Peanut Butter and Jelly

Who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I love them. I have them for lunch many times. Something quick, easy, and filling. Some people like to cut out the bread corners. I cut out the side corners but like the top corner; it is like a door to delight. Sometimes, I eat the end corner; sometimes I do not. Why am I writing about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cutting the corners?

Sometimes, people like to cut corners. They like the quick and easy route. I have found that some people would like to cut corners when it comes to writing or publishing a book. They want to cut corners to enjoy the filling right away. I understand the excitement of publishing your first book; it is like nothing else. People who want to cut corners and jump right away are just excited enough. Sometimes, people expect to know in only one conversation everything that it took me years to learn. If I say something along the lines of “educate yourself on as much as you can about the writing process and publishing business,” it might be misinterpreted as an unwillingness to pass on the information. On the contrary, the intention is of meaning well enough to care. It took me years of research and study on my own to learn as much as I could on the topic before attempting to self publish. I had to make sure that I understood the current trends, technology, as well as to what type of publishing suited my personality, work ethic, and style. I only sent out one query, and as soon as I sent it I knew that I didn’t really wanted to pursue traditional publishing. It was then, after learning some more, that I decided to publish my first novel independently.

It is to the aspiring writer best interest to learn much about the craft, to know herself/himself well enough to know how to choose the best writing path. Industry, genre, writing methods, technology, trends, websites, publishing industry methods … all plays a role in the deciding factor. Many times, writing is approached with money signs in mind – “How much money will I make, and how quickly?” Again, cutting corners. No one can guarantee that you will make money writing. Some writers do well soon enough, while others do not do as well or it takes more than 10 years of hard work to see any financial pay off.

The internet opened a new world as far as writing is concerned. It opened the flood gates and brought opportunity to those who were not able to afford the steep price of self publishing back then. It has allowed me to publish my novels, and accomplish my dream of writing. For that I am grateful. However, when I entered into this beautiful and exciting world I did it with knowledge and sure of what my next step would be, as far as publishing my work. People assume that x amount of books published equals money. That is not necessarily true. They might even change tunes (even with you) when they realize that the bulk of the peanut butter and jelly is at the center of the sandwich. Cutting corners might get one quicker to the center but something will be missing – the knowledge to get there, and keep on going.

I treat writing like any other course of study and post education. Whether you do it on your own or by pursuing a degree from college as many others have done, the important factor is that you obtain the knowledge you need to pursue your writing career clearly. Knowledge is to your advantage always. If in it for the long run, the more prepared you are the better.

More Than One Hat

Fiction writers wear many hats. We wear a costume everyday. When we create a story, we create worlds, and people in those worlds, characters to whom we give life through challenges and the emotions we try to convey through them. Sometimes, readers might mistake a character for its writer or believe that the writer shares its attributes. Although I believe that there is a bit of the writer in between the lines, fictional characters are fiction. We rely on our mind, imagination, observation, and life experience to give life to our characters, but many times, we rely on research, on learning a particular subject to present a character and a story in a better light. Depending on our writing style, we might become poets, song writers, prophets, and even preachers. I have done a little bit of those jobs when writing my books. I’ve written a poem, a prophecy, and pages of an imaginary book, as I did in The Book of Sharon and in Sunrise Souls, books two and three of The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy. I’ve written riddles on Moonlit Valley, and a song in Sunrise Souls. On my work in progress – The Five-dollar Miracle, I had to write an entire sermon.

My point is, we sometimes have to become our characters and see the world through their eyes for a little while, to be able to write the story. Sometimes, the writing feels effortless, and at other times, it is more challenging, but always with levels of engagement. We are separate from our characters but we step inside their world, their minds, and their feelings/emotions to be able to convey a story to the readers as best as we can. In that regard, we wear many hats. We become the heroine, the villain, the priest, the prophet, and even an inanimate object, such as a book of prophecies and teachings.

I write stories, I create worlds, I give life to characters and become one with them, and then, disengage. I put on a costume everyday. I write fiction and love it.

 

 

Inevitable

How did you fall into writing? The inevitable question. I’ve been asked the question many times. Other times, followed by, “I never knew you were into that?”

How do you answer it? I fell into a pile of books while going downstairs half asleep. No seriously, have you thought of the moment when you became interested in writing? Not when you felt “a writer,” because that moment might never come. The usual answer people give is, “I’ve written since I can remember.”  If I go back in time, I can see a child who read everything she got her hands on, a child who amassed a large quantity of pens and pencils, a child who thought that a typewriter was the greatest invention on the planet, and also loved the scent of new notebooks and old books (I still do). I also see a child who followed members of the family, while holding a notebook and pen, and wrote in it everything they did. I see a child who kept diaries, and then, burned them. How many stories do I have from my early years, my teenage years, and the years until I decided to become a writer? None. Not even one. Why? For some inexplicable reason, I had a habit; I burned everything I wrote or broke it into tiny pieces. I never kept one story. It puzzles me today. Although I had the desire to become a writer, I never pursued it. I went into many different careers, pretty much anything that I fancied at the time, but always kept that secret desire well-kept inside me. I had an image of writers that didn’t fit who I thought I was. I saw writers as old people with money. Where did that image came from? I don’t know.

Well, to answer the question – How did I fall into writing? When I resigned from my last job, I felt a strong urge to write, and I did. Almost as a long-lost calling, too loud to keep ignoring. At that same job, in one of our meetings my former boss asked an exercise question to start the meeting. It was, “If you were not here, what would you rather be doing; what is your ideal job?” Each one of us was urged to answer, and we did. Some of us answered honestly, including her, who’d rather be a detective. I answered, “I see myself writing at a cottage near the sea.” Of course, I got the weird looks, but not from her. She said, “I can see you doing exactly that.” Going back to that memory, I think that was the moment when I fell into writing.

Five Annoying Questions For Indie Writers and Possible Answers

If you are an independent writer, it is likely that you have been asked one or more of these annoying questions, and usually by people who have not read any of your books. These are questions that are “meant to happen” at one point or another, so might as well have some fun answering them.

Question: Why do you write?

Answer: Why do you breathe?

Question: Are you really published? I mean not self-published.

Answer: Do you own the company you work for?

Question: Do you make any money doing that?

Answer: How much money do you make at your job?

Question: What is your real job?

Answer: What is your life purpose?

Question: Is it true that self-publishing killed literature?

Answer: Is it dead? Oh, my sincere condolences.

 

It is probable that you have been asked at least one of the questions above mentioned. Instead of becoming annoyed, have fun answering them. I invite you to share some of your own.

 

Results are Important – On Quitting or Fueling Creativity

It is human nature to expect award or recognition. It makes us feel good. As kids we looked forward to hear our parents praise. We felt good when our good grades were recognized as an achievement. If we did as expected our parents would say “good boy/girl.” We are conditioned to expect good results from our efforts; that is, until you become a writer or an artist.

Writers put on long hours and much effort when writing and publishing a novel. We expect results, good results, and the reward for all our hard work. When it doesn’t materialize in the form of income, recognition, good reviews (or any reviews), our faith and confidence may dwindle, and so does our motivation. I think most writers have gone through this, but not all writers have conquered the disillusion and loneliness that a writing career may offer at some point. Some writers quit for good, others may become angry, cynical, or depressed, thus their writing being affected by this state of mind and soul. The point is that results are important, however we measure them. In the absence of these measured results, we must fuel our motivation to go on writing, otherwise quitting becomes an option.

If you write for the love of it and could care less if your work touches (or not) a soul or two, then continue writing for the love of it. It is a valid goal as any other. However, if you want to inspire, reach out to people, entertain, educate, earn a living, and touch a few hearts, or whatever your goal might be, then you should think about riding the wave while getting wet in the process, even in the ocean of your tears. If results are few, then fuel your creativity as the only way to keep on writing. It is up to us to inspire and maintain a level of creativity that will carry us through the dark hours. It may sound macabre, but if you are a writer you know well how much of your soul you put into your work, and that is why many writers and artists take it very personal. After all, there are bits and pieces of you all over the pages.

During the dark hours, it may seem impossible to maintain creativity, but if you keep nourishing ideas, playing with them, and foreseeing projects, this becomes part of the process and you will get through. Results are also part of the process, only a small part; they are a measuring tool, but they do not define you as a writer, or as a person (when you take your craft very personal). As long as you realize this, you will continue creating and will not quit. Fuel your creativity, fuel your writing.

I wrote this poem on one of my darkest hours, and I want to share it alongside this post.

 

The Day I Quit

 

Breathless. Exhaustion of the soul

Fearless. What else is there to fear?

Weak from thriving

Strength in hiding.

Relentless search

to nowhere leads

Passionate failures

Death from within.

The Soul, the heart

Dim light, a beat

Beneath the darkness

life still exists.

A fire within

the ice melts slow

thawing the heart

and a frozen soul.

No faith, no hope

To live, to die

Not without a fight

For I will quit only after I die.

Handling a Dry Season

On a previous post I wrote about how I nourish my writing, and this topic is very close to it. When I approach the subject of writing I write about my experience and how I do things that have work for me. It is not intended as a “to do” or as teaching; it relates to my journey as a writer.

A dry season may or may not qualify as writer’s block. It depends on the circumstances, and when the well is dry, it is dry, and it is a soul’s feeling. This is why I find it important to nourish and reconnect with my writing. However, these are times when I might be producing material but it seems “automated” and as if  it lacked soul; as if something is missing, and I cannot find it – I cannot get the spirit back.

In my experience, there are two ways in which I handle a dry season, and it depends on the circumstances prior, and during the dry season. The first is to keep writing and work through it, even if I write only for myself, keeping productive, but resting as needed. The second deals with resting. Resting does not mean taking a break from writing, although sometimes that is all I need to end a dry season – a soul-searching inspirational break. Resting also means finding other ways to reconnect or find what is missing, whether I meditate, pray, study other authors, or practice any activity that inspires me for a longer period. Usually as long as it takes for my well to feel full again and awaken my soul. Sometimes, it is the simplest of things what sparks creativity.

What works for other writers may or may not work for you, and the length of time it takes will depend on your personal circumstances. I’ve found that the longer I wait to reconnect, the more challenging it becomes. When I feel that my inkwell is drying, I step aside, take a serious look, and put myself in motion to do what is necessary to capture the spark again. I don’t ignore the feeling; it is the voice of my soul calling me into action.

On Nourishing My Writing

I ‘ve noticed that writers, in general, are tuned to their surroundings, emotions, and feelings. This is true for me. Although I don’t necessarily strive for drama (low tolerance) my emotions drain me at times. It is then that I must nourish my writing the most. Even when emotions run high (and this is good for my writing), if I don’t pay attention the well is exhausted.

How do I nourish my writing? By recharging myself. From slowing down my pace to eating a favorite meal, or doing anything that lifts my spirits; it is all welcomed. I may read something new or reread a favorite book, enjoy nature… I take a short break from writing and reconnect with life. I spend more time with my cats, call a friend, treat myself to a new writing gadget, and so on. Such activities may seem mundane but these certainly help me. How you nourish your writing is a personal ritual, and of course, different for every writer. Nourish the writer, nourish the craft.

My Writing Process

Every writer develops a writing process, a routine, a style. There is no ” one size fits all” in writing, and the same reason why I stay away from “the how to’s” and “the must do’s.” Certain guidelines, tips, and recommendations have worked for me and many other authors, but it does not mean that it will work for everyone. I follow my own heart and mind when establishing my writing process and developing my style. I welcome what will benefit it and discard what will not. I am grateful that there is so much information out there to help me widen my point of view. This was not available many years ago.

When I commit to a story its development starts – ideas, images, dreams, and serendipity make themselves a part of my daily living. When I write and I put myself in a receiving state, inspiration will come in many forms and from many sources. In that receiving state I don’t pass judgement, however,  it helps me recognize when something is not working or just doesn’t feel right. Some writers can edit as they write, or as they finish a page, a chapter, or the day’s work. I cannot do that. It seems to interfere with the receiving state, and degree of inspiration, as well with the flow of ideas.

My first draft is truly a rough draft. After it is done, I must take a break from the story, and then editing can begin, in several rounds from one draft to the next. Only when something does not feel right will I go back and change it during the first draft, and only because it will influence the rest of the story, and it becomes a mental road block for me. Point of view is a perfect example of something that might feel wrong in the beginning of a story, and must be dealt with right away. Another example is a character that defied me until I had to change everything about him – his looks, his demeanor, personality, and even role, from secondary to primary. It was not what I had intended, but I became aware in the very early stage of writing the story. Awareness came in the form of this character refusing to be written in a certain way, and even shutting up. This may sound weird to some people, but if you are a writer immersed in your craft you get the point, and understand it.

I believe that the more you write the more you grow and evolve, and so does your process. It is a living endeavor that does not stay the same, and it should not. Never the less, it has to be nourished and developed. The love of a lifetime.

 

On Saying Goodbye

Losing a loved one is never easy. Whether a partner in life, a friend, or family member, it is one of the most painful experiences. Having to say goodbye when one is not ready is devastating, and it may render a person numb out of an unexpected dose of pain. One of the secondary themes in my novel The Five-dollar Miracle is the loss of a spouse, and the feelings and emotions that go with it.

Last year I experienced the loss of loved ones, and just a few weeks after I had finished writing a chapter dealing with this topic, a friend died unexpectedly leaving her partner experiencing the feelings of pain, loss, desolation, and so many other emotions that can only be described by someone who has gone through it.

As writers, we draw from our experiences when we try to convey through our writing, and the rest we imagine or draw from observation; we try to do the best we can when portraying what we have not experienced. Many times, we place ourselves in those situations fictionally, and try to understand or visualize the array of emotions surrounding a particular situation. At other times, inspiration seems to take our hand and guide us in our writing. We try our best, and as writers that is all we can do, but I can say with certainty that our writing will only match the synergy of our experience.

What’s Next?

What’s next? It seems to be the perpetual question. It is our human nature to want to keep on going, do better, achieve, evolve … . It seems that as soon as something is achieved, another goal appears in the mind, as if there was no time to enjoy the prize and celebrate the achievement. Whether you are an overachiever or not, the desire presents itself, sometimes as a burning fire to the next level, or as discontent with the present. We forget about the sweetness of the now, and about enjoying the fruits of our hard labor.

As a writer, I focus on the story at hand; however, other stories are brewing or are waiting to be written. It is tempting to hear the plea and to attempt to start writing them, although I have found that I can only write one story at a time, unlike other authors. Instead, I dismiss it and concentrate on the current story, blocking everything else. If a new idea crosses my mind, I jot it down for later consideration, when the timing is right. I don’t succumb to the urge of developing it further.

To each story I pledge my undivided attention, until it is written, edited, and published. Not until then, do I consider my next story. That is another process, which I will write about on a future post – how to select which story to write next. At the moment my focus is in editing The Five-dollar Miracle, and hopefully publish it by the end of this year.

I would like to hear about your writing process and experience – do you write one story at a time or do you split your effort into several?