The Magic of Writing

April 7, 2020

I rebranded my blog almost a year ago, in April 2019. My first post remains my favorite, so I am posting it once again. I hope you enjoy it.

* * *

Beginning today, this blog has a new theme – all things writing. As I pursue a second career writing fiction, I’ll post about my writing journey, the craft of writing, lessons learned, mistakes made, and the people who are helping and encouraging me. I’ll also post about books and authors and publishing.

I started this blog to dole out advice about marketing and promotion, strategic planning, and nonprofits, and I still work as a consultant. Check my website – www.techsavvympa.com – for more information or look at my blog archives.

Here we go.

WRITE

 

Write. A magical word. It’s the ability to conjure scenes and stories from my imagination. I can create characters of any size, color, and personality. I can have people run races or play the piano or murder someone or solve a crime. They can live at the beach or in a city or on a different planet. There can be love interests, annoying neighbors, best friends. I can create a world with monsters or aliens. I can make up my own rules.

How cool is that? It’s the best.

When I say I’m writing, what I’m actually doing is conjuring, creating, imagining.

magic

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash

Writing and reading are like breathing and eating for me. I have to do all those things to survive and thrive. Although reading was my first love, once I learned to write, reading took second place.

I’ve heard some writers don’t like to sit down and write. Most days, I can’t wait to get to my writing desk. I go to sleep thinking about my characters and what they’ll experience in my next day’s writing.

Many times, my characters do things that surprise me. I’m the type of writer the industry calls a “pantser”, which basically means I don’t make an outline and I don’t know everything that will happen. I rough out my main characters and a main plotline, and go from there. Sometimes I know the ending; sometimes I don’t. (More on “pantsers” and “plotters” in another post.)

oxana-v-524244-unsplash (1)

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

To me, that’s part of the beauty of it. The characters I create take over and go their own way. They come alive in my imagination, so much so, that I can picture the setting and the people, and their gestures and expressions.

I can see the waves crashing on the shoreline as the angry, young woman throws rocks into the water and clouds roll overhead. I can see the hiker with his walking stick in the woods, seeking a bird or butterfly that’s known to nest there. I can smell the detritus of a burned-out forest. I can touch the coat of the black lap cat who comes around frequently for some love from his elderly owner. I can hear them both purring.

And, yes, I can taste that pineapple upside down cake that the mom makes for each of her six children on their birthdays. Do you see her with flour smudges on her face as she puts the cake into the oven? Can you smell it baking, the aroma filling the kitchen? Her kids can. They all run into the kitchen, one after another. “Is it done yet?” Do you see the scoop of vanilla ice cream melting next to the slice of cake? I do, and I can’t wait to pick up my fork.

Mmmm. What could be better than this?

Time to conjure.

###

 


Revising Your Fiction, Part 2

March 24, 2020

I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve been sick. No, I don’t have the Coronavirus. I had the flu, which turned into bronchitis. Now that I’m feeling better, we can’t go anywhere, but I’m grateful to be well and grateful that my family and friends are well. During this difficult, strange time, when many of us are confined to our homes, I’ve decided to focus on my faith and my writing.

What is happening in the world is out of my control. All I can do is try and stay healthy. This is in God’s hands. That doesn’t mean I understand it, just that I accept it. I pray a lot and try to leave my worries at the cross. I am also reaching out to friends and neighbors. I watch a limited amount of news, and then look for distractions.

My WIP sat for a month while I was sick. I got back to it last week and completed my second round of edits. My previous post talked about revising and editing. Here are some additional questions to ask yourself as you edit.

*Is the story plausible and does it play out naturally?

*Is there an immediate conflict?

*Are your scenes interesting? Cut the least memorable one.

*Do you need subplots to keep the story moving?

*Is suspense drawn out to increase tension?

*Is the dialogue realistic?

*Have you used sensory descriptions that invoke all the senses? Many of us just use sight or sound.

*Is there too much exposition?

Beta readers can also be beneficial. Or not. My recent beta reader’s only comment was “I like it”. That’s not especially helpful. When I pressed him, however, and asked specific questions, he was very helpful. Because of his feedback, I’ve decided to rewrite the ending. Not a small task.

Later this year, I plan to hire a developmental editor for another WIP. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Until next time, stay well.

###


Writing Makes Me Happy, Editing is a Chore

February 18, 2020

I’m editing my WIP (work in progress). I don’t like this part of the process. It’s much more rewarding to write – to create characters and scenes and develop motivations and plots. What will this person do next? How will they overcome the obstacles and succeed in their quest or change for the better? Writing is creativity.

Editing is necessary for any written work. I have no problem editing reports or speeches or other nonfiction, but when it comes to my creative writing, I’m loath to remove anything.

This is a brief outline of my editing process:

Once I finish writing, I set it aside for a few days or weeks so I can edit with fresh eyes. The longer the piece, the longer I wait. This is tough because I want to finish the project.

After the wait, I do a thorough read through and condense the piece. I’m good at condensing. Short story writing is training me to be more concise, to make every single word count. Sometimes, however, I have trouble deleting. I may acknowledge the scene description is too long, but I like the way I’ve described things. I become attached to my characters and to certain scenes.

Next, I look at my structure:

  • Does something of interest happen right away?
  • Is the goal or plot clear? Is it enough to make the reader care?
  • Is the main character compelling? Will the reader care?
  • Does the character grow or change?
  • Does every sentence move the scene or story forward?
  • Have I described the setting well enough? Or too much?

Each scene needs a reason to be there. It should contain an objective, conflict, struggle, and outcome.

Then, I look at:

  • Dialogue
  • Flow
  • Pace
  • Conflict and resolution

My next step is to highlight elements of the work. Tension is yellow, background is pink, setting is blue, dialogue is purple, description is green, metaphors and similes are red. This helps me see if the story is balanced.

Then, I check for redundancies. I tend to use some words too frequently, so I do a search and change some of them. For example, how many times do I have a character smiling? Instead, they could stretch, open their arms up, or hug someone. The character who keeps widening his eyes could instead stand back, breathe faster, or swallow. I often connect compound sentences with the word “but”. However, therefore, though, yet, nevertheless – these are all good substitutions. Sometimes, I split the sentence into two.

My final step is a spell check.

The steps I’ve outlined here are basic, and I’ve left some things out. There’s a lot more to it. An outside editor is also an option. I’ll talk more specifics of editing and revising in my next post.

Right now, I’m going to finish my first round of edits, then I’ll set the piece aside again before moving on to the next stage. Wish me luck.

###

 


Office, Coffee Shop, Mountains, Lake, Write

February 4, 2020

One of the nice things about writing is that you can do it anywhere, whether you use a laptop, a tablet or a pad of paper.

I have a great office on the 3rd floor of my home. When I first saw the house, I immediately coveted the third-floor space for writing. I’ve since made it my own, and I do most, but not all, of my writing there early in the morning.

my office

 

My sci-fi, fantasy, thriller short story came to life in a coffee shop. A busy coffee shop. One character looks like the nursing student who always sits in the corner studying. Another character looks like the boyfriend of one of the baristas.

rod-long-I79Pgmhmy5M-unsplash

 

I’ve written in a hotel room in Reno, Nevada, that boasts a fabulous view.

20171116_124418

 

My first train journey inspired me to write as I looked out at the mountains.

 

A couple summers ago, I found myself writing at my beach house, with its view of one of the Great Lakes.

PH rainbow

 

In reality, I don’t need a nice view. When I write, I enter the world I’m creating and tune out my surroundings. Hours can pass without my noticing. Yet, I want a comfy or inspiring place to write.

My writing while viewing the mountains did not include mountains. Likewise for my writing while gazing at the lake.

Every once in a while, when I’m writing, I look up, and small things enter my consciousness. Like the nursing student I noticed in the coffee shop while I was first describing a character named Gina.

The lake and mountains show up in later writing, done in my office.

It’s amazing all the information and images our brains hold. When I write, I unconsciously sift through my experiences and pull out what I need. How cool is that?!

So, even though I can write anywhere, I seek out places that move or inspire or energize me, knowing that inspiration or feeling may not enter my writing for another week or month or longer or ever. Mostly, these places make me feel good in the moment.

###


Pick a Genre, Any Genre, or Two or Three

January 21, 2020

When I began writing fiction, everyone assumed I was writing science fiction. But I wasn’t.

king ludlum steel

 

 

My reading taste has always been eclectic. When I was younger, my favorite authors wrote horror/sci-fi, spy thrillers, and romances.

 

 

 

My taste slowly evolved. For a long time, I read legal and political mysteries. I also like sagas.

                           mysteries     saga

 

Then I discovered science fiction.

scifi

 

Next, I came across books with magic.

fantasy

 

I’ve always had an affinity for the tales of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician.

arthur merlin

 

I also like the classics. And poetry.

                                        classic books     poems

 

For the last decade, my favorite genres have been science fiction and fantasy.

jordan gabaldon

 

These classics are my all-time favorite books. A family saga and world building.

favorite books

 

I read the Game of Thrones series by George RR Martin long before it became a TV series. (The first book is on loan to a friend.)

Martin

 

When I sat down to write my fiction, the stories in my head were women’s fiction. Stories about relationships and how we react and change due to the events in our lives. I’ve read some women’s fiction over the years, mostly when I want an easy read. It surprised me a bit, but that’s what I was compelled to write.

On a fluke, I wrote a spiritual story and entered a short story contest. My beta readers cried, and I won an award. Then, about a year ago, I saw a contest for sci fi, fantasy, horror, thriller, or any combination. I decided that could be fun.

My story started as science fiction. By the third page I had added fantasy elements. It became a thriller by page 5. I added a bit of horror around page 10. My beta readers said it was dark and creepy. I was thrilled. We want to provoke emotions in our readers.

I ran out of time to polish the story but entered the contest anyway. I didn’t win, and I’m revising that story. There’s another story in my head. This one is fantasy. I’m not sure where it’s going, It might end up being a love story.

Are you confused yet?

jumble of books

Writers, editors and publishers tell you to stick with one genre. Maybe that works for most people. It doesn’t work for me. The stories I write are the ones that I’m compelled to write. The characters talk to me, and they don’t shut up until I write them down.

Right now, I’m revising my sci-fi, fantasy thriller. I’m also polishing a spiritual short story. And, I’m jotting down ideas and scenes for my fantasy romance.

We’ll see where it all takes me.

What genre do you prefer for your reading and writing? Or do you cross genres like I do? Do you think the “experts” are right? (I don’t.)

###

 

 


%d bloggers like this: