Back to Blogging and New Opportunities

typewriter is on top of a blue tableIt’s been a while since I’ve written for the blog, but I am dusting it off for several reasons. When I started the blog in 2014, I was anxious for a creative outlet. My early posts focused on book reviews, life with ADHD, parenting, and my experiments with different ways to organize myself as I worked toward submitting my work for publication.

After seven years work, I am an award winning author, with eighteen published books (soon to be nineteen). I am a hybrid author working with a traditional small press and indie publishing my shorter works.

So what does that mean for this blog? My new vision for the blog is one where I share writing tips, tools, software, and methods of work along with reviews of writing craft books. As before, you’ll never see pop-up ads or ads at all on the blog. You will see affiliate links from time to time when there are products that I use and think would help you. Affiliate links provide a small commission to me if folks purchase the item using my link. It doesn’t add to your costs, but it helps pay for web fees and keep the lights on for the blog.

When I started seriously working on developing my writing craft, I devoured writing blogs and craft books. I was always looking for ways to work with my brain, with my specific thought processes, and for help with my distraction issues. I found many blogs and books with great suggestions.  Some worked for me, and some didn’t. I’m still working on developing my craft and spend time each week reading craft books and putting into practice ideas and methods to hone my craft. No one ever achieves mastery in the writing craft, but you can always strive to improve your writing.
And that is key about future posts. If I present something on the blog as a method of work it has worked for me, or for folks I know, and your mileage may vary. So for better or worse, from now on, this blog will be focused on writing and working as a writer with distraction issues.

So no matter where you are in your writing journey, come along for the ride by subscribing to my new newsletter, also titled Writing While Distracted. In addition to exclusive newsletter content a few times a month, each time I publish the blog, it will arrive in your inbox. You won’t miss a post. This is a separate newsletter from my author newsletter so don’t worry about redundant content.

 Here is the link to sign up for the Writing While Distracted newsletter and your opportunity to receive my workbook on beating writer’s block. Sign up now because I have so many things I want to share with you all. Click below to sign up and access your free download. 

https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/p9n3t3

See you soon!

Giving Back

I met a life goal this year. Ever since I attended my first writer’s conference, way back in 2012, I’ve had on my goal/dreams/wish list “Present workshop at a writer’s conference.”
Why? Because I benefited from so many writers who shared what they had learned throughout their careers. After every workshop I attended, I experienced the sensation of being lifted up and encouraged. I wanted to share those sensations with other writers. I wanted to give back. Achieving my goal would also mean that I would have reached a point in my career where I had something of value to share.
This summer, I met my goal at the Golden Crown Literary Society’s virtual conference.
I had a wonderful time presenting my workshop, answering questions, and engaging with the audience. Silencing the Voices and Freeing the Writer Within is a workshop that offerss solutions and ideas for non-neurotypical individuals struggling with writer’s block. As part of the workshop, I created a workbook for folks working through writer’s block, and it’s available as a free download on my website.
I hope everyone who wants to share their words with the world will do it because it always needs more stories. Until  next  time  I’ll  leave  you  wtih  this  thought.


Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. Her novel Double Six won the 2020 GCLS Goldie for Erotica. The first novel in her University Square Series was a 2021 Goldie Finalist.  She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering on her front porch and writing, she wrangles two kids, two dogs, and an unrepentant parrot.  She blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted.  Sign Up for her email list and receive a free short stories at   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

 

Owning it and help from a friend

It’s been a wild few months since I won the 2020 Goldie for my erotic novel,  Double Six. The award still doesn’t have a permanent home in my house. It is in its lovely box on my shelf because I moved my office at the start of the pandemic. I have a desk now in the corner of my living room and am back to writing where ever I can find space to sit with my laptop.

This photo makes me nostalgic for the time when I could drop the kids off at school and head to my favorite tea shop, have an oaty biscuit and a pot of tea and lose myself in my imaginary world. Both the tea shop and my ability to physically remove myself from my home to write are gone. But the ability to lose myself in my imaginary world remains.

But it feels a little different now. The Goldie award lurks in the of my periphery of thoughts. I worry if my next book will be as well received. If I think about it too much, I can find myself paralyzed. I’m super fortunate to have a very good friend who, when I mentioned this imposter feeling and struggle I was having offered this advice. First, she reminded me of things I tend to forget, for instance, this is not my first book, that folks wanted to read my stories. And she said the words I needed to hear:

“Get on with it. Write your damn book.”

It is the perfect reminder of what makes the difference between committing yourself to write a book.  I’ve written them on a card and stuck them where I can see them whenever I find myself distracted or worried or being precious about my writing. If you are creative and stuck or if your struggling with imposter syndrome, I’m offering you the same tough love.

“Get on with it. Write your damn book.”

Thank you,  VT, and I think we need to make this a t-shirt and maybe a mug 🙂 

 

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. Her novel Double Six won the 2020 GCLS Goldie for Erotica. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering on her front porch and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted.  Sign Up for her email list and receive a free erotic short story at   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

On The Square

Double Six

Complex Dimensions

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Keys to Compelling Fiction: Crafting Characters

The lovely thing about writing is, well, two things. One, writing fiction allows us to bring an order to our lives that doesn’t exist in real life. And two, it allows us to create human characters that we know better than we will ever know anyone in real life. ” Octavia Butler

I adore the above quote from Octavia Butler.  Characters are, for most readers, the most compelling reason for them to keep reading. Readers may tolerate a mediocre plot and pacing that is a bit off, but if they don’t give a rat’s patootie about the characters, they will stop reading your novel.  I know from discussions with both authors and readers I’m not the only person who misses fictional characters after we finish writing, or reading a book, in fact sometimes the only thing that pushes me to finish is a desperate desire to know how my characters’ stories unfold and because I write romance I want them to get to their happy endings.

How do you go about crafting characters that keep readers turning pages? Some writers fill out exhaustive inventories of personality questions, and character inventories, some authors write reams of backstory, and others wing it. I have one friend that draws Tarot cards and uses them to create her characters.

I have a few tools I use for character creation and thought I would share my favorites. I begin my character building by starting with generalities: what they look like, age, where they grew up, and what they do for a living. The next step is completing the Backstory Wound Profile tool developed by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman and available in their book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. I use The Emotional Wound Thesaurus to give depth to my characters, to provide them with reliable, understandable, and relatable reasons for their behaviors.

My next step is to complete a quick reread of Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goal Motivation and Conflict. Her short book is a concise explanation of why it is essential to understand your character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts. Dixon provides a GMC sheet that I complete as well using the information from the Backstory Wound Profile tool. If you don’t read any other book on this list, read this one. The third step in creating my characters is to research their occupations and culture. I use blogs, ethnographies, and in some cases, my travel journals to add details to my characters profiles.

Developing my characters is as much a part of my writing process as much as creating an outline. If I get stuck writing a scene or if the story is not flowing, I go back to my character sheets. Story flow problems are most often issues with a character’s growth arc. After rereading my character sheets, I’m usually able to suss out why my story is not working. After I address character arc issues, I’m ready to continue writing with confidence, knowing that my characters are moving along a believable path.

Writers, what are your favorite ways to craft characters? Do you have favorite tools and techniques you use? Readers, who are your favorite characters from fiction, the ones you still think about long after you close the book?

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories  

Coming Soon

Complex Dimensions, book four in the Rowan House series. Preorders Available September 20, 2019

Back to Work

It’s the beginning of a new school year at our house — a time of new lunch boxes and backpacks and school supplies. My kids love school, and as much as I love our lazy summer days, I crave the structure that the school calendar brings to our lives. I have taken most of the summer off to reset and recharge, including an almost two weeks long social/screen sabbatical. During part of that, I took my kids’ camping for the first time, and it went well. The best part was the campground had no cell or internet connection, true freedom from 24/7 overload, and a fantastic digital detox. I am energized and well-rested and finally out of the blender.

What is the blender? It’s those times in your life when, just as you are getting settled, starting to get used to the new normal, something else occurs which requires you to change your plans, to find a new way to accomplish the five million and two things on your to-do list. And for those of us who struggle with our ADHD on a good day, and schedule disruption can send us right off the rails and destroy our ability to focus. The unstructured time of summer is both marvelous on one hand because I do like spending time with my kids, but I also struggle because I crave alone time to create. I coped this summer by using my bits of time to research and outline three projects.

Are things going to settle down now? Nope. There will be all the craziness that fall brings. But my kids will be busy at school, and I will have uninterrupted time for writing, or as I like to think of it, playing with my imaginary friends on paper. Now that my kids can read, and read very well, it is hard for me to work with them around and I can’t sneak in the time I used to when they were younger. The fall and winter are my most productive time, and last year, I managed to write two novels and a novella between September and March. I cheat a bit by doing NaNoWriMo every year, and that pushes me to complete a novel in a month.

This year my goal is to complete all three of the books I outlined by May of next year. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to give it a good go, and having the framework in place makes me feel like I can. Not writing over the summer was super hard. Writing is essential for my mental health. Blogging, one of my favorite things to do, and the one thing I try to keep with, no matter what, has been hit or miss the last few months and that has made it much more difficult for me stay on an even keel. Writing, art journaling, and telling stories are my touchstones. The past four months have made that clear to me that no matter what I need to provide time for myself to create. Going forward, I’m getting back to work, knowing that when everything is wacky, and I’m in the blender, the one thing I can do to anchor myself, is writing. My advice, if you are a creator and you’re struggling, set aside a few minutes to create. Even fifteen minutes of writing/drawing/painting or whatever is your creative outlet, can make a difference, make time and create.  

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking hereSign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

When You’ve Lost the Thread

It’s been a while since I’ve written about writing, mostly because I’ve found a system for fast-draft writing that has worked with my ADHD. I used my system for seven novels and I’ve been comfortable with the results. I have never been a detailed outliner. I work from a scene list and character goal-motivation and conflict sheets and let my story evolve organically within that framework. I typically draft a 60-65K novel in four to six weeks and then spend three to four weeks revising and editing my draft before submitting it.
Trusting in my system, I used it with my current project, a novella-length paranormal romance with dual points of view. With this project, because I needed to attend to two character’s points of view, along with paranormal conventions, I’ve been feeling my way along the story, and it was going well, slowly, but well.
And then I needed to take some time after my brother-in-law’s death. I set my story aside for three weeks, and when I started working on my novella again, I was lost. I couldn’t remember what I had written, or where I was going in the story.
Because my way of working falls somewhere between a painter and a plotter I used a technique that is a routine part of my revision process, I printed out what I had written and reverse outlined the story as a way of figuring out what I needed to do to complete my draft.
After reviewing my outline I know I need to write six more scenes to finish my first draft and have about 13K words to complete those scenes and stay within my word count limit.
What is a reverse outline? It involves reading what you’ve written and then creating an outline from that document. It can be detailed or brief as it fits your style. For me, it’s a one-sentence description of what happens in each scene.
I don’t stop to edit my work. I merely outline my story as it stands. After I have completed the outline I read over it to assess if my scenes flow as they should, that my story beats are where they should be, and in this case that I’ve given equal time to each character’s point of view. I use highlighters to tag types of scenes and transitions.
It is the simplest way I’ve found to check structure and beats, and if you have lost your way, it is a road map back to your central story and ensures that critical elements of your novel are not missing. If you struggle with plotting and structure, try adding a reverse outline to your routine revision process.
This time a reverse outline was a way of finding my way back to writing after a family tragedy, and another step toward preventing my grief from keeping my words bottled up.
Will a reverse outline work for everyone? Nope. If you are detailed outliner and are able to stick to your outline religiously, it might be redundant, as a plotser (panter+plotter) it is essential for me. Try it the next time you’re stuck and take advantage of a simple way to assess your story structure.

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Bring on 2019

This past year I wrote 59 blog posts, wrote and submitted three novel-length manuscripts, and two short stories. I also renovated a house and did eighty percent of the work myself. I have young children, a partner, and older parents with health issues that often require me to make an eight-hour drive to be there to help with their needs.
People ask me all the time if I sleep. The short answer is no, not much, but then I never have slept much more than six hours a night at any point in my life.
I also don’t watch television, or movies very much. I also left my part-time job this year as healthcare worker after 31 years, and that affords me more time to write. I am also extremely fortunate to enjoy excellent health.
Why tell all of you this? Because I’ve read the most incredibly stupid advice to writers about all the things you must do if you want to “be serious” about your career.
The types of articles and posts that contain this type of advice assume that what works/worked for them will work for everyone. This is not true. I’m going to say it louder for folks in the back THIS IS NOT TRUE!
Every writer is unique, what works for me, will most likely not work for you. I have wicked ADHD, which is why I don’t sleep and am driven to keep doing something, to move, to think, to create when most neurotypical folks are resting or sleeping.
I also tend to hyperfocus which means I can write in the middle of a busy street, or my living room surrounded by my family with all kinds of chaos going on. It doesn’t mean that I’m more serious than the next person it only means I have found a way to work that works for me.
And this is my advice for folks for 2019, find a way that works for you. Go ahead and read the books, try different methods, explore your options, and in the end trust yourself. You do you. My second bit of advice, please for all that’s good in the world and your sanity, don’t compare your output to anyone else.
The same folks who want to tell you that you must write every day like to say “we all have the same 24 hours a day.”
I want to point out that is not true. My 24 hours do not look like your 24 hours. We each have unique responsibilities and time constraints, physical and mental abilities, that make our 24 hours what they are, and yes we can control some of what our 24 hours look like, but work and family obligations are often beyond our control, as a mom of twins, trust me, even with the best-laid plans, two kids with fevers wreck your day, and may wreck your week!
My wish for everyone out there is to have a happy, sane and healthy New Year, filled with joy and that you accomplish your goals your way.

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign up for her email list  here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

Writing: Job or Business?

I was reading a thread a few weeks ago about writing, specifically about the need to write every day and the idea that if you didn’t, you weren’t serious about being published. One of the you-must-write-everyday proponents wrote, “I treat writing like my job and show up every day.” As I turned that thought over it occurred to me “Is writing my job or my business?”
Now, in case I have been unclear in the past,  I’m am firmly in the camp that recommends writing when you can, making use of whatever time you have to write. Working this way has seen me through four published books with another novel set to release in September. A job usually has set hours and an expectation of working a set time. As a small business owner, in addition to being an author, I can tell you that working on your business is a matter of finding/making time to do what needs to be done. Owning a business involves thinking and dreaming, strategic planning, cash flow management, and setting goals.

Just showing up every day and putting words on paper does nothing if you don’t have a plan for what to do with those words. If having your book traditionally published or indie publishing is your goal you have to have a plan, and then you must take advantage of every second you have to work your plan.
As someone with a day job, who is also a spouse, a parent, and a daughter with older parents and in-laws this is the only way I’ve been able to get any writing done with the goal of publication. I’ve researched publisher sites and calls for submission databases sitting on the couch while my kid with a fever dozed next to me. I’ve written in hospital waiting rooms while various family members were having surgery, and in medical offices and occupational therapy waiting rooms, and very late at night when the house is quiet, and I can’t sleep.
When my kids were little, I had exactly 2 hours and 45 minutes to write between when I dropped them off at pre-school and when I picked them up. I wrote like a fiend during that time, unless I need to grocery shop, or had to run some other errand that would have been incredibly stressful with three-year-old twins in tow. Writing every day does not make you a writer or indicate the level of your seriousness. The things that indicate a serious approach to publishing your work are writing, editing, submitting your work, finding ways to improve your craft, and working steadily towards what you want. Writing for publication is not just about writing, it is about learning your craft, striving to make the next book better than the last, and most of all it is about not listening to people say you have to do X, Y, or Z to be considered serious writer. You do you. Find your way. Don’t listen to people who insist there is only one way to do anything, even me.

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.

 

Website: www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories

 

The Four Stages of Submission

 

No. Not that kind of submission. I’m talking about hitting the send button after I’ve polished my manuscript to hell and back and send it off to my editor. That kind of submission. With all due apologies to my friends who have to deal with me between the time I send a manuscript out and hear back from my editor, this is what I experience every time I send a book off for evaluation.

  1. Elation. The highest high, I’ve finally sent it off. Woo hoo I am done. Now I can start on that awesome idea I had for a book in the middle of this book.
  2. Anxiety. Oh hell, what was I thinking? It wasn’t ready. I should have spent more time editing it. Damn it’s too late. They’ll hate it. I better get to work on the next book.
  3. Anger. The hell with it. What do I care if they don’t accept it? I have other stories. So many  other stories to write. Let me channel my anger into this scene.
  4. Relief. The editor has responded. No more wondering. No more obsessively checking my email fifteen times a day.
    Substages: *1. They accepted it. Woohoo. Time to celebrate and then get to work on the next book. 2. They rejected it. Damn. Time to wallow in sadness for a bit, soothe myself with old movies, and bourbon. Then I let it go and get to work on the next book.

The key to surviving as a writer is to always get back to work. Feel the feels and then sit down and write. 

What are your stages of submission?

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Creativity: Habit or Gift?


One of the questions writers hear over and over is: Where do you get your ideas?, often followed by the statement: I’m just not creative. I don’t have a hard time answering the first. I get my ideas from everything I see, read, experience, and bits of the world I discover, often while looking for something else. Like this picture of my grandmother and her best friend.

One day I will tell a story about this photo. I found it looking through a photo album at my mother’s house.  I made a copy of the photo and added it to my flat file where I keep bits and pieces of ideas until I have enough to put together a project. 

The second statement is so hard to hear. I detest the idea that creativity is a gift. I don’t think it is, because there are so many ways to be creative. It is not only writing, drawing, or painting or any of traditional ideas of what being creative means. Being creative is allowing yourself time to think, to do something only you could produce with your thoughts, and hands, and time.

Lack of time is the greatest barrier to creativity. If you want to create you have to set time aside to think, to plan, to play with your ideas, and to experiment. If you want to create make a plan, schedule it into your life. Set aside time to think and discover. Anyone can create. Fine arts are only one aspect of creativity. Do you like to make changes and adapt recipes? That is being creative. Do you spend time decorating your home or planting a garden? That is being creative. Creativity is what happens when you stop and let yourself imagine, and dream. Give yourself permission to look at life sideways. Take the walk, visit the museum, read, and absorb the world around you. Creativity is a habit. It is work. Rewarding, delightful, soul filling work. Do the work. 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave