On the Writing Front

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Photo by M.A.D.

What is happening on the writing front? Not much these days. The state of our country, protests, the pandemic, and the political turmoil, have influenced my writing mode, and mood. My mind and heart have not been in the right place, and I have not been able to write my latest novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love – after the first five chapters. I feel as if I am not connecting with my novel, my writing, and my thoughts have been scattered. This presents a reality; I will not be able to meet my original deadline. If I do, it would be a miracle.

Many of you are going through similar writing experiences. It is called being human, and not a writing machine. Many of us draw from our inner emotions when we write. It is understandable that there might be a storm in the sea of emotions during this time. I am allowing myself the necessary time to work through this period. I am being creative in many other ways, which helps my state of mind and heart. I have decided to approach the writing of this novel in a different way.

Usually, I write the first draft by pen and paper. It is my preferred method. My thoughts flow freely, easily, and at times it feels as dictation. This is not working at this time. it is rare that I start a first draft on the computer, although my first novel, Moonlit Valley, was a combination of pen/paper and screen time. This time, I feel I need grounding, a way to slow down my feelings, so my mind can connect with the story. At this moment, it feels as if the story is somewhere out there, floating in the air (or my brain) and I cannot access it. All I know is that it is there, present, and waiting on me to find a way.

While I was planning my work the other day, I happened to glance at the old typewriter in front of me. I have not written on it for sometime, and it occurred to me that it could be the tool I need to write this story. It could slow down my thoughts enough that I might be able to listen to the story, and it may provide an audible rhythm, which could be beneficial in harnessing my focus. I am going to give it a try. Maybe it will be the bridge between me and the story.

If you are struggling with your writing due to the present worldwide (or local) climate, see if you can find a way to jumpstart your focus, but allow yourself enough time to work through your feelings/emotions.

Just a Number

Independent writers abound these days; I am one of them. Many writers dream of being published the traditional way, being offered contracts, and other writers would consider the possibility. These days, many traditionally published writers are crossing over to independent publishing as well. It is a very active and evolving field right now. Indie books are lost in a vast ocean that becomes wider every minute. I can’t imagine what will be the future of independent publishing but one thing is for sure – evolution. I am glad for this evolution because it allowed me the opportunity to write and publish my works, a long-time dream. I don’t know how many books I will write in my lifetime, or how long I will live, neither does any writer. However, I have asked myself this question – ” How many books do I want to write before I die?” It seems a bit macabre but I have settled on a number that seems to feel right. It doesn’t have any significance other than it seems to be a number that represents a happy compromise (at least in my mind) between enough and not enough, in other words, a fulfilling number. That number for me is 30.

At my age, I would have to write a minimum of one book a year to reach that number, and that is assuming that I would live to reach my eighties or beyond, and be of sound mind. This realization changes my perspective, and as a result, thirty becomes just a number. Do you have an ideal number? How many books would you like to publish?

Have We Forgotten?

Fiction – A product of the imagination. The category of literature with imaginary characters and events, including novels, short stories, etc. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Secondary Themes

When I wrote The Five-dollar Miracle, I recognized the main theme as being faith, and much like the story I am currently writing – The Girl Who Could Not Love – the story developed as I wrote, with no preconceived ideas or outlines. However, as I wrote, the main theme became obvious. Usually, one expects a story to follow or develop around a main theme, and a few secondary themes appear throughout, but mostly, the main theme carries the story to the end. With The Five-dollar Miracle, I was a bit surprised at how many secondary themes I could identify once I finished writing it. It was never intended this way, but all these themes had a strong link with the main one (faith), and helped carry it, propelled it, which of course worked out well for the story. Some of these topics are:

Loss – different types, especially the loss of a loved one.

Financial ruin

Addiction

Righteousness – as a judgemental trait

The spirit of cooperation/generosity/kindness

Respect thy neighbor – accepting differences

Serendipity

I enjoyed writing The Five-dollar Miracle, and it was a welcomed change of pace, as well as refreshing. I am excited about my next novel, and can’t wait to finish it. From my point of view as a writer, it is presenting its challenges, something I welcome, while at the same time, I am hoping that the story flows well, and that by the end, I make peace with it.

Unsolicited Advice

The other day, I thought about how blessed we are now, at this time. Writers are able to realize their writing dreams thanks to the amazing technology available, much of it at low cost. These are blessed times for writers, whether you write via an independent publishing venue, a blog, social media, or other method. I am very grateful for this. When I was younger I wanted to publish my work independently, but it would have cost so much money, hence why many of us set the dream aside until adulthood. No other generation had the opportunity we have today. However, for me, this also presented the challenge of sorting through all the information/methods available, and keeping up with it all (an impossible task). Everyday, there is more information, technology, venues available so trying to understand it all is plain silly.

Much time went into sorting things out, especially, when the gates of publishing were opened. Reviewing my experience made me think about what advice would I offer myself back then. I thought about it and if I was to put it in once sentence it would be – Find your way. Realizing that “just because everyone is doing something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to” was not easy, especially in those early days. People tend to follow patterns/trends in new territory; it is human nature, and hence why things go viral. We are social mamals whether we realize it or not. When a new venture/technology or other, is in the early stages we tend to follow and take notes in order to learn. That is a good thing but it could also be confusing, even frustrating, more so when something that “has been proven” to work for other people does not work for you. In hindsight, my advice to myself at that time would have been to slow down and treat information as just that, not as a bible for writers or written in stone. Information serves the only purpose of presenting alternatives, being an aid in learning.

If you are just at the beginning of your writing journey, you will need to learn, and tons of information is available. It is a blessing, however, during your learning/study process you will doubt yourself when that information might not match your reality or expectations. That is all fine. Sort through it, pick up what applies to you as a writer, and keep on moving. Find and do what feels right for you. Find your way.

My Favorite Character

I have been working on finishing my next book, and have taken a break, which for some reason, I need to do after finishing a story. I am waiting for the proof, and if everything seems right, The Five-dollar Miracle will see the light soon.

While I was on this break, I began to ponder about this new story, and how different it is from my previous novels. I thought about my previous works, and I wondered if my writing is evolving on to another level and even a different style. Of course, I don’t have the answer to that question. I write the book that wants to be written, the one that screams at me the loudest, and that only means that I have to set aside my plans to write the story I thought I would write next. While thinking about my previous books, I realized that my favorite character wasn’t necessary the main character.

As writers, we craft characters, and I believe that characters craft us as well. When writing a novel, we create these imaginary beings to tell a story, but many times those characters reveal themselves to us; they show up. Sometimes, they even write themselves by refusing our pen, our ideas of who they are to become. One of the main characters in Moonlit Valley refused to be written the way I first envisioned him. Jeremy Sandbeck fought my pen from the start. Eventually, I let him be. Initially, I had envisioned him as a methodical, reserved, soft spoken intellectual young man who wore glasses, but he fought me to become quite the opposite. As I wrote him on the first novel and later series, he developed much more, and grew into what he needed to be. Although character development and evolution is expected in a series, this taught me to listen to my characters. In this case, he knew what was best for the story. My original view of him would not have worked as well.

By now, you might be thinking that Jeremy Sandbeck is my favorite character; he is not. My favorite character was introduced in Moonlit Valley, and was intended as a necessary secondary, even tertiary character. Originally, he was not intended by me to make it through the entire story, maybe a couple of chapters. Instead, he stayed through Moonlit Valley, and made it into The Dinorah Chronicles series. It surprised me. His name is Cole Angelou. Although he did not fight my pen as Jeremy Sandbeck did, he grew on me and slowly evolved into a much needed and important figure in the main character’s life. He became a life line.

Cole Angelou is an Anarth. Anarths are highly evolved celestial beings who take human form to fulfill a duty on Earth. Anarths do not age. They posses strength and speed abilities, psychic powers, as well as being capable of traveling between realms in milliseconds. Their senses are heightened and human emotions overwhelm them. Their duty is to live on Earth as sentinels. They monitor and protect key humans who are important in human evolution, and ensure that blue prints are being executed according to the divine plan. They are not angels, and are a few ranks below.

Cole Angelou is the voice of reason, cool, collected, and reserved. He doesn’t interfere in your business unless asked or when necessary, that is without infringing on free will. He is cautious, does not trust easily, and respects hierarchy. One thing I enjoyed when writing this character was to see him get out of his comfort zone and even break a few rules (all for a good reason/purpose).

If I had to question how he ended up staying throughout the series, and beyond my original plan for him, I would say that he did not fight my pen, and he let me write him. However, he creeped in slowly, evolving as the story developed, to the point of becoming crucial, needed, important to it. Did Cole Angelou trick me? I don’t know but he became my favorite character.

Art of Selling

First of all, my best wishes for the New Year. This post will take a retrospective tone, my view on becoming an indie author, and what I have discovered on the journey. Last year was very challenging in the personal and the professional aspects, however, I can say that I passed the test – it was the feeling as I received the New Year. I took some time off to think and regroup, and I put writing aside for a while (hence Sunrise Souls is not finished). I am glad that I did this because it made me focus on my journey, and I realized that I create my writing journey and walk its path, and that I don’t have to follow another’s journey – even when it is full of great ideas and awesome “to-do’s.”  It is the spirit of indie – to create and give life to my art form, whatever it may be.

Like many independent authors, I was feeling the pressure of the indie movement (as a general) presented to us by the “new-born gurus,” and which I thought was becoming as rigid as traditional publishing in some aspects. I noticed that “one-way of doing things” was emerging, as well as criticism from the pros who were leading (not on purpose but by default in most cases) the masses of newborn indies who were trying to walk before they learn to crawl, maybe because they felt the same pressure to keep up with the rapid changes while not realizing that the pros and gurus did their crawling and hard work before walking, and took their time. I also saw the insane craving for sales, writing tons of books fast, and making money while the market “is not too saturated,” and that did not make sense to me because it was not part of my journey. The more I learned about this movement, the more I understood what I wanted my journey to be, as well as my pace and method. I guess that in short, I can say that I am not a follower but appreciate many points of view and understand that there is more than one way of doing things.

As I gave myself the time to do nothing, I found myself watching two major shopping networks during the holidays. I don’t watch too much television, and I did not buy anything, but I kept coming back to these hosts who understood the art of selling and promoting. I was mesmerized by the choice of words in description, and by the feelings that these words created in an almost non-perceived way. At one point, I heard the callers repeating the same words of the host, as if they had made the discovery. These hosts were doing the impossible – they were practicing the art of selling from afar, of selling something via the air waves, something not yet tangible to the audience, but these callers wanted it badly. The key to their selling was not to sell, but to create a strong desire, a “want it now – have to have it” feeling. They are successful at it. Although I have a strong background in sales (real estate and jewelry/diamontology), and always knew that the key to selling is not to sell at all, it was the level of descriptive selling and choice of words that caught my attention and admiration of their craft. Some of these hosts do a three-hour show on a line, and many seem to have a huge following of customers for many years. Many recognize a caller from time to time. All this lead me to think about my writing, not so much about selling or promoting, but about the necessary time to create, to build a story with the right words, and to let these words do most of the selling, awaking feelings in the reader. I am not saying that an author should not sell or promote a product, it is a necessary practice. What I am saying is that I should put more attention on the product (the writing and crafting of the story) that on the number of books, sales numbers, or revenue. I want to make a living from my writing, yes, but I don’t want that to be my sole focus/effort.  Going back to the shopping network hosts, the ones who seemed to sell more, were the hosts who focused the effort on creating a love affair with the product.

One thing that became clear during this time is that I will pursue my writing on my own terms, while keeping an open mind about new developing, and while enjoying the journey. A journey that I want to create at my own pace and space while being true to my work ethic and working style. It is the indie spirit after all.