Tag Archives: CTRWA

So You’ve Got a Doubt Monster!

Welcome friends! Casey here.

Yesterday I guest blogged over at Jill Archer’s site about our favorite buddy – the Doubt Monster. Fellow CT RWA members may recognize some of this information because it was taken from a presentation I did last March. If you missed it, here’s your chance to catch up!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Many creative types proclaim that they have a Muse – a benevolent entity that encourages the artist and nourishes the soul, allowing magical prose to flow from his or her fingertips like golden honey down a river of . . . blah, blah, flowery words, blah, blah.

Puh-lease.

Me and a Muse?  No such luck. Instead, I have a Doubt Monster. In fact, if I ever had a Muse, I’m pretty sure the Doubt Monster ate her a long time ago.

What is a Doubt Monster? Let me introduce you.

The Doubt Monster is that nagging feeling while writing that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it. Definition courtesy of Jen Moncuse.

In my case, the greedy Doubt Monster messes with my confidence and rears his ugly head (yes, I believe it’s a male – no clue why, honest) at various times in the writing process. Sometimes, he nags me constantly like my brain has been Rick-rolled by an earworm (you know, an irritating song that repeats in your head over and over).

What? That never happens to you? Never mind, then.

Other times, he appears sporadically. If I’m lucky, he won’t show up until I’m almost done with the first draft.

So what attracts the Doubt Monster? (Besides Rick Astley lyrics)

In my experience, lack of certainty creates openings for the sneaky cretin. Observe:

  • If your self-confidence is shot. Hello, Doubt Monster.
  • If you received a rejection letter. Hello, Doubt Monster.
  • If you received a bad contest score or one star review. Hello, Doubt Monster.
  • If you receive an awesome five star review. Hello , Doubt Monster. (Yes, success can also freak you out with an – “OMG, how will I ever top this story? I will never write anything good again” – moment.
  • If your family doubts you. Say it with me – Hello, Doubt Monster!
  • If you’re like me, and you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop or you just expect that what you’re working on will suck at some point – yeah, yeah, Hello, #@!# Doubt Monster!

And the Doubt Monster doesn’t prey exclusively on unpublished writers. Once you’re published, he has even more confidence busting fodder to torment you with! Even multi-published, NY Times, award winning authors battle the beast.

So how do you combat this annoying creativity killer?

Don’t Feed the Monster!

1. As with any problem, identification is the key.Admit you have a problem. And take it seriously. Yup, it’s that simple. Consider the possibility that you’re staring at a blank page because you’re suffering from self-doubt. If you’re lazy, sorry. Can’t help you with that one. Maybe consider not being a writer, ‘cause, you know, writing requires self-discipline and actual work. Just throwing that out there!

2. When you are in “the creative mind” – anything should be possible and telling yourself that your ideas are dumb or won’t work is not helpful. Really. Sit back and play out those ideas to their logical conclusion. Do they work? Do you like it? Does it move the plot along? Even if it doesn’t – write it down. You know the old adage – you can’t edit a blank page!

4. Confront your Doubt Monster and root him out. What stage of writing are you in? Are you allowing your inner editor to stomp on your creative process? Do you fear imminent arrest by the Grammar Police? If yes, remember you’re not in English class anymore. You don’t have to have perfect sentences or perfect grammar while you’re drafting your story. First draft = word vomit! And that is fine!!

5. Are you worried about what everyone else will think? At this stage in writing, do not think about your critique group, readers, the marketplace or much of anything else real world related. And, seriously, who cares what anyone else thinks?

6. Tell old Doubty to shut it. Don’t feel guilty about it. You can’t hurt his feelings. See # 4.

7. Do not stop writing. Ever. That is the worst thing you can do. If you are truly stuck, work on something else for a little bit. Take a walk, read, go the movies, clean your closet. Whatever floats your boat.

Who’s seen Men In Black 3? There is a great scene in the movie where J &K are stuck trying to figure out the enemy’s next move. Agent K says – “let’s have pie.” Meaning, they will eat a piece of pie and discuss anything but the case. Believe it or not, this really does work (well, you don’t have to have pie). Sometimes, in order to solve a problem, you have to let your subconscious work it out. Doing an alternate activity and letting your mind wander can help silence the Doubt Monster.

Which leads me to my next point  . . . sometimes you need to listen to the Doubt Monster.

Wait! What?? But you just said –

– Yes, I know. There are times when you should heed the Doubt Monster’s warnings. He or she is not always wrong to make you question your work. One way to test the validity of the DM is to ask a non-writer to read your finished work. I find it helpful to use first readers whenever I complete a draft. They are not writers, but friends who will be honest and read extensively in the genre I write in.

During editing, let the Doubt Monster play all he wants. This is the time to question your plotline, pacing, word choices, and story flow. The DM can be the voice of reason. Think of

Cats don't have doubts!
Cats don’t have doubts!

it as the same instinct that prevents you from engaging in dangerous activities like jumping off a cliff or leaving your house in nothing but your underwear.

Over time, the more you write the more you’ll find a happy medium. And, I have discovered that some stories are more prone to attacks of the Doubt Monster. Many times, those books turn out to be better stories in the end and that’s a goal even the Doubt Monster can get behind!

If anyone has confidence building techniques, please share!

How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

Hello,loves. Suze here.

With CTRWA’s Fiction Fest, an annual writer’s conference held in Connecticut (this year beautiful Mystic, home of a first-rate aquarium and a seaport village museum) fast approaching, I thought it might be useful to list a few do’s and don’ts for getting the most out of a conference. By the way, there’s still time to register for Fiction Fest if you haven’t done so yet. Click here for more information.

1. DO dress appropriately. You don’t need to be attired in full business suit, spectator pumps and a strand of pearls, carrying a leather briefcase. But don’t show up in Daisy Dukes and a cowboy hat, or yoga pants (sorry!) either. Remember you will be meeting and mingling with industry professionals–other writers, potential readers, and those who have the power to sell or buy your book (agents and editors). These are people who are, or who will be, your peers or your fans. Do you want to look like a slob, a working girl, or a writing professional?

Wear something casual, but moderately stylish. A dress or skirt and cute top are always appropriate. Jeans, as long as they’re in good shape (not faded, ripped or frayed) are okay, but I would definitely pair them with nice shoes, a well-fitted colorful jacket (not denim, unless you’re actually a cowgirl), a new-looking tee shirt, and a statement piece of jewelry. A big colorful necklace or chunky bracelet not only looks great, but can serve as a conversation starter. When in doubt, watch a few episodes of What Not To Wear on TLC. Stacy and Clinton are usually right on the money about what looks appropriate and stylish and they address all body types.

That being said, there are a very, very few people–and you know who you are–who can get away with outrageous outfits like corsets and feathers. Chances are extremely good you are not one of them.

2. Related to #1 above, DO wear a bra. This should go without saying, but Bouncing Betty has been spotted at conferences. Ask Sugar Jamison.

3. Also related to #1 above, DO wash and comb your hair and wear a little makeup. You don’t need a full Clinique makeover with products expensive enough to pay your mortgage, but you’ll look and feel more professional with at least some mascara and a lightly tinted lip gloss (my favorite is Burt’s Bees in Watermelon).

4. DO bring some business cards. You can get them quickly, free or extremely inexpensively, from Vistaprint. Even if you’re just getting started as a writer, a business card with your name and email address (social media information if you have it) is essential. You’re not being presumptuous by having cards. You’re going to be meeting lots of people, some of whom you are going to want to stay in contact with–and who will want to stay in contact with you. A preprinted business card is a necessity, in my book.

5. DO bring some extra cash for the raffle. There are always tons of great prizes, and it’s a money-maker for the organization hosting the event.

6. DON’T hang out with your friends all day. Sit–and talk with–with new people at the luncheon and the workshops. I would argue that the most important part of conferences is the networking. Sure, the workshops are great, and the chance to hear a good speaker is valuable and inspiring, but you need to be making industry connections. The more people you know, the more opportunities you have. That’s just business. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Trust me on this. I am a former wallflower who now feels comfortable talking to just about anybody. If you’re at a loss for words, here are some conversation starters:

  • Hi, I’m Glenda. I came here from Vermont. Where are you from?
  • That’s a gorgeous necklace. Are you enjoying the conference?
  • You were in the BDSM workshop, weren’t you? What do you write?
  • Oh My. Wasn’t that Katy Lee who just walked by? I love her books.

See, it’s not that hard. You automatically have something in common with everyone at the conference–you love to read, and you write (or want to write). I don’t know any writer who doesn’t like to talk about writing. So don’t be shy.

7. DON’T get drunk during the cocktail hour. ‘Nuff said.

8. DON’T stalk people. If you happen to meet up with an agent, editor, or author in the ladies’ room, just say hi and maybe that you are enjoying the conference. (If it’s an author, you can tell her that you loved her last book) Don’t try to pitch your book while the stalkee is attempting to apply lipstick, blow her nose, or dry her hands at the turbospeed machine. If you are asked, that’s great. Go for it. But there’s a time and place for everything. Talking to someone in the next bathroom stall while you are each trying to do your business is not, um, good business. Again, be professional.

OK, how about you? What are your tips for getting the most out of a conference? What was the best conference you ever attended?

Connecticut RWA Fiction Fest 2013 Early Bird Special!

JOIN US! Connecticut RWA 2013 FictionFest will be Saturday, Sept. 21st at the Hilton Hotel of Mystic, CT! Come for great speakers, workshops & multiple pitch-appointment opportunities! hourglass

The keynote speaker this year is 6-time RITA Nominee & Winner and New York  Times Bestselling Author, Roxanne St. Claire. She will also hold her popular workshop on how to fix your broken scenes! I’ve taken the workshop before and can attest to its amazing benefits.roxie

FictionFest will also welcome Jim Azevedo from Smashwords for a double session workshop, and life coach and expert organizer Lisa Lelas.

And now for the bonus: Register Online at: www.CTrwa.org for an earlybird registration discount available through June 30th! Don’t miss it!

How to Speed Date your Character

Hey Scribe’s fans, PJ Sharon here. This past weekend, I spent Saturday with my writer friends at the CTRWA (CT Romance Writers of America) chapter meeting. Our usually packed monthly meeting had only about thirty members due to the New England Crime Bake conference that many of our members ditched us for attended. But even with our skeleton crew, we managed to have a fabulous time. Thanks to Jamie Schmidt, our illustrious leader for the day (that’s her in the Victorian garb and the funky boots), we enjoyed a most helpful exercise, called “Speed dating your character.”

Some of us took the liberty of getting into character by dressing up for the occasion. That’s me in the silly glasses (Lily’s eye shields that look suspiciously steampunky rather than dystopian but work for the costume, I think). Left to right is Christine Bundt, Jennie Francis, Angelique Meltivier, Jamie Schmidt, me, and Melanie Meadors.

 I found that becoming my character was especially challenging since I’m far from a sixteen-year-old girl and even farther from the year 2057. The exercise itself, however, was very enlightening. We divided up into groups of five or six and went around the table asking questions of each other’s characters, focusing on one person for about five  to ten minutes. Being grilled about our likes and dislikes, and the most intimate details about our character’s lives and personalities felt a bit like being on the Dating Game.

The funny thing was that as I answered questions from each person in the group, and each answer led to deeper questions, the more I felt like Lily Carmichael, my main character from Waning Moon. I had to totally put myself in her place, talking about my family, friends, what life was like in my fictional future world, and even what my hopes and dreams were. It really made me think about what my story was about and who my character was down deep. After a few minutes, I actually began talking in a different voice and even felt different inside. It was strange to answer in Lily’s voice and from her experiences in the book.

The following questions came up, which I thought really got to the core of our characters.

What are you most afraid of?

What is your greatest flaw/strength?

Who do you love/hate?

What are your hopes and dreams?

What is it like being a teenager with so much responsibility?

How do the people of the future survive and what does the future world look like?

These were only a few questions, but the idea was that we put each other on the spot and forced each other to dig deep and get to the heart of our characters. If you have critique partners or a writing group, I highly recommend you try it.

What questions do you ask your characters to get to know them better?

 

Retreat Recap

Tuesday’s Scribe, PJ Sharon here. I had the great pleasure of joining several CTRWA members this past weekend at the lovely Guest House Retreat Center in Chester, CT. We’ve been planning this weekend retreat for months, and no one was more excited than me to get away and share some quality writing time with my pals. I thought you all might like to hear about the highlights.

After checking in at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, we were all treated to a wonderful dinner and dessert before settling in for an evening of critiquing. We divided up into small groups, and each had the opportunity to share the first five pages of our WIP. This was immensely helpful to me personally, as my fabulous critique partners, Jane Haertel and Tracy Costa, convinced me yet again, that my short story prequel to my trilogy, to be released as part of the WG2E October Anthology, called SOUL REDEMPTION, actually started in chapter two. (Read my previous post about “The story starts here.”) I’m not sure why I haven’t quite mastered the art of where to start a story, but they were absolutely right and it will now read so much better.

Saturday morning, I rousted eight of my fellow writer friends out of their beds to join me in a 6:00 a.m. yoga class. I’ve been teaching yoga for about seven years now, and I love sharing a gentle, restorative practice with newbies and experienced yogis alike. Relaxed, refreshed, and energized, we had a hearty breakfast and then spent the next few hours working on our individual WIP’s in the comfort and solitude of the many nooks scattered about the quaint old inn.

After lunch—and I have to say here, that the food was simply outstanding—we gathered for an interactive debate with authors Kevin Symmons and Arlene Kay, who shared their humorous and spirited take on setting vs.character. Then we had more alone time before supper, where most of us made another dent in our weekend word count. I was able to finish all of my edits for WANING MOON, and I heard from Melanie Meadors that she broke her record of 5,000 words in a weekend. WTG Melanie!

Saturday night after a tasty Salmon dinner and blueberry cobbler—seriously, did anyone else gain five pounds this weekend—we got together for a fun-filled evening of Plotting Playoffs with our hostess diva, Jamie Pope, aka. Sugar Jamison. Our illustrious Prez, Jennifer Fusco won the big honor of the night and was rewarded with the coveted tierra, boa, and pink girly gloves—not to mention the best writer on earth certificate.

I’d like to personally thank the brilliant Jane Haertel, aka Suze Hardy, for helping me plot out Book Two of my trilogy, WESTERN DESERT. It’s going to be awesome, but I may need another retreat in the spring!

Much wine was consumed, laughs were shared, and in my opinion, the best line of the weekend came from Jennifer Yakely, another CTRWA contracted and soon-to-be published author, who said, “Historical romances are all about balls and Duke screwing.” I love writers! Don’t you?

Workin’ for the Weekend

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had one heck of a week since the last time we met here at the Scribes blog.

I’ve been super busy getting ready for this weekend, as in day after tomorrow. Our RWA chapter (CTRWA) is hosting a writer’s conference on Saturday. We’ve got 135 attendees, 15 workshops, and 15 editors and agents ready to take pitches. This year I’m involved in the planning and execution phase of the conference, and let me tell you, unless you’ve seen it firsthand, you would not bee-leeve the amount of work that goes into preparation for a conference of this size and scope. Others have worked far, far harder than I (you know who you are), so I’m not looking for sympathy here! The next time you attend a conference — even if it turns out to be not everything you’d hoped for — take the time to thank the organizers, who are probably volunteers. You could also buy them a drink, just sayin’.

Dream it and Achieve it, Baby!
In the midst of the preconference frenzy, I’ve been putting final touches on my manuscript and practicing my pitch for the agents and editors I’ve targeted as likely to want my story. Consequently, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. Very sweet. Here’s one of my family’s favorite cookie recipes. Hope you enjoy it! And if you decide to make it, could you drop a few off at my house? I just don’t have time to make my own right now!

ORANGE DREAM COOKIES

  • 2-1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. finely grated orange peel (orange part only, not the bitter pith)
  • 2 cups (or one package) white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup orange flavored dried cranberries (such as Craisins) – optional, but I like the way they “tart up” these quite sweet cookies and intensify the orange flavor
Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a larger, separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and orange peel and mix well. Stir in the dry ingredients, then the white chocolate chips and cranberries.
Drop by rounded teaspoonsful onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silicone baking mat, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until just set and very lightly browned. Don’t overbake these cookies, as the chips tend to get grainy and the cranberries get too dry.
Enjoy!  And if you’re pitching this weekend, Good Luck! I’d love to hear how you’ve prepared yourself.

What to Wear to a Writer’s Conference

I have to get something off my chest. Something that has been plaguing me for over a year. It happened in May of 2011 at my local chapter’s conference where I was happily helping out with the editor/ agents appointments. Through out the day I saw dozens and dozens of writers nervously awaiting their appointments. That day was a total blur for me and I can barely remember all the people I saw. But one person unwillingly stuck in my mind.I don’t remember her name or what genre she wrote. But I do remember what she looked like clearly.

Always Always ALWAYS!!!

And it was because she wasn’t wearing a bra. I know. I know. Who the hell does that nowadays? But apparently this unfortunate person didn’t think to put one on that day before she left the house, deciding to let her not so little girls swing free. And to make it worse she wore a neon green fuzzy sweater and jeans to her pitch sessions. I am not making this up to be entertaining. This girl, no, woman dressed like that that day.

So what’s the big deal? Well, I’ll tell you. Conferences are the places where you network. That means meeting and connecting with new people. That means making a lasting impression. Editors and agents are the people a lot of writers want to impress. They can help make your dreams come true. Doesn’t it make sense to dress to impress? The last thing you want to be known as is the writer who didn’t wear a bra.

I’m no expert but I do love to get dressed for any occasion. So I have compiled a simple list of things that are  more do’s than don’ts.

What you should wear to a conference when you are pitching…

1. Always wear a bra. Always. Always!

2. Some people would suggest wearing what you would to a job interview but I disagree.No suits. It’s okay to show your personality a little, because that can reflect your writing style. You like bright pink? Wear bright pink. Just keep it classy folks and try not to look like a bottle of Pepto.

3. Jeans–I would usually say this is a definite no. Women have so many choices out there, that they can come up with something else without much thought. But I have seen guys rock a pair of dark denmin jeans, a vee neck and a blazer, and look put together and hot. But no sneakers!

4. This kind of goes with number one but keep your girls fairly hidden. You’re pitching your book not going on a date. It’s not the right time to put the ladies on display. And on the opposite side don’t dress like a schlub. Baggy and ill-fitting are just as unattractive as tight and revealing.

You CAN'T wear this to pitch in.

5. Try to wear comfortable shoes. I personally think most comfy shoes are not fabulous but you will be on your feet a lot and you don’t want to end up looking like a scene from Thriller by the end of the day.

6. No Hawaiian shirts. Seriously unless you’re in Hawaii, or you’re Jimmy Buffett, or eighty, find something else to wear. A polo shirt works nicely.

7. Don’t look like the wait staff. Meaning black pants and a plain white top. Or khakis and a plain white top. It’s boring.

8. Don’t wear distracting stuff on your head. In my personal life I’m a fan of pretty hair accessories, head bands, crystal encrusted hair pins, flowers, but they can be distracting especially when you are trying to have a conversation with somebody. (Or is it just the ADD in me?)

9. Also, if you have facial piercings keep those bad boys to a minimum. Tongue piercings are distracting. (And a little eww if you ask me. I’ve seen two friends get it done and… Shudder)

See what I mean? Eww.

10. And finally keep your makeup clean and simple. You are not going to a night club, and if you pitch at the end of the day you don’t want to look like a gooey mess.

 It’s scientifically proven that people are attracted to pretty people. Of course your writing needs to be up to snuff to get an editor or agent to sign you, but it can’t hurt to give yourself a boost in the right direction by looking great. You want to be a successful best-selling author, then dress like one.

And I have to give a little shout out to author Sara Humprheys who looks great and well put together from head to toe in every picture and at every conference. And Kristan Higgins who always has fabulous shoes and perfectly painted nails.

Oh and one more thing CTRWA is throwing FICTION FEST and there is still room left. You can register by clicking the Fiction Fest above.

So what do you think? Have any fashion advice to give? Disagree with me? Love conferences? Any and all comments are welcome.