Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scapegoat's ABC's for Writers: B Stands For Balance

Last time I blogged about the A in my ABC's of writing I've discovered as I've gotten further along in my writing. Today we're going to talk about B - BALANCE.

There are three areas I think it's important for a writer to think about BALANCE, but let's start with the big one most people think of when they think of Balance: making sure you don't neglect your non-writing life and loved ones while still producing great words on the page.

I'm going to share a secret with you - my writing soars - really comes flowing out of me - when I've remembered to make time for my husband and things that I enjoy. For a romance writer trying to capture that essential feeling of falling in love and HEA, doing something that makes you smile or laugh can really trigger an emotional leap on the page. Now, that works for me even when I'm writing dark scenes. I don't need to be in a dark place in life, just in touch with any emotional high that I can relate either directly or conversely to the scene.

A happy writer is a good writer. Screw all those old men writers who lived angst filled lives - we're writing romance and that means a HAPPILY EVER AFTER. At least for now. And I find that happiness in my daily life helps me find that on the page. Besides, those old goats were writing "literary fiction." Well, it was damn good but let's not go there.

I make sure to fit in at least 1 thing a week that is purely for my emotional happiness. Hikes with the hubby, reading a book, watching a movie. Anything that gives me an hour to balance my real emotions with those I'm trying to put on the page. I cannot say enough about how helpful this really can be for your writing. Give yourself a little balance and you'll find your writing goes better and quicker.

The second kind of BALANCE I think a writer should have is between actual writing and the "other" side of writing - learning the craft and social media/promotion. We've all probably heard "You need a platform" until we could puke. I mean how are you supposed to build a following, have an online writer identify and package your marketability to an agent or editor if you haven't been pubbed yet?

Well you can and it really is important that you do. I'm planning another blog post on this soon so don't worry! But again, with some balance. I've been guilty of spending too much time on Twitter talking with other writers instead of actually you know, doing the writing. Big no-no. But social media is important as a writer and you need to find a way to balance.Use tools to make tracking and posting to multiple social sites easier, consider blog posts part of your word count goals and most of all make sure you communicate when your followers and friends are most active - it will give you the most bang for your buck. Again, I'm planning a post soon with some new tips and tricks I've learned recently.

Lastly, and possibly the one most overlooked, you should think about the BALANCE in your writing. No one wants to read a one note book or characters who don't come alive. We've all heard the idea that even your big bad villain can't be all bad - the most interesting ones are those who are their own hero but for a twist in their character. The biggest laughs almost always come after some highly emotional reveal or scene. Take your reader on that roller coaster ride - the ups and down and twists and turns. Balance. Almost every part of your book benefits from it, from plot to characters to actual technical writing choices.

Where do you have the hardest time finding balance? Do you think the 3 things I've mentioned here are important to keep in mind or would you have included some others? How do you balance your writing life and the real world when it gets hectic? What about balance in your writing?


Marnee Bailey said...

Wow. Balance. Yeah, about that....

My balance issues always seem to spring from time management. Mostly that I don't have enough alone time. I'm not always rushing around, I'm just never by myself. It's hard to write with the sound of "I want juice!" and "can I have a banana?" in the background.

When I do get time without kids, I need balance quality time with the hubby with my quality time writing (alone). Sometimes it can feel like I'm pulled in a lot of directions. But I'm not stressed about it, really. These are all blessings--my kids, my DH, and my writing. I try to keep that in mind when I feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. :)

Sabrina Shields said...

I love your comment so much Marnee. It shows that when the things pulling you in a million different directions are things you love, then it's all worth it. :)

Janga said...

Since I'm semi-retired, I have fewer demands on my time than most of you do. I have days when I feel pressured, but I no longer have weeks or months when I feel pulled in a dozen different directions. I do struggle to balance my reading and writing time. If the writing is not going well, it's really tempting to become all reader/reviewer/on-line commenter about books.

TerriOsburn said...

I've never been good with balance but I'm better thanks to pushing myself way too hard a few years ago. My brain thinks I'm Wonder Woman but the rest of me knows differently. We've been trying to convince the brain and I think she's catching on.

You're exactly right that feeding our souls and making ourselves happy makes the words come more. Even if it's a sad scene, if I'm in a good mental place, that scene will be better. And easier (relative term) to write.

Prioritizing is important if you want to find balance. Bottom line, I had to give up my addiction to television. I can't write with the TV or radio on. I need silence. That meant turning everything off and putting my butt in the chair. My daughter has always been my top priority and spending an afternoon with her doing something fun charges me up for the second priority - the writing.

Sabrina Shields said...

Janga - Oh I feel you. When the words don't want to come the bookcase calls to me like a siren.

Sabrina Shields said...

Terri - I'm glad you figured out what was in your way for writing. Sometimes it's hard to let go of things we enjoy, but I've found I slip them in other ways.

TV for me NEVER happens when anything is on. It's always DVR'd or watched during lunch on hulu. I love Hulu.

Sabrina Shields said...

So Ladies - what about balance in your writing...

MsHellion said...

I spend a lot of my "free time" recooperating from being stressed out and tired and upset. This is not productive for writing. I need to balance that more; and I could do it with classes and craft, which would help work in #2 more. :)

And yes, I definitely need balance in having such a meandering book and have more action and focus! *LOL*

Sabrina Shields said...

We all need to find balance Hellie!

So, anyone have any tips for Time Management?

What about tricks you've learned to discover where you need to layer in something in your MS to balance it out?

MsHellion said...

Terri and I are talking about getting off the internet, but it's at a Mexican standoff. "You go first." "No YOU go first!" --that sort of thing.

The internet is like the best and worst thing that's happened for writers.

TerriOsburn said...

And it's ironic since if I hadn't gotten ON the internet back in 2006, I would be writing nor would I have met any of you. :)

Scape - I believe it's Margie Lawson's EDITS system that does the color coded for balance. (Could be wrong, but the color coded is real somewhere.)

You take your MS, maybe a scene or a chapter, and highlight everything in different colors. Say dialogue in blue, internal dialogue in green, action in red and so on. Then you look to see where you have too much, too little, or just right.

Sort of the Goldilocks approach to editing.

Since I haven't actually used this technique, I'm not sure I have any balance at all in my stories. I know I have way less internal dialogue than most. And my pacing is quick, partly due to less descriptions. So, uhm, I think it's fair to say I've yet to strike a balance!

Maureen said...

Balance. Ha. HA!

*giggling totally out of control

What is balance? My life is so out of balance I'm too busy dancing that knife edge to figure any of it out.

For me, balance is letting go of emotional distractions. I'm prone to chronic depression, so the best I can do is stay aware and prepare for those times. I just recently figured this out, the preparation stuff.

I do best when I simplify.

*she says with such confidence, ignoring the chaos that is her living quarters

Writing? Words on the page and let it rip. Initially, the balance with what I write comes in the editing/revision side of things. Pat recently did a phenomenal job of reading a few chapters for me and wowser...her words snapped me back into the 'balance' I needed with my opening.

So...balance comes with the help of my friends?

TerriOsburn said...

That's "WOULDN'T" be writing. Stupid fingers.

Sabrina Shields said...

Chance - sounds like Pat has been a big help!

Aww - simplifying. Yes, that is part of finding balance that many don't want to face. Especially me. I keep adding on instead of taking away...

P. Kirby said...

I'm still getting unburied, but...

A big thing for me lately is admitting that I can't do it all; that being Super Woman is overrated; and that the world won't end if I don't get everything done today.

It's hard because I've been a control freak all my life.

Yesterday afternoon, after work, I just sat in front of the computer with a favorite book to read and my manuscript open. Did a bit of productive fiddling with the first chapter; brainstorming for later chapter and wrote part of a missing chapter. Didn't do any marketing or online stuff, but, uh, screw it. There's only so much time in the day.

Maureen said...

Yeah, Pat...lowering the expectations to what is real...that goes a long way toward getting unburied because it lowers the bar to where it should have been all along!