Two things I’ve learned since beginning my new writing project:
1. Plotting out a fantasy book hurts my head.
2. I can’t draw.
“It’s alive! Alive!” These are the famous words from a classic science fiction movie and an 80’s movie theme song. Though it meant the creation of both a terrifying monster and a geek’s wet dream, the word we’re looking for here is “creation”. Creating characters within a story is a detailed process for writers. You […]
Good graphic on story tension.
Photo post by @facetioussoup.
I’m one of those writers, as I’m sure many of us are, who is never satisfied with my work. I could write the most glorious sentence or an epic scene in a book, yet no matter how many times I reread it, I will always find something wrong with it. It seems to be par for the course when it comes to the writing process, at least for me. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me, or maybe it’s because I know other people are going to read my work and compare me to their favorite well-known author, and I don’t want to sound like an ignorant buffoon. Whatever the reason, editing is the one stage in the writing process that I detest.
Although proper grammar is important, I’m not one to judge the entire worth of a person or their creative genius because of a typo or a misplaced comma. And if you really think about it, grammar rules seem to be changing all the time. Not only that, different editors look for different things. I can give my carefully edited manuscript to a completely different person to look over and they will detest the changes the previous editor made and find different elements that need to be revised. It’s a double edged sword.
Having another set of eyes look over your work is important, as they will see things that you, the author, missed. Your extra eyes will often come up with some great ideas you hadn’t thought of, but throw caution to the wind with this. Too many eyes and too much input can take away from the very voice you’re trying to project. I’m not saying don’t take advice from an editor, I’m simply saying to consider their input, but don’t lose your voice or who you are as a writer in the process.
People who offer critique often give input about how they would write that scene or how they would portray that character, and although their ideas may be wonderful, that might not be the direction you wanted the story to go. The next thing you know, your entire storyline has changed and the book you were once excited about, the one that really expressed who you are as a writer, now shows off someone else’s voice instead of yours. Remember whose story this is. If your name’s on it, it should be your voice the reader hears.
Even with an extra set of eyes and an editor’s input, there will still be people out there who won’t like your word choice. They’ll question your use of phrases, criticize your misplaced comma (even though you purposely put it there for dramatic effect), and some critical readers specifically look for grammar and spelling errors, as if their sole purpose in life is to crush every ounce of creativity within a writer’s already endless self-doubt. (Come on. You’ve all see those Amazon reviews: “Although I loved the story, I found three spelling errors.” A great book now has a one star review because a grammar Nazi is on the loose.)
As a writer, you get to the point where you’ve read through a document a hundred times, finding something else you want to change each time. But after awhile, you need to just tell yourself that you’re done. It’s finished. You’ve said what you wanted to say in the best way possible. Your voice has been heard. You also get to the point where you realize that not everyone is going to like your writing style. Some will hate what you do and be supercritical, others will love the content and crave your unique voice. It’s a matter of personal preference. There is no magic formula.
I don’t write for the masses. I have no desire to replicate or sound like another author. I don’t seek fame or fortune from my writing, and I am not out to top the national best sellers list. I refuse to get caught up in the conventions of a specific genre, giving up my voice in the process. I write what I want to write in my own unique way, using my voice, my characters, and my words.
The writing world is overstuffed with writers trying to replicate other writers. Seems like everyone wants to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. But I don’t want to be like the writers I love to read. In my opinion, it’s better to be different. It’s better to have a unique voice. Others may be able to write more fluently, use fancier words, or sound more poetic, but no one can write my story the way I can.
Dare to be different.
Stories from various cultures have been passed down from generation to generation, some through oral tradition, some recorded in writing. The idea of story is what being a fiction writer is all about.
How many of us have sat around a campfire telling scary ghost stories, or been to family gatherings where Uncle Bob tells stories from his childhood or his military days? Humans live for stories. We read them, tell them, watch them on TV or the big screen, and create our own. It’s what we do. As writers, we see stories all around us. Our creative minds develop stories and create characters to act them out. Story is the essence of writing.
Writing has always been a part of my life. As a child, I loved creating stories and making up characters. I wrote short stories, drew illustrations for them, and shared them with my friends. I kept a journal full of song lyrics I liked and wrote daily diary entries to reflect on my thoughts and feelings from the day. When my family would go on vacation or day trips, I brought a journal with me and kept track of the activities we did and the cool things I saw. It was rare to see me without a pencil in my hand.
In Jr. High, my love for writing branched out beyond short stories and personal reflection. I was introduced to the research paper and began a love affair with poetry. I received several awards for research papers I wrote and explored the various elements of poetry writing.
My freshman year of high school, I had several poems published in my high school’s literary magazine. I even earned a college scholarship for a poem I wrote that was later published in a national poetry collection. During this time, I also began playing around with writing fiction. I started off just creating stories in a notebook, most of which I don’t even have anymore. By the time I graduated, I had several notebooks full of stories I had created. The Scrubs series began in one of these notebooks.
I started the series in college, as a hobby more than anything. Back then I wrote only for myself, so the entire story was kept hidden from anyone else’s eyes. Over the years I added to it, changed it, and deleted unnecessary scenes and characters. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I mustered up the nerve to let a dear friend of mine read the entire series. She, and several others, finally convinced me to publish it.
The Scrubs series has grown with me. I wrote the four books during different stages of my life. Scrubs was written mainly during my college years. I wrote Sand & Sutures after I was married and while I was raising two young children. Beyond the Hardwood and Center Stage (both currently in revision) were written together, during a time in my life when my kids were teenagers and making their transition into the adult world. The different stages in my life are reflected in the different books. As I grew, my writing and the characters grew with me.
To this day, I still create stories in my head. These stories have to be told. I write them down, sometimes at inopportune moments, and refine them into full-blown novels. Some ideas are more vivid to me than others, but when I sit in front of keyboard to write, the characters come alive and the story develops on its own.
I wish I would have kept some of the stories I wrote when I was younger. Those journals were full of ideas, and I probably could have used some of them to generate more novels.
I’ve spent the last several weeks working on getting my book locations inputted into the Squirl app. I heard about this app through a Marketing conference I recently attended. Squirl is a location-based book discovery app. The app’s purpose is to bridge the gap between stories and the real world, connecting real life locations with books that have settings in that same location.
When I first began the incredibly time consuming process of inputting all of my book’s locations, I really wasn’t sure how far it was going to go or if it would even be worth my time. But the effort involved has definitely paid off. Scrubs has been featured on Squirl.
Super excited to see my book being recognized outside of Texas.
Letting the Characters Drive.
I’ve been advised against writing in first person several times. The general advice seems to be that publishers don’t like it and it’s harder for readers to get into the story. I could never understand that because I’ve alway loved reading first person. It pulls me into the story. When I’m reading first person, I get so absorbed in the story that I forget I’m reading. It feels like the story is simply in my head. The narration of third person constantly reminds me that I’m reading words on a page. Thinking back, it seems that all the books I would binge read were in first person, while third person was easier for me to put down and function like a normal person (which is important sometimes).
I felt like there was something missing in that advice. I wasn’t going to presume to tackle the entire publishing industry, but there was…
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