Writer Words

Q&A Sunday: Motivation and Being Stuck

It’s time for another question. An interesting one from Sheila…

Are you an artist/illustrator/teacher/caricature artist? What motivates you to be creative?  What do you do when you’re stuck?

A lot of writers talk about writer’s block. I think it goes so much deeper than that. I really like this question because it’s not just how do you avoid writer’s block, or any kind of creative block, but what pushes me to do all this in the first place. Very interesting!

First, no. I am not a creative person by nature. I was a nerd growing up. I excelled in math and always loved reading, but ask me to do an art project and you wouldn’t be able to tell which one was mine and which came from a child. I never thought I was creative because I didn’t have talent for art. My sister is an artist, a very talented one, and I was never nearly as good as she was.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that creativity is different than art. I am creative, but I don’t have the talent to put that into a work of art, such as a painting or a sculpture or a light display like my sister does. I do have the talent to put my creativity into a written form, and I do enjoy art on the computer. I design my own books covers and I love doing it. It’s a different outlet for me that I’ve really enjoyed learning.

Do I consider myself an artist? I guess I could be stretched to say yes. I’m an artist of the written word, and I think I’d enjoy graphic design, but I have no training. Just don’t hand me paint brushes. Seriously, I think my kids’ artwork, at six and eight, is better than mine!

Motivation… That’s a tough one. I’m a big believer in intrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from within – and extrinsic motivation – motivation driven by outside forces. I love my job, that’s my intrinsic motivation. I’m very fortunate that I have a career that is so enjoyable for me. I do have days where I want to read or watch Netflix all day. And there are days I do exactly that.

Bulky & BeauteousWhen I was going through chemo, I had a huge issue getting Bulky & Beauteous written. I started writing it shortly before I was diagnosed, and I couldn’t finish it until after I’d finished treatment. I tried to write, and constantly told myself I was busy, but I know there was a part of me that figured there was no point if I wasn’t going to be around to finish it. I knew I wanted to write, but there was something stopping me.

I’m in remission now, and I’m ready to work. I want to get the stories in my head out onto my computer so I can share them. That’s the extrinsic part of my motivation. My readers. I save comments from readers. If you send me an email that says how much you loved my book, or how excited you are to read what’s coming, or how something I wrote really connected with you, I save it. If I’m really feeling down and struggling to get moving again, I read those emails. I remind myself of my readers, the people who keep coming back for my books, the people who love my characters as much as I do, and it helps motivate me to get back into it.

Once the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators start to work their magic, the task before me can seem daunting. A 90,000 word novel is huge when I’m staring at a blank page. That’s when I get stuck. But forty-five minutes to write while my daughter is in gymnastics is manageable. Even ten minutes, or five, can get me started. Usually I find myself getting sucked in and I want to do more, but that can only happen if I start with those five or ten minutes. I’m always working on something, but if the scene I’m writing isn’t fleshed out enough that I feel confident writing it, I’ll write a scene that has already played in my head. It’s about getting something done, even if it gets scrapped later. I’ve learned to start small and accept it, because small parts add up in a hurry!

Now tell me, where do you find your motivation?

Thanks so much, Sheila, for your question! If you have a question, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Q&A Sunday: Writing Quirks

I’ve been thinking about this question for a while. Aliana wants to know…

Do you have an interesting writing quirk?

I have to be honest. I’m a strange person. I know this and accept it. I also know all of us have our weird things, and it hard to know what of our habits is weird and what isn’t.

You guys all know that I am a plotter. I detail out main points in the story before I write the first words. I have to know where it’s going and how it’ll get there. Yes, things change sometimes, but mostly, I follow my plan.

Why is this weird? Or interesting?

Well, it’s not really. A lot of authors are plotters. Some are way more detailed than I am. Some are very fluid with their writing. It’s all about the person you are.

What I think might be a little interesting is that I can not, under any circumstances, plot my stories on the computer.

Strange? I don’t know. Maybe not. But I refuse to write longhand and have to type every word into my laptop. But planning it all out? Has to be written.

Sometimes I use sticky notes. That’s what I’ve been doing with Raise A Glass books (this is from Never A Bridesmaid, Always A Bride). Because they are longer, contain multiple story lines, and have to move a lot of pieces, I use sticky notes. The one downside is they don’t have space for a lot of detail.

For Big & Beautiful, I simply write it out. Notebook paper. A pen. Lots of information. Again, I’m keeping track of a lot and there are multiple stories moving, plus all the different characters. For some reason, it’s easier to write it out with Big & Beautiful.

Other quirks? I don’t know. I’m sure there are some in there, but to me they’re normal!

Thanks so much, Aliana, for your question! If you have a question, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Q&A Sunday: Where to live?

I think we all think about this question at some point in our lives! Vicki asked…

If you could live anywhere in the world with your family where would it be and why?

I have to admit, I’m pretty lucky. I love where I live. My husband and I went through this discussion many times over the almost 13 years we’ve been married. We met in Columbia, SC at college, then moved to Charleston, SC and lived there for 13 years. As much as I loved SC, it was never home for me.

I’ve considered where else I’d love to live. I have a few requirements…

It has to have four seasons. South Carolina was beautiful, but there was no fall, and spring was really just a precursor to summer. Even winter was weak, really like a fall without the changing colors. In my perfect world, you shouldn’t be able to wear shorts on Christmas. Although I did enjoy wearing flip flops all twelve months of the year.

It has to have things to do. I’m not that busy of a person, but I need something. We’re not self-sustaining, and I don’t ever want to be. I like my cable tv, my internet, and having a grocery store five minutes away. I also like Target (a bit too much) and having professional sports teams in my city. Parks are fun and I enjoy getting the kids outside, but we need to have options when we want to get out of the house.

The people have to be great. I’m sure most people will say their neighbors are great, that their city or town is amazing. In Buffalo, it’s so true. We have amazing people around here, people that will help each other, that watch out for each other, that welcome you in. When we moved to the area (back for me) the parents I met in my kids’ classes were always so nice and friendly. They didn’t exclude me because I didn’t know them, and that matters to me. I’m naturally a very shy person and have trouble getting to know people because I struggle with small talk and come across as snobby because I just don’t know what to say. The people here engaged me in conversation and were always friendly. I love that!

I know I can get those things in a lot of places, but the most important one for me was being somewhere near family and friends. My parents are five minutes away from us, my sister and brother are each twenty minutes away. We have friends within ten minutes. It makes life so much nicer to have people around we can get together with and we can count on.

So, if I could live anywhere, I’d live right where I am. Of course, I’d have my house built already, but that’ll come eventually! I love living in Buffalo, and I really don’t want to move!

Thanks so much, Vicki, for your question! If you have a question, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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QA Sunday: Hardest Scene

Aliana has a question for me today to kick off our week!

What was the hardest scene or story you’ve written and why?

Well, if you’ve been around here for a while, or read my books, you know I write very light-hearted romance. Yes, my books are steamy, but they’re light. There’s not a lot of heavy scenes or anything dark. So hard for me has come in the form of the opposite of what I write.

The hardest scene I’ve ever written was Claire’s scene where she detailed the high school rape by her boyfriend. I can’t imagine what she went through. Knowing there are people out there who’ve been through the same made me want to get it right, but also respect the victims.

There’s never a time when it’s okay, but unfortunately it happens. I wanted to show one person’s story. No, it wasn’t based on any facts. It was purely fiction. I know everyone handles painful and difficult situations differently, and this was a fictional interpretation of what one person could have done.

But it was hard. Impossibly hard. To imagine the situation was painful. To write it and have to feel what she went through was… I can’t even explain. If you’ve read Lush & Lovely, you know Claire was still dealing with what happened years later. It’s been over a year since I’ve written that book, but I still remember it. I remember the scene because it stuck with me. It was hard. I didn’t want to write it, but I felt like it needed to be told.

I hope it was done well.

Thanks so much, Aliana, for your question! If you have a question, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Q&A Sunday: Male Characters

I’ve been sitting on this question for a while because I wasn’t sure how to answer it. I think I finally figured it out! Aliana wants to know…

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered when writing about characters from the opposite sex?

Writing men is hard. And not just during the fun moments! Seriously, though, men are a challenge.

Yes, I’m married. I have an amazing husband, a six year old son, a brother who is 17 months younger than me, and a wonderful father. But none of that means I understand men!

Women are complex. We’re moody and temperamental and emotional and a little crazy sometimes. I get that because I am one. I know we’re all different, but I feel like I understand women since I am one. I’ve felt all those things. All those struggles.

Men want us to believe they’re simple creatures. If they have sex, they’re happy. If they have food, they’re happy. If they have a bit of sleep, they’re happy. Not necessarily in that order, and definitely not in balance, but you know what I mean.

The challenge is that men are not simple. Men are just as complex as we are. They have mood swings. They have emotions. They want more than sex, food, and sleep.

Most of the time.

Characters though, they’re not real men. Sometimes, they’re the men we want real men to be. An alpha with a softer side. A beta with a dangerous vibe. An average Joe who is damaged.

Writing men is tough.

No matter how many men I know personally, how many I am close to, I’m not inside their heads. I don’t know them, the way they think, the reasons they do things, their fears, hopes, and dreams. I can speculate, but I haven’t been there.

Graham, Puffy & Precious, was a challenge for me because he’s a little bit alpha and I struggle with that. Don’t get me wrong, alpha can be sexy, but I’m not intimately aware of alpha. My husband isn’t alpha, a fact I’m very happy about. So writing a guy who was a little alpha was tough for me. A guy who was going to jump to conclusions, get jealous, and try to control things. I don’t know that I would have put up with as much as Abby, but then again, she was a challenge for him, too!

Brady, Fat & Fine, was another struggle for me. He was so wounded and angry that I had trouble relating to him. I sympathized with him, felt bad for him, but I didn’t know him. Sam was hurt also, with her own wounds. The two of them were both in need of someone who could help them heal, but I felt like I’d walked in Sam’s shoes more than Brady’s. And I struggled a bit with him.

Every man is a challenge for me. Every man gives me more than a few moments that I hesitate. I agonize over their words, their thoughts, their actions. In the end, I write them the best way I can, and hope that they are real enough to make you a believer, but fictional enough to make you love them!

Thanks so much, Aliana, for your question! If you have a question, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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