insecure writers support group, writing

Writing Success #IWSG

Created by Alex Cavanaugh, join us here.

Many thanks to the cream-of-the-crop co-hosts for September: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

This month’s question:

How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

For me, this image speaks to the essence of writing success:

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 

It’s the pure joy of your words capturing an idea and connecting with a reader. When your words elicit deep emotion from readers, you’ve made it.

How do you define success?

insecure writers support group, writing

#IWSG Mental Blocks and Resilience

Holla, writers! Happy August to you.

Join us at IWSG or Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to the wonderful August co-hosts: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve binged on coverage of my two favorite sports: swimming and volleyball. American swimmer Caleb Dressel was electrifying!

Credit: Los Angeles Times

I’ve also felt inspired by stories of resilience in multiple sports, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Athletes like the brave and lovely Simone Biles have strived to handle challenges such as mental blocks.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block, but what about mental blocks? Overcoming them in sports like gymnastics, diving, and equestrian is one such opportunity for resilience. Mental blocks, also known as balking or the yips, occur when athletes struggle to complete skills they’ve done hundreds of times before. They try to force themselves, but they just can’t go. Every gymnast has experienced mental blocks. But how difficult to face one on the world stage at the Olympics!

Sport psychologist Alan Goldberg frames mental blocks as a trauma response. The traumas can be a serious injury, scary fall, or even witnessing another athlete survive a near miss. If I made a mistake in swimming, I swam slower. When gymnasts make mistakes, they might sustain horrific injuries. And their bodies remember the past fear, creating the fight, flight, or freeze response. No matter how hard athletes try to throw the skill, their bodies freeze. It’s so frustrating for them.

Traumas can also be personal, like a severe car accident or sexual assault. For an athlete who has experienced multiple traumas, their bodies may lock up. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s a survival mechanism. I applaud any athlete experiencing this struggle who takes care of herself and puts her health first. These superstar athletes are human, with needs for safety and respect just like all of us.

This month’s question: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique.

Speaking of trauma, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is enlightening.

I also enjoyed the classic On Writing by Stephen King.

writing

Behind the Scenes of Sports Romance RIVALS

How important are critique partners and editors? If writing is a sport, then . . .

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, is the helmet that prevents my concussion:

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay 

And my editor, Jessica Royer Ocken, is the kneepads that stops floor burn.

Image by Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay 

I’ll demonstrate with a scene from my latest release, sports romance Rivals.

Ohio State volleyball coach Lauren is angry with Michigan Wolverines football coach Jeremy for a thoughtless request. Jeremy’s star quarterback, Evan, is struggling, and Jeremy asked Lauren to bring Evan’s twin, Emma, to console him. However, Emma is Lauren’s star player, and both Lauren and Emma would’ve had to miss an important volleyball match to help Evan.

Here’s the original scene when Jeremy tries to make it up to Lauren. What do you think of his apology?

 “I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose down at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance and massage his muscles instead. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into a flush of arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his solid body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchy of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister has, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? I have to concede that his solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him again.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” says Jeremy. “And I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His tired eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, thought his apology didn’t go far enough. This is where characterization edits can really help. I know my characters’ intent, but sometimes their motivation gets lost in translation between my mind and the manuscript. I incorporated Nicki’s suggestions to beef up Jeremy’s apology and explain what it means to Lauren.

Editor Jessica Royer Ocken helped tighten and clarify my writing throughout the manuscript, including changes to tense, spelling, and word deletion in this scene.

Here’s the edited version:

“I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his firm body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchey of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. That was one-hundred-percent desperation. But there’s no excuse.”

Damn straight.

“Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? His solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him.

We let go of each other but still stand close.

“But Evan doesn’t matter as much to me as you do, Lauren. I’m so sorry I put him ahead of you today. I promise I’ll never do that again. You come first with me, okay?”

Something shakes loose inside of me as I listen to his words. I realize he’s the most important person in my life, too—ahead of my parents, Sam, Alex, and my assistants. Here I was, so scared to let any man in, worrying he’d hurt me like Paul did. And somehow this Michigan Wolverine has burrowed his way into my heart, inch by inch. His prominence in my life is the very reason his earlier actions hurt so much. But his apology seems sincere. I can see the fear in his eyes as he begs for my forgiveness.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” Jeremy says. “But I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

What do you think of Jeremy’s apology? I hope it resonates better with the reader on my second attempt. How do your critique partners and editors help you as a writer?

Links for Rivals:

Amazon US https://amzn.to/3cOoZDu

Amazon CA https://amzn.to/36Omdu0

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/3rsHG3K

Amazon AU http://amzn.to/2LtL2UT