There’s So Much More to Writing Than Just Writing

There’s more to writing than just the writing.

Like, staring off into space.  Taking a nap to refresh your brain after all its hard toil. Going to the kitchen to look for a snack. Deciding what you really need is to take a walk. Or drink a glass of wine.

Okay, maybe those aren’t the best examples, though they are things we all do when the writing gets the better of us. But the topic of this post is all the productive things besides putting words into the actual manuscript that we writers have to do. (Maybe productive isn’t the right word. Because sometimes a glass of wine is just what the writer needs. Right?)

Such as (in no particular order):

–Figure out plot

–Organize word or Scrivener documents

–Rearrange scenes

–Delve into character backstory

–Make notes

–Freewrite about aspects of the story

–The internet research rabbit hole

–Interview people for research

–Freewrite to warm up

–Reread your work

–Ponder how to incorporate comments from readers

(What am I forgetting? I know there is more!)

And that doesn’t even take us into the social media and marketing realm, which is a whole other thing. But my point is this: all these other things are necessary to support your writing. You’ve got to take time for all of them, because otherwise your novel or memoir or story won’t exist. And sometimes it is hard to remember that.  Some of that work can feel like busy work. But it is really not.

I think sometimes I writers skimp on some of the other things for that very reason. Because we don’t feel like we are writing unless we are really writing. Or we are so eager to get to the actual writing that we gloss over the importance of prep work (spoken by a writer who has come to accept her pantsing ways)

It often seems as if the entire online writing community is obsessed with word counts. And if everyone and their uncle is posting theirs, you can get a bit over-eager to get to your writing so that you can post yours as well. But word counts can set up a self-destructive cycle.  A writer I know sometimes pads her sentences just to reach her word count. (Talking about a friend. Really.)

In the class I recently finished, Becca explained that writing to a word count isn’t the best option for most people, especially NFPs, who often work in a, shall we say, circular fashion. (Instead, she recommends tracking hours. Or minutes.)

But however you are tracking it, just remember: all those other things are important, too. Don’t be so eager to get to the writing, peeps.

Do you ever fall into this trap?

Do you want to finish a book? Are you stuck? Maybe you just need to get started. I’ve got space for one more client this summer. Is it you? Email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com and let’s chat.

Getting Good News (+ June Round-up)

Last month in my monthly round-up, I exulted over having just sent in the latest rewrite to my agent. And so it is fitting that a month later, I’ll give you the good news—she and her readers loved it, we’ll do a polish and it is on the submit list for September. (Because, as I explained on the Facebook page, nobody in the publishing world reads anything in the summer.) And never mind that her idea of “brief notes” for the polish might be more than mine, I’m excited.

Of course, the opposite of excitement is despair, which I felt many times as I waited to hear from her. I was certain that the whole thing was awful, so awful it would lead to the cancellation of our relationship. But part of that, I think, was just my psyche wanting to protect me from disappointment again.

This a cycle that we writers face all the time. Exultation and despair. Happiness over a new idea, puzzlement over how to implement it. Joy that an agent is interested in us, dejection when we are rejected by her. Giddiness when the work is going well, forlornness when we are stuck. Boredom and anxiety while we are waiting to hear someone’s reaction to our work. I could go on and on—and the point I want to make is that you can’t get around this see-saw. It is part and parcel of the creative cycle.

One of the best things I’ve been working on lately is acceptance. Of the crazy creative cycle. Of my quibbles. Of my work flow. Of how I approach my writing. As an example, I’m a person who never reads instructions—I just jump right in and start pushing buttons to see how something works. This drives other people to distraction, but it works for me. And this is how I approach writing, too. All my brave words about becoming a reformed pantser.  All my thoughts about writing a better draft.  They are all well and good and I hope you found some inspiration from them. But that was me trying to shoehorn myself into a different pattern, one that doesn’t fit me.

As I learned in the class I just finished (see below), I figure things out from the middle. Hence my habit of not reading instructions. And jumping right into the writing when I “should” spend more time figuring out the plot.

You may be completely different from me in how you approach the world and that is good. Just be aware of what works for you and don’t beat yourself up if you are not doing it the same way as your critique partner. Don’t let some expert tell you there’s a better way to do it. You do you—and do it to the best of your ability.

And remember that the creative cycle is full of ups and downs—that’s what makes it a cycle.

Now, here’s what’s been going on over the last month:

Monthly Round-up

What I Read 

The First Rule of Ten by Hendricks and Lindsay.   I loved this first in a mystery series. Our hero, Tenzing (nickname Ten), was raised in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet (long story). But now he’s a P.I. in L.A. Great blend of Buddhist stuff without being too heavy about it, and a good mystery story. Plus some romance.

Café by the Sea, by Jenny Colgan. A bit slow starting and I wasn’t sure I’d get into it but I did and thoroughly enjoyed it.  A woman returns to her home island off the northern coast of Scotland, after leaving it for the big city a few years earlier. Fun characters who grow on you.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.  https://amzn.to/2tFseWt I bailed on this just a couple chapters in. It is a huge best-seller but it just didn’t grab me. I actually went on Amazon to read some reviews. Often my opinion is echoed there but not this time. People loved it. I didn’t.

No One You Know by Michelle Redmond.  https://amzn.to/2tNXp10 Another one I didn’t finish, though I made it farther in this one—more than halfway. Then I realized it was just unpleasant reading and I quit. True confession: I like books that are positive. I like happy endings. I don’t like to be depressed when I read.

The Art of Character by David Corbett.  https://amzn.to/2tEzAJN Love this book so much. I’m taking my time with it, as one should with a good craft book. I’ve already taken notes and written up some of his exercises and prompts for use in future workshops. Good stuff.

Women In Sunlight by Frances Mayes. This is my current read and it is going to take me a while—it is 420 pages long. I’m loving it, as I’ve loved her other books, a novel called Swan  and, of course, Under the Tuscan Sun. While I prefer France, the Italian setting is wonderful. Plus, it is about women of a certain age! We need more books featuring them!

–Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience  by Dan Blank. A book about marketing that emphasizes exactly what I learned in the class I just finished (see below). It is not about the metrics or the numbers or the money, it’s about the people you impact. Just started this one, but so far, it is really good.

 What I Watched.

 R.B.G.  We actually went to a movie this month! Going to see a film in an actual theater is one of my favorite things to do and yet we rarely make time for it. This documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fantastic, a must-see, especially with this week’s news that Justice Kennedy is retiring. I admit, I was unaware of how much Ginsburg has impacted women’s rights and the rights of all minorities. Truly inspirational.

–And other than that, nothing. A big fat nothing.  We used to watch a lot of TV, like every night, but since the family mob descended upon us in March, the show I’ve seen the most of is Justin Time Go. Don’t ask. It’s a two-year-old thing.

What I Loved

 Write Better Faster.  This is the class I just finished with R.L. Symes. It was so helpful in showing me more about myself and how to lean in to my quirks instead of trying to overcome them. Truly transformational.

–Finding out that the pain I’ve been experiencing in my knee is not because of knee arthritis, but because of hip arthritis. And getting a date scheduled for hip surgery. Woot woot! You can read more about it here.

Excited About

 –We bought train tickets for our trip to France and our annual writing workshop. And we’ve nabbed an AirBnB for a couple nights in Paris on the way home.  Making arrangements ratchets up my excitement level about it. I can’t wait to see the Mediterranean again, and to eat fish just pulled from its waters. I can’t wait to drink the good, cheap wine of the region and eat the fantastic cheese and bread. I can’t wait to stroll the town and buy Christmas gifts to send home. But most of all, I can’t wait to see the transformations that occur in the writers that attend our workshop. Inspirations strike, epiphanies occur, writing gets done (yes, even with all the distractions of the region).

It’s the best thing ever. Want to come this year?

 Join us.

And Also

–Join the Facebook group.  Participating in groups is the only way I like to be on Facebook and this one is good. It goes quiet periodically, but then it perks up again. I try to post something of interest every day (or at least every few days). Recently we’ve had discussions on sensitivity readers, relatability in characters, pantsing versus plotting, and more! Do join us!

(This post contains affiliate links and first appeared in my newsletter.)

Why Do You Write?

Why do you write? Why do I write? Why does anybody write?

Funnily enough, I had plans to write a blog post on this topic and then, in that synchronistic way things sometimes happen,  I had a coaching session that illuminated it feven more.

So, why do you write? This is a question you’ll often see asked in blog posts or hear in writing workshops.  Experts will tell you that you need to know the answer to this as a starting point to your writing practice or career.

In truth, the question used to make me uncomfortable.  Probably because I didn’t really know why I wrote. It seems so much a part of me, something I do, most of the time, every day. (Don’t get me wrong–I’m not always that on when it comes to writing fiction, but I am an inveterate journal writer.) So to me, the answer is well, duh, I write because I write.

When I’m uncomfortable, I sometimes sneer. Which is what I always did when the why do you write question came up. And then, I’d ignore it. Which is another thing I do when I’m uncomfortable.  Denial is not a river in Egypt but Portland, Oregon.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about it again. What is the difference between the woman I knew long ago who made a feeble stab at writing, but quit as soon as it got hard (Read: rewriting and submitting) and the writer I know now who hasn’t published a thing but continues to improve his craft? Or what about the student I had many years ago who professed that he was only going to keep writing if he could get good at it–and his definition of good meant publication?

Okay, so that last guy clearly had a reason for writing–to get published, and beyond that, show the world how great he was.  And he gave up when it didn’t happen. And the woman who quit writing I sort of get–she liked that rush of adrenalin that often comes as you are doing first draft work and losing yourself to the words. But that’s not enough to create a writing career. The writer who keeps writing for the sheer love of it–that’s how I feel, too. I’d be throwing words on the page even if you told me they’d never go beyond my own computer. (Though I’ve learned something about my motivation that goes beyond this–more on that in a second.)

But why? What is this compulsion to write? After many years, I’ve figured out a few reasons:

–Writing helps me figure things out. I am not able to fully know my thoughts on a topic until I’ve written about it.

–Writing helps me make sense of the world.  A story has a beginning, middle, and end, and by thinking that way I can order this crazy un-ordered world a bit better.

–Writing helps me know myself, a continual process even at this advanced age.

–Writing is fun. I know people who are aghast at hearing that. But then I know people who think snake massages are fun. (Seriously, check this out.) Or fishing.  Or doing oil changes. For me, getting lost in a story world is pure joyous fun.

And there’s one more thing I just realized, thanks to my coaching session with Becca Syme. (It was part of the class she taught that is just finishing up, Write Better Faster.) As a person with a high influencer trait, one of the reasons I write is to have an impact. I’m not that motivated by money, but I am motivated by wanting to inspire people.  Weirdly, that is one of those things that I was sort of aware of, but not really.

And here’s the deal: now that I know this, I can use it to motivate me. I can use it to motivate my writing. Boo-yah. As I’ve said a million times before, clarity changes everything.  So there you go–the reason why you and to know why you write. Because it can help you feel better about yourself and if you feel better about yourself you’re going to feel better about your writing.

AmIright? I am right.

And, just because I love you all so much, here’s a video of that above-mentioned snake video. You’re welcome.

If you would like help with your writing, I have a couple of suggestions for you. I’m currently accepting one more coaching client this summer.  Or, if you’ve got some wanderlust, you could come to France.  If you are interested in coaching, email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com. If you are interested in France, click here for more info.

 

A Love Letter About Writer’s Block

I’m sure that you, like me, have read the statement, usually from some prolific author, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Or a variant, there is no such thing as writer’s block.

I always think that sounds a little too ivory-tower-ish. A bit snotty and unrealistic. Because I don’t care who you are, you can get writer’s block. It may not last for long, but c’mon, everybody gets stuck at some point. It may be as small as not knowing where the next scene should go, and floundering around for a few days. Or it might be as big as just not being able to write, period. And then not writing for months or even years.

And as anybody who has ever suffered through it knows, when it happens to you, it is painful.

I had a friend a few years ago (we’ve fallen out of touch) who was writing a book based on an article he’d written. He had an agent waiting for the book, and editors interested. But for whatever reason he couldn’t write the book. As far as I know, he still hasn’t.

Was it an issue of perfectionism? Too much research? Overwhelm? Nobody but he will ever know. And, sadly, the world will never get to read his book. (I read various drafts of it, and it was good.)

And I’ll tell you, when I get blocked, I get cranky. Irritable. I just feel off. I’m not much fun to be around.

So, yeah, I know, you’re waiting for me to give you the antidote for writer’s block and I’m going to. But you’re not going to like it. Because it is simple: you gotta write. Something, anything. Write one bad page. Write in your journal. Write a letter to the editor. As I’ve said before, writing breeds writing. Period.

So go forth and do it!

Free (Sort of) Coaching

Usually I stay away from politics in this newsletter and on my blog. But this is not a political issue, it is a moral one. I’m upset about the children separated from their parents and I want to do something about it. So I’m offering free coaching sessions to anybody who sends me proof that they have donated to an organization dealing with this issue.

Here are the details:

–I suggest donating to Together Rising. (I will, though, take donations to any organization as credit for a session.) You can read about what they are doing to help here.

–If you donate $50, I’ll give you a 30-minute phone coaching session.

–If you donate $100, a one-hour coaching session.

–Send me an email to charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com with the words I CARE in the subject, along with proof of your payment. (Screen shot, transaction ID, copy of receipt, etc.)

–I’ll get back to you promptly and we’ll book your session. We can talk about your writing, plotting, characterization, how to get more writing done, productivity, habits, how to motivate yourself, anything!

–I can only do so many of these over the next few weeks, and I’ll book sessions on a first-come, first-serve basis. So get those donations in! I’d love it if I got booked solid. Let’s do this, and change the world with our compassion and creativity!

This blog post first appeared in my newsletter. If you’d like to receive a love letter directly into your inbox every Sunday, sign up in the box to the right!

Hip Surgery + Writing + Character Insight

“Everything I learned about human nature I learned from me.” Anton Chekhov

So, in November, I’m going to have surgery on my left hip. I’ve never had surgery on anything before, never  been checked into a hospital (not even for birthing my babies). So this is a bit daunting for me–but I’m ready, because I’m tired of this pain.

Funnily enough, for years I’ve been battling knee pain. Like, severe knee pain. I’ve been to two chiropractors, an acupuncturist, two physical therapists (one rather loony), a naturopath, a nurse-practitioner, a specialized knee clinic (charlatans, it turns out) where I paid lots of money for injections that didn’t work, and gotten two cortisone shots in my knee. Finally, I made the decision to go the surgery route and made an appointment with the knee surgeon my primary care doctor recommended. Who promptly sent me back to the x-ray lab to confirm his suspicion it wasn’t a knee but hip problem.

He was right. I’m down to bone-on-bone in my left hip, which explains the pain. Ya think? I’d get surgery tomorrow, despite my dislike of hospitals and general fear of doctors, but I’ve got teaching trips to France and Nashville lined up. And I couldn’t talk the surgeon into doing it before I left for Europe–international travel is not recommended immediately after surgery. Funny thing, that. Not.

Talk about mind blown. All these years I’ve thought it was my knee? All these years doctors and healers have tried to heal my knee? And really it was my hip all time? It was hard to wrap my brain around for a couple of days.

Coincidentally, yesterday I took Debbie to get her second cataract surgery done and sat in the spacious waiting area for several hours reading The Art of Character.  I LOVE this book and highly recommend it. (It’s where I got the above quote.) Author David Corbett writes about how in theater, the term “personalization” is used to describe the act of bringing the actor’s own emotional and sense memory to a portrayal. Which is what he advises doing, at least as a starting point. He has a whole chapter about mining characters from your past for inspiration, and also makes the point that you must know yourself before you can fully understand your characters. He provides  lots of great exercises and prompts to help.

As I read, I pondered  my hip surgery story–how the pain I thought was in my knee for years is actually coming from my hip. How it totally changed the way I think about my body. And that got me thinking about giving my changed view about something of importance  to a fictional characters.

I was also influenced in this line of thinking by the novel I’m currently reading, No One You Know.  Author Michelle Redmond does something similar with the main character–she has spent the past 20 years believing something about a seminal event in her life and suddenly finds out it is not true.

And it is not just a changing world view that might be utilized in fiction. I started thinking about all the ways  my hip experience might play out in a character:

–A character afraid of doctors (that’s me, even though my grandfather was an M.D.)

–A character in denial

–A character not dealing with reality

–A character whose world view is shaken to the core

–A character who has a rigid belief system

–Or, conversely, a character who is so loosey-goosey about things that she just trusts all will work out.

I probably should be embarrassed to admit that all of these scenarios fit me, at least to some degree. And this, my friends, is why being a writer is so great–you can funnel all your neuroses and weirdnesses into your work. I should also add that the ways of the subconscious are mysterious and any of these might combine with something completely unrelated to create a scene in your novel–or become a cornerstone of your theme.

So the point of all this is to look at your own life story for your characters and plot. You don’t have to write a memoir–you can transmute your everyday dilemmas into story gold.  Your missteps become fodder for the conflict in your next story. An added bonus is that writing about things that happen to you through the lens of a fictional character will help you to understand your own self better.

Have you used personal experiences in your fiction? Do tell, please.

And also, I have room for one client this summer.  I can coach you to finish your novel or start it, help you figure out a plan for your career, crack the whip so you send things out, or whatever help you might need. Email me and let’s set up a time to talk!

This post contains affiliate links.

When You Can’t Write (A Love Letter)

A client/friend emailed me. (Hi, Shari). Due to things happening in life, as they do, she hasn’t been able to write for a while.  And this got me thinking—shit happens. And sometimes you find yourself without a single second, or a free brain cell, to write.

Maybe you just had a baby, or a death in the family. Maybe you moved from one city to another, or changed jobs, or had surgery, or have an illness. Maybe you are planning a wedding or an around-the-world journey. It could be anything, good or bad. But the fact remains that you’re in a spot when you just can’t write.

It happens to all of us at one time or another. It is not fun to endure such a fallow time, but think of it this way—you’re giving your creative brain a rest and when you do get back to your writing, you’re going to be able to look at it with fresh eyes. And in the meantime, here are some things that might help:

Don’t beat yourself up. It happens to all of us. I repeat, it happens to all of us. It is not personal, it is just life. The worst thing you can do is berate yourself about it. So don’t.

 Remember that this too shall pass. Writing is your passion and you’ll return to it as soon as you can.  There will come a moment when the brain fog or the schedule clears and you’ll get back to it. I promise.

Don’t let the bastards get you down. This is for those of you who have been walloped hard by rejection. I remember  A friend told me about a time when she got rejected by a publisher and couldn’t write for six months. Remember, this is a subjective business. If you’re not writing because a rejection shook your confidence, you’ve let them win. Don’t!

Stay positive. I was driving earlier this week and saw this hand-written sign tacked on a telephone pole. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. It will not do you any good at all to think about what a lout you are for not writing. Instead, tell yourself repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly, that you’ll get back to it soon and it will be there waiting for you when you do.

Keep your hand in any way you can.  Take notes when you have an idea or think of something germane to your WIP. Read writing blogs (ahem), or magazines, or books.

Those are simple things that have helped me when I’m in a fallow period because of life happenings. Do you have any to recommend? Leave a comment and let me know.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there are still a couple of spots left for the France writing workshop. One of my all-time most favorite things is France. I got to spend the whole month of March there, and I’ll be returning again in September, this time to the beautiful village of Collioure. Think sun, sea, vibrant Catalan colors, heavenly fish, wonderful wine, great hiking, fun shops and cafes, daring commandos training…and oh yeah, writing! Lots of it! Get inspired—come with. Click here for more info, or reply to this email and I’ll tell you all about it.

 

How Long Should It Take to Write a Novel?

In the class I’m currently taking (and loving), there’s been a thread lamenting how hard it is to write fast enough for the current voracious market.  Since the class is called Write Better Faster, that’s no surprise.  (I highly recommend the class–it is about figuring out how your brain works so you can write and produce at an optimal level for you.)

The gist of the conversation is this: some students are trying to get their writing to a point where they are making money at it, specifically from writing fiction. Two options present themselves: get thee a bestseller, or jump on the releasing several books a year bandwagon. Both are difficult to accomplish.

I won’t discuss the bestseller bit in this post, though it does deserve a post of its own some time. I do want to explore how long it “should” take to write a novel. I put should in quotes because, of course, there are no shoulds and it will take as long as it takes.

However. Current common wisdom among some self-publishing people is that to be successful, authors must pump out three to four books a year.  So, yeah, that means you’ll be writing fast and writing a lot. Because besides all the writing, you still have to worry about getting your book for publishing and, oh yeah, marketing as well. So that means you will be finishing a novel in two to three months.

It’s doable, for sure. Because, duh, people are doing it right and left. I can’t speak to the quality of their efforts.  I also know writers who’ve gotten an inspired idea and felt so in the flow of it that they completed a book in a very short time. So that whole writing fast thing is nothing to sneeze at.

And I think we all know the writer who’s been slaving over the same story for years and years and years. Who is either writing a word a day or just working and reworking the story to death. That doesn’t seem sustainable at all.

Those are two extremes to how long it will take. You probably fall somewhere in the middle, as I do. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I aspire to write better drafts in order to reduce the time it takes me to complete a novel. I’m good at writing fast and I love it, but I often sacrifice a coherent plot and end up rewriting multiple times. My solution to this problem is to prep more, specifically with story structure and character, so that I have a framework within which to write fast.  Once I master this, I’d be happy if I could write two novels a year.

But that might be way too fast for you. You might love to linger over every word, or slowly build the world of the novel. You may love the process of going back over your book again and again.

And that’s the key here–you need to figure out what works for you. And only you. If you want to try producing multiple novels a year, go for it. And if you are content to meander down the novel-writing path, that’s okay, too.

Here’s a link I found that details how to write a novel in a year. You might find some good tips on it. And, please, do comment on your thoughts. Are you in the write fast school of thought?

Confessions of a Reforming Writing Pantser

Nearly all my writing life I’ve considered myself a planner. But for the last two books I’ve written, apparently I’ve been pantsing like crazy.  And it hasn’t worked all that well.

I will share my sad story, but first some definitions for those of you who might not know:

Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. No planning, they just have at it and see where the story takes them. They don’t want to be constrained by an outline or any preconceived notions.

Planners plan everything out ahead of time. They write up character dossiers, figure out the plot according to one of many different theories of story and don’t leave anything to chance.

And for years, I’ve been a planner. There are few things I like better than filling out character dossiers.  There’s so much possibility in it! I’m creating a brand-new character and getting ready to put her into action–much like God.

I’m also a story wonk. I love reading about various types of story structures, from the three-act framework to the Hero’s Journey and I’ve studied these in depth.

I also adore figuring out settings–big and little. I love pondering where the character lives and works, what his house looks like and where she hangs out.

These all fall firmly into the planning category, in case you hadn’t noticed.

So why have I abandoned these supports for my last two books? I think because I got enamored of the idea of writing fast. I have a lot of stories in me and I want to get them out into the world. Writing fast is the best way to do that.

But I’m coming up on the limitations of it, or at least the way I did it the last two times, because I know there’s a third way I’ll detail in a minute. But first, my sad story.

I finished the rewrite for my agent last week and sent it off. And, determined to actually finish another project, I unearthed a novel I wrote a couple years ago.  I started it when in France, and for that reason alone I’ve always been fond of it. But I also love my main character–a globe-trotting journalist who loses her career and her relationship pretty much in one fell swoop. However, I knew the book had big plot problems.

So I started reading it earlier this week. Yup, plot problems. For the first 75 pages I was convinced they were insurmountable. And so I did what I always do–made my life much more complicated by deciding that this story could be split in two. New characters and settings appeared in my head! Excitement abounded! Because I am an excellent starter (and a lousy finisher in case you hadn’t guessed). I took notes and wrote with excitement.

First, though, I told myself I had to finish reading the manuscript. And, somewhere around page 100, a funny thing happened. I fell in love with the story.  Realized I didn’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water and reconstruct it–and write a whole other novel with some of the characters. I had plenty of good stuff to work with. Plot problems, yes, but a host of fun characters and some interesting themes.

So I’m going to rewrite it as is. First, though, I’m going to do some serious prep work, writing material to help me understand my characters and figure out a plot that will support the story.

And this is how I’m proceeding from here on out:

-Do all the prep work.  Write character dossiers and dig deep into their motivations.  Create memorable settings. And most of all, figure out the damn story ahead of time!

–Write fast.  When all the above is done, then it is time to write fast. When you know where you’re going, it is a hell of lot easier to do this. And I shall. And it will all be brilliant. Right? Right.

Part of the way I’m going to prep is to write scenes on cards. I’m currently reading Writing Love, by Alexandra Sokolow and it is helpful in this regard. She bases her ideas of structure on screenplay writing and tells you the exact scenes you need to have in your story. I take things like this with a grain of salt but I at least like it as a starting point. At $2.99 for the Kindle edition, its a cheap reference. Well worth a look.

Photo from Every Stock Photo.

This post contains affiliate links.

Writer, Know Thyself! (A Love Letter)

How well do you know yourself as a writer? Know how to motivate yourself, operate at your most productive, achieve your writing dreams? After all these years of writing about these exact topics I thought I knew myself pretty well.

Turns out that’s not true.

I’m taking a class called Write Better, Write Faster, about which I’ve already written. The whole point of it is to figure out how your brain works and thus how you can best put it to work. So far I’ve learned:

–I’m very externally motivated. Duh. I’ve always known I was deadline-oriented. And that if I make a commitment, I’ll follow through on it no matter what it takes. But I never extrapolated that to a bigger picture, or, um, to writing fiction. Class teacher Becca gently informed me that I need an accountability buddy for my writing. Something I have for my business, but not my writing. If I’m honest, its because I don’t place the same importance on my fiction because—baboom—its not a huge money maker.

–I need systems. I’m the loosiest, goosiest human on the planet.  Read this if you don’t believe me.  I need a system for editing, for instance, because otherwise I’ll get distracted and keep going back to the beginning, never getting anywhere. I have a great, never fail system for rewriting. I used to have a system for prepping for the novel, but I strayed from it—hence the multiple torturous rewrites of my most recent novel.

I share all this in case any of it resonates.  And to encourage you to learn all you can about yourself and your own writing style.  You can start by taking a watered-down version of the Meyers-Briggs test here.  We had a lot of fun with this on the Facebook group this week.

Any thoughts on how well you know or don’t know yourself as a writer? Leave a reply!

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Choosing Viewpoint in the Novel

I finished the rewrite on my novel last week and sent it off. And so what does a writer do next? Why, start the next novel, of course. But in my case, I am going back to a novel. 

Here’s the story. I have a full-length novel and a loooong novella languishing on my computer. If you guessed I have issues with completing things, you’d be correct. Because–squirrel! Bright shiny object! Yeah, that’s me.  But I’m determined to change, and to that end I’m taking a class that is helping me to do this.  It is called Write Better, Write Faster, available through the Margie Lawson Writer’s Academy periodically, and I’m loving it. The class helps you boost your productivity through figuring out how your brain works. Not the brains of your writing friends.

Anyway, I decided my next project is going to be tackling the rewrite of the full-length novel. So I bought a three-ring binder, three hole punch copy paper, and printed the thing out. I am now in the process of reading it. Which brings me to today’s topic.

Much to my surprise (its been a couple years since I read this story), the book is written in first person. Turns out I like the voice of the narrator.  But. Yes, here come the buts:

–I’m only a couple chapters into my reading and I’m afraid the narrator may begin to sound self-pitying after a while. After all, she loses her job, and her boyfriend after she tells him she’s pregnant. I’d be self-pitying, too. But readers want strong characters who can rise to the challenges we throw at them, not whiners.

–This is intended to be a romance novel-ish. And the standard convention in romance novels is to write in dual third person, alternating between the male and female love interests. I did this in the novel I just finished and I really liked it. I liked getting to be in the heads of both of them and I think readers like that too.

A dilemma, right?

I think I may have solved it, though I’m going to reserve final judgement until I am finished with the read-through. I think I’m going to go with the dual third-person option.  The thing is, there’s a ton of rewriting to be done anyway. I’m redoing the story in such a way that much of it will be thrown out. So might as well go all the way.

I think. The thought of changing it all makes me a bit faint. But I shall persevere! Or at least let you know my final decision.

Have you ever switched the viewpoint of a character before? How did the process work for you? Leave a comment, or come to the Facebook page and chat about it there.