My Cape Cod Non-Writing Retreat

Sometimes when I am writing a book, I need to get out of the setting, out of my head, and basically out of town. A beachy vacation is always the dream choice and this time, I really went.

Tina Ann Forkner Cape Cod

The mornings are the best time for walking and thinking, or not thinking about anything except the beauty around you.

Tina Ann Forkner Cape Cod

Apparently, a lot of other people needed to walk and think too. Cape Cod is a good place for that.

Tina Ann Forkner Cape Cod

As a writer, I’m always on the look out for interesting characters.

Tina Ann Forkner Cape Cod

I also needed some adventure, like Liz Kroft in the book MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE (My beach read, by Sonja Yoerg) even though Liz chose the mountains. I chose to walk out on the beach during a very low tide.

Tina Ann Forkner Cape Cod

I felt so free walking out on the beach at low tide that I found myself squawking back at one of these guys (not this exact one, although he was friendly too), a compulsion that I’m sure came from the other book I’ve been reading by Cathy Lamb (MY VERY BEST FRIEND) because Charlotte, the main character, is always meowing back at the cat. Nobody heard me. In fact, it struck me that even though I saw people walking far, far away, I was alone, and it’s often good for a writer to be alone with their thoughts.

Tina Ann Forkner Cape Cod

Sometimes, it’s not good to be alone. I thought of this when I realized that I did not do the good writer thing and research that morning’s tide for Brewster, Massachusetts and I was at least a mile from shore. When I looked back I noticed a lot more water between myself and the tiny far away people sitting in beach chairs. Luckily, I came upon a lovely man walking along the encroaching water’s edge. He was a local, at least I think so, and he explained to me that the lowest tide was two hours before and gave me the impression he thought I should head back to shore now, unless I wanted to swim. I walked a little bit and turned to find that the man was already gone and I had the distinct impression that he was never there. I looked at the distance between myself and the shore and I felt very isolated, like the boy in LIFE OF PI.

What can I say? It’s impossible to go through life without comparing it to the novels I’ve read. If you are a reader, I am sure the same thing happens to you.

Tina Ann Forkner Cape Cod Beach Reading

I did make it back to shore, grabbed my book, had the cabana boy (not sure if that’s what they are called, but that’s how it is in all the romance novels) carry my chair and umbrella to a quiet area, dug my toes into the sand. and I didn’t write a word.

-Tina

Goodreads Giveaway of Ruby Among Us

La Rosaleda SeriesJust a quick reminder that there is a giveaway of my debut novel RUBY AMONG US over at Goodreads! Enter Here: Win a Copy of RUBY AMONG US. 

Should You Write Every Day?

4cbd3a3642f1467898127738e76801c3I recently read a discussion loop on the topic of writing every day, and I was surprised at how many writers felt it would be impossible to find so much extra time in their lives.  I have to admit that I laughed out loud for just a few seconds. Do they think that writers who write every day have extra time? Imagine sitting around with nothing to do, until we authors finally say to ourselves, “Oh, I know what I can do with all this extra time I have. I could write a book!”

On a serious note, I do understand the struggle of finding time. I too have gone through phases of non-writing. Normally, those stretches of time were the result of life changes I had no control over, but to be frank, a few of those phases had everything to do with my being depressed about what a horrible writer I was and how everything in my writing life was going horribly wrong. And then I woke up. I realized that the latter reason was ridiculous, and I went back to writing every day. And it worked.

I’ve never been able to write a novel without buckling down and writing every single day of the week. That means Sunday, too. If writing is a hobby for you, or if you simply like to journal a few days a week, then of course you don’t need to write every day. However, if your goal is to be a professional writer, don’t you want to be serious about it?

When a writer doesn’t write, the creative well threatens to dry up. Think of it as a water pump at a campground. It doesn’t just gush water as soon as you turn it on. You have to pump the handle until the water makes its way once again through the pipes to rush out and fill your cup. That’s how writing is. The more you write, the less time it will take for inspiration to fill your cup.

The good news is that you don’t have to sit down and write dozens of pages on a novel or book every single day. There are other ways you can exercise your creativity than just straight writing, because let’s face it, life happens:

1) Journal – When you can’t get the juices flowing, write about your story in a  journal or notebook. Write about a problem the character is having, about the setting of the story,  or about your character’s childhood. Set the timer for 10 minutes and write. You could even write about why you’re having a hard time writing every day. It doesn’t matter. Every word you put down counts as writing. By doing this, you are sticking to your writing routine and possibly solving some problems in your story while you’re at it.

2) Edit Your Previous Pages – If you aren’t feeling the story, then edit it. If you are a strict plotter (someone who outlines everything and sticks to it) then this method of editing early in your novel might drive you crazy, but go back to page one and just read it and edit as you go. Make the sentences better, choose better words, and flesh out your descriptions. You can turn on your track changes in case you change your mind later, but you probably won’t. By the time you catch up to the last words you wrote, you might have a better view of your story.

3) Blog – Okay, so blogging might not be the same as working on your story, but if you absolutely can’t fall into your manuscript, then write about something else. If you have a blog, write about your kids, a favorite recipe, or post a book review of someone else’s novel. At least you will still be in the practice of writing.

4) Write a Letter – Writing a letter seems so old-fashioned, but so is the very act of writing. You can always write a letter to a loved one. Your mom or dad would probably love to hear from you, but you could also write a letter to your main character about how she got herself in the mess she is in (He or she is in some kind of mess, right?). Write a letter (that you will never mail) to all the people who told you couldn’t be a writer. Whatever works. Just write something. The act of putting pen to paper might free the words you have trapped inside.

5) 1,000 Words a Day – So this one is so basic that some of you writers out there might roll your eyes, but it’s good advice for everyone. If you always write 1,000 words a day, those words add up and eventually you will have written a novel. The point of the 1,000 words a day rule is really that you set a daily goal and you reach it. I’ve heard of some writers lowering their word goal to 500, 750, or even raising it to 2,500. Whatever works for you. You could even set your timer for thirty minutes and write until it goes off. It’s the writing goal that you want to focus on. When I wrote my first novel, I wrote 30 to 45 minutes every morning before anyone else was out of bed. Then I dropped kids off at school and went to work. It took me 9 months to finish writing the book.

So should writers write every day? Yes. In my opinion, it’s the best way. If you start today and stick to it, then in three months you will look back and be glad. I wonder what you will write? Maybe you’ll finally finish that novel.

-Tina

Note: This article has been popular in the past, so I thought it was worth posting again.

A Review: The Beautiful Daughters

thebeautifuldaughters (2)

I finished The Beautiful Daughters, by Nicole Baart, and had to let you know how much I loved it. Here is a short review followed by a description of the book.

My Review: The Beautiful Daughters is an exquisitely written novel with soul-searching depth. The story draws the reader in by giving us the answer to the characters’ intriguing mysteries at just the right time. I loved the beauty of Nicole Baart’s lush prose and the way that she used the backdrop of the Midwest to slow the story down, but not lull us into thinking that life in this book will be simple and eaily solved. As the author takes the reader deeper into the plot with each chapter, we can’t keep from reading on to find out what will happen next. A novel that left me with a great peace as I turned the last page.

About the Book: Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Book Club Discussion Questions for Waking Up Joy

Waking Up Joy, by Tina Ann Forkner - Women's FictionDo you have a book club? Here are your discussion questions for Waking Up Joy.

I’ve been the guest at some book clubs this year and I’ve loved hearing discussions of Waking Up Joy from the point of view of my readers. Thanks to reader input, there is now an official list of Book Club Discussion Questions for Waking Up Joy. 10 question are included here, but there is also a list of 15 that I compiled for libraries. I’m happy to provide those to book clubs who need a little more discussion. Thanks for choosing ‘Joy’ for your club!

  1. Joy Talley spends the first seven chapters narrating her story from inside her body, trapped in a coma. Why do you think the author made this choice, and what effect does it create?
  2. There are recurring themes of reawakening throughout the novel that reflect more than Joy’s medical awakening. For example, in the beginning of chapter seventeen Joy says, “I think reclining around in a coma makes one take a closer look at life. I did so and found mine to be very dull.” What other examples in the book reinforce a layered meaning of waking up?
  3. The novel is set in Northeastern Oklahoma where the state meets the corners of Arkansas and Missouri at the foot of the Ozarks and has a rich Southern feel. Did the author’s description of the setting match what you already knew about Oklahoma? How did the setting set the tone of the novel?
  4. Joy describes the Talley’s century-old farmhouse as a sagging example of Americana. How might the structure of the house, with its Inglenook chimney and hidden passages, serve as a metaphor for Joy’s personal journey?
  5. Spavinaw Junction is a small town, and yet Joy manages to keep her secret from everyone for decades. Why doesn’t she feel people in her town will be supportive? Thinking about how events unfold throughout the novel, how do her feelings about her small town change?
  6. How do the misguided actions of the quirky Talley family threaten to keep Joy from having a full future?
  7. All of the Talleys except for one have seen their dad’s ghost. When does he appear, and what do you think his presence means?
  8. Joy has to make a choice between the two men who love her. How does each man help Joy discover her true self, and how do you feel about her choice? What might have happened if she had chosen differently?
  9. How does the notion of luck and magic affect the Talley family? How does it affect Joy? What about the good parts? (The magic apple tree, the chocolate, the teas.) What purpose do they serve?
  10. Joy spends a large amount of time with her teenaged niece, Ruthie, who also serves as the daughter that Joy never had. How does Ruthie’s coming of age parallel Joy’s, and how do Ruthie’s actions affect the outcome of the story?