No one expected last year, and certainly, this year is already showing up as challenging in many ways for this country. It has affected people in many different ways and aspects of their lives. No one the same. This post is about an update on my latest novel, The Girl Who Could Not Love. What’s up with my novel? The quick answer is nothing is up. I have had to put it aside for a while, after periods of long intermittent writing. The past year has affected my writing in ways that I did not expect, after all, as a writer I enjoyed solitude, and it helped my writing in the past. However, I find myself with a dry inkwell and no desire to tackle my current novel, something very unusual for me. Everything that last year brought, which hasn’t changed much this year, played a number on my “little psyche” thus affecting my writing disposition. I have been busy with many other projects, but not with what I consider my most important and precious endeavor (it is to me). If you have been able to finish a novel during the past year until now, I congratulate you, and please, give yourself a pat in the back, because I know it has not been an easy task. God bless you. You are a Warrior Writer.
So what now? This post serves (me) as an outlet, a source of release, a sort of permission, a passing ritual, and an acknowledgement to myself – the writer – that it is fine to feel this way, that is is ok to put the guilt feelings of a writer aside, and to pick up that novel again sometime in the future, when the writer has healed the soul. For now, all previous self-imposed deadlines are released, and each day will be received and acknowledged with a grateful heart.
Totally unrelated – Find the bird in this picture.
All tips I share on this blog are based on my experience, on what I have learned in my journey as a writer. I understand that every writer has her/his own road to take, own style, writing goals, work ethic … so what I share here is based on my perception, as far as my pathway takes me. When I wrote The Dinorah Chronicles, I did not plan to include a prophet in the series. This character appeared unexpected, and pretty much wrote itself – a child named Jenna Callaway, who was confused and scared about the gift of prophecy. Jenna did not know she had this gift. Dinorah Sandbeck, the main character in the series, helps her develop her gift, and eventually, the last prophecy comes through Jenna in the last book- Sunrise Souls. At first, Jenna wrote (in Latin) the words that she heard in her mind, without understanding the meaning. She kept it a secret, until she met Dinorah in book 2 of the chronicles. She delivers as few prophecies throughout books 2 and 3 (The Book of Sharon/Sunrise Souls).
Other than thinking that the wording/content should sound ancient/old, I did not have any other guidelines on how to write these prophecies. I relied on the deep connection that I felt with the story and the character throughout the series, and this is how these prophecies came about. These wrote themselves, and by that I mean that the flow of the words through the pen was smooth, not forced or over developed by a thought process. Here is a short excerpt of Jenna’s first prophecy. It is about a page long, and the rest of it can be found on The Book of Sharon on page 95.
As a writer, I wish I could tell you more on writing prophecies for a story, but I did not follow any specific guidelines or writing rules, other than feeling connected to the story and letting the pen flow freely, as it wished. In my experience, there has to be a connection when writing a story, otherwise the story does not flow, feels forced, and sometimes, I cannot write even a word if I feel the connection is missing. There are many ways in which you can connect with your story, and as personal and varied as writing is for you – writing everyday or when you feel it is the best time of day, clearing your mind before you write, whether that is exercising, taking a walk in nature ,,, relaxing, or anything that feeds your inspiration. In my case, I love to observe nature, and I always say a short prayer before I write. Whatever fuels your pen, and makes you closer to your story. Sometimes, it is just simplicity in our lives.
Sometimes, a writer must enter a scene that he/she is writing. By that I mean that the writer must place himself/herself inside the scene and next to the character in order to engage all the senses and see/hear/taste/feel what the character is experiencing at that moment. It has been my experience that when I jump inside the scene with the character (mentally of course) it helps me write the scene better, not only describe it better, but give it life. By experiencing the scene along with the character(s) it becomes more than watching it unfold, the senses become engaged at once, thus resulting in more vivid writing. I don’t follow this process with every scene I write (that would be too draining), only the ones that seem to have more movement or require a higher perception/involvement of the senses. Usually it is an important scene, a climatic scene that will result in greater change in the novel. It could be a battle, but it could also be a scene with less physical action but in which a higher level of the senses is needed. An example of this is the scene in the church parking lot in Moonlit Valley (chapter – The Battle). In this scene Rose is being attacked by The Other Side, a supernatural realm of evil. Rose is in between the physical/material and supernatural realms when this is happening, and no one can see this happening except the Anarths, her protectors. Although most of the chapter is very sensory engaging, here is a very short excerpt to give you an idea.
“I saw a shadow get near me. A blast of light took it out and left only a heavy smoke that seemed raggedy; the smell was the worst I had experienced. I saw the same happening all around. At one point, I wanted to vomit; I could not take the smell of putrefaction, decay, and sulfur surrounding me.”
Here is another example, same scene.
“I tried to run but I froze in place, unable to move a limb. I was cold, surrounded by a heavy mist of grayish color. A putrefaction smell made me nauseated. Figures were forming out of the mist, several of them approaching me, surrounding me in a circle, a circle of death.”
This is just a brief example of a scene in which I had to place myself next to the character (Rose) to understand her experience. As writers, we are used to hearing the phrase, “Show, don’t tell” as a magic recipe for better writing. There is some truth to it, but I think there is more to showing and not telling. There needs to be a balance between the two, and sometimes a writer needs to jump in.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.