Christina Cole Romance

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Make a Mess!

Creativity

I say these words over and over because they’re so very true. I don’t recall the source, but I do remember when I first heard them. I was sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by a mess of papers, drawings, art supplies, books, and snacks as I worked on a project. Yes, creative people make big messes.

It was then as I began the “cleaning up” process that I fully understood this little saying. As I sorted through ideas and inspirations — keeping some and discarding others — my mess turned into a completed project.

I approach fiction from this perspective, too. I make a huge mess with story ideas all over the place. I scribble notes on odd scraps of paper. I grab research books to keep close at hand. Putting a story together does get very messy indeed.

For what it’s worth, my current project — The Sheriff Wore Skirts — is a disastrous mess at the moment. Even though I began with a synopsis for the publisher, now that I’m working on the story, I’m seeing new possibilities. New characters are emerging. New complications and conflicts are happening.

What do I do?  I let it happen. It’s wondrous fun.

To me, it’s much like working a jigsaw puzzle…only first, I have to create all the pieces.

I won’t use them all. As with any creative project, I’ll find myself throwing away things that aren’t needed, sorting out what’s right for the story, getting rid of ideas that don’t fit. Gradually, the mess will be picked up. The research books will go back on the shelf. The little scraps of paper will be tossed aside. A finished manuscript will come together, ready to go to the publisher.

Don’t ever get discouraged when your creative efforts result in a huge mess. That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s a process, and making a mess — the bigger, the better — is the first step toward success. Celebrate all the mixed-up, confused ideas. Scatter the pieces of your own puzzle around so you can look at them from different angles. Pick things up and play with them. Enjoy the mess!

Then begin the cleaning-up process. Throw away or set aside things you know you don’t need. Find what’s most important and build around it. Add in possibilities that might work. Discard ones that don’t work.

Slowly and surely, as you clean up the mess — whether it’s an art project, a poem you’re writing, a recipe you’re cooking, or any other endeavor — you’ll see a beautiful creation shining through.

 

 


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Back to School? Already?

the-3-rsIt’s only August! Mid-August, in fact. Yet already schools are open and students are boarding buses each morning, heading off to learn “readin’, ritin’, and ‘rithmetic”. Although, to my mind, it’s still a bit too early — when I grew up, school never started until after Labor Day — I do look forward to the beginning of each new school year.

I’ve always loved walking into stores and seeing school supplies lined up. Oh, the notebooks, pencils, and pens! The colorful binders and folders!

Yes, I was one of those “nerdy” kids who loved school. Of course, back in the day, we weren’t called nerds or geeks.  I always got excited to think of all the new discoveries I would make and all I would learn over the coming year.

I still get excited by learning, and that’s why the end of summer and the beginning of school always thrills me. As autumn arrives — officially — and the air grows cool and the leaves turn colors, my excitement will continue to grow.

For me, this time of year is a signal to settle down, get into a regular routine, and turn my mind and attention to what I most enjoy doing — writing.  With that “back to school” attitude in my head and that same excitement in my heart, I can come into MLWR (my little writing room) each day with a burst of enthusiasm.

What can I learn today about fiction-writing and story-telling? What new possibilities will I discover as I’m putting scenes together? What ideas might suddenly come along?

My current project is The Sheriff Wore Skirts —another title in the “Sunset Series”. These are stories of life and love in the old west, with an ever-growing cast of characters who’ve become near and dear to my heart. At present, the manuscript is about 34,000 words, so there’s still much to be done before the story goes to the publisher in November.

Here’s a short little “tease” from the opening of The Sheriff Wore Skirts:

How long did a broken heart last? Nearly a month had passed since Sheriff Caleb Bryant’s best girl Molly had run off with another man – his former deputy, Hank Goddard – and his heart hadn’t yet begun to heal. Now, Hank and Molly were home again in Sunset.

Worse still, she was standing right in front of him.

Even though this is the project I’m actively involved with, it’s not the only project I have “in the works”. As a writer, I always have dozens of ideas lurking around, and that’s where all those colorful binders and organizational folders come in very handy.

The key to writing a novel is keeping it organized. There’s a great deal of information a writer needs, even if it doesn’t all go into the story. There’s research information, details about characters — their appearance, their background, their goals, their motivations — and there’s various settings we have to keep in mind. Writers often create timelines of events, of course, or outlines of a story’s scenes. As a writer of historical fiction, I also keep calendars from the years a story takes place so I know for certain what day of the week things are happening. For what it’s worth, I always check the moon phases, too, so if you’re reading about a gorgeous full moon as my lovers stroll hand in hand, you can be sure it really was full that particular long-ago night.

In the same way as a novel needs organization — a binder is great for this — future ideas also need some sort of order. I keep a stack of folders nearby, and when new ideas come to mind, or when I suddenly “hear” or “see” a scene from a new story, I can quickly jot down my thoughts and file them away.

So, what it all means is that this week, I’ll probably be stocking up on “school supplies” — even if I now call them “writing supplies”. I’ll be doing a lot of “readin’ and ‘ritin'” and even a bit of “rithmetic” as I keep my characters’ biographies up to date. Let’s see, just how old is little Kitty Barron now?

Oh, is that a school bell I hear? Guess that means it’s time to begin my day. Readers are waiting for the next book. Time for me get busy.

Thanks for visiting today!

Which of the “Sunset” books is your favorite?