The Five-dollar Miracle is my latest published book. I have to say that this one broke the mold for me. It is different from my other novels, and does not follow the same style. It does have supernatural elements, however, not in the same way as my other novels. I would say that this book took me by surprise, as a writer that is, because I never expected to write it. It appeared one day as a title in my mind while I was writing Sunrise Souls, and it did not leave my mind until I sat to write it. I had no idea of what it was going to be about, neither did I have any notes or plot idea, only a title. So I went with it for the ride.
My biggest challenge writing The Five-dollar Miracle was to trust the process. With no preconceive ideas to start, it was a bit “nerve-racking”? Every day, I sat to write trusting the process. I had to trust it because I had already announced it as an upcoming novel; I had no choice. I wrote in faith. Although compared to my other novels it is short, the story did not need any add-ons. I tried to make it longer; it did not work. The story was what it was. It is different, and reader friendly.
Currently, I am writing The Girl Who Could Not Love, and I have to say that it has presented its challenges so far. Most likely, it will be ready for next year. As it has happened to many of you, the current affairs in the country and worldwide, have influenced my mood as a writer, and therefore my pen. This book will be ready when it is ready, and I am fine with that. This one, as all my other novels, will be made available via Amazon in paperback and eBook.
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.
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.
Righteousness – as a judgemental trait
The spirit of cooperation/generosity/kindness
Respect thy neighbor – accepting differences
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.
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.