Big Buts

From time to time every writer struggles with procrastination. The writing process can be mentally and emotionally draining. So, it’s natural for writers to get burned-out and concoct excuses to help them avoid this exhaustive endeavor. Completing our first manuscript and beginning to query agents has left us drained and has opened our minds to some very creative excuses as to why we can’t write. Below are our top ten excuses that keep us from writing.

We want to write, BUT…

10. “We’re tired.”

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh wait a minute, we were supposed to be writing our blog, but we fell asleep. Keeping vampire hours takes a toll on us. Some days were just too tired to write. The human body needs between 6-8 hours of sleep in order to function properly. When a person is starved of those precious zzzz’s, creativity significantly declines. Plus, we firmly believe writers’ characters can visit their creators in dreamland. A great story can be born from a healthy, well rested mind. Take Stephenie Meyer for instance, Edward was the man of her dreams!

9. “We’re too distracted.”

Wait, what are we doing? Oh, we’re writing a blog? Oh, yeah. Distractions: We’ve got to finish this novel, catch up on the last six episodes of The Walking Dead, research agent websites, watch YouTube, tweet random stuff, update our FB status about the delectable burritos we just devoured, post a picture of said burritos on Instagram, pin a new ensemble to our fashion board on Pinterest, knowing full well the outfit will never fit (see burrito reference above).

8. “We’re teachers.”

There are lessons to plan, emails to be sent, meetings to attend, papers to grade, papers to grade, papers to grade…. Nuff said.

7. “We’re moms”

There are dinners to be cooked, baths to be drawn, books to be read, homework to be finished, laundry to be washed, arguments to be refereed, and time-outs to be rewarded.

6. “We’re allergic.”

Writing makes us itch. Seriously, it really makes us itch. Then we have to take Benadryl and it makes us sleepy (see reference number 10).

5. “We’re too fat.”

Devouring delectable burritos is satisfying, but that means we need to spend our time working them off at the gym because we really want that outfit we pinned on Pinterest. Maybe we’ll run, or go to Hot Yoga, or do the Brazilian Butt Lift, or…maybe we’ll just take a nap.

4. “The writing ritual was not completed in the appropriate order or allotted amount of time, and therefore we cannot begin writing tonight.”

The writing ceremony is sacred; the rites must be performed meticulously or the muse will not bless us with its presence. This sacred ritual must consist of the following: Copious amounts of frothy, unsweetened iced green tea, which must be followed by espresso. Lissa must be on the left side of the bed and Cori must be on the right. Laptops and iPads must be fully charged AND plugged into a power source. Wifi must be working at full strength in order to access the beloved dictionary/thesaurus.com AND IF ANY OF THESE DEMANDS ARE NOT MET, WE WILL NOT WRITE.

3. “The stars aren’t aligned.”

In addition to the completion of the writing ritual, the stars must align so that our muse may speak to us, revealing the secrets of our characters.

2. “We have ISS.”

A.K.A. “I Suck Syndrome”–We thank our author friend, Cole Gibsen, for diagnosing our problem! Please visit her blog, Hair Dye & Samurai, for more information on ISS.

1. “We have BICitus.”

Our butts hurt. We would love to say this is a result of our tireless exercise regimen, but we all know it’s really a result of sitting in front of a blank computer screen for hours on end praying that the words will magically flow onto the page.

Yes, these excuses are absurd, BUT…they were all very convincing at one time or another. Thankfully, we can see them for what they are and not let them stifle our creativity. What makes us good writers is that we persevere, writing through our valleys and cheeks…oops we meant peaks!

 

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Say “Yes” to “No” in 2013

The fear of rejection can be enslaving. It shackles us to our present places in life, preventing us from moving out of our comfort zones. When we stay in this stagnate state, we stifle our emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual development. In other words, we don’t grow. All living things must grow; it’s a biological fact! Yet the fear of rejection can be so debilitating that millions of us will CHOOSE to remain in these self-imposed prisons.

WHY DO WE DO THIS? The fear of rejection is a natural human reaction; we are social creatures and, as individuals, we rely on the compassion and kindness of others for survival. When we are rebuffed or marginalized, our sense of survival may feel threatened, so we become defensive. The defense mechanisms we use to cope with rejection are what set us apart and determine the amount and type of success we will have in this life. There are basically two ways to deal with rejection: 1. accept it and become inspired to accomplish or 2. become defeated by the rejection and avoid it.

HOW CAN WE FREE OURSELVES? Many of us compete for the attention and recognition of others to validate our self-worth. When we don’t receive the approval our fragile egos need, we then begin the dreadful comparison game. The problem with this “merry pastime” is that when we compare ourselves to others, we will inevitably feel society’s rejection. (There will always be someone more attractive, successful, intelligent or creative in the world.) The truth is our freedom can only be found when we realize that our merits will never be fully recognized by society. Instead, our self-worth should ALWAYS come from God. He created us in His image! He definitely believes we are valuable! So this year, instead of hyper focusing on pleasing others and seeking their attention and recognition, let us give our best to God and be transformed by His approval.

SAY “YES” TO “NO.” As Christians we will face rejection many times. Christ promises us this (2 Timothy 3:12, Acts 14:22 & 1 Thessalonians 3:7). But the Lord also wants us to persevere (James 1:12 & Romans 5:3-5). Let us apply this same attitude to other aspects of our lives. This year, we challenge you to grow with us. We have officially begun querying agents. Our goal is to receive at least 50 rejection letters. We are saying “yes” to “no” in 2013. The fear of rejection has prevented us from submitting our work in the past, but our egos aren’t as fragile anymore because we’ve remembered “Whose” we are. We are going to use the rejection letters we receive as motivation to improve our writing and encourage others traveling on similar paths. If you’ve dreamed of doing something (changing jobs or careers, furthering your education, attending a new church, writing a book [that may be incredibly challenging to market] or even jumping back into the dating pool), go for it! Don’t let those pesky voices inside your head shackle you down anymore. A simple “no” will NOT destroy you if you don’t allow it. Plus, the more rejection you face, the more desensitized you will become to it, and the more likely you will be to achieve your goals!

And here’s a song that totally makes us embrace our inner-reject… “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”

Two All-American Rejects

THE. DREADED. BLANK. WHITE. PAGE.

Terror leaps into our hearts, forcing us to crank up the volume on the iPod and reach for the bag of dark chocolate. Several chocolate wrappers later, we drink another cup of espresso and stare into the infamous BLANK, WHITE PAGE! After a few more hours of hair-pulling, eyebrow-rubbing nothingness, we pour ourselves a glass of wine and hope the liquid therapy flows through our fingertips.

These indulgences have provided us with a needed respite at one time or another. But their therapeutic relief is usually short-lived. That’s not to say they haven’t been effective. As we mentioned in a previous blog, music has greatly influenced our writing. And green tea and espresso have certainly provided us with the caffeine we needed to work into the wee hours of the morning. Oh, and the margaritas and wine…these liquid muses have rarely failed us (unless, of course, we have one too many). But some days, they just aren’t enough. When the voices in our heads start tormenting us, making us doubt our “mad” writing skills, we need something much STRONGER. We need a new therapist—a second opinion, if you will.

We are staunch supporters of the B.I.C. method (butt-in-chair); however, after staring at the same four walls and the dreaded white page for days on end, our butts get a little sore. So, in our humble opinion, the best medicine for “B.I.C.itus” is a… WRITERS’ CRAWL.

What is a Writers’ Crawl, you ask? Why, it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to get glammed up, get out of the house, and have a few cocktails while we interact with unknowing strangers who may or may not become part of our novel.

Recently, we have found this form of therapy to be wonderful for character and plot development. One of our favorite parts of a writing crawl is to observe people from afar and play a little Mystery Science Theater 3000, and by that we mean we make horrendous judgments about the innocent bystanders’ based on their behaviors. Sometimes we even include their inner thoughts or a background story based on their appearances. We realize this is an impolite form of writers’ therapy, but it has proven to be most effective. Plus…what they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?

On a recent writers’ crawl, we traveled all the way to Cumming, GA for some good ol’ southern hospitality and writing fodder. We also knew that the “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” so we were ready to encounter some very interesting characters. And we weren’t disappointed! On this particular outing, we dressed like two demon characters from our book and went to work. After visiting four hot spots and observing and interacting with various colorful “characters,” we had enough material to fill that infamous blank, white page! Not to mention we had a stellar time.

At the end of our writing crawl, we were feeling relaxed and absolutely giddy about writing our next scene. Our butts had recovered and those pesky voices were muzzled… for the moment.

We highly recommend this form of therapy to all writers. And to all of those innocent bystanders, we thank you for your contribution to our novel, and we apologize for…aw, never mind, you didn’t know we were doing it anyway.

So the next time you are out for a night on the town, and you notice two attractive ladies staring at you and “texting” on their phones, BEWARE! They probably aren’t trying to get your attention; they may have just turned you into a work of fiction!

Resolu…

To end, or not to end: that is the question. When reading a great book, how would a person prefer that novel to end? Would the reader want there to be a clearly defined ending? A nice, tidy package all wrapped up and complete? Or would the reader choose to draw his or her own conclusions? Would it be preferable to the reader to extrapolate the story beyond the boundaries the author has determined and create his or her own future for the characters? This very topic has been the center of some heated discussions between the two of us. Coauthoring a novel can be difficult, but factor in our deeply held beliefs on resolution, and it can be downright frightening!

So, one might wonder how two authors with drastically different ideas about how to end a story, actually ENDED a story. Well…it was definitely a compromise. We were both in agreement about how our story would end, but we had different ideas regarding how much information we were going to give our readers.

Cori:  Initially, I wanted our story to end very cryptically, with our main character making a decision only she knew the answer to. I wanted to force the reader into waiting until the second book to discover what choice she actually makes. I enjoy prolonging the pain! Mwahahahaha!

Lissa: I, on the other hand, could not handle Cori’s proposed ending. I am by nature NOT a masochist, thus I do not like to be subjected to mental (or physical) torture. I am a strong proponent of authentic conflict resolution! Nothing irritates me more than when I have invested hours of my precious time reading a book, only to discover that the central conflict is STILL unresolved!! No-resolution resolution is absurd!! Real life has far too many unresolved conflicts. I read to escape this hell!

Cori: Hell? Isn’t that what our book is about?

Lissa: Touché, my sarcastic, masochistic friend.

Cori: In all honesty, I do not want to subject our readers to any kind of torture (mental or physical). I prefer to think of it as giving our readers a creative license. As a reader, I enjoy the control I have when I get to decide the fate of the characters I have invested my precious time reading about. So, as an author, I wanted to give that same gift to our readers. I want our readers to talk about possible endings, debate different scenarios, and have discussions!

Lissa: I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement. However, I prefer those debates to be about the way I/we chose to end the story. I too have issues with control (as you, Cori, well know). Which is precisely why I have to be in control of our characters’ fate. A reader can draw conclusions about a story’s ending all they’d like, but they are not the authors. Therefore, as ingenious as their proposed endings may be, they are only just that…mere hypotheses. We are the creators of these characters and the story’s plot, therefore only we know the true ending. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a bit of a “god complex.” Because of this, I refuse to give our readers that kind of free will.

Cori: Free will? Isn’t our story about free will?

Lissa: Again, touché, my astute, sarcastic, and masochistic friend.

Cori: So, keeping in mind Lissa’s god-complex and my need to give free will (I guess that makes me kind of like a god, too.) we needed a way to blend our two styles of conflict resolution. The problem—how do two authors with different god-like complexes come to a compromise?

Lissa: It was surprisingly easy. We chose to end our book by resolving the central conflict. (Yay, I win!)

Cori: But, the resolution is very short-lived because the secondary conflict is very much unresolved, which sets up the central conflict in book two. (Yay, I win too!)

With the ending we have now, THE ONLY EXCEPTION will work as a stand-alone novel. There is sufficient resolution for the heroine and her love interest. However, THE ONLY EXCEPTION does have series potential. In our minds, the main character has more to accomplish before the story is completely finished.

Lissa: We’d like to know your thoughts. Do you prefer a story with a clearly defined ending or an open-ended, inadequate attempt at an ending? Please leave us a comment and take our poll. We really want to know your thoughts.

Cori: We may or may not get back to you on this topic; it’s completely open-ended at this time!

Lissa: Whatever, you know my need for resolution will compel me to respond to your comments.

(And Cori, you’re not fooling anybody. You’re far too sweet to ignore the comments of our adoring fans!)

Peace out and word to your…

“What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more!”

We are two, thirty-something females who have kids and very busy lives. It’s rare for us to break away from our routines and find time for ourselves, but when we do, one could almost always find us snuggled in bed with a book. We read for a number of reasons, but most often we read to escape. We’re sure it has something to do with the amount of estrogen coursing through our bodies, but we adamantly believe that all great novels need some kind of romance in the plot. A book can be beautifully written and have an incredible plot line, but it could have been better if the author added even a subplot of romance. You may disagree with us, but apparently, we’re not alone.

In 2010, The Romance Writers of America published some statistics regarding the sales of books:
•Romance fiction: $1.358 billion in estimated revenue for 2010
Religion/inspirational: $759 million
Mystery: $682 million
Science fiction/fantasy: $559 million
Classic literary fiction: $455 million

Although the 2011 revenue statistics are not presently available, the projected romance fiction revenue was around $1.368 billion. As you can see, this genre is blowing all others away.

We discussed this fact at length one evening, and came to the conclusion that our society’s obsession with romance fiction stems from a deeply rooted void regarding “love.” Today’s media outlets flood our minds with images and ideas about what “true” love is and what it’s supposed to “feel” like. But clearly, this definition is flawed. Divorce rates are at an all-time high and as a result, society’s view of marriage is deteriorating. More and more couples are living together without getting married because everywhere we look we’re told that love is temporary. It’s a feeling capable of waxing and waning, so we just need to enjoy it while it lasts. We believe this tragic reality is precisely what is driving millions of women (and a few good men) to purchase romance fiction.

There’s something captivating about a “written” love story. The characters are often times held to higher standards, they’re better communicators, and their love usually isn’t tainted by some depraved societal norm. At the end of most romance novels, the reader is left with a believable hope that the hero and heroine will be together forever. This “fantasy” is exactly what our “love-starved” society is craving.

Before we set out to write our own “epic” love story, we knew we had some work to do. We wanted our story to redefine society’s definition of love. However, we were fully aware that this task would be no easy feat, for we are only two estrogen-driven females up against a testosterone-driven entertainment business. In less than 500 pages, we wanted our readers to make an emotional connection to our characters, forget about their preconceived notions of love, and believe that “true” love is possible.

We began our research for the perfect definition of love with Wikipedia (the most accurate research tool in existence), Dictionary.com, and Google, and we discovered…NOTHING. Apparently the internet is as ignorant of the definition of love as our society. Because our internet efforts were in vain, we were left with no other choice than to seek the meaning of love from the ultimate love story—The Bible. Regardless of a person’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof), there’s a reason 1 Corinthians 13 is read at almost every wedding, for it is here that we learn the purest definition of love.

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We believe there is no better definition of love than this. We wanted our hero and heroine to embody these principles; we wanted every decision they faced to be governed by these ideals. Because THIS is true love in its purest form, and THAT is what our society is missing and WHAT readers are searching for in books.

Once we found our “true” love definition, our plot began to unfold quickly. We needed only to remember these principles whenever our characters were faced with a choice. When our book was finished, we discovered it had a recurring theme: The opposite of love is not hate but rather—self.

We live in an incredibly self-seeking society. Everyone is looking out for numero uno and, as a result, has very little regard for the feelings of others. It is our hope, however pretentious it may be, that our book will inspire its readers to redefine their personal definition of love. Long after the last page is read, we want our readers to know that our characters’ love will carry on forever, even if the choices they make don’t adhere to society’s definition of what “true” love is.

For your listening pleasure…some “epic” love songs:

Music to Our Eyes

Music is one of the greatest emotional triggers; it can stimulate potent feelings, conjure vivid images, and evoke powerful memories. From birthday parties, to weddings, to funerals, music is a pivotal part of the monumental events in our lives. The entertainment industry has certainly capitalized on this simple fact. Soundtracks for movies have recently become just as popular as the movies themselves. Why? Because people want to relive the story over and over again and music provides that bridge.

The written word can also utilize music in the same way. Many times authors will write stories and deliberately include names of musicians or song titles into scenes of their books. Why would an author do this? Essentially it allows the reader to feel and understand what the characters are experiencing during a specific scene. This empathy helps the reader establish a much more personal relationship with the characters and keeps them alive in the reader’s mind long after the story has ended. But strangely enough, there are critics of this literary device. Sometimes people feel that using certain songs will “date” a novel and consequently make it less marketable.

Our novel, THE ONLY EXCEPTION, includes a plethora of musical references. Because music was so influential during our writing process, we felt compelled to share the inspiration behind our words.

Music took our book in directions we could never have imagined. Sometimes we would hear a song and an entire unplanned scene would play out in our minds. We soon discovered that music was the panacea for writer’s block; we could listen to a certain song and it would spirit us away to some unexpected place with our characters. Often times, a song would evoke exactly the right emotion for a specific scene. Tapping into that emotion, we were able to take our one-dimensional characters and mold them into believable, complex beings.

At times we were borderline obsessive with music. We created numerous playlists for our novel so that whenever we were away from our computers, we could still feel the emotional connection to our characters.

We are well aware of the potential risks of including the names of musical artists and song titles in our manuscript. However, we feel quite confident that our target audience will appreciate our musical references because they will provide an additional link between the fantasy world we’ve created and reality.

With music as our muse, we are excited to continue our writing journey. Who knows where the music may take us? Stay tuned to find out.

What are your thoughts about including musical references in writing? Please leave a comment expressing your opinion; we’d love to hear from you.

And some songs that inspired THE ONLY EXCEPTION: