What? Man, does time fly. I’m up, it’s my turn here at the Blog Spotlight, to talk about How I Write! Here goes, I’ll just interview myself. LOL
I did not start out desiring to write. As many people already know (because I mention it in SO MANY interviews) that I really started my writing journey because I prayed for “something else” at a time when I was in school and not doing well academically. So fast forward almost 16 years later and Writing saved my life, my sanity and it’s the single greatest prayer I’ve had (to date – I’m sure they’ll be more).
Coming up with characters is probably the most fun for me, but my characters represent emotion and that’s the other fun part. What emotions will I convey that my characters embody? Often the emotions are the same, recurring themes running through all my novels, such as, longing, love, sadness, joy, grief and loss and then for my suspenseful side, there’s revenge, deep desire to find the truth and of course a feeling of success, accomplishment and gratification. After that has been established, how are the characters going to experience these feelings and go about solving whatever it is they want? That’s the GMC, Goals, Motivation and Conflict — WHAT does the character want? WHY does the character want it? WHAT KINDS obstacles, hurdles and barriers (conflict) will I put in place as my character goes after his/her goals?
After establishing those things, my process is pretty simple and I outline it here:
Write, Write, Write and Write Some More
I will edit minimally – I like to get to the total and final package, and while I allow myself to edit short sections at a time, I know that event then, it still isn’t finished and I’m not editing the final project
Approximately halfway or most times, 3/4 of the way through, I feel a little like I need a short recap and I’ll write a very brief outline, I do mean short, usually ONE sentence per chapter. This simply helps me see where I am as far as
B) Where are we? What’s happened so far and
C) Ensuring that I’ve answered some basic questions and uncovered any missing pieces integral to the story’s grand finale
Here’s what a preliminary outline looks for an upcoming story. Can’t tell ya yet what it is. Note that each number represents the chapter and if there’s a “?” (question mark) means I haven’t thought of that characters name yet and represents a temporary placeholder, until I do.
Chapter 1 – Heroine at the hospital – where am I? Her Daughter and ? are present and ?’s dad – she remembers that the dad didn’t didn’t like her
Chapter 2 – how they met up again, at the construction job / he’s there to do an estimate, she does not want to work with him.
She doesn’t want him to do the job / she tries but can’t find someone else to do the job
Share history/ talk about old times / He’s completed the estimate, can do job in this amount of time / he’s excited to work with her / she panics / have disagreement / he leaves
Agreement, he will do it. She meets the crew / welcome Crew
Cook for the crew / Crew member makes a comment about liking her / She speaks Spanish, ? doesn’t like it / ? checks in and sees crew member flirting with her / they’re always talking en Espanol, ? makes a mean comment, jealousy ensues ? punches him and knocks him out /
Relationship strained /awkward until something happens -accident / ?’s there to help, calls ambulance
4. WRITE, write, write till the finish – Note that sometimes I may never finish the outline or I finish it, it’s simply there, it’s not actually used after the story’s order is a bit more solidified. It’s just a temporary helper to ensure I’m moving in an order I like and a time frame/timeline that’s plausible and realistic. I’m a proud Pantser so I’m not beholden to it.
5. If I need to research something, I will put a place holder, such as – ADD MORE ABOUT THIS HERE – and I keep going (I also highlight it and make it a different color so it stands out and I remember to come back to it later). I make a list of some things I need to research and I’ll usually do them all at one time. I also write mostly what I know. I don’t stray to tackle subjects that are historically heavy or require tons and tons of research.
6. Finish the story – STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER (This is time simply to let it steep like a teabag) – This “time away” is never long, usually a couple of days and NEVER longer than a week. I’m still ALWAYS thinking about the story and coming up with ideas to improve story components, make it better or tweak it
7. PRINT IT OUT / EDIT on hard copy. Always, do I print out the ENTIRE manuscript and edit it on paper. I will use a color gel pen (not red – to reminiscent of HS/College English class) usually Purple or Blue
8. Back to the Desktop Computer to IMPLEMENT edits that I’ve made
9. OFF to the professionals – Freelance Editors!
10. Receive their edits and decide whether to accept or reject each one/address comments they’ve made and tweak the story regarding issues they mentioned.
I have a couple of FAQ’s that people always ask / OR, like me, silently wonder about:
How many DRAFTS? – sometimes I say two or three is enough, but for me, it’s usually only one. I like what I’ve written and in my head, I’ve written and rewritten it several times so that when I finally park my bum to write it, I’ve already exhausted the scenarios in my mind and seen them through for pitfalls/hiccups.
How many and WHAT Kinds of TOOLS? I like my Desktop computer in my home office where most of my writing occurs. I like my good old fashioned paper/pen for short notes, NEVER an entire chapter or scene JUST the notes, and then at night or if I’m away from my Desktop, I use the microphone button on my phone to record my voice. I have been able to get more words down using this technology only in the last year. That’s about it, no Scrivener, no Final Draft. Scrivener is all the rage right now and I’m never going to say I won’t use it and I actually just bought it from a special discount promotion running just the other week. I have it and Vellum and haven’t used either. I simply, personally think the learning curve is too high a time waster to learn it (at this time). I’ve always maintained and I tell every one of my students, that writing a novel is the single most genre that requires such little technology. For instance because of the all the tabs and formatting in a Script or Stage Play, I would be completely happy to invest in Final Draft, Scrivener or other similar software to help aide me in putting that kind of prose together. THOSE genres, in my mind, have a certain look and if you’re writing that, you most certainly want to adhere to the appearance standards that the industry requires. I bought Evernote just this year. There’s a free version and I’m still not sure what the free version has over the $ 24.00 (annual) version that I bought, has. I sign into it on my phone (through the app) but honestly, while I like it, it’s just one more thing to keep something written down in and thus one more thing to check. Overall, it does help with spontaneous notes and “clipping” links from the Internet or your e-mail, but I’ve never written much story stuff in it.
How LONG does it take me? It can take up to two years to write a full length novel (for me that’s about 100,000 to 110,00 words). Remember, I work full time and have lots of other interest outside of my 9-5 work, including community services boards, teaching and speaking. As an indie author, this is probably the single-most luxury of the indie author (no time constraints) and that’s not to say you don’t impose your own deadlines but they are still able to be moved at your discretion. There are others certainly and there are awesome things to be had with traditional publishing contracts. One draw back of traditional publishing for me, would simply that I don’t like added pressure and I don’t write fast. A traditional contract has awesome advantages but know yourself and what you want to/can handle. I’d rather do my own thing at my own pace and that what makes it all so much fun.
The Funnest part of writing for me are two things: 1. Starting the story with the infant ideas that come ready to be made into something wonderful (eventually) AND 2. The marketing. I’m not even the best marketer when it comes to my work but conjuring interesting ideas to test out and creative ways to marketing your work can be as much fun as the writing and I enjoy it.
The Hardest part – bringing it all to a close – In a romantic suspense (and other genres, too), there’s so many little piles of breadcrumbs that I leave, it can be quite difficult to tie it all up. Not only tying up loose ends but also ensuring a dramatic conclusion that’s realistic, believable and interesting. I also try to come up with at least two – three ways I see the story ending, and then pick what I feel is the best, most believable one.
I don’t have any real rituals except that like most people, I enjoy listening music. For me it’s a Luther Vandross station I created on Pandora or Amazon Prime Music that includes artists such as Lionel Ritchie, Anita Baker, Sade and Jazz artists like Brian Culbertson and Kirk Whalum. I also like drinking coffee and hot tea when I write. Of course if I’m heavy into the story, the beverages become cold and I’m always running to the microwave to heat them up again. It’s all part of my (sometimes silly) process. I also get a little sidetracked watching YouTube organization and thrift shopping videos, but they provide nice little breaks. I break frequently when I write. For me however, the TV is off. The love songs are always soft, sweet and relaxing background noise and sometimes, as I mentioned, they may also be jazz instrumentals that help foster concentration.
IF I have Writer’s Block – this isn’t a real issue to me, it’s more of a temporary mind constipation that, for me, can usually be solved by doing something else. It’s simply a drought of input and means that I MUST READ. I take time to visit with my favorite authors, watch an interesting movie and put in some creative imagery in order to restart the creative wheels turning in my head. And sometimes I read my own work, my previously published books are never far away. That is how I know writing for me is Divine Inspiration because I look at my work and wonder “Who wrote this?” I’m amazed at being able to put so many words on paper, and reading my own work reminds that I’ve done this a few times, I can do it again. I only feel a teeny bit of adversity as I work to get toward the end (that’s at about word 68,000 – 75,000).
I also take time every now and again to spend the ENTIRE day (or half of it, at least) at the library. I haven’t done it in quite some time and I KNOW I’m overdo. There’s something about being surrounded by books and I usually just chill out and load up magazines onto my table and read ALL the current ones. I will also say that years ago, I went through a significant period of writer drought, it was likely depression and time spent repressing my desire to be creative because I felt like I wasn’t in the right area in my work life, disgruntled about any number of things and personally experiencing a time of creative stifling. It happens, I also felt like I didn’t honor the one thing I had prayed so hard for by not writing down ideas as they came to me, and not parking myself in front of the computer, blatantly ignoring the call of the characters and my craft. It was sad. But it returned and I’m thankful. I have four ideas and one MUST DO, for your own drought, ALL of them have worked for me at some time or another:
As I mentioned, READ, READ, READ even if it’s short, a magazine, a short story – if you enjoy reading, HONOR your time and allow yourself to do so -even if it’s not reading, insert whatever it is you DO want (and like) to do but have diffculty making time for
Do something fun – with your hands or with your body (by that I mean do something creative (or physical exertion) and that doesn’t involve writing. Make something, find a short (in length and complexity) craft to do with your hands and do that to “get away”
Take a class – I LOVE CONFERENCES – even the beginner ones where I’m beyond a beginner level with my writing, I still enjoy not only fully submersing myself in workshops for the day or weekend, (if I’m lucky), but being around other people that are wide eyed with enthusiasm over improving/learning about their own work – it’s quite catching. And when I say I love conferences, I mean I love meetings period. They aren’t about what’s being said by the speaker, they are about the new ideas generated that I get just taking the time to be in another environment and get away. Make time for this or set up a Writing Staycation (more about that in another blog post).
ONE of my MOST FAVORITE but also the most difficult thing to do – Write a letter about your fears – I wrote a letter about my characters once while writing for book four. It was really more about my own fears over the story and my writing life and in the letter I express what the worst scenario could be if it were to happen. Once I laid out the worst case scenario, it was no longer so scary and more important I found that the issue or fear was either completely surmountable, or, beyond my control to affect the results.
PRAY and let it go. You should do this in addition to any of the steps you choose above. How many times do we ask for things that we feel are complex and difficult and we’re in need of miracles at that time? Writing may seem small but if you want change or a resurgence in any area of life, why shouldn’t you PRAY for it?
That’s how I write (plus a little anecdotal advice about writing, thrown in). Now, go discover and hone your own process. Share details with us in the comments section, below!