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ON WRITING: MENTAL SORBET

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .  . 

FIRST PRINTED IN THE ROMANCE WRITERS OF AUSTRALIA MAGAZINE, HEARTS TALK

My muse is a capricious thing.  Flighty, feisty, easily distracted.  I was lucky to figure this out early on and to have discovered ways of keeping him engaged.

The first?  Writing two books at the same time.

Admit it – some of you just cringed in horror at the thought.

But this is the way I have always worked.  When I sold my first book to Harlequin Romance my second was a quarter way to done. I was 10,000 odd words into Book 3 when Book 2 sold. And so on.  As a professional with looming deadlines this seemed an entirely sensible way to go about it.

Until I began chatting about my process with other writers, many of whom found it so distressing they blocked their ears and trilled “la la la” at the tops of their voices.

Isn’t one of the great dangers of not sticking with one project at a time that no project is ever finished?  You bet!  But will power is not one of my natural fortes. (Remember my flighty, feisty, easily distracted muse?  He picked me for a reason.)  And with this method I’m currently working on book number thirty-three (and thirty-four J).

So here’s how it works for me.

I adore beginnings.  Those glorious opening chapters when everything’s still possible. But then comes the messy middle; when the writing slows, and groans, and feels all gloopy.

That’s the first point at which my muse and I head over to Book Number 2.  Oh those sparkly, invigorating characters with whom we have not chatted for so long!  On we go thus until…gloop.  Seems as good a time as any to head on back to Book Number 1.

Lo and behold, by this stage Book Number 1 feels like new.  The answers come easier.  The words trip lightly from my fingers once more.  It’s as if a rain shower has cleared away the cobwebs.  As if the time away has magically cleansed the gloop from my brain.

I like to call it Mental Sorbet.

For those of you who find talk of magic and muses and mental rain showers a tad whimsical, my theory of Mental Sorbet is grounded in common advice (with a twist).

It is a common adage in the writing world to ‘let a book rest’ once it is finished. The advice suggests that time away from the piece gives your creative mind a break in the hope that that once you return you will be see it through fresh eyes.

I suggest its fine to do so while writing the book too.

Now walking away and writing nothing, creating nothing, would send me bonkers! (Another fine reason to tinker with Book Number 2.)  But it’s not my only form of Mental Sorbet.  Far from it.

When I sold my first book I needed a website.  So I figured out how to build one.  That led to other authors asking me to do the same for them.  (Bliss!)

Then came social media with its ever-changing banners and profile images. I figured out how to build them too.  (Fun!)

My involvement with Tule Publishing began with a pitch that included book covers I’d made for my titles in an effort to solidify the feel of the stories for me. They asked if - as a cover designer for others under my AllyOop Designs moniker - I’d be happy to design the covers myself.  (Would I what?!)

You may be seeing a pattern here.  While Book Number 1 is at rest (for a week, a day, or even an hour) I’m still getting work done.  Stretching other parts of my creative brain and keeping my imagination limber. Feeding my hungry muse.  In ways that continue to be helpful to my career.

But the objective certainly isn’t work work work. The objective is to serve the best interests of Book Number 1.  I also Bullet Journal.  I draw and colour with my kids. I turn up the music and dance.  I write craft articles for the likes of Hearts Talk.  Whatever clears out the cobwebs while tapping into my need to create.

At a talk I gave recently to a group of authors about book cover design someone asked why I bother running a side business in book design and promotion when there are thirty-two books out in the world with my name on them.  The answer?  There’d never have been thirty-two books without the balance of other creative pursuits alongside them.  My demanding muse would have burnt out years ago.

In keeping things fresh and stretching my creative muscles, each string to my bow gives me a different kind of zing. The zings breed energy.  Focus.  And fun. The make this amazing gig sustainable and still the best job in the world.

Giving your story rest, respite, time off doesn’t have to mean that you are losing momentum.   Done right, you could gain so much more.

MORE ARTICLES ON WRITING HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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