Today, I find myself wishing for spring, even summer, unusual for a winter lover. I yearn for the sounds and warmth of summer. It usually takes me about four to five years to acclimate well to a new place or new surroundings. It may seem a lot of time for many people, but for me to call a place home that seems to be right. Although I welcome change, I am a bit set on my ways and my memories. The concept of home has always been very important to me. I need my four walls, and I make sure they feel cozy and beautiful to me. My husband seems to adapt fairly fast, and I think it has to do with our upbringing. While I lived in the same house until I got married, he moved many times during his childhood.
I love the phrase Home Sweet Home, but I also admire people who travel and can feel at home in any place around the world. I can honestly say that I feel at home now, although I will always miss my beloved Jersey shore. This way of adaptation translates to other things in life for me, although at different time frames. When I start a new novel, there is a period of time in which I have not yet fully adapted to the story. The time varies with each novel. It takes me some time to acclimate/bond with the story. What I find is that I cannot rush this process; it happens naturally. Once I am in sync with it I feel at home. Then, I can “settle in” and “decorate” the place with my pen.
Home is where the heart is, the adage says, but I think the tic-toc of the heart determines when it becomes home.
I am currently writing The Girl Who Could Not Love. I am only a few chapters in, and it already seems as if this story will present its challenges. Not so much about writing it, but instead, on the road it is taking me so far. It is one that is new to me, and one which I am not comfortable with as it deals with the main character’s state of mind/heart/soul from the get go. I had no intention to take that route but I will trust the process and be open to it. I have sensed a resistance to write it, and I am wondering why. At the same time, I feel a sense of discovery and excitement mixed with apprehension. For the sake of writing this story and of being faithful to the process, I have decided to put aside my reserves and continue on the journey, as far and deep as the pen wants to take me.
I wish I could tell you more about it but I am discovering it as I write. For the first time I find myself at the mercy of my pen, and I am willing to follow it in faith, if not blindly.
Times have changed in the last few decades, or have they? With the advantages and perils that the internet brought to our society, what looks to me like an extreme righteous mentality seems to dominate social media. This strict social conscience – a righteous mob – seems eager to point a finger and to burn the victim/person right away. It seems to feed itself, and the power of the mob creates martyrs of social media when guilt is assumed without giving the person the benefit of the doubt, a chance to present truth or facts that will point to redemption/innocence. Sometimes it seems as it is not even about the cause, but of how I ( the me, me, me) fit into it and can also participate in the latest crucifixion.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, as writers we develop characters and we try to portray them as credible and real as the pen allows. This only means that we make use of language, imagery, certain types of words – historical and period appropriate, popular and unpopular views, and even cliches, which might be necessary to create the story’s “environment” in order to tell it as best we can. How does this forced mentality, this “medieval” social mob hysteria affects writers today? Are we faithful to our story without letting the pressure of the times bind the pen, or do we quietly censor it? Do we exercise its free will or are we cautious about being perceived as the personification of our words? How do we separate character from writer without giving in to the righteous mob inquisition? It seems to me that sometimes, people cannot separate one from theother, and this might present a challenge for writers.
Will these medieval social times have an influence on future writers, their minds, and by default the pen? Will stories become diluted? Diluted enough to be politically correct? Historical fiction writers are presented with a challenge. It has been said that books, whether fiction or not, speak of the times when these were written, of the social conditions and atmosphere of the time. It permeates throughout the pages of a book, and many times, it remains alive between the lines.
I am about to plunge into writing my next novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love. I’ve always compared the feeling of starting a new story to the feeling of standing at the edge of a cliff and peering out to see what is below and beyond. One approaches the edge carefully, respectful of the abyss below, and at the same time with apprehensive wonderment, excitement, and a certain kind of childish joy. The deeper and farther I look out, the more I see, and images start emerging and becoming clear. Suddenly, that edge is not as defined and scary as it was at the beginning. A couple of chapters inside the story the edge has disappeared and I am floating, observing and being a part of the story. It is always like a little adventure.
The writing of this novel is an exciting undertaking because I have nothing to start with, no plot, no outline, no initial lines or ideas, only a title and the main character’s name. I am halfway the first chapter and I have to say that I was not expecting it to develop the way it is, so I am in for the ride. Hopefully, it will be completed by next year, but I am only the writer.
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 plans were to continue where I left off before writing The Five-dollar Miracle; however, in the final rounds of writing this story, another title kept crossing my mind on several occasions to the point of captivating my full attention. I understood that this is the story I must write next – The Girl Who Could Not Love – and I will put aside the story I was about to continue, once more. And once more, I will trust the process and write, although right now all I have is a title and the main character’s name – Amalee Stonehart (yes, she named herself).
I will be working on developing this story (or it me) for the remainder of the year, and I have no idea what it will be about or where it will take me. It seems that this one also will not follow the style of my previous works. We will see. As a writer, I am open to inspiration and try not to box myself in, whether genre or style. I am excited to see where this litte adventure will take me this time.
Right now, I have several stories in the back burner, as well as future plans for a book of poems (will not dare call it a poetry book) and a compilation of short stories. These will have to wait, at least another couple of years, for what I can tell. I would love to continue where I left off soon, as I do really want to write this story that has been patient enough with me, and put aside a couple of times. I am not sure of its title, which is ironic, but I do have a short outline, mostly chapter ideas, and ending. I never knew that writing could be so unpredictable for me, on the contrary, I thought of it as very predictable, planned, and structured. As far as the remainder of the year, it will be dedicated to my next novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love. Wish me well.
Throughout the years, I have discovered what works for me as far as my writing routine and process, as well as likes and dislikes. I think that it is important for a writer to feel comfortable in the process, at home and at peace with your pen. I would like to share some of the things that have become my constants when writing. As time goes by, you will attune to your pen speed.
I have a better disposition for writing in the morning.
I cannot write in my pajamas. I must be dressed and ready, and only after breakfast will I write.
I write a first draft by hand, old school, with paper and pencil. Later on, I will type it, either by chapters as I finish them, or I will wait until the entire manuscript is done and type it. I prefer to write in pencil. I have a collection of vintage pencils for that purpose.
I must print the manuscript for revisions; I don’t like to read and revise from the computer screen.
Many times, the title comes up first before the story is written. Sometimes, the end presents itself first, whether as an image, and idea, or a single line.
I don’t outline. Side notes develop as I write. I consider that my raw outline.
I cannot force the story. It flows freely, and sometimes it surprises me. By that I mean that something unplanned reveals itself, something I had not thought about the story.
I prefer traditional methods of organizing my notes/work than electronic methods – rolodex (some of you might be too young to know what that is), metal box for index cards, and many other things. I tried electronic devices and methods but lost interest. The magic was simply not there for me. I still use a planner or an old ledger to organize my work for the day.
I go through three revisions before a final edit. I must take at least a day or two off (not looking at the manuscript) between revisions.
I can only focus on writing one story at a time; I give it my all. I admire people who can write more than one story at a time.
After I finish a story, I must take time off before starting another. Emotionally, I feel drained a bit. I need time to recharge.
I have learned to listen to my characters and not impose the pen on them.
I have learned to slow down to the speed of my pen and the flow of the story. I will not rush it. Also, I have eliminated the word prolific from my writing process. I dedicate as much time as the story needs; however, I have deadlines in place for my own benefit.
Sometimes, I place an inspirational prop (related to the story) nearby. For Moonlit Valley it was a vintage Shirley Temple doll. For the story I am writing now (The Five-dollar Miracle) it is a sky blue envelope.
My favorite character is not necessarily the main character.
When revising, I need to read aloud, sentence by sentence. It helps me determine how reader friendly the pace is. Sometimes, I may need to rehearse a line.
I don’t find weird anymore if I cry when writing a scene or if I talk with a character; it is all for the story.
Before starting a chapter, I like to say a short prayer. It helps me center.
I learned to accept that sometimes, I must put aside the story I want to write next and write the one that speaks louder (the nagger).
I write better in an organized/neat environment. Out in nature works well too.
I must have a thesaurus and a dictionary next to me when I revise. Sometimes the first or second word I chose is not the best one to use.
I feel my best when I write or when I create something.
These are just a few of the constants that have developed over time. I have tried other methods but this seems to work well for me. What seems to work for you? What are the things you would not change in your writing process.
I wish to share a few pictures of my beloved writing tools. I understand that these might not work for many people, but I love these and they make me happy, and these enhance my writing environment as well. As you write, over time, you will develop your writing nest, an environment in which you feel at peace and at home – your writing sanctuary.
“Write what you know.” I’ve heard this advice many times, and have to admit that I did not realize the depth of it until the other day when I was thinking about the past decade, when a lot of changes took place in my life. Previously, I thought that it referred to field of study, work, expertise, and current/past endeavors, the intellectual and methodology areas, for most part. Rarely did I think of all the emotional impact that living brings to writing. Aside from memoirs, DIY/expert books, educational, and self-help books, where the emotional and factual views are strong, other genres seemed to me a bit more “creative and imaginative” as well as less constrained and more freely approachable.
As writers, many of us are observers and draw much inspiration from our environment and practically anything that crosses our path. However, we tend to forget where we have been in life, emotionally, and tend to dismiss our feelings in those life situations as past. This information is permanently attached/stored in us, and ready to be used as inspiration on our next novel. It will serve us when describing a situation , a similar place, a character that is feeling something we already experienced. Yes, we have all experienced life in different ways, at many levels. Have you ever been wronged in some way, betrayed, tricked, taken for granted? Ever suffered the loss of a loved one? Have you ever been through so much that it hurts to remember? Have you been so happy, in love, elated, and/or experienced the most sublime of moments in your life? Have life been good to you? Then you can describe with vivid intent how your characters feel in similar situations, making them as human and real as you can. You are writing what you know, and know well. The rest is up to your creativity, passion, and imagination. For writing what you know goes beyond expertise, it transcend your intellectual knowledge of the physical, it duels in you, forever.
A book can be inspirational, educational, entertaining, instructional, helpful, and so many other things, but it can also be a healing tool for the reader as well as it’s author.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.
Many of us have heard this old adage, most likely during childhood, and meaning mostly that words cannot cause physical pain. When I was a kid, it seemed true enough. As I grew older and matured, I disagreed.
Words are powerful; powerful enough to unleash a river of emotions. The right words at the right time may elevate one’s spirit. The same goes for the wrong word at the worst possible time; it can drown your soul. Repeat unkind words to a child and his/her personality will be affected in a negative way.
Words can bring joy, comfort, hope, and even peace. Negative words can hurt, destroy, and even drive a person to take their life (as in bullying). Words can kill. Words remain in memory and travel to someone’s heart and soul. Words are driven by intention, the intention of the speaker or the writer. The writer utilizes words to craft a story that paints a picture in the mind of the reader. The writer creates worlds/universes, and evokes emotions/feelings.
The power of words transcends time. The words of great writers remain, whether written or in the mind of the people. We quote the great writers and speakers of centuries ago. Words become alive the moment they are heard or read. Words are full of intention but their power is unleashed by the mind of the recipient.