Little Green Box

Previously, I shared a bit about my writing habits, as well as some things I like to have in place, which make my work enjoyable. For me, writing is a passion but it is also my occupation, so I treat it seriously, with respect, the same way I would approach any other job. Organization is an important part of it; however, I do it to my liking, and do what seems to work well for me. Ideas come to me at any moment and with disregard of time of day. Inspiration is everywhere and I don’t know when or what will spark an idea that might make it in a future novel. If I don’t write these ideas when they happen I forget them. If the idea comes through a dream, I write it as soon as I wake up. I keep pen and paper inside the night table. If during the waking hours, there’s pen and paper all over the house. If it happens while I am on an errand, I carry a small idea notebook in my handbag.

After an idea is captured, I will look it over and decide if it is worth keeping. I write/organize it in an index card, with any other related thoughts or details that will surface, and then, I file it in a green metal box. I visit this box when I am considering a new story, and sometimes, when a current story might trigger a memory of an idea in that box that I might include in the current work. The index cards are alphabetized, and I keep month tabs as well, for easy retrieval, and to include any ideas that surface in a particular month. This method has work well for many years. I understand that it is not for everyone, especially if you favor electronic methods/software for organizing your work. So far, I keep enjoying it and will keep using it. What methods help you organize your writing?

Little green box

Slowing Down to the Speed of My Pen

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.

This old ledger serves as my planner at the moment.

Rolodex and metal green box where I keep ideas for future novels. The old golden box serves as storage for clips, tacks…

Vintage pencils

Because one cannot have too many vintage pens and pencils. They make me happy. The metal object next to the pencils is a stapler, and it still works.

Old sharpener, a necessity.
Inspirational prop
A little bit of my writing space.
My mantra.

The Four Sides of Truth

For the longest time, I have been hearing about how there are two sides to a story/situation/incident, and for the longest time I have never seen it that way. Perception is only one part of it. I think there are four earthly sides to the truth, and I say earthly because other dimensions/realms such as the divine/supernatural or space might alter that number, but that is another topic. However, since we all live on Earth let’s stick with the earthly realm for the purpose of this post.

Mostly, we are aware of the two sides of an argument or any situation – two points of view. As an example, two people are arguing about an incident represent those two points of view, and we usually assume that one is correct and the other is not – all in search of the truth in a situation. I believe there are four sides to truth in any situation. These are, Individual/group #1 side/point of view, Individual/group #2 side/point of view, The observer/witness #3 side/point of view, and #4 the raw incident (what truly happened without perception).

We process information in different ways, and our perception is influenced by many factors – culture, upbringing, beliefs, financial status, religion … and many more. This applies to #1,#2, and even #3 the witness/observer who only observes part of the interaction between #1 and #2, but lacks information or background prior an incident, so the witness relies on what he/she observes only. This three sides are influenced by the above mentioned factors. Side #4 – the raw incident – is closest to the truth. To illustrate this I will give a simple example involving three neighbors and a dog. Neighbor #2 happens to see Neighbor # 1 dog running loose earlier. Neighbor #3 is taking a walk and sees the dog running, and coming from neighbor #2 house. Neighbor # 2 steps outside and sees that his recently planted garden has been partially dug out. He goes to Neighbor #1 home and tells him how upset he is about the dog ruining his beautiful garden. A light argument erupts, and Neighbor #3 listens from his front yard. Neighbor #3 (the witness) assumes that because he saw the dog coming out of Neighbor #2 front yard the dog did it. Both neighbors, #2 and #3 think they know what happened. However, the truth (the raw incident as it is) is that Neighbor #2 garden has a mole problem. The little critters ruined the garden. In this example, all three people involved are far away from the truth, which has nothing to do with the dog, that by the way, happens to have a very clean nose and paws, but no one noticed.

As writers, we have the advantage of knowing the truth in our story (although sometimes, a twist we did not expect to write surprises us), and we are witness in a sense, however, omniscient when writing the story. We write from all sides.

The Ever Presence of God

Today, I sat to write a blog post. I stared at the wall. Nothing came to mind right away. It felt as if the inkwell was dry. I thought about writing as a topic, maybe a secondary theme in my novels; the inspiration eluded me. Only one single thought kept crossing my mind over and over, a sort of phrase – the ever presence of God. After I dismissed it a couple of times, I went back to writing as a topic, and then, I surrendered to this phrase and decided to go with it wherever it took me.

Sometimes, we feel alone, lost, and the disappointments in life have piled up on top of one another forming a huge mountain, unsurmountable, at least to our human eyes – the mount of “if and nevers.” It starts eating away your thoughts, your inspiration, your confidence, your happiness, your trust. Then, you feel removed from purpose, far away from your Creator, unable to hear or feel the divine presence.

I looked up the word ever. Ever – At all times. At any time. In any way or case; at all. (American Heritage Dictionary) Then, I understood. The ever presence of God is constant, at all times, at any time, in any way or case; at all.

It is good to know this. It is a good reminder. It is of comfort to know this. The ever presence of God is. Whether we feel alone or far away. It just is, and ever present. Today, I sat to write a blog post. The ever presence of God was there.

Crossroads

Happy New Year to all!

As a new year starts, many times, we feel a sense of renewal, a chance to do over or start fresh. Sometimes, it feels as if we can erase the past year and welcome a brand new life. It is the start of new goals, the opportunity to encourage new ventures and new dreams. The first few weeks of the new year we either follow our plans/goals or we settle back into our old routine. However, a new year is still a new year, and comes full of opportunities, and that is great in itself.

I have to admit that this is the first year that I can recall feeling a bit disconnected and at a crossroads. My old self would have had pages of goals and projects waiting to be implemented. The woman writing this post has not written one goal down for this year. It is puzzling to me because I have always been an organized planner/doer. Starting a new year goal-uninspired as if staring at a blank slate is a bit alien to me. Soul searching has not rendered anything new worth implementing this year. Other than reassessing my endeavors and publishing the novel I have been working on for quite a while, I got nothing. Although this is unsettling and a bit of a nuisance, I have to admit that the novelty is sparking my curiosity and I truly long to know where all this is headed. This mystery translates into the feeling of being in front of an imaginary line, and not knowing how to step over it or cross it. For me, this is unusual. It brings on a bit of expectancy and confusion as well, and curiosity. One thing presents true in my mind, and that is my writing – the only sure thing right now.

In the real world I have tons of work to do – home projects, chores, and other duties. Long term goals are “fuzzy” right now, well, more like invisible. In other words, the pond is well stocked but the fisherman is taking a nap. The well is full but the pump is malfunctioning. The inkwell is not dry but the pen is missing.

May this year bring you joys as well as mystery, and if uncertainty shows up, may you embrace it as a path towards renewal. To be continued…

Inkspeare

Photo by Maria Diaz

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?

The Novella – New Attention Span Trend?

It has been said that the new generation of readers prefer to consume stories fast, and many favor stories that are not too long, as an example the novella. As new readers devour stories at a fast pace thanks to e-reading, authors may feel the pressure of writing more, faster, and put out more works. Whether you have a huge readership or not, the thought of catering to readers is a legitimate one. Even if you set out to write a novella, there is no guarantee that you will end up achieving so.

As far as my experience, when I write a story, I don’t know how long it will be. It is a living process, one of the mind, the heart, the soul, and one of spirit. Currently, I am editing my next story – The Five-dollar Miracle – and it took a life of its own, not quite as I had planned, so I let the process be and the story flowed taking me where it wanted. As an author I have control of the story, but its birth and development sometimes challenges preconceived ideas, and for me, letting it unfold by putting aside those ideas works.

As I have said before I don’t outline, other than a few scribbles of a basic idea for a story, in no particular order, and pretty much all over the place. Later on, the story develops and things fall into place adequately. In Moonlit Valley the ending came as a single sentence on my mind. At that moment, I wrote it down and I knew it was the ending, however, I was at the beginning of the story, and didn’t know how I was going to get to that point. I may have an idea for a story (whether it starts with a line, a word, or a paragraph scribbled down when it hits my mind) but its development is a living process that takes me along with it until its completion, in which length is unimaginable. It may turn out to be a short story, a novella, or an epic. I am done when the story has been told.

Please feel free to comment on your writing process. I would love to hear about your experience.