Writing Journey in Progress: The First Me

I used to compare myself to other authors. I would read a book, fall in love and think ‘this is the kind of story I should be writing.’ Then I would read another book and say ‘No, this is the way I want to write.’ And so on, until eventually every time I sat down to write it mimicked my thought process; a bunch of words strung together that made absolutely no sense.

Sometimes, I would veer completely off the original idea because it did not “fit” the mold of whatever genre or trope I was into at that time. Note to my writer self: Just because I like to read mystery does not make me a mystery writer. Just because I like steamy sex scenes does not make me a writer of erotic fiction. Just because I am obsessed with The Hunger Games does not make me a YA Diaspora writer.

I was lost. I was fearful. Worst of all, I was not true to myself.

About a month ago I was invited to a group forum for women writers of color. We made intro’s, gave each other virtual high-fives on our ideas and successes. A couple of days later I asked the women to go further into what they are writing and in what genre. There were so many exciting stories, I am telling you the publishing world is going to be lit when they are all published.

One of the ladies asked what I worked on and I answered generically, at first—I write mainstream fiction (even now I’m thinking what does that mean, right?). Then I tried to expound by adding I write contemporary women’s fiction. That I wanted to be the African-American Kristen Hannah or Jodi Picoult. As my fingers typed those words, I suddenly paused, added ellipses and said: “OR, actually be the First Me.” Continue reading

The Day Job Thing

Thinking back, I’ve been working for twenty-three years.  And at 41 years old I’m very proud of that fact.  It’s nice being stable; to have steady income and health insurance and some consumer benefits the company hands out as perks.  I work standard corporate hours, daytime, full-time.  Yet, with all this (that I’m extremely grateful for) I harbor, with some consternation, a feeling of resentment.

How can I feel resentment and elation about the same issue?  Well, I’m a writer and although I’m not published but currently working on two projects, there are days when I come home after a hard days’ work, plop on the sofa and think all I want to do is write full-time.  Characters speak to me all day.  They pop up in meetings, they tap me on the shoulder when I’m preparing a report and remind me not to forget “that scene” or sometimes, and becoming more frequent I daydream about the story, watch it play out as if a movie reel is running on loops in my mind’s eye. On the other hand, on that same sofa, I go through the mail, open the bills, pay the bills and thank God for that hard days’ work without which none of these invoices get taken care of.

And for all my dreams and aspirations, let’s face it there’s nothing like the peace of mind of knowing where your next paycheck and meal is coming from.

So, with that said and the fact that I’m not quitting my job anytime soon, how do I make this day job thing work?  How do I stay true to my creativity, my craft while working 40 hours a week in a demanding position?

There are a few things that I’ve come to know for sure and with a little honesty, perseverance and self-care (and perhaps a glass of wine or two…) I’m proving to myself that one thing doesn’t cancel out the other.  You can work a 9 to 5 without sacrificing your creative integrity.

And for that I needed to ask myself and tell myself a few things… Continue reading

Forget the Muse

As I toil away at my current WIP which I’m so excited about, a thought came to me about my process and how my fingers are flying away over the keyboard.  The words flowing from my mind, down my arms and to my fingertips.  Progress is a lovely thing and a lot of that has come from what I call “forgetting the muse.”

I simply work.Image result for words floating off the page

I can’t wait for imagination.  I can’t wait for inspiration.  I can’t wait for the muse.  I must write.  And funny how all those things seem to appear when I just sit down and work.

There were five ways I forgot the muse: Continue reading



Let’s Fall In Love

This blog will follow my personal journey into getting the book DONE!  In this first post under the title I write about my “new” first step into getting this WIP (or any of my WIP’s) finished: “Don’t be so hard on myself; I love words, I love stories-Let’s fall in love, again.”

For the better part of this year I had been stagnant in my craft.  I can give the excuse of work, health (high blood pressure and headaches but I’m happy to report that things have progressed for the better in this area as of late because of a healthier diet, exercise and medication) and an unhealthy obsession with Netflix, but if I’m going to be truthful it was my lack of devotion that hindered my growth.

For a while I thought I needed outside motivation, Image result for woman writinglike the vigilant, watchful eye of a critique partner resting on my shoulder.  Their gaze constantly on the proverbial clock as I frantically type words that thread together like zigzag of a kaleidoscope. Now, that’s pressure.  And, for the record, I belong to a fabulous critique group that is caring, intelligent, and honest.  I value being a part of this group and my entire time with them has been productive, creative and beneficial.

But for all that, I needed something deeper, something a critique partner or a friend or a mentor couldn’t give me.  I needed to fall back in love with my story.  Just like in any relationship-it takes work, compromise and understanding. I’d given up, not held my end of the bargain.  I hadn’t tried, not in the way I should have.  (Please see my post “Forget the Muse”)  So, I asked myself a few honest questions about work, compromise and understanding as it related to my writing process and my love for storytelling: Continue reading

Writer’s Life-Thankful for Support

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post and I miss the connection.  I’ve come to the realization that I work better when surrounded by and immersed in my writing community.

Back in January my renewal came up for membership in a writing organization I joined a few years ago.  A little lost in my work-in-progress, I let the membership lapse.  Frustration does that to you-makes you believe that nothing works or in my case, the need to clear out.  A few months later I stopped going to my writer’s critique group meetings here in my area.  (I’ve since returned-thank goodness!)

My point to all this is, the problem wasn’t the group or the organization; the problem was that- although I belonged to these communities, I wasn’t really there.  I was not present.

writer-group.jpgBecause I was going over a rough patch on my creative path, I disengaged instead of communicating my concerns to my support.  I didn’t utilize all the tools and resources the organization provided.  Looking back, those resources were exactly what I needed to thrive.  If you are a member of a writing organization or in a writing group or an online community-be involved, be engaged, be present.  We can sometimes lose our way but just reaching out to someone who relates can make all the difference.

And, I have been so lucky to have met the most talented, supportive, creative writers who have watched me grow in this craft and genuinely want to see me succeed.

I want to thank RWA, the BNRestonCritique Group, Girls of Trouble and the writingchallenge.org-whose monthly twitter writing challenge started by Kristy Acevedo, has been invaluable.

This is just a quick thank you post to all who have helped me in this world of writing and continue to do so.  I am here for you just as you’ve been here for me.  And this is also a little reminder that writing groups, critique partners can be vital to a writer’s success.

Stay tuned for my upcoming post on sub-genres.

Cheers and Happy Writing!

Nina Lake

Book Java- NaNoWriMo 2015 Edition

Hello Friends!
Once again, it’s November and that means Thanksgiving, Black Friday and NaNoWriMo. All of which are demanding and rewarding at the same time. The pressure can be overwhelming but as they say pressure makes diamonds.

In my household, planning Thanksgiving dinner alone is a feat and one that is prepared for weeks in advance with guest and grocery list making. Not to mention the great debate of which pies to make, pumpkin or sweet potato? Chocolate cake or cupcakes? Ice-cream or whipped cream? Only to end up making them all. Yum. And as far as Black Friday goes, forget it, between long lines and horrible parking-I’ll just click away on Cyber Monday.
So, I’ve got those problems solved but how in the world do I write a novel in 30 days? Well, I don’t have a crystal ball for that one but I have learned a few things in preparation for the 30 day marathon. And that is:
Don’t panic! Which is so much easier said than done. I’m a pantser by nature. I write from the seat of my pants. I get to my computer and I just go, go, go. And what I’m finding, even lately, is that outlining-just a little bit-helps me to organize those sprinting thoughts. In prep for this year’s NaNoWriMo I made it my business to create a loose outline of chapters to give me that “ahead of the game” mentality. Especially for a pantser about to write almost triple the words I’m used to writing every day in order to win, it has been beneficial. And creating an outline does not diminish the spontaneity of the work as some would believe, it’s just a way to color inside the lines, neatly.
When you sign up for NaNoWriMo-get the buddy badge by reaching out to other writers. I can’t stress enough about camaraderie and encouragement from folks who know what you’re going through and want to see you succeed as well.
18ebhbrb5jzxgjpgParticipate in write-ins. Put in your Region on the NaNoWriMo website and join in local write-ins at libraries, coffee shops and book stores. Having a place to go each week with like-minded folks gives you the extra nudge to finish. It’s something to look forward to, especially if you’re like me with a day-time job. You’ll meet different people at different stages of their work and perhaps even get a critique partner out the deal.

These may be tips that have already been presented to you or have crossed your mind but whether you’re a seasoned NaNoWriMo member or a newbie, let’s make this the best month ever. As always, stay focused, stay encouraged and Rock On!
My NaNoWriMo profile is under Marlena M.- send me a shout out. Also, if you haven’t already, please join us at #Novwritingchallenge on twitter. For more information about the twitter writing challenge visit the organization site at writingchallenge.org.  You can follow me @NLakeWriter.
Happy Writing and Good Luck!


In this installment of Book Java I will be discussing my journey during the process of re-drafting my, not one, but two novels. (I don’t recommend writing two novels simultaneously-the universe just aligned itself that way for me, this time.)

I have come across three important points during my re-draft journey: 1. Re-drafting is not necessarily the same as editing. 2. Reference materials such as the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition and Stephen King’s On Writing are my very best friends. 3. The story I thought I was writing is actually working out to be something entirely different. (And I love that!)

So, my good friend, Natalie and I, were discussing the process of re-writes/re-drafts and how wonderful and horrible it all is. I mean, really, it has to be done because-let’s face it- that first draft was just the foundation work anyway. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are those of us who have what I call “the gift,” in which magical words align beautifully and succinctly on the page one at a time until the perfect manuscript is written in one fell swoop-or one attempt-and require minimal edits. I applaud you, but- that’s not me…yet.

writerTo my first point-the re-draft is not necessarily the “editing.” What I’ve learned is that after the last keystroke on the first draft, the next thing to do is to make sense of everything that came before it. There’s the read-to actually see what you’ve written, the red pen-to make remarks, the highlighter-to accentuate the better parts and the black Sharpie-to X out all those darlings. This is not the same as an edit. To me, editing is the polish stage, the wrinkling out the little kinks, the act of fine-combing line by line. Which leads me to my second point:

Reference materials.

As I mentioned above, I use the Chicago Manual of Style and frequently reference Stephen King’s On Writing. The “necessarily” part of my editing statement goes to the fact that the re-draft, and of course the first draft, should be as technically sound as possible. I study the manuals because the more sound you write technically and grammatically, the easier it will be to edit later. Consider all the worry you have with plot, character arc and world building; writing solid takes some of the editorial edge off.

My third point and probably the most important in my process thus far is that the story I thought I was writing, guess what? Er, it’s changed a bit. And that can be good…or it could be bad. But usually it’s great! Between the read, the red-pen marked up pages and the poor death of my darlings, I’d come to realize that, in one of my novels, chapter five was really…drumroll…chapter one. Yes, a whole four chapters down re-draft road was a detour leading me, miraculously, back to the beginning. This created a stronger beginning and set the pace for the rest of the story. Also, I found that, in both novels, only having one p.o.v. was not going to cut it. So, I changed it to 3rd person, alternating p.o.v. between the heroine and hero. It’s a little harder to achieve because I have to be careful not to swirl p.o.v’s, but the process has been rewarding.

As Natalie and I reigned in our ideas and volleyed our epiphanies to one another we realized that, yeah, re-drafting/re-writing is a laborious rite of passage for a writer but when it finally comes together and you have a finished, polished novel from a spark of your imagination: Euphoria!

I’m curious: What’s your re-draft journey like? How many re-drafts do you write? And are there any quirks to your process?

Also, if you haven’t already, please join the twitter monthly writing challenge. Right now we are at #aprwritingchallenge. And, if you’d like to start fresh next month, join us at #maywritingchallenge beginning May 1st. Hope to see you there. As always, Happy Writing!

Writing Resolution-2015…and beyond.

With 2015 less than a week away let’s face it, we’ve all been thinking about the much dreaded, revered, loathed, inspiring…New Year’s Resolution.

For us writers that usually consists of a colossal bet we make with ourselves to finish a manuscript in some ridiculous timeframe no sane person would ever or could ever commit to. But we charge ahead-facing the new year with bright-eyed ambition, full of renewed spirit and an honest will to get the manuscript done. It’s commendable, brave even. But let’s be real, by January 28th it’s down to pulled out hair and a first chapter that keeps getting re-written.

new yearAlas, my comrades, my fellow word elves, I have a resolution to the resolution. Why not resolve to take smaller, sure steps toward your writing in the New Year. With the payoff being a completed novel and a writing habit cemented in discipline and achievement.

In July of 2014 I joined a monthly writing twitter challenge, started by the amazing Kristy Acevedo (@kristyace). The challenge: write 500 words a day or edit your work in progress for at least 1 hour. That’s it! Simple, goal-attaining challenge that pushes your work forward every day. It’s not the big bet that we lose to ourselves, then get disappointed and fallback on our writing promises.
Within the six months-each month headed by a different challenge leader-I have seen numerous people achieve their writing goals-some completing entire novels. It’s amazing!

Another writerly resolution that I have found affective is joining an organization geared toward the genre you write in. I joined Romance Writers of America two years ago and have attended two national conferences where I’ve met new friends and learned so much about the craft and the business. It’s worth it and you might find that your work may benefit tremendously for it.

If bigger organizations aren’t your thing, perhaps joining a local writing critique group might rev up the creative juices. A few years ago I joined a writing critique group at my local bookstore. Each of us write in different genres but sometimes having that fresh eye is what we need to catch things we wouldn’t necessarily notice ourselves.

None of this is new information to a lot of my fellow writers, I’m sure, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that there are ways to keep us inspired well beyond January and that it doesn’t take much to stay in the game, stay focused and stay consistent. Good luck my friends, Happy New Year and as always, Happy Writing!

For more information about the monthly twitter group, please visit writingchallenge.org or visit us on twitter #JanWritingChallenge.


Book Java is back!

It’s been a long while since I wrote a blog post. With life’s little distractions and the demands of a full-time day job, for a time there I had to do a lot of juggling. But things have settled down and I have recently completed the first draft of a book I’m so in love with that I’m bursting with delight!

In the past Book Java blogs I have discussed such topics as, favorite books and books that have inspired you as a writer. Today I want to discuss the book we are writing; the book that readers in the future will read and hopefully find something that evokes conversation, changes minds, peace, understanding or simply a short vacation from life.

In the coming weeks I’ll be inundated with edits, edits and even more edits. After all, the book has to make sense. (Smile) I write romance/women’s fiction with gritty, flawed hero/heroines that find the meaning of life/love through the journey of falling in love.

What I aspire to create in my writing is that we are worthy of love and everything that that stands for. No matter how flawed, gritty, complex or conditioned we are, we are worthy of a connection that enhances our spirituality and emotional balance. And of course all while enjoying the fun, dramatic ride of a great story.

So, I ask, what kind of story are you trying to convey to the world?

Happy Writing!

My Experience at the Romance Writers of America Conference 2014

Hey Guys! I’m back.

What a wonderful week I had in San Antonio, TX. It’s great to be home again charged and re-charged to write and create. This was my second conference and judging from the experience, it gets better and better every year.

Next year the conference will be held in Times Square, New York City. Wow! Just saying New York City evokes so much creativity and inspiration.

ft-writer1Inspiration was the word that emanated throughout the conference. From workshops, panel discussions, editor/agent appointments or just chilling out with the girls (Here Comes Trouble!), the conference was full of industry leaders and authors both published and unpublished giving advice, teaching lessons, and sharing their experiences in the writing/publishing field.

Romance Fiction is one those genres that people generally love or hate for various reasons. I write romance primarily because I’m inspired by love. Everybody wants to be loved, whether they admit it or not. Who really doesn’t want a happy ending?

And don’t get me wrong, I understand why people may turn their noses up at romance, the cliché’s: the sometimes unrealistic, unattainable hero swooping in to save the damsel in distress. What I do want readers to understand is that it’s not just the boy meets girl and then happily ever after, it’s the journey. The road that the hero and heroine take to get to the end. The promise of what could be. And that is something everyone can relate to and aspire to.

I think it was best said by author Karen Rose who gave such a phenomenal speech at the conference it made me want to get up and go my computer and write until my fingers bled. She said of different book genres,

A Mystery novel gets solved, a Horror novel is scary, and a Romance novel has a happy ending.

So, when people say that romance novels have the same ending, well, it does and so do other books. (smile) It’s an expectation, it’s a requirement.

The conference inspired me to keep going, to be the best writer I can be, to live in my best writer space and if romance is my thing, then Rock On!!!!

And to my girls, Amanda, Natalie, Rebecca, and Mai-Ling, you are inspirational to me because of your fire, your commitment to the craft, the different aspects of writing you bring to the table, your wit, your humor, your bad-assness (God, is that a word-Ha!) and for being the best group of girls a Vice President of Shenanigans (don’t ask) could ever ask for!

To RWA, thank you for being the best organization a writer could ever be a part of. You are all invaluable.

To my fellow writers and readers: Be inspired, be encouraged, and find the good in everything. Happy Writing!

P.S. Oh my Gosh, it’s hot in Texas!!  🙂