Sunday, February 20, 2005

Redwood Chapel Christian Writers Conference

Captain’s Log, Stardate 02.20.2005

My husband’s new job:

My husband’s old coworker now works at a company in Cupertino, and she called him about a job opening there. He went through interviews and got a job in his old coworker's manufacturing division. He starts work on Monday, February 28th. We’re both relieved because it’s a more stable job than a start-up company, and he’ll have better hours (hopefully) and better pay.

Christian Writers Conference:

I attended a Christian Writers Conference in Castro Valley (East Bay) hosted by Redwood Chapel Community Church. It was great. Sally Stuart was the keynote speaker, talking about Christian markets. Not just about magazine and book publishers, but also the trends and ethics in the marketplace.

I was a bit disappointed because she didn’t have enough time to finish her second speaking session about trends in the marketplace. She had covered so much good stuff, but when they signaled the end of her time, I looked at the notes and it seemed she had only covered about half of what she intended to. I would have liked to hear more.

My friend Laura Jensen Walker taught several workshops. I went to her first one, Rebounding from Rejection. Laura is soooooooo funny. She’s a terrifically entertaining speaker. She’s written several nonfiction books, but her first fiction novel is released next month, “Dreaming in Black and White.”

I took three fiction workshops taught by John Olson, who co-wrote “Oxygen” and “The Fifth Man” with Randy Ingermanson (both excellent sci-fi thrillers). I had a great time. Some of what he covered I already knew, but that was good because it allowed me to focus on the new techniques, concepts and tips that he taught without being distracted by trying to absorb absolutely everything.

One of the best things I picked up was the concept of left and right-brain writing. I’m a scientist, so I understand things best when explained in terms of science. I had heard from other authors (mostly women) who advise to write a crappy first draft and then edit later. I had a hard time with that because I tend to edit as I go so that the first draft isn’t quite so green. Other writers are like that, also, so I assumed I was just not that type of writer.

John spoke about how creativity is centered in the right brain, and analysis in the left. Not new concepts to me, but then he explained how when you try to use both at the same time, the brain can shut down since the two sides are not connected very well. I know the sides are more connected in women than in men, but they’re still essentially separate.

When a writer is brainstorming or writing prose, that’s right-brain creative work. When a writer edits and analyzes what was written, that’s left-brain analytical thinking.

If you try to write or brainstorm and analyze it at the same time, the brain has to switch back and forth, which is difficult. I can see how one side would become more dominant in this case. So he suggested doing the creative right-brain stuff in a chunk of time, then switching to analysis afterwards. That enables the writer to be most efficient in use of creative and analytical abilities.

That made perfect sense to me. It also explained why I had so many problems when I was brainstorming for my romantic suspense novel. I kept stalling because I would come up with an idea and immediately analyze whether I could use it or not.

I’m going to try this for my next novel. I’m excited about it. It will help me be more efficient with my time and hopefully I’ll be able to come up with great ideas for the book. I tend to be very left-brain oriented (more like a guy than a girl) so maybe my left and right brains are not connected very well, which is why my thinking stalls when I try to do both creative thinking and analysis at once.

I got a chance to talk to John Olson a bit after the conference ended. He’s really nice. He asked me about my book and I think I went ga-ga to be able to talk to a biochemist about my stem cell/cloning storyline. Most people kind of go cross-eyed when I start spouting all that biology stuff.

Working a full-time job and writing:

I have been thinking about the things writers speak about at these conferences, and feeling I don’t really have anything to contribute. No new, neat concepts. No area of expertise.

But then I realized that I do have an area I can teach others about--working a full time job and writing at the same time. The past two months have been difficult, but also informative in teaching me how to make the best use of my time. It has taken me about three weeks to write about 3/4 of my ms, which is less time than it took me to write THE CORINTHIAN RULES last year. And at that time, I wasn’t working at all.

I’ve learned lots of tips and tricks about how to write efficiently. I’ve also experienced the tiredness from essentially working two jobs at once, and learned how to deal with the situation both emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I think there are lots of people who want to write but feel they can’t when they’re working full-time. They’re right, it’s very hard, but it’s also very doable. It takes a certain mindset and personal commitment, with the help of a few tricks to make things easier and smoother.

This, then, is where I can help others, give back as I’ve been helped. Everyone has their own area where God allows them to share their gifts. I think this is mine, and it’s very exciting to me. I’m starting a file of my ideas so that I can write an article about it.

Romantic Suspense versus Chicklit:

I’m almost done with my romantic suspense, which, might I add, still does not have a working title. I suck at titles. Some authors can’t write if they don’t have a title. I can’t think up titles. I might even send the ms to my agent with the title on it now, “WHO KNOWS WHAT I’LL NAME IT.”

I enjoy writing it, especially the fight scenes, but I find myself wanting to break out into humor. I think I enjoy writing Chicklit better, and so that made me worry that maybe I shouldn’t submit this manuscript to editors if I don’t want to write Romantic Suspense for the long haul. Once a new author writes in a particular genre, it’s not necessarily a good business decision to write in a different genre after that, because the author has been branded with that writing style and readers have that expectation when they pick up her books.

My husband made a good point yesterday that although I enjoy writing Chicklit more, I might write Suspense better. And it’s true that I don’t think I’m as funny as many other writers out there, like Laura Jensen Walker. Laura told me about how an editor panel at Mt. Hermon mentioned that they don’t find many authors who write humor well. I agree--many “humorous” novels are entertaining, but there aren’t many grab-your-sides funny novels.

This has made me ponder what I should be writing. I like Chicklit, but I’d miss the action scenes of Suspense. The serious tone of Suspense is hard for me to maintain without quirking out in humor every so often. I could write a Chicklit mystery, I suppose, but the tone is still supposed to be humorous, right? Am I funny enough to make a mark as a Chicklit writer? I’m not so sure about that. I have more confidence in my Suspense skills, but is that really what I want to write as a career?

Well, I’ll still finish the Suspense ms and see. Does anyone have opinions on this?

Diet: Don’t ask. I’ve been trying to count calories but still seem to be staying the same. I should probably get more exercise, although I go to PT at least twice a week. Maybe I should go running with the dog again, the doctor okay’d that activity. I’ve been drinking lots of water and making more of an effort to eat more vegetables.

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