as well. All that came to fruition in college when I met a guy and he gave me a guitar.  And book on How To Play.

The guy didn’t last.  The guitar did.  I painstakingly practiced those three major chords, C-F-G, until I was proficient enough to play “To Everything Turn Turn Turn,” and then there was no stopping me.  I mean, do you know how many songs you can play if you know three chords?   If you can figure out progressions?  Or learn tablature instead of music?

John and I lived in the Village when we were first married.  We spent a lot of time in folk clubs.  Saw Buffy Ste. Marie, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Fred Neil, John Hartford, David Blue — names perhaps you don’t know any more.  Names I grew up with.  I never stopped playing.  I don’t play well, but I love to play, learn songs, and write lyrics and chord them, as much as I love to write books.

It occurred to me that story premises are kind of like chords.  That you can play a dozen plots off of one premise just like you can play any number of songs off three chords:

(C)   the heroine is running (from, to)

(F)     her (ex, her past, her future, the  consequences of her actions, her childhood nemesis, her inheritance, her sisters, her stalker)

(G)    and complications (bad guys, the hero, her presumed dead husband, a                 long lost friend, the death of a sibling, a quest) ensue.

Add an A-minor — obstacles:  no money, trapped in a blizzard, electricity goes out, she lost her job, a parent dies, a serial killer is after her, all of the above — and voila.  The makings of a plot, which can twist in any one of several directions as you figure out who “she” is, what she’s running from, and which of the complications are going to prevent her from getting to her goal.

But I expect those of you who play know all this.  However, it’s comforting to fall back on when plot seems like a foreign word and everything you come up with feels like you’re duplicating every storyline ever written.

But, three chords: dozens of songs.  One premise, dozens of variations.  Really, it’s true, it works.

Do you play?  Do you write lyrics?  Did you ever think of plot in terms of chords? Does it help?

Thea Devine is the author of twenty-five historical and contemporary erotic romances and a dozen novellas.  She’s currently at work on her next erotic contemporary romance.

“It Does What I Want It To”

Thea Devine today, romanticizing perhaps, a long ago moment that’s stayed with me all these years.  My husband and I were in the living room and my youngest son was at his father’s desk fiddling around on my portable IBM Selectric (yes people, there was a portable Selectric back in the day, complete with canvas carrying case).  He must have been four or five at the time, just pounding away, when he suddenly looked up, his face all lit up, and exclaimed: “It does what I want it to!”

Even after all these years, I just LOVE that idea — because it could have meant the machine, or it could have meant (I prefer to think) the words.

Words did what he wanted them to.  As in, he chose the words, put them together and they expressed what he wanted them to.

Words do what WE, the authors, want them to.

When we let them.

How often we don’t.

When they scare us to death because they mean commitment and we’re not ready for that long-term relationship with a particular WIP.

When we’re facing a blank screen and the prospect of filling four hundred more of them with what, how many words??  Or there are still three hundred and fifty empty I-can’t-think-of-a-single-plot-point pages to write.

I know this:  if you’re staring at a blank screen, you can always write something, It doesn’t have to be for your WIP of the moment. It can just be.  But you always have words, even if sometimes it feels like they’re out to get you.  Or it may feel like they’re fighting you — and winning, and that you can’t write a grammatical sentence to save your life or a description in fewer than fifteen pages.

Well, everyone — this is a call to action.  People, take control!  Re-assess those soggy sentences, wrangle those restless verbs, slice and dice those irritating adverbs, show those pushy participles who’s the boss, and you will finally and happily make those wayward words  do what youwant them to.

Has your child ever said something that struck you as being relevant to writing?  Do you feel mocked by that empty screen?  If you felt you had control of words, would that help or hinder you?

Thea Devine is the USA best-selling author of twenty-five erotic historical and contemporary romances, and is just finishing Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart to be released by Pocket Star April 2013.

Another Moment, Another Lesson

Thea Devine here, confessing that quite often I feel like I’m at the prom without a date.  Although, since I didn’t go to prom, maybe that analogy isn’t quite apt.  (But there was that senior high school dance where I was helping out, when a classmate said so pityingly, “Oh, don’t you have a date?” It scarred me forever.)

Anyway, it used to happen especially when I had to go alone somewhere I didn’t know anyone.  I just dreaded it.

So I was quite taken by this moment that happened the year we delivered my oldest son to freshmen orientation, where, that evening, we were among the hundreds of guests invited  to a reception at the home of the president of the university.

We were with my son’s roommate’s parents, and we were watching a petite woman make her way among the crowd, stopping to greet people and ask whether they had a son or daughter at the school.  A few moments comparing notes and she went on to the next group of guests.

I was admiring how she’d taken the initiative so easily among a multitude of strangers.  When she finally came to us, someone  behind us thought to ask, “Who are you?”  It turned out she was the wife of a famous politician, whose son was in that freshman class as well, and she chatted with us for a few moments and moved on.

A politician’s wife.  Who would know more about how to work a crowd?

But for me, it was a magic moment, completely divorced from who she was.. This, I thought, was how you conquered those prom feelings.  How you’d deal with being shy and feeling out of place.  How you became a fish swimming in water instead of flopping around on the riverbank.

You ask the other person to talk about him or herself.  Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?  Maybe you don’t ask who they are or what they do.  Maybe, like my boss I wrote about in a previous post, you say, tell me everything.  People do, trust me.

I mentioned this moment to a very shy and retiring friend of mine because I was so taken with the lesson, and I was kind of floored when she exclaimed, “Oh I know her!”

Of course.  So I wrote about it — a short story, about 1000 words.   Of course.  What else would an author do?  That’s precisely what those moments are for.  To learn from, and to make fiction from.

Of course.

Are you shy?  Do you feel like you’re at the prom without a date?  Have you ever had a magic moment in a crowded room? (Falling in love counts,)

Where do you get your ideas?

Hi!  J here.  Happy Saturday to you.  I thought this would be a nice little post, coming on the heels of Casey’s ‘Break The Rules’ post yesterday. 

I finished college more than a coupla years ago, but less than a couple of decades ago.  I graduated with a BA in English Literature and a concentration in Creative Writing.  I took every Creative Writing class UConn offered and in every one the professor said, “Write about what you know.”  At the time, I didn’t want to do that.  What I knew, then, wasn’t very interesting to me and I wanted to write exciting things.  Why on earth would I write about what I knew?

Here I am ~ cough, cough ~ years later and suddenly, I get it.  A good writer should be able to find a story in anything.  Everything. 

For example: it’s 10pm and 88 degrees in my library as I type this.  No, I do not have the heat on.  It’s crazy HOT this week.  I could write about that.  Not just complain about it, but what does this kind of heat do to the psyche?  What if my characters experienced this kind of heat?  How would they react?  Especially Kayla who has barely ever left Maine in her short little life.  Might she give up and let the bad guys win the day?

Dixie & Taco Go To Grandmother's House

How about this one: my little Dixie just finished Kindergarten and I during the year, she experienced some struggles with reading.  She had 35 sight words that she had to be able to read in a sentence, spell, write, define and use in a sentence.  Tough stuff for a 6-year-old.  We practiced reading but the picture books she picked usually had some problems.  We never seemed to find all the words, mostly “and” and “the”.  It got to a point where I’d be reading a story and I’d pause at a word for her to read but she’d roll her eyes at me and guess saying, “the, the, the”.  She had 35 sight words for heaven’s sake!  I couldn’t remember them all to point them out while exhausted and reading at 8:00 at night.  If I did remember, she often freaked out and yelled that ‘this’ wasn’t one of her words.   If I asked her to read the book, sometimes she’d tell me she couldn’t see the words because the font was too small or too funky  Or the words were all over the page and she didn’t know where to go next.

So I wrote her a story that solved all those problems.  Dixie and Taco go to Grandmother’s House uses all 35 sight words somewhere in the story.  And they are in blue font instead of black.  This way, I remember to let her read them and she can’t freak out on me.  (If any of you have a 6-year-old girl, you know what I’m talking about re: the freak out.)   And the text is in a large, easy to read font, placed in a consistent spot from page to page.

I took what I knew and incorporated it into the story.  I built the story around what I knew, in fact.  Maybe I’m a little slow on the uptake, but “Write about what you know” doesn’t have to be like real life at all. 

I like to read and write adventure stories.  Fun, light-hearted, not-in-any-way-like-reality stories.  My stories should be like a movie playing in your head, where you get to star in all the good roles and cast whomever you want to play opposite you.  But that doesn’t mean that I have to make up every aspect of the story.  I steal good stuff from reality all the time, and bend it to fit where I want it.  That’s part of the fun of being a writer. 

So here’s today’s secret: Write about what you know, but not necessarily the way that you know it.  Bend it, braid it, blend it, buff it.  Make it new, not just something you knew.