The Mind of a Writer

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Do not know where this quote came from, but it’s great. 

Also, if anyone is interested, I found a writing blog by Natasha Lester where she writes about what writing a novel is really like.  Having gone through this process, and currently going through the revising stage of my second book, I can totally relate to what she says.

The Red Ink Of Death

Editing is going to be the death of me.  I am thoroughly convinced of this.  I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spent editing my novel, over and over again, and every time I look at it, it seems as if I’ve missed something, a comma here, a period there.  And recently I finished yet another copy edit to fix typos that were originally overlooked.

Even though I had an editor help with the whole editing and proofreading process, it amazes me how many errors I still found.  I guess when you read through a manuscript that many times, the words start to jumble together in your head after a while.  Being a writer, I am never satisfied with my work.  Then again, maybe that’s just me.  I always seem to find something wrong with my writing.  Eventually there comes a time when I need to tell myself to stop editing and just submit the darn thing.

55e616a6bf20a93b1f5a82122d92dff2Being a writer is not just about writing.  You have to play the role of reader, editor, proofreader, critic, and marketing specialist.  Marketing is a nemesis all on its own.  I’ll get into that later.  But by far, I think the hardest and most stressful part of writing, at least for me, has been the whole editing process.

Do you remember in school when you’d get a paper back with all that lovely red ink on it marking every error that your teacher wanted you to correct?  The dreaded red ink!   Cut this.  Delete that.  Move this paragraph here.  It always looked like someone bled all over your paper.  stylograph-pen-with-red-ink-drops-mats-silvanThat’s what editing feels like.  That red ink of death is what kills your characters, deletes that magnificent paragraph that you worked so hard on, and reminds you how imperfect you are.

Although this process has caused me to rip out my hair on several occasions, I have learned from it.  First off, editing makes a story flow smoother.  It makes language consistent and brings out an author’s style.  Secondly, even though that paragraph might have been the most poetic thing I’ve ever written, I have to admit that the scene is much better without it.  Finally, editing has taught me to be critical of my work.  If it isn’t absolutely necessary in the story, cut it.  If the sentence doesn’t flow, fix it.  And if it just flat out sounds bad, get rid of it.

One piece of advice I was given, that has actually been really helpful, is to read the manuscript from back to front to check for proofreading errors.  That way you’re not reading the story, you’re simply checking for typos and grammatical errors.  When I was told this, I though it was crazy, but it works.  I caught many errors by following this advice.

Another thing that helped me was this amazing book called Self Editing for Fiction Writersself-editing-for-fiction-writersBest investment I ever made I happened to stumble upon it during a weekly book run to Barnes and Noble with my family.  Browsing through the writing reference section, the title immediately caught my eye.  I pulled it off the shelf and skimmed through it.  Bingo!  Just what I was looking for.  Definitely a book worth reading for any writer.  I highly recommend it.

All in all, this whole process had been a learning experience.  If I’ve learned nothing else from all of this, the one thing I will take with me is that writing, good writing, is excruciatingly hard, but if you’re serious about and dedicated to it, the end product is well worth the effort.  So keep writing, celebrate those little successes, and don’t give up.  All of the blood, sweat, and red ink is worth it!

L.M. Nelson, Author of Scrubs

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

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“How do you do it all?”  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times friends, family members, and colleagues have asked me that question.  And there really isn’t a definitive answer other than blood, sweat, and tears.  Well, maybe not the blood part, except for that time I had a paper cut.  But then again, if bleeding ink counts, then blood does apply.

Real writers work ridiculously hard.  I never realized how hard until I became a part of the author melting pot.  Sweating over deadlines, crying because your editor wants to cut a scene you spent months perfecting, tearing your hair out over marketing, and coming to the realization that following your dream of becoming an author has sucked every ounce of energy from you.  The entire writing, rewriting, editing, revising, polishing, publishing process is a walk in the park, except you’re not walking, you’re running with rabid dogs chasing you and the park in on fire.  Ok…it’s not that bad.  I’d describe it more like a marathon where you’re pouring out all of your energy and sweating like crazy hoping to reach the finish line without collapsing.

The market for books and e-books is huge.  Authors of every age, with varying levels of experience ranging from big names with large-scale international profiles to indie authors no one has ever heard of, write and publish books from every genre imaginable, and all seek the same thing–to gain readers, which will hopefully lead to book sales.  Authors participate in book signings and readings, keep up on social media, and some even conduct interviews or offer writing workshops to teach others how to write.  The list goes on.  All of this is challenging, but when you consider the fact that many of these authors are married, raising children, paying mortgages and car payments, and some of them even go to school or carry full time jobs when they aren’t writing (myself included), the entire writing process seems daunting.

So how does a writer with a normal life do all of this?  Caffeine is certainly helpful, although I don’t recommend drinking 50 cups of coffee a day.  In fact, I don’t even like coffee.  Tea works nicely though.

Being a writer, carrying a full time job, and raising a family definitely falls into the balancing act realm.  My first priority is my family.  My children are older now and don’t require my attention 24/7, but I still make sure they have what they need and make it a point to spend some quality time with them.  My husband and I need time to connect as well, so we make time every night to talk.  Weekends, for the most part, are family time.  Housework, yard work, and taking care of our pets is a group effort.  We all work together, taking ownership of the tasks at hand, so we are able to complete chores fairly quickly.  This way all of us have time to pursue whatever our passions and interests are.  Less sweat, less tears, and hopefully no blood.

My job occupies my day, five days a week.  I’m technically on the clock from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., although I don’t recall in the 20 some years I’ve been in this profession a time when I’ve actually left work at 3:30.  I’m usually in the building until at least 5:00 p.m., often later in order to avoid rush hour traffic.  My profession is one that requires me to work with children all day, which, as those of you who are around children know, can be physically draining. Endless paperwork, countless meetings…I won’t get into all the details.  The point is I probably work anywhere between 50 and 70 hours a week.  But I’ve made it a point over the last few years to leave my work at work and not bring any of it home.  If that means I stay a little later that day, then that’s what I do.  Less sweat, less tears.  I have, however, seen blood in my profession, including my own.

My evenings, after dinner with the family, are dedicated to writing.  Whether it’s reading a good book by a great author, editing and revising a book I’ve written, working on a first draft of another book, or networking, etc… I’m writing.  I keep a notebook and a pen in my possession at all times in case an inspiration pops into my head (which happens more often than you think it does.)  I use this time to relax and unwind from my busy day.  That’s what writing does for me.  It’s my stress relief.  No sweat.  No tears, unless I’m reading or writing an emotional scene, and definitely no blood.  Although I have written scenes that have blood in them.

It all sounds chaotic and overwhelming, but would I have it any other way?  Not on your life.  Balance.  Balance leads to harmony.  Harmony lessens stress.  Less stress means less sweat, fewer tears, and only occasional blood loss.  So pursue your dream, and most importantly, take some time for yourself.  Live.  Laugh.  Love.  Read.  Write.

L.M. Nelson, Author of Scrubs

What Inspires You to Write?

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Almost every writer is inspired by something, whether it be another person, music, photos, books, movies, or a number of other things.  Inspiration to write doesn’t always come easily.  Often times a story idea just pops into my head, and I take off with it.  Other times an inspiration-seeking session is in order.

As a writer, I find myself reading constantly.  I read from a variety of genres and from many different authors.  Books allow my imagination to run wild.  Not only can a book create images in my head, but reading also allows me to see different author’s writing styles.  Sometimes a phrase or particular scene from a book gets the creative juices flowing, but in all honesty, gaining inspiration isn’t why I read.  I read simply because I enjoy a good book.

An author can gain a lot of insights from watching people, which I do almost subconsciously now.  I write realistic fiction, so I spend a lot of time watching how people react to certain events or stimuli. I strive to make my characters as real and believable as possible.  Making mental notes about how people act or jotting down what they say often inspires me to write.  I create scenes based on what I hear or witness people do.  Although my characters are not based on real people, some of their personality traits or dialogue bits may reflect those of people I’ve come into contact with.  This makes my characters real and easier to relate to.

Interesting photographs grab my attention.  In fact, I have a bad habit of taking pictures of interesting things during routine shopping trips or when I’m sharing lunch with my family.  An example of this is when my husband, my kids, and I were eating lunch together and a framed picture on the wall called out to me.  It was a photograph of a man in a black trench coat and black fedora walking down a lonely street holding hands with a woman in a black dress.  It was raining outside so the woman held a black umbrella in her hand to retract the rain.  The man, however, walked unsheltered, with rainwater dripping off his hat.  That particular photograph had a story behind it, a story I intended to write.  So I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture of it.

I listen to music regularly.  I don’t usually do this while I’m writing, but song lyrics often lead to a story.  I’ve heard it said that music stirs up memories–memories of a particular person or event in your life, whether joyous or disheartening.  I firmly believe this is true.  This may seem odd to non-writers, but certain songs bring particular characters or scenes to mind.  Music often inspires me to write.  I place my characters in a scene and imagine a song playing in the background.  The song in my head fits the scene, and my character’s actions and words could easily be a part of the lyrics.

Writers are inspired by just about everything, and inspiration comes differently for every writer.  Share your thoughts.  What inspires you to write?

L.M. Nelson, Author of Scrubs