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.
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.
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.
I compare a writer’s style to her/his fingerprint, a unique signature style that develops over time. If you have a favorite author, then you probably know that author’s style; it permeates the work of the author as a scent picked up by the reader. The author has embedded in the story not only his soul but also his creativity, and in a way that reflects a distinctive writing personality, the writer’s style. Even when the work has gone through several rounds of editing and re-writing, the author’s style remains, embracing the story.
I think that every writer sets out to tell a story, maybe influenced by his/her favorite author, genre, but in time that writer finds his own voice and style. It shines through inevitably, and the writer chooses to develop it or ignore it. In the latest, the writer would be forcing someone else’s style into his work, preventing the free flow of the story, and his growth as a writer. No one can be the next Stephen King or Dan Brown, for example. You might admire their styles, and decide that you want to write in their specific genres, but eventually, you will need to embrace your own style. How do you develop your writing style? How do you facilitate the process?
I think that there are four ways to do this, and all four relate to one another and take time. To develop a writing style you will have to:
Read – Read as much as you can, and in every genre. Read the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you read, the more you learn the do’s and don’ts, but also you train your brain to pick up on many other things between the lines. Research falls into the read category, so research what you must. It is not possible to become an author if you do not like to read. It is like trying to make a cat lay eggs (imagine that disaster).
Write – It may seem so simple, but to develop your writing style you will have to do tons/miles of writing. It is that hard and that simple. The more you write, the more you attune your brain (and soul) into developing your unique voice. Compare it to cooking or riding a bike for the first time, and the difference that practice makes.
Listen – Listen to the flow of the story but also to your characters. Many times, characters know best. Sometimes, forcing the story will end up confusing/erasing your characters. Imagine going into another dimension while trying to stay in the present at the same time; there is conflict, and eventually, something is got to give. Listen to your characters and compromise. For example, when I set to write my first novel (Moonlit Valley), one of the main characters was imagined as being a bit nerdy, second to the female character, and a complete opposite to the character that emerged when I began to write. This character fought me from the start, to the point that I was forcing my writing. In the end, I let him be and Jeremy Sandbeck emerged. After that, it was easy to write him.
Trust your instinct/go with your gut – In other words, listen to your Healthy Inner Voice. This is the voice that looks after you and cheers you up – the one that “feels just right.” At the same time beware of the Inner Critic – that is the archenemy of your Healthy Inner Voice, and it doesn’t feel good; it puts you down. Learn to discern them; balance the first, and ignore the second.
I honestly think that this is the best way to develop your writing style, and it is a writer’s journey.
Have you ever thought that what is playing while you are writing may influence your mood? Despite your writing style and your taste in music, there is a correlation between your mood and the music you are listening to at the time you are writing. It permeates the piece you are creating at a particular moment. Of course, this does not happen all the time, as a rule, but you can use music as a tool for writing.
Many best-selling authors play a particular cd in the background to write a particular chapter of a book, or scene. It inspires them to create the mood in the writing. Next time you are writing a love poem, try some romantic music on the background. You will see the shift in mood. If you are writing a chapter where action takes place, play some rock or fast music.
Movie soundtracks are great too. The shift in music allows you to play with different moods. Sometimes, the best writing is done in silence, but for those moments when you need a jolt of sentiment, music does the trick. If you are stuck in a particular chapter of a novel, try listening to music according to the scene – this will help for sure.
There are many ways you can create a mood for writing; music is just a tool that you can use to shake your muse.
Music can inspire you, influence you, and help your mood while writing a piece. Despite your taste in music or writing style, you can use music to create a mood in a scene or a chapter of a novel. Are you writing poetry or a Love affair? Try some romantic music. How about a dangerous scene? Try some fast hard rock. Keep your pen and your feet dancing – and your muse shaking.
I am no poet, but when the mood strikes I have to write it. I find that my mood influences my writing, sometimes, with an overflow that cannot be stopped. Sometimes, a piece will lead to another, and another, like a well with no bottom.
Music also inspires my mood. So what is playing translates into my writing. It permeates the piece. When combining both, the gates of inspiration are open, and a river of words, flow effortlessly.
You cannot depend on your mood to write. Although there are instances when your mood makes your writing flow easily, those instances are few. You must sit down and write, moody or not.
Your writing style reflects who you are. It is a picture of _____ (your name here), the writer. When you write with heart, with passion, your true style resurfaces. You can try to force someone else’s style in your writing, but ultimately, you will end up writing without heart.
A good example of an author who writes with passion is Kate DiCamillo. Although her books are for children (I happen to love some), the way she writes, appeals to adults too. Her books are magical. In an interview with Borders, she said that her book just shows up, and she knows she has to write it. If you read one of Kate DiCamillo’s stories, you will soon capture her style in the book. It is like she is there, with you, but she really isn’t.
Even that the story is told through the characters, an author’s style permeates the book, maybe because it is the deepest truth that lies within the pages. So, when you write with heart and passion, inevitably, your truth saturates the essence of the story, you become true to your style.