Category Archives: Laura’s Posts

Focus Your Writing Through Focused Research

Laura Ayo

I once dropped a watermelon out of a second story window in the name of research. With my husband armed with a video camera and two preschoolers hopping with excitement from the sidelines, I let it plummet to the driveway below. I wanted to see how far the pink flesh would scatter after it hit the pavement. I wanted to hear the splat, watch the rind split open and analyze the juice spray pattern from the impact. I sacrificed a perfectly good watermelon for the sake of gathering sensory details that would lend authenticity to a story I was writing at the time. It ranks in the top five of the most fun I’ve had while doing research. Continue reading

Inspire Fellow Writers by Talking About Your Work

Laura Ayo

What’s the one thing you can’t be a writer without?

Imagination. Dedication. A thick skin. Pencils.

The question elicits multiple answers, depending on the person asked and their perspective. For me, there’s one thing above all else that I absolutely can’t live without as a writer: other writers.

While I’ve long known the benefits of having fellow writers in my life, this past weekend I realized just how vital they are to helping me maintain my daily writing routine.

My first day of Write by Midnight was a technical success. I wrote. I got in some words before the stroke of midnight. But I fell short of my desired word count after off-and-on attempts throughout the day. In addition, my efforts produced painful-to-read, utilitarian sentences.

As I drove on Saturday to meet a friend for coffee, I analyzed why I struggled so much the day before. I came up with several explanations. I wasn’t feeling well. I had other things going on Friday that distracted me. I didn’t have a clear picture in my head of what needed to happen in the scene. I had more research to do.

I walked into the coffee house with the excuses floating around in my head, vowing to shake them off and have a better writing session on day two. I drank coffee with my friend, also a writer, and her husband. We chatted about work, kids, travel and, as all writers do when they get together, books and writing. I only met this energetic couple a few months ago, so we’re still getting to know one another. As it turns out, that was an important piece to helping me identify what had been missing on Friday.

When I first met my new coffee buddy at a writing conference in the fall, I was working on a different manuscript than the one I’ve recently started writing. I hadn’t shared my new project with her yet, so I found myself filling her in on the basic premise on Saturday. Having to tell someone who is unfamiliar with your material about what you’re working on rekindles the enthusiasm that led you to write it in the first place. I left the café motivated and itching to get my fingers on the keyboard.

Then, on Sunday, a fellow WriteOwl needed some help with writing struggles of her own. After a few email and text exchanges and a 30-minute phone conversation, not only was she back on track, but I, too, found my words flowing onto the pages. As I fleshed out my protagonist’s plight in a high-stakes action scene, my phone beeped with a grateful text from her:

“I don’t know what I’d do without you guys! I just hope I give as much back as you give.”

I assured her that she does and realized, at that moment, that I needed to set a second goal for myself for Write by Midnight. In addition to writing every day for at least an hour, I also plan to talk to other writers every day this month, even if it’s just via text, blog or tweet. I challenge you to do the same, either here or with the writers I hope you have in your inner circle. Share your successes and your struggles. Talk about your characters, your voice, your plot, your setting. It’s always an energizing, positive, motivating experience that will only make you a better writer.

Write Now, Research Later

Laura Ayo

I’m five days into one of the biggest personal challenges I’ve ever taken on as a writer. Like thousands of other writers across the globe this month, I’m attempting to write a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month. To hit the target, I need to write 1,667 words a day. I’ve either met or come close to that goal all but one day. On Nov. 2, I only wrote about 400 words. I’d love to say that life got in the way that day. I had work to do, children to mother and other responsibilities that needed my attention. But the reality of the matter is I spent four hours working on my novel that day. So, what happened to result in such a low output? I got sucked down the research rabbit hole. Continue reading

Finishing a Novel One Step at a Time

Laura Ayo

I had the privilege of meeting Newbery winner Linda Sue Park when she visited my daughter’s school last month. In preparation for her visit, I re-read “A Long Walk to Water.” The novel is based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of thousands of Sudanese “Lost Boys” who were separated from their families during the country’s civil war in 1985 and traveled on foot for hundreds of desolate miles to reach a refugee camp in Ethiopia. In the story, Salva’s uncle motivates his nephew to keep putting one foot in front of the other by breaking up the daunting trek into smaller, manageable parts. Continue reading

Motivated by the Painful Truth

Laura Ayo

Few people like to look another person in the eye and admit they’ve failed, especially if that person is someone who is depending on you or views you as a role model. That’s one reason experts recommend that you find someone to hold you accountable when you’re trying to reach a goal. Continue reading