The Dreaded Writer’s Block

I’ve been writing for most of my life and have never really had a long bout of writer’s block — until the past few months. At first, I chalked it up to the busy-ness of the holidays, then January hit and I had no more excuses. I knew: I was stuck. I had the basic arc of the story in my head. I knew where I wanted to go, but every time I sat down to write I just couldn’t find the next words. Instead, I’d hop online to Facebook or Goodreads, play a few games on Sporcle, or put the computer away to watch reruns of “Sherlock.” I was the queen of distractions.

It didn’t bother me at first. I’d been writing fast and furious for the past few years. I have Book Six completely written and awaiting editing (I don’t always write in order). So, maybe I just needed a break. But that break began dragging on too long and I started to get worried. Maybe I was losing my edge. Maybe I was getting bored. This was different from my journalism days when I’d stare at the blank page waiting to pound out my next newspaper article. In those cases, I had to get my work done. If I’d told my editor I had writer’s block, he would have laughed and told me to get back to work. On a deadline, there is no such thing.

So I made myself write. If I had an idea for a later point in the book, I wrote that part first. Sometimes it was just a few paragraphs. Sometimes in the back of my mind, I knew what I was writing sucked and I was going to have to go back and fix it anyway. But at some point, the gears quit slipping and the story clicked again. Whew!

Now it’s back to work. 

Taking the plunge?

I have four novels published only in e-book format and I don’t own an e-reader. In fact, up until a few days ago, I was completely sure I didn’t want one. Crazy, right?
I am one of those people who loves the smell of books — when I walk through the library, I keep taking deep breaths to inhale the awesome smell of ink on pages. I like the weight of a book in my hands. I enjoy watching my progress as my bookmark moves closer and closer to the end.
I also am not particularly tech-savvy. I like my texting phone and have no interest in a smart phone. My husband thinks I’m just being a cheapskate. But the truth is that someone could give me one for free and offer to cover my data plan for life and I still wouldn’t want it. I hate trying to navigate the ‘net on that little screen.
So no one was more shocked than me when the idea of purchasing an e-reader began to take shape. I was at the dentist earlier this week and he was raving over his e-reader, talking about how it compared to his iPad and what he liked about each. Something about his assessment appealed to me. I had lugged in my thick book but his e-reader would fit in my purse and hold hundreds of books. Plus, I see so many cool indie books online that also only come in e-book format. And so many of my friends swear by their e-readers.
Hmmm….
Now I’m doing some research and assessing whether or not I really will take the plunge. And, if I do, whether my purchase should be a true e-reader or a tablet with an e-reading app. Any advice for this newbie?

5 Things I Learned As A Reporter

Trust me, you don’t become a reporter for the pay or the hours. Both pretty much suck. But it’s a job that has its unique set of rewards. Here are five things I learned during my time as a reporter. I could probably think of more, but this is a good start:

1. Why You Should Be A Concerned Citizen. Seriously, it really is sad how few people know what is going on in their local government. It was not unusual for me to be the only person at these public meetings. It’s hard to believe people can name the finalists on “American Idol” or know all the key players for March Madness but can’t name the elected officials on their school boards and municipal governing bodies. These people are making the decisions that will impact your future for better or for worse. Doesn’t it make sense to find out what they are doing?

2. How To Read A Property Tax Bill. This might sound stupid, but it’s amazing how many people have no idea what their tax bill means, what caused their bill to go up or down, what the assessor said their house is worth, things like that. Don’t you want to know what you are paying for?

3. Dealing With Criticism. Having a thick skin is absolutely imperative for any reporter because you will be constantly criticized for how you do your job. The trick is to learning when someone is making a good point and when that person is being a tool. Either way, you have to learn to let it go. You are going to make mistakes. Own up to them, correct what you can, then move on. But you are also going to be dealing with jerks. You have to ignore them and just do your job.

4. Be Curious. One of the best things about being a reporter is that you can ask all the questions you want without people thinking you’re a nosy twit. The best reporters are people who are lifelong learners, people who are always curious about how things work and why people do what they do. After awhile, you learn that everyone has a story or hobby or something that makes them interesting. You just have to find it.

5. How To Save. And I’m not talking about money. When you are writing your story, distracted by the witty words you are using to describe new legislation or a blowup at a city council meeting, remember to hit the darn save button frequently. Most reporters can share at least one instance when their computer locked up and they lost their entire story. The story is never as good the second time around, crafted this time by desperation as the clock is ticking away toward your deadline. Plus you’re royally ticked off that you are having to do the story again. The lesson is never trust your computer to auto save anything. Always hit the save button.

Bonus: On a related note, never trust your computer’s spell check to save you from embarrassing gaffes. You have to proofread. Otherwise, your report may say a car drove into the bitch rather than the ditch. (Yes, this really happened!) Not cool.

Freebie

I meant to post this sooner, but I got caught up in the Thanksgiving holiday — happy belated Thanksgiving, by the way!

Anyway, “Vengeance Is Mine” will be free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online ebook retailers for a short time. I can’t really control when the sale ends at some of the sites since there is a delay in when I make a change and when it actually shows up online. After that, look for “Flesh and Blood” to be offered as a freebie for a short time, as well.

If you know someone who might like to try my Emily O’Brien books, this is a good way to check them out without a financial commitment. Thanks for reading!

Music as inspiration

I’ve been meaning to post my playlist for “Flesh and Blood” so here it is:

1. “Looks Like Love,” Needtobreathe
2. “Breath You In,” Thousand Foot Krutch
3. “Ordinary Days,” Jars of Clay
4. “Prisoner,” Needtobreathe
5. “Lifeline,” Mat Kearney
6. “It’s Probably Me,” Sting

Do pictures really paint 1,000 words? I don’t think so…

A couple of books I’ve read and enjoyed are soon to be films, and I have to admit that makes me leery. I’m worried that Hollywood won’t do them justice. And … I’m probably in the minority … I don’ t think every book is meant to make the jump to the silver screen.
Take Stephenie Meyer’s book “The Host.” I didn’t see the movie, but noticed that the reviews were awful. As much as I enjoyed the book, I was pretty sure the movie wouldn’t work. The bulk of the emotional conflict takes place in the main character’s head — alien vs. human. That’s pretty tough to show on screen but works just fine on the page.
“The Hunger Games” was a decent interpretation of the book, but when I watched it with my husband, I ended up explaining all the things the movie had to leave out. And I did miss some of those facets.
In this case, my husband didn’t mind my ramblings. But I know my complaints can annoy him when a movie seriously deviates from its written source material. (I once had a mind snap after watching “Rising Sun,” which completely ruined Michael Crichton’s book.)
Sometimes, I’ll be reading a book and think, “Gee, this would make a great movie.” Usually there is plenty of action or really colorful characters or something that makes it work visually. But in some cases, I see that a movie is coming out based on a beloved book and just think “Why?”
As a reader, I want to keep that picture in my head of how the characters look and act. I don’t want someone else’s interpretation. But…sometimes it’s fun to see a character come to life (i.e. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss).
So what do you think? Can Hollywood successfully bring a book to the big screen?