The Right to Create Responsibly

These days, phrases and words like cultural appropriation, woke, and many other, are common in our vocabulary. We hear them in social media, the news … These concepts have become “a thing” and many are using them and are “finger-ready” to point it at the first sign of such heresy. The self-righteous mob found a new quest, and with it the holy grail of the times, the “woke” got up and chanted a new song of mob shaming. Just because we are so perfect and spotless, right? The taste of new blood becomes an obsession in social media, and in mainstream media as well. It has migrated into writing, with the latest censoring of old books, the shaming of “old culture”, and the removal of many from social media and the shelves. How will it all play out in the end? It is a question I ask myself. Will we become better people? Will we become better communicators and writers/creatives? Will we sensor ourselves, diluting the words as much as we can so we are not perceived as offensive? What about the writers who are in the historical fiction genre? How will they write a scene that has accurate historical influences in wording because it might be perceived as offensive? Will writers avoid certain ethnicities in their novels for fear of being misunderstood? Will writers of crime thrillers be accused of “inspiring” or “inciting” a crime if an unstable person decides to recreate that particular crime? Will authors be censored, arrested, and prosecuted? Will writing and every form of creativity become “illegal” in the future?

I ask myself those questions and many more. I don’t think I am too crazy and far off. Lone gone are the days when you and I could disagree on something, have a conversation about it, have an opinion, and express it freely without being chastised. We must respect one another by learning to listen to one another all over again, by learning to find common ground even when we disagree on many things, and by understanding that we are more alike than we think we are. As writers, I think that we should strive to write the best story we can write without being disrespectful while being true to the story and history, in the case of historical fiction based on facts. As humans, we are less than perfect, and I believe that most of us try to be as decent as we can, and strive to do better each day. When we look at another as a reflection of ourselves, most likely we end up seeing ourselves in that person in some way or another.

We are more alike than we care to admit (photo by M.A.D.)

On Writing Prophecy

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.

“Write; write these words so the lost can find them, for they are searching in the days when love is scarce and the ego consumes the spirit. Do not think that I have abandoned thee, for when the heart searches, the soul is ready to receive. I am close to every soul of my creation. I do not cry with the vane, but with the humble, the seeker of truth, and the pure in spirit. When they cry, I console. Their path I make soft, their days I turn bright; not even the stars can equal in light. For the light I give is of the spirit, and the love I pour covers their scars. The heart I console, the mind I heal, the spirit I refresh.” (The Dinorah Chronicles – The Book of Sharon)

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.

The Book of Sharon (Book 2 The Dinorah Chronicles) is available in eBook and paperback via Amazon.

The Five-dollar Miracle

THE FIVE-DOLLAR MIRACLE

The inspirational story of how a small miracle – a five-dollar miracle – changed a stranger, a pastor, a congregation, and an entire country.

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.

My Next Novel

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.

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.

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.

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.

Developing Your Writing Style

English: Quill pen

English: Quill pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

How Music Influences your Writing

English: Part of the Mood Music Group

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Writer’s Wisdom 48

The Role of Music in Writing

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.