A Novel Way to Approach Resolutions
Author Cecilia Dominic joins us today!
So one of your New Year’s resolutions is to write a novel? Congratulations! I wholeheartedly support choosing to do something that brings you joy and won’t require you to give up favorite foods or otherwise deprive yourself of something you love. Let’s talk about how you can mindfully support yourself as you embark on this journey of discovery into your own mind and life.
According to the definition of Mindfulness on Psychology Today (link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness), “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
I teach this principle to my patients, and research has demonstrated its effectiveness with insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders. Since it’s generally accepted that we writers are a little nuts, this is a good thing. Okay, I’m kidding (mostly).
Here are some Mindfulness skills that I’ve tried to apply to my own writing life:
Living in the present: This one gets bandied about so much it’s almost become a cliché. What does this look like? It’s keeping focused on your current project rather than allowing other things that want your attention right now to distract you. It’s writing something you love without worrying about what the market is going to look like in the future when you’ve finished it. And if you think about it, when you’re writing along and are so wrapped up in your story and characters that time passes without you realizing it, that’s as present-focused as you can get.
Values: Ask yourself why are you writing a novel, or what principles are behind your desire to write one? As a society, we tend to be very goal-focused, but in doing so, we may push ourselves too hard and give up when we don’t meet our goals. Writing a novel is very rewarding, but it’s also work. Making it to the end may start to seem less important if you don’t have more than your goal driving you. Values can also keep you from succumbing to procrastination when that random household task suddenly seems more important than writing. For me, creativity and persistence are two of my personal values, so they lend themselves to writing long fiction, and it helps that writing keeps me sane.
Balance: While sitting down and writing is the main activity of novel-crafting, there are other necessary parts. Balance will help you give yourself credit for when you’re engaged in activities that will help your book get written such as research. I’m a geek, and I have to be careful not to get too caught up in research, but I also tend to feel guilty for not actually putting words on the page. I also catch myself feeling like planning isn’t writing, but it’s a necessary part of the process as well.
Observing without judging is another important Mindfulness skill. Yes, this applies to the revision process, but you’re not there yet. As a first-time novelist, observe your process and see what works best for you. There’s a lot of advice out there on how best to write a book – daily word count goals, ideal time commitments, when to do what – but none of it applies to every writer or even every book, and we can often get down on ourselves about not meeting these theoretical expectations. I tend toward wanting to do things the “right way,” but it can be difficult to find the right way to write until you’ve experimented with a lot of wrong ways.
Use this year to discover your process and how to make it fun. Do you prefer to work from a detailed outline? Great for you! Or do you just sit and write and go, figuring you’ll sort it out later in revisions? That works, too. I discovered with The Mountain’s Shadow that I’m a hybrid – I’ll write along until I get stuck and then plot out the next few scenes. Once I get to a certain point, I’ll list out the questions I’ve asked in the book (e.g., What happened to Joanie’s grandfather?) and then write toward answering them and wrapping things up. As for daily word count, I have my target pace and accept that some days I’ll write less, and some more. Sure, this has changed a little since I’m now writing with contracts and deadlines, but taking the time to figure out what works best for me has really helped me know what deadlines are realistic and how best to approach projects. Long Shadows, the sequel to The Mountain’s Shadow, took me about four months to draft because I know my process.
Writing your novel will not always be fun, but staying in the moment, defining the values behind your desire to write one, maintaining your balance, and observing what works best for you to define your process will help you to finish it. I wish you much luck and creativity in 2014, and Happy Novel Year!
Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each.
Web page: www.ceciliadominic.com
The Mountain’s Shadow
Some mistakes can literally come back to bite you.
The Lycanthropy Files, Book 1
First it was ADD. Then pediatric bipolar. Now the hot behavioral disorder in children is CLS, or Chronic Lycanthropy Syndrome. Public health researcher Joanie Fisher was closing in on the cause in hopes of finding a treatment until a lab fire and an affair with her boss left her without a job.
When her grandfather leaves her his multimillion-dollar estate in the Ozarks, though, she figures her luck is turning around. Except her inheritance comes with complications: town children who disappear during full moons, an irresistible butler, and a pack of werewolves who can’t seem to decide whether to frighten her or flirt with her.
Joanie’s research is the key to unraveling the mysteries of Wolfsbane Manor. However, resuming her work means facing painful truths about her childhood, which could result in the loss of love, friendship, and the only true family she has left.
Warning: Some sexy scenes, although nothing explicit, and adult language. Also alcohol consumption and food descriptions that may wreck your diet.