The Writer’s Life According To Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack says it best.

You Write Fiction

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a writer’s life for me…I think. Here are 11 gifs that sum up a writer’s life quite nicely.

sparrow4 When a new idea hits you.

sparrow6 When your cat mocks your new idea.

sparrow3 Writer’s block.

sparrow10 This chapter needs some work…

sparrow9 The cat’s on the keyboard again.

sparrow11 The first time someone asks about your book.

sparrow 2 When a friend/relative singles you out as a writer.

sparrow8 When you’re forced to socialize.

sparrow5 The one time you have company over.

sparrow7 When someone criticizes your writing.

sparrow2 When you get a good review on your book.

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When Words Won’t Come — Lit World Interviews

We’ve all shared tips on how to write every day and how to fight that devil, procrastination. Or in other words, how to nip our laziness in the bud. Laziness is indeed a real thing, but often when we think that that’s exactly what our problem is, it isn’t. It’s overwhelm. Beating ourselves up with […]

via When Words Won’t Come — Lit World Interviews

Deborah Ratliff: The Lonely Writer

Writers Unite!

Writing is lonely work. At least, that is the opinion of friends of mine who are not writers. They ask, how can you sit at a computer all day and not talk to anyone? Somehow, telling them, I’m never alone, that I talk to my characters would likely not reassure them being alone is good for me.

The fact is that despite the witty or testy or romantic conversation we have with our creations, writing is lonely work.

My career provided a writing outlet. I wrote research papers, training, operations, and policy manuals, newsletters, print and broadcast advertising copy.  While necessary within the scope of my work, and writing advertising was certainly challenging, I never felt fulfilled. When time to write presented itself after a corporate downsizing resulting in a layoff, I took the plunge. I started writing fiction.

As an only child, the solitude of writing was never a…

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Lost Inside My Head

brain slugWhy do I get my best writing ideas at the most inopportune moments?  Someone should invent a device that transcribes writer’s ideas into meaningful notes so we don’t lose the great ideas we come up with.  I guess this is why I carry a notebook and pen around with me everywhere I go. But it’s not the ideas I get when I’m ready for them that I’m talking about.  It’s the ones I get when I’m driving or in the shower that I can’t write down–those are the ideas that seem to get lost inside my head somehow.  It’s not until weeks later when the lightbulb comes on, the idea comes back to me, and I find myself saying, “Oh yeah.  That’s what I was going to do with that scene.”

Understanding Writers

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People don’t understand writers.  They don’t understand the process we go through to write or some of the quirky things we do.  The average person thinks writers can easily whip out story ideas, poems, or novels without thinking twice about it.  But the entire process is much more complex than anyone can possibly imagine.

Writers think differently than others, we see the world differently, and we often do things people don’t understand.  In this post I’d like to clarify some of the things writers do so people can better understand the way we think.

  1. Writers observe things.  We people watch and appear to stare blankly into space.  What we are doing here is listening intently to conversations, watching people’s body language, and noticing small details.  We take mental notes and jot things down while we do this.  So if it ever appears that a writer is staring at you and making random notes as they do, it only means they are considering using something you did or said in their book.  Take this as a compliment.
  2. Writers carry around notebooks and pens with them everywhere, and randomly pull them out at inopportune moments.  This is because we have to write an idea down before we forget about it.   I’ve been known to have stacks of Post-It notes filled with ideas shoved in my purse.  It’s also not unusual to see writers engaged in what looks like intense text message conversations, when in reality we are jotting down story ideas and texting them to ourselves.  I am especially guilty of this.  I think I have more text messages to myself than to anyone else.
  3. Writing entails more rewriting than anything else.   The purpose of a draft is to get ideas down, and first drafts are always awful.  Later when  we read back through it, we realize it sucks and cry for an hour.  When we finally pull ourselves together, we rewrite to make it better.  This is a frustrating and time consuming process.  So yes, we are still working on that book, and yes, we have read it umteen thousand times.  This is what writers do, relentlessly, until we get to the point where we feel the story is complete, and by that time we are tired of looking at the manuscript.
  4. Despite what many people think, most writers are not grammar Nazis.   I don’t claim to know everything about English grammar and I don’t want to know.  But spelling and grammar must be accurate so that through writing, we can clearly express our ideas and sound like intelligent people.  Some writers love this aspect of writing.  I hate it.  Editing is vital, but I always do this stage last and have another “editor” check this part after me so I can focus on telling the story.
  5. To writers, our characters are real.  Writers spend countless hours developing characters, writing backstories, and creating people in our minds.  We even talk about our characters as if they are real people.  There’s so much more to developing strong characters than the reader ever sees.  We live and breathe these characters.  They become our kin.
  6. Dialogue is hard to write.  Believable dialogue must reflect our characters, and it must move the story forward.   We don’t want all of our characters to sound the same.  We want to make sure the words that come out of our characters’ mouths are genuine to the character’s personality, necessary for the story, and true to what people actually say, yet not mundane or boring.  We ensure this by reading our dialogue out loud, using inflection and voice changes.  No, we are not crazy.   This is what writers do.
  7. Writers make random facial expression and gestures in an attempt to act out what our characters are doing so we can better describe it. There is nothing wrong with us.  Sometimes it’s just hard to find the right words.
  8. It is very difficult to describe your work to someone else.  When someone asks me what I’m working on, I usually stumble for words.   How do you take an idea you’ve developed in your head and spent months working on and describe it in one or two sentences?   It’s next to impossible to do.
  9. Throwing yourself out there takes courage.  Writers don’t write for recognition.  We write because we have something to say.  We write because we love to write.  We write because we can’t imagine not writing.  Exposing your soul to the world by putting your deepest thoughts and most creative ideas on a page for complete strangers to read is not easy to do.  In fact, it makes me pretty uncomfortable.
  10. No one cares about our work more than we do, and no one ever will.  These novels we write become our babies.  They are a part of us and we treasure them.   There is not a single person on this earth who will care one iota about how much work you put into it or how hard it was to kill off a character.  No one cares.  They just want to read a good book.  The process of writing that book means nothing to them.
  11. Writers do not spend all day writing.  We have jobs, families, lives outside of the pages of our books.  In fact, most writers have a hard time sitting down to write.  It takes self-discipline and willpower to push out 1,000 words a day.  Writing is hard.  We love it, but it’s also the most difficult thing any of us has ever done.
  12. Writers spend a good majority of time engaged in self-doubt.  This is especially true after we read a great novel by a great author or look at our sales ranking on Amazon.  We start to doubt not only our writing ability, but our self-worth as a human being.

Utilize Every Moment

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As a writer who has a 50+ hour a week day job, I have to take advantage of every free moment I have and use it to write.  During the school year that generally means writing in the evening, staying up late on the weekends, and taking advantage of my days off.   Granted, some days are much more productive than others depending on what’s going on, but I don’t like sacrificing my writing time and make it a point to write a little bit every day.

Finding time to write, however, is not always easy.  Most week nights, I don’t get home from work until between 6:00 and 7:00 pm, at which time I take a moment to unwind (because I drive for 45 minutes through rush hour traffic and am grateful to walk through the door alive) before I work on making dinner for the family.   During our meal, I catch up with the kids and husband on daily happenings.  Down time follows.  With a movie or the family’s favorite TV show on in the background, I boot up the laptop and begin to write or revise or edit a manuscript I’m working on.

thQPF4LX11Since I get up at the crack of dawn and commute through big city morning traffic to get to work by 7:30 a.m., I usually only write for an hour or two before sleep beckons me.  I am NOT a morning person, and if I don’t get a full night’s sleep, I have a difficult time functioning and effectively teaching children all day.   Sleep and I are best friends.

This writing pattern changes on the weekends, however, when I have a tendency, and probably a bad habit, of staying up until 4:00 a.m.  I’m most productive in my writing this time of day because the house is quiet and no one is around to demand my time or attention.  Trying to write with background noise distracts me, so I prefer the stillness during the wee hours of the morning, although I usually regret this decision when I’m dragging myself out of bed the next day.

Being a teacher, I am blessed to have Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, and summers off.  These are ideal writing times for me.  I fully utilize this extended time and marathon_mouse_spot-2have what I call a writing marathon, where I spend the whole day writing.  Of course I get up occasionally to stretch my legs, use the facilities, walk the dog, pet the cat, and grab a glass of tea, but the bulk of my day is used to write.  I’ve been known to complete several chapters during such times and could probably bust out an entire book if I really pushed myself.

Writing is hard work, but it’s worth it in the end.  I can’t imagine my life without the written word or go a day without writing.