Author Confessions Round 20

I do occasionally ask family members or friends for input about my books, but writing is something I do alone. As a member of  a local writer’s group, we meet monthly and have many opportunities throughout the year to attend write-ins or retreats, but I don’t like writing with other people. I prefer to run solo.

Dare to Be Different

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.

My Writing Process

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Every writer goes through the writing process at various stages.  Some follow the stages diligently step by step, others are more haphazard in their process.  My writing routine is a bit more unorthodox than most because I don’t have the luxury of writing all day, every day.  I wish I did.  With a full time 50+ hour a week job, I utilize what time I have.

I’ve never been the type of writer that uses an outline or a story board.  I simply open a notebook and jot down character ideas, possible plot elements, and brief sketches of scenes I want to include.  Once my notes are written, I start writing.  Ideas generate as I write.  I have a basic plan of where I want my story to go, but details develop the more I write.  I never really know exactly how a book is going to end until I get to the end.

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Once the draft is complete, I re-read the entire thing from beginning to end, adding details, refining dialogue, and including more character development to make my message clearer.  Once the first revision is finished, it’s time for round two.  In this revision, I look for unnecessary information, pointless characters, redundancy, word choice, and check for factual accuracy.   I cut what I need to and add more detail where appropriate.  This is also the stage where I cut scenes that are not needed.

The next stage of revisions has to do with flow.  Here, I’m reading for plot and story fluency.  Cutting and revising to eliminate choppiness, moving scenes around to make the plot more fluid, and refining transitions.  This is usually the final revising stage I go through.  Then I re-read, making only minor changes as I see fit, before I begin the editing process.

Editing

Editing involves double checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation, cutting overused words, refining dialogue tags, and checking sentence structure.  Once I read the manuscript through once from beginning to end, I read it again from back to front.  That way I’m looking specifically for errors and storyline doesn’t get in the way.  Once I’m done editing, the manuscript then goes to a second set of eyes (my editor) who gives their input on content, grammar, revisions, etc…  My editor and I go back and forth several times regarding revisions, cuts, additions, etc… before a complete document is created.  I then read through the entire manuscript one more time to make sure nothing was missed and all typos have been corrected.

The document is now ready for publication, which is a complex process in itself.

The whole writing process is time consuming and takes many months to complete, at least for me it does.  I know not every writer follows these steps exactly like I do, but that’s the beauty of writing.  Each writer has their own style and their own way of perfecting the craft.  Creativity has no defined set of rules, which is what makes books unique and every author special.  The unique road each of us travels to get our story out there is what makes writing so great.

So write on, follow your heart, and let the creative juices flow.