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Is Your Well Full? Author, Jane Beckenham Tells Us To Smell the Roses!

I’m delighted to welcome fellow New Zealander and Samhain Publishing author, Jane Beckenham today. Jane is currently burning up the top ten sales list with her latest release, He’s The One, and I couldn’t be more pleased for her! Today she’s talking about something that I endorse wholeheartedly – filling the well. Is your well full? Over to Jane…

He's The One by Jane BeckenhamAn interesting thing occurred a month or so ago. I stopped writing. I wanted desperately to start a new book, I was seriously over edits and line edits and galleys, and the never ending promotion, but instead of starting a new book –like most writers I have a file of story ideas I reached for those.

Sad to say, they just didn’t spark.

Instead I developed a love of cleaning windows. Pathetic, but there really is a lot to be gained by looking out of windows that are no longer marred by months of dirt and grime.

Two weeks and I was over window cleaning so I tried again and got out that list of ideas.

Nope. Not one word on the page.

Scary stuff.

I mean I’ve been writing solidly for 11 years, have 12 books under contract, and several more written, (not counting the duds when I first started). What was wrong?

Was my writing life over? Come back Ms. Muse, all is forgiven.

The darn girl stayed away and my fear exacerbated.

Then I got a rejection, and that kinda put the proverbial nail in the coffin.

Rejection does that…for a bit, but I wailed to my writing buddies “What is wrong? I can’t write? I’m no good.” It was definitely all woe is me.

Then someone asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.

“Jane, what do you do to fill up the well?”

“What well?”

“The one that sustains you as a writer, that gives you the ‘juice’ to carry on.”

Was there one? I didn’t have a clue.

“Don’t you ever stop?”

“Nope.”

“Oh…, that’s the reason then.”

“It is?”

“Sure. You need to stop, fill up the well. You see your body is like a car. It needs gasoline to keep going.

What are you doing to refill the tank, what’s your sustenance?”

“Too much chocolate,” I replied. But what my good intended writer friend meant was what was my sustenance for my soul, for the inner being of me the writer.

This was quite a new concept for Madam Writer. “I’m a wife, mother, homemaker, worker, and writer. I don’t have time to stop or ‘juice’ up.”

“And that’s why the tank is empty, ma’am, why the well is dry and you aint getting one word on the page these days.”

“Oh….”

These words of wisdom got me thinking. Could there be something in this. Does a person need to actually stop?

So I asked bunch of writers, all wonderfully successful women who I so much admire for their ability and value for their friendship.

Here’s how they refill their well.

Pat Snellgrove – Taking me time, reading, and spending time with the family.

Clare Scott – Just taking time to breathe is good, or reading a really bad book in your genre because it makes you angry so you think ‘I CAN do better than this!’ Having a complete (brief) break so you are not compelled by having to write rather by needing to write. Of course, deadlines are really good incentives too ;-) That reminds me too – I have a snippets book in which I paste articles, headlines, piccies from mags or newspapers, and also story comments, that have made me stop and think, or laugh, or have started a storyline germinating. If really stuck I just have a read thru and it’s amazing what thoughts and schemes this triggers.

(Jane here… I love this idea of pasting articles etc…might just pinch it!)

Jean Adams – I go for a walk on a beach, or do a little gardening. Getting out in the fresh air usually helps.

(Jane… Gardening… Jean, come on over, I have weeds that are giving Jack’s beanstalk a run for his money!)

Yvonne Walus – Filling the well depends, to a degree, on what’s currently missing in my life. Sometimes I need an hour listening to 80s music, or a walk on a deserted windy beach, or an evening with friends. Sometimes I need to reconnect with people, hear about their dreams and challenges in order to get inspired about mine. Sometimes I need a “worthy cause” to write about, you know, a theme like “being a mother is more important than being a successful CEO” or “a wise husband makes his wife feel she’s the only women in the world”. And sometimes – most of the time – I just need a good night’s sleep!!!!

Wonderful M&B Historical writer, Sophia James… For me the writing well is filled by exercise. I walk each day for an hour or so and just feel enervated again. With such a sedentary job I think it’s so good to get up and move and feel the air on your face, see the world outside your computer, and shake of all the problems of your hero and heroine. A cup of coffee with a friend comes in a close second!

(Jane… love those coffee moments with you too Sophia!)

Author Nicole Bishop who I’ve known right from my very first Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference… Refilling the well to me is going for a quiet walk, singing, or pottering around at home with no set plans (I’d like to do more of this!)

(Jane…Singing from me… .nope more like warbling)

Rachel Bailey – Reading books by my favourite authors. Watching good movies. Doing things that make my heart sing, like walks on the beach, playing dog-tennis with my dogs, something romantic with dh, stopping to smell the roses.

(Jane…Ah… now I’m getting somewhere. Reading… it figures, writers love to read…Note to self…I MUST read more)

Melissa James – Research is my strongest well-filler, Jane. I read something and get excited – Dark Waltz, for example, is from reading a history text about Napoleon’s secret fleet to invade England. Her Galahad was from a university reader about Aboriginal people being declared dead illegally. A Mother in a Million came from watching a show called Missing, about how missing persons affects those left behind. The Nighthawks series came from research on how espionage works. I’ve applied that, and my history texts on 1800s espionage and a book called “The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Code” to get authenticity. It’s when it’s a subject I can’t research that I get in trouble. I lose enthusiasm, write automatically. Walks, movies, chatting to writer friends.

(Jane…research….ah that sparks something deep inside this writer who would have loved to be a history teacher…Note to self- find a book to read that is research!)

Okay, so it seems to me that I have a lesson to learn here. Stop. Smell the roses. Maybe garden a tad, have coffee, read a book or two, but perhaps I’ll pass on the singing, don’t want to frighten the dog!
Now, think I’ll go and put on the kettle for a cuppa. But seriously, I’ve learned my lesson. Go back and enjoy books, because isn’t that why we became writers in the first place.

Happy reading everyone.
Jane Beckenham

Bio: In books Author Jane Beckenham discovered dreams and hope, stories that inspired in her a love of romance and happy ever after. Years later, after a blind date, Jane found her own true love and married him eleven months later.

Life has been a series of ‘dreams’ for Jane. Dreaming of learning to walk again after spending years in hospital. Dreaming of raising a family and subsequently flying to Russia to bring home her two adopted daughters. And of course, dreaming of writing. Writing has become Jane’s addiction – and it sure beats housework.

You can contact Jane via her web site www.janebeckenham.com or email her at neiljane@ihug.co.nz

The Other Side of The Fence…Aspiring to Published Writer

I’m guest blogging at Manic Readers today about the changes of going from an aspiring writer to a published one. Here’s the link to The Other Side of The Fence.

Writer Tip: Nalini Singh

“If a scene just isn’t working, and yet it’s critical to the storyline, try writing it from the point of view of one of the other characters. You might be surprised at the difference it makes!”

Visit Nalini Singh’s website
Purchase Nalini’s latest release, Archangel’s Kiss

Writer Tip: Kaye Manro

“GET HOOKED!

What does that mean? Simply, we must write stories that grab readers at page one and never let them go. It’s not as easy as it seems. To start with, a stellar beginning/opening is vital these days, especially for aspiring authors if we want that coveted publishing contract.

According to statistics, editors/agents reject manuscripts before they’ve finished reading the first few pages. I wanted to know why. So I studied many books on the craft of writing and took several creative writing classes that addressed that very issue. I also read and researched multi-published authors’ books, trying to get the feel of what set them apart. Then I practiced, rewrote and practiced again hoping to get the words right.

Here’s a stellar ‘Get Hooked’ opening from Carved In Stone by Vickie Taylor (Berkley Sensation): Nothing reminded Nathan Cross he wasn’t human so much as an attractive woman watching his every move from across a crowded room.

Now doesn’t that make you want to read more? It does me. The book continues to be stellar throughout and never lets the reader down all the way to the end.

Our first goal as an author is to evoke an emotional response that hooks the reader. Les Edgerton, leading authority on writing stellar hooks says, “If you are able to capture the right beginning, you’ve written a small version of the whole story right there.”

How can we go wrong with that? The best advice I can give about hooking editors, agents and ultimately readers, is to write a stellar opening and then make sure the rest of your story lives up to that fabulous beginning.”

Kaye Manro
www.kayemanro.com

Kaye Manro’s science fiction romance FORBIDDEN LOVE releases at Red Rose Publishing on May 20, 2010.

Writer Tip: Cheryl Brooks

“I don’t know if my tip is unique or not, but when I’m writing, I keep what I call a tracking sheet on each book. Whenever I start a new chapter, I add in the chapter number and the page it begins on. This enables me to know just how long each of my chapters is and when I should start thinking about ending them. I keep that and a synopsis and a style sheet with character names and a few brief characteristics in separate files on my computer and update them as I go along. The style sheet helps me keep character names and spellings, (which are always hard to remember since I invent most of them) within easy access of my increasingly Swiss cheese brain so I don’t have to go back and scan what I’ve already written looking for the name or description.”

Visit Cheryl Brooks’ Website
Purchase a book from Cheryl Brooks’ The Cat Star Chronicles

Writer Tip: J.A. Saare

“I have a feeling my writing tip is one that’s been shared, but just in case it hasn’t, I wanted to remind everyone that writing comes in all forms. It can be a stanza of poetry, a blog update, a letter, a book review, a diary entry, or actually sitting down to write a short story, novella, or full-length tale.

Every day I write in one of these forms. If I’m not in the mood to get into the headspace of a character, I’ll focus on my blog. Or if I need to be creative, I’ll think about a book I’ve read recently and compose a review for Goodreads, Amazon, or (did I mention) my blog. The key is to stay creative and keep the mind sharp. Ideas are born of the most mundane things. Perhaps inspiration will strike as you’re thinking of something else — much like those wonderful brainstorms that occur during the shower or while you’re folding laundry. The mundane has one bright side — it forces the mind to relax, think, and daydream.”

Happy Writing!
Jaime AKA J.A. Saare

Visit J.A. Saare’s website
Purchase J.A. Saare’s latest release, Dead, Undead or Somewhere in Between

Writer Tip: Lorie O’Clare

“Something I started doing a couple years ago has really helped me a lot. I keep a notebook next to my keyboard. Every morning when I start my day, I write the date down. Then whatever I do gets written in my notebook. If I go through all email, spend an hour catching up on blogs, or focus on some research to help me build a plot or characters, it gets written down in my notebook. Then of course, when I start writing for the day, I write down the page number and word count at the beginning of the day, then write it again at the end of the day when I’m through writing.

I always make sure my notebook is something pretty. I like spending a few extra pennies to buy a notebook with an attractive cover. For some reason it’s always more fun writing in a classy notebook than in a plain, normal every day notebook.

I’m on my third notebook and I must say, after sticking to this little routine daily I’ve become much more efficient with my writing. When you clock yourself every day so that you’re able to see when you had good writing days and bad writing days, it helps you stick to it and not let your word count for that day dwindle down too low. It’s that competative nature in us. Keeping this notebook has also helped me with my absent-minded memory. I can tell how long it takes to finish certain types of promotional tools. I can see how much time I spend on the Internet, chatting with people, and going through emails in the morning before I start writing. It’s nice to know a schedule, know it’s tried and true, and know there is always room to grow and improve.”

Visit Lorie O’Clare’s website at www.lorieoclare.com
Purchase one of Lorie’s recent or upcoming releases – Strong, Sleek and Sinful or The Bodyguard

Writer Tip: Monica Burns

“The middle of the book is often a really crucial turning point for a writer. For me, I usually find myself at a crossroad not sure where to turn with the book. I’ve found that printing out and reading what I’ve written so far helps me reconnect with the characters so that by the time I’ve read through the book, I’m ready to roll with the last half of the book. Another thing I’ve found very useful when editing is to read the book out loud. It helps me catch things the eye generally overlooks.”

Visit Monica Burns’ website.
Purchase Monica Burn’s upcoming release, Assassin’s Honor.

Writer Tip: Crystal Jordan

“My biggest tip to any writer is to write consistently. I used to say people should write every day, but if you miss a day or two, the guilt starts snowballing. So, now I just say you need to make writing a habit that you stick with. If it’s a habit, you train yourself into needing to do it, and the only way to finish a story is to write. Nothing else will get you there, so make sure to make time for it, even if it means using a pad of paper and pen in the car while you’re waiting the ten minutes for the kids to get out of school.”

Visit Crystal Jordan’s website at www.crystaljordan.com
Purchase Crystal’s next release, In the Heat of the Night

Writer Tip: Sarah Mayberry

“I always read when I’m writing – Stephen King calls it “refilling the word well” – and I often re-read my favorite authors and my favorite books. Finding a chapter or scene I love and really analysing how the author put their sentences and descriptions and paragraphs together has given me some of my best writing lessons over the years. Staying open to new ways of doing things and looking at my own work keeps the writing interesting and challenging for me, and hopefully for my readers.”

Visit Sarah Mayberry’s website
Purchase Sarah’s latest release, Her Best Friend