Jul 30, 2010

Finding the Time for Writing Your Novel by Sam Hilliard

So you’ve fired all your distractions before starting a new novel. Now it’s time to actually write one. As with any great crime against nature, being successful takes both motive and opportunity. Why a writer does what they do varies based on the author. In the interest of space, let’s leave it at the writer actually wants to write a novel and move on to opportunity.

The most important component in opportunity is time. Writing can be done almost anywhere, but it takes time. Lots of it. Some novels are written piecemeal over years, others happen in bursts. The first draft of Fahrenheit 451 took Ray Bradbury 10 days, while Tom Wolfe spent more than 5 years working on a draft of Man in Full. It’s likely your project will fall somewhere in between the two.

More than ninety percent of writers have day jobs, thus their most creative efforts are relegated to hours either before or after work. Take away the commute, cooking, eating, bathing and some basic (but necessary) chores and there’s probably two free hours left. Perhaps this block is contiguous, perhaps not. It might mean getting up early for one hour before work, and then one hour after. Whatever the configuration, that sliver provides more than enough opportunity to get the project rolling.

A focused writer can get a lot of writing done in two hours a day, five sessions a week. Over the course of a month, those “tiny” increments will probably equal the amount of work done in one week at the day job. Toss in a full day session on Saturdays or Sundays, and that’s nearly two writing weeks for every four weeks dealing with the Boss man.

Keep that pace up for seven months and that’s more than 500 hours at the keyboard. Now that’s a decent amount. Especially since most professional novelists who only answer to an editor, rarely log more than five hours of writing per day. James Patterson spent years working at a marketing firm—long after a string of mega bestsellers—writing just two hours every weeknight. It can be done. So, what are you waiting for? Get started!


***



***



Sam Hilliard arrived during a very scary period of the 1970s. Currently, Sam resides outside New York City with his girlfriend, and an army of four cats—one feline under the legal limit. His first book, The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel, a mystery/thriller, released this year. When he’s not writing, he’s the Director of IT at an all-girl boarding school where he gets to observe world-class drama firsthand and that’s also the reason he studies Krav Maga and Tai Chi.

Website: http://www.samhilliard.com/wordpress
Twitter: http://twitter.com/samhilliard
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thelasttrack
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/user/buddhapussinkllc
Publisher’s site: http://www.buddhapussink.com

***

Jul 29, 2010

Fire Your Distractions by Sam Hilliard

Before word one of a first draft ever reaches the page, ideally one thing must happen: the writer must fire all their distractions. There will be plenty of moments along the way for introspection and hindsight, but this is not the time. Do right by the project and do it early on by recognizing there will be inevitable, unplanned diversions that might cause delays, sometimes permanent ones. Have a plan of attack before you begin.

Granted, some situations will always remain outside the writer’s control. Illness, a plumbing emergency, or the neighbors launching bottle rockets off the roof, will all likely impact a writing session. None of these events are really distractions, though. They are called life.

Acceptance is the answer to most situations of this type. Let them go rather than fighting them and with the possible exception of the plumbing emergency, they will generally work themselves out.

True distractions require a different approach and take more than just letting go. Distractions can be avoided, lessened or even eliminated. This is possible because the writer usually creates their own distractions. Let me repeat that. The writer is the single biggest manufacturer of predicaments that obstruct their own writing. They are grand masters of drama.

If writing is like setting sail on the ocean, the writer is not a good captain when distracted. No, the writer is playing the part of the Kraken, the beast who gnarls his octopus like legs around the ship, threatening to pull the whole works into the sea forever.

Minimizing distractions can take some preemptive action. For instance: scheduling automatic payment of bills (even ones not due for many weeks or months). Where applicable, load up on cat food, cat treats and litter (or dog/fish/ferret/lion goodies as the case may be). Just because Daddy has a book to write, doesn’t change the fact that the Cat Army has needs.

If a home improvement project can wait a few months, consider tabling it. Dealing with contractors hefting sheetrock and pneumatic drills up the stairs will severely curtail your attention span. For the same reason, avoid adopting a new pet until the first draft (no matter how primitive) is done. While pets love nibbling freshly edited pages, wait until you actually have something of consequence for them to chew. Mistah Kitteh will thank you. So will your editor.

And there are some minor office organization techniques that can help later on. It sounds silly, but deal with every piece of paper in sight from your seat at the typewriter or computer. If a letter wasted away beside the keyboard, unread for months, perhaps it wants to visit the shredder more than it wants to be ignored yet again.

Writing furniture should be comfortable, so if the chair or desk causes pain when seated for periods of longer than 90 minutes, a new one might save a few trips to the chiropractor. Make the workspace as functional as possible by reducing the clutter and keeping it clean—throughout the project.

Last, write an email to your innermost circle of friends. This missive is not an announcement of your plans to write a novel. No, it’s an admission of guilt and contrition, because you will be neglecting them—for quite awhile. Instead of groveling for forgiveness after the fact, why not do it in advance instead of when your mind is a million miles away with your characters? Then when friends do eventually complain about your absence (emotional, physical or otherwise), just hit send.

And get back to the writing.


***



***



Sam Hilliard arrived during a very scary period of the 1970s. Currently, Sam resides outside New York City with his girlfriend, and an army of four cats—one feline under the legal limit. His first book, The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel, a mystery/thriller, released this year. When he’s not writing, he’s the Director of IT at an all-girl boarding school where he gets to observe world-class drama firsthand and that’s also the reason he studies Krav Maga and Tai Chi.

Website: http://www.samhilliard.com/wordpress
Twitter: http://twitter.com/samhilliard
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thelasttrack
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/user/buddhapussinkllc
Publisher’s site: http://www.buddhapussink.com

***

Jul 28, 2010

The Race by Soren Paul Petrek

I am an impatient writer and like to think of the completion of the first draft like the first leg of a race. I want to know what happens. My ideas come all at once and I have to get them down on paper. I’ve written two novels now and have yet to attempt an outline.

I know many other writers use detailed outlines, notebooks of ideas and even picture of individuals that give them inspiration when describing their characters. That’s all in my head or comes to me as the story develops. The process of discovering new characters as I go along is important to my style and method of writing. I try to tie characters and events together as my notion of ‘what happens next’ solidifies in my mind.

The emotional aspect of my writing depends on this happenstance style. I can appreciate how other writers might map out a particularly engaging or difficult scene, but the emotions are much more real when they happen to the writer as well. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, been frightened, angered, a whole range of experiences. It is what compels me to write the way that I do.

I’m confident some of the mechanics suffer as I forge ahead, but these can be fixed during the ongoing rewrite process. The loss of a good idea or characterization might get lost while I focus too directly on form instead of content.

I write to entertain, not to impress any reader with literary prowess. I want to be the author readers turn to when they want to escape into worlds of excitement, danger, tragedy and triumph. When I finish reading books like that, I feel that tiny sense of loss at the story coming to an end. Everyone who loves to read knows what I mean. I selfishly want my readers to feel those emotions too, but know that I’m still in the race to bring them more.

For more information, please visit me at my blogspot at: coldlonelycourage.blogspot.com

***



***



Soren Petrek is a practicing trial attorney with a passion for studying World War Two. He lived in France and England for years, listening to people's stories of personal sacrifice and struggle during the darkest years of the war. Cold Lonely Courage was inspired by the true story of a young Belgian woman who helped countless Jewish children escape from the terrors of the Nazi regime. Soren lives with his wife, Renee and sons, Max and Riley in central Minnesota.

Jul 20, 2010

The Bedroom (s): Where the Magic Happens! By Vincent Zandri

Upon reading the title of his guest blog one might be easily fooled into thinking that what follows is an expose on my love-life, such as it is. While it does have a whole lot to do with one of my “loves” and passions, it hardly has anything to do with sex. Sorry!

Well, that’s not entirely true since at any given time I might be writing a love scene for one of my noir novels. In any case, this is about where I write, day in and day out. It’s about the four walls that enclose me while I try and put black typewritten words to a blank page. It’s about the place I do it in. Where the magic happens: the bedrooms of the world.

First of all, I didn’t choose my space. Because I live where I do, for most of the year, the space chose me. For the past five years, I’ve lived in a two bedroom apartment in upstate New York. While my teenage sons share one bedroom, I share mine with my writing studio.

It’s a plain space, with white plaster and lath walls, and two double-hung style windows. The windows look out onto well kept grounds and pre-war, vine-covered, brick buildings that remind me of a collegiate campus. Say Brown University or Princeton. It’s a quiet place, and if I want I can play some classical music while I write. Vaughn Williams is usually my preferred choice.

For a part of every year I write inside the bedroom of a five floor walk-up in Florence, Italy. The window beside my desk looks out onto the tile roofs of the city, and often I smell meats simmering and bread baking in the trattoria directly below me.

I have to be honest here. I haven’t always written inside a bedroom. When I was married I wrote inside a back porch that was enclosed, but had no heat, so that in the winter I wrote with gloves on with the fingers chopped off. Later I wrote at the dining room table while the kids were watching videos and television.

I wrote my early stories and the novella Permanence to the tunes of Thomas the Tank Engine. In the months following my graduation from writing school, I wrote As Catch Can inside a small, back office I rented from a dying insurance agency. Godchild, it’s follow up, I wrote in the basement of my new home, just prior to my divorce. I wrote the second and third drafts in a Gramercy Park Hotel Room in New York City. I was officially back in the bedroom.

Moonlight Falls took me years to write. Since I was picking up lots of work as a freelance correspondent, I never worked on it in the same place twice. Or so it seemed. Just a few of the places I worked on it were New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Key West. I also worked on it in Florence, Italy; Benin, West Africa; Paris, France; Moscow, Russia; Bilbao, Spain; London, England and other places too.

The Concrete Pearl, a novel which Stone Noir will be publishing in early 2011, was written almost entirely in a hotel room in Lake Placid, New York in between fly fishing for trout and hikes in the Adirondack mountains.

More recently, the new hardcore noir novel I’m working on, Dead Man, has been written in the upstate, New York apartment bedroom I wrote about earlier. I hope my four-walled environment gives it the kind of claustrophobic Hitchcock quality I’m going for.

I guess what it comes down to is that no matter where I am in the world, I always end up writing in the same place. The bedroom. There’s something very enticing about waking up and seeing my laptop ready to go on the desktop. I’m sure it’s the same hopeful feeling Hemingway got when he used to wake up and stare at his Smith Corona. The feeling that anything can and will happen today, as soon as I get up and get to work putting words on a page.


***



***

The Remains author, Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.”

Other novels include the bestselling, Moonlight Falls,Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT).

He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge.

Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com.

Jul 19, 2010

My Advice About Writing the First Draft of Your Novel by Marilyn Meredith

Back when I was teaching writing I always told my students, “Vomit out the whole book then clean the mess up afterwards.” Kind of gross, but it got the point across.

Whether you are an outliner or a by-the-seat-of-your pants writer, once you know where you’re going with your novel, it’s best to just sit down in front of the computer and get started. Write one page, and then the next, and keep on going until you’re through.

I’ve heard of some writers who keep going back over that first chapter, trying to make it perfect, and never moving on to the second, and then third and so on. There are also writers who say they never edit, what they write the first time is exactly how it should be. Good for them—but I know that what I’ve written the first time is going to need work.

I follow my own advice and just keep on writing. I try to stop in the middle of a scene, so when I get back the next day, I know exactly what I want to write next. This is really helpful for preventing writer’s block.

Once I’m done, of course the book is far from perfect. That’s when the rewriting begins.

I belong to a critique group—one I’ve belonged to for thirty years—and I take each chapter, after I think I’ve got it in fairly good shape and read it to the group. I think of them as my first editor. They are pretty good at giving me good criticism, finding errors and inconsistencies. Often they point out things they don’t understand, or that might be missing.

In the case of Lingering Spirit I remember that my group pointed out a scene that went on far too long. They were right and I tightened it, only leaving in what needed to be there.

Because this particular book was actually published a long time ago as an e-book I think, though I’m not sure, it went through some sort of editing process before being published. This time around, the book has been edited once again, both by me and my publisher, Oak Tree Press.

Just remember, you can’t begin the rewriting process until you’ve finished that first draft.


***



***

Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Dispel the Mist from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com

Jul 16, 2010

Rebecca James Reads from her Novel "Beautiful Malice"




***



***

Rebecca James was born in Sydney and spent her twenties teaching English in Indonesia and Japan. She currently lives in Armidale, Australia, with her partner and their four sons.

You can visit Rebecca online at http://www.rebeccajamesbooks.com/

Jul 15, 2010

Life in the First Draft by Rebecca James

Introduction: Hello! My name is Rebecca James and I am the author of Beautiful Malice, a psychological thriller which is due to be published by Bantam Dell in July. To my absolute amazement my book created a bit of a media sensation last year when it went to auction just prior to the Frankfurt book fair. It has since sold in over 37 territories. (I pinch myself daily).

I live in Australia with my partner, our four sons, two overly friendly dogs and an irritable cat.

******************

However differently we tackle the writing of the first draft, I think we can all agree that it is hard work. Not many of us sit down and write an entire book filled with the kind of glorious inspiration that keeps us effortlessly filling page after page with brilliant, sparkling prose.

In fact, in my book, Beautiful Malice, I think I could single out four or five individual pages out of three hundred that came to me in a rush of happy inspiration. The rest of it was a slow process, a kind of repetitive and tedious labour. Writing a book is often compared to climbing a mountain: it requires a great deal of determination to reach the goal - the top, a finished book - and it can often seem like an endless and pointless chore through the middle of it.

As George Orwell put it, "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.'

So, yes, it's hard. And nice as it would be to have a definite formula or process to lay out - a reassuringly proper way to do it - it seems that each and every writer tackles their first draft differently. The good news about this is that writing is a pretty flexible thing - as many creative pursuits probably are - so, whatever you're doing, however you want to get those first words down on the page, at least nobody can say hey, you're doing that all wrong!.

When I started Beautiful Malice I had no clear picture of the story. I knew I wanted to write about a toxic friendship but that was all. I had no idea what was going to happen in the middle, let alone at the end. I didn't outline, or plan, or write a detailed analysis of each character - I sat down and wrote - from page one through to page three hundred - with no idea of what was going to happen next.

Every time I opened the manuscript I would read over whatever I'd written the day before and tidy it up, edit a little, let my head drift back into the story. In a way, writing a book in order like that can be a bit tedious - there's no leaving one scene to jump to another, more exciting one - but the fact that I didn't know what was going to happen next kept me intrigued enough to persevere. And, happily, the end result was a very neat first draft that didn't need a great deal of editing.

I've almost finished the second book in my contract (tentatively titled Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead) and I've written this one in an entirely different way. Before I even started it I had a much clearer idea of the shape of the story (although it has changed as I've written it, evolved) and only a short way into the book I had already figured out the ending. And strangely, I haven't written this novel in a linear, beginning to ending, way. Instead, I have jumped around all over the place, written scenes as they came to me, out of order - the most dramatic scenes first, the end before the middle.

Nobody else has read this second book yet, so I can't even say for sure whether I've succeeded or not - I think I have, I think it's alright (I certainly hope it's okay) - but what I do know is that this more random writing process has left me with a lot of tidying up to do, a lot of loose ends to tie up, a lot more editing to do than I had with Beautiful Malice.

I'm not sure why the process of writing Cooper Bartholomew has been so different to the way I wrote Beautiful Malice. I have wondered if my writing process has changed in response to the fact that I have a book deal - in the face of expectations... But perhaps it hasn't changed permanently, maybe I just wrote Cooper the way I needed to write it, perhaps I will write the next book in a different way altogether (standing on my head in the back of a moving car, for instance) ....Who knows?

I don't. And sometimes I'm scared that thinking about it too much will take all the joy out of it, kill any spontaneity.

And on that note, I'm going to stop.

***



***

Rebecca James was born in Sydney and spent her twenties teaching English in Indonesia and Japan. She currently lives in Armidale, Australia, with her partner and their four sons.

You can visit Rebecca online at http://www.rebeccajamesbooks.com/

Jul 14, 2010

Beginning a Book by Marilyn Meredith

One of the first things I do when beginning a book—after I know what I’m going to write about—is put down everything I know about the characters. Who they are, what they look like, what brought them to the place where the story begins, and what kind of changes I want for them. To make sure I don’t change someone’s eyes or hair color, I keep a 3 X 5 card on each one. I’m sure there is a way to do this on the computer, but this is how I’ve always done it, so know I won’t be changing.

In the case of Lingering Spirit, the story premise is based on something that actually happened—though much of the story is fictionalized. When creating the characters, they needed to be different from the actual people I planned to write about; different names, different physical descriptions and different personalities.

Picking names is something I enjoy. I keep lists of names, obits with interesting names, graduation programs and programs of plays with the cast of characters. Of course, I’d never use someone’s whole name, but it’s fun to put a first name with someone else’s last name. It’s important that the names fit the character; not giving a wimpy male name to a macho type guy. I also try not to use names that rhyme, start with the same letter, or all have the same number of syllables.

Once I’ve done that, I might write the first paragraph. I don’t outline my novels before I write, though I usually have a pretty good idea where I want to go with the story and what the outcome will be. (This might change as I really get into the book.)

I have ideas about scenes and I might jot down two or three words to remind me what I want to write about. Sometimes I’ll write several paragraphs of a particular scene. I do this with pen and paper.

Even after I’ve started writing the story on the computer, I’ll keep a notepad close by so I can scribble ideas that come to me that I want to be sure to include later on in the story. When I’m writing, that’s when the ideas really start to flow. If I don’t write them down I might forget.

For some this might detract from the actual writing, but I’ve spent my writing life being distracted and learned to go right back to whatever I am working on. I think it’s all part of really wanting to be a writer. If you want it enough, nothing will keep you from writing.

It’s important to have a specific time to write even if it’s only an hour before everyone else gets up. Years ago, when I worked outside the home, that’s how I first got started with my writing.

If you really want to get the first draft done of your novel, then it’s important that you write as often and as regularly as you can.

***



***

Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Dispel the Mist from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com

Jul 13, 2010

Nancy Thayer Reads From Her Novel 'Beachcombers'




***



***

Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Summer House, Moon Shell Beach, The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Between Husbands and Friends. She lives on Nantucket. You can visit Nancy Thayer’s website at www.NancyThayer.com.

Jul 12, 2010

Life in the First Draft By Nancy Thayer

I find writing a first draft can be a little bit like being alone in the house and trying to scratch that spot between your shoulder blades that you just can’t quite reach. You have to do it, you want to do it, but you can’t quite get there, and it drives you crazy.

Some writers, I know, write a one-sentence synopsis of each chapter on cards and tack them to a board so they can follow along, writing chronologically. I can’t do that.

I am an inefficient and intuitive writer. I can’t outline. I just can’t. I have to start writing, and what I start writing involves whoever has been walking around in my head saying things. It’s always been that way. Somehow I know something about my main character and her crisis—it’s usually a woman—and I “see” her. I “hear” her. So I write down what is there, waiting in my head like a blinking cursor, to write. Perhaps, the first day, five pages.

The next day, I wake up, grab my coffee, and read what I’ve written. Immediately, I know, “Oh, she doesn’t say that!” And I begin to edit and cross out and scribble in the margins and write five more pages. (I keep all the pages I write until I’m really finished writing the novel.) (Stacks of paper loom in my study!)

I work like this for perhaps a month, more or less, until I finally know what my novel is going to be about. At that point I can pull together a synopsis to present my editor. I know there will be changes, lots of changes, suggested by my editor and my agent and my husband. And myself.

An ad man, Dick Mercer, once said when we worked together on a library committee, that if you present a blank sheet of paper to a committee and say, “Give me five ideas,” the pages will stay blank. But if you give the committee a sheet of paper with five ideas on it, everyone will have lots of suggestions. I think that’s the way first drafts work. I can sit waiting for the perfect sentence, character or plot, and I can wait all day. But once I’ve written a sentence, I know if it’s right or wrong.

But right or wrong for how long? Once I’m in the middle of a book, I often realize a scene in the beginning is completely wrong. Sometimes I have to get rid of a character. I often finish a book, let it “cool,” reread it, and edit out entire scenes or people or action.

When I started writing Beachcombers, I was thinking about three young sisters who live on Nantucket and are working to grow up and away from a terrible loss in their lives. Why was I thinking this? Perhaps because I have a daughter in her thirties, and I know her friends who are in their thirties. Perhaps because I was seeing how what happens to us when we are young influences how we act even when we’re living adult lives. Probably I was walking along the beach, as I do almost every day, bending down to pick up a shell, lulled by the shimmer of the ocean—and a woman in my head started talking.

That, for me, is the best way to get started on a first draft: take a walk. Look at nature. Get away from the computer or pen and paper, move your body, and let your mind be free to receive whatever the mysterious dynamics of writing sends you. Then go home and write. Write, even if you know it’s wrong. After a while, it will be right.

***



***

Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Summer House, Moon Shell Beach, The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Between Husbands and Friends. She lives on Nantucket. You can visit Nancy Thayer’s website at www.NancyThayer.com.

Jul 9, 2010

Writing is Like Building a House By Jackie M. Johnson

Writing, like building a new house, takes time and hard work. If you’ve ever had a house built, you know that there are several steps to the process: site selection, building the foundation, framing, finishing the interior and exterior, landscaping, and doing a final walk-through.

In the same way, when you follow the stages of creating a written piece, it will be solid and lasting. Here are some ideas to build your project from rough draft to finished piece:

1) Site selection. It’s important to begin with the basics. What do you want to write? Who is your audience? Ask yourself the essentials: who, what, when, where, why and how. Next, what kind of project will you create? Once you figure out the big idea, you’ll have a better idea of knowing if you have enough material for an entire book—or just enough for an article or blog post.

2) Building your foundation. Your outline—no matter how brief—will be your blueprint. Even if you’re an anti-outline person, at least put a few main points on paper and add to it as your idea develops. Like the gray cement blocks that form the foundation of a house, the structure of your writing will support the rest of the piece. Make sure it’s strong.

3) Framing is about creating your rough draft. Get your ideas on paper, one word at a time. Words turn into paragraphs, paragraphs turn into chapters, until you’ve got an entire book.

4) Finishing. Don’t forget the importance of rewriting and editing to make your piece both correct and content-rich.

5) Landscaping. When a house has been constructed, you stand back and look at the whole picture to see where you can put the final touches. The green grass, bushes, and colorful flowers add interest and beauty to the home. Likewise, let your writing sit for a few days. Then revisit it from a new perspective and add the final touches to your piece.

6) Final walk-through – Thought you were finished? No. Be sure to read through your manuscript one more time—a final edit—before you submit it to your agent, editor or publication.


***



***

Jackie M. Johnson is an accomplished author and freelance writer who has a passion for helping people who’ve experienced brokenness. Her first book, Power Prayers for Women has sold almost 200,000 copies.

A Milwaukee native and graduate of Trinity International University, Jackie lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

You can visit Jackie online at http://whenloveends.com/ and at her blog http://anewdaycafe.blogspot.com/.

Jul 8, 2010

Write First, Edit Later By Jackie M. Johnson

So, you want to write a book—or an article, or something else. Whatever your writer heart’s desire, it’s essential to get started and get some words on a page. Yet many writers and wanna-be writers get stuck in the first draft process. That’s because often they’ve fallen prey to the trap of perfectionism. Here are some ideas to help you get going—and finish your piece.

Just start. Instead of staring at a blank white piece of paper or screen, just start. Lift your fingers to the keyboard (or pen) and start writing words, any words, to build momentum. Think of it as a warm-up.

Free write. Start your new project by doing a “brain dump.” Let the ideas (even half-formed ones) flow out of you. It may be a sentence, a few paragraphs or an entire chapter; the amount of content is up to you. Remember, it’s a draft. At the draft stage, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be on paper.

Keep your crafts separate: writing and editing. Instead of trying to make the text perfect as it’s flowing from your fingers, realize that there is a process to the process. Bottom line: Don’t write and edit yourself at the same time. You will constantly start and stop, and become frustrated. It’s like trying to drive your car with one foot on the accelerator and one on the brake. The car would jerk so badly that you’d never get anywhere! Write first, edit later.

Clean it up. You have a body of unformed copy, now go back and edit the piece to clean up spelling, punctuation and grammar. Remove redundant ideas and excess verbiage. Less is more.

Capture your ideas. Finally, it’s important to realize that most writers don’t begin their project by sitting down to a blank white screen. Often they have notes or thoughts that have been marinating in their head for some time. Consider carrying a small notebook with you (in your purse, briefcase, car; whatever works for you) so you can capture ideas before they float away. Then, keep your notes in a file folder. When you sit down to write, pull out the file and you have some seeds of ideas to help you start writing.

Be okay with the process. Remember, your first draft is just that: a draft. Don’t let perfectionism creep in and freeze up your potential. A good writer has to be okay with the creative “mess” that’s all part of the beginning stage in the writing process. It’s like baking chocolate chip cookies. Imagine your completed project—your first novel, your non-fiction book, or article. Then imagine a plate of luscious, home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Both are results of a process.

But in order to get to the plate of cookies, you had to make a mess in the kitchen. Your guests didn’t see behind the closed kitchen doors as the stray chocolate chips rolled across the floor, or the flour streaked your forehead, or the dirty bowls piled up in the sink. But the process led to the result.

Likewise, your readers will never see the first draft jumble of words on your PC, or the outline you revised about 52 times. Eventually disorder leads to order. The clutter you began with gets sorted into creative goodness. In time, you find delight in the turn of a really good sentence—then another, and another. Until finally it’s finished, and your readers are presented with your final piece: your article or your book.

It’s time to get started on your masterpiece. Now go bake some cookies.

***



***

Jackie M. Johnson is an accomplished author and freelance writer who has a passion for helping people who’ve experienced brokenness. Her first book, Power Prayers for Women has sold almost 200,000 copies.

A Milwaukee native and graduate of Trinity International University, Jackie lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

You can visit Jackie online at http://whenloveends.com/ and at her blog http://anewdaycafe.blogspot.com/.

Jul 7, 2010

Writing Longhand by Steven Verrier

I don’t know how many writers like me are left – writing every first draft in longhand. Notebooks piled on my floor contain first drafts of recent efforts. I don’t know why I continue to write that way. It’s just the way I started years ago … and, well, you know what they say about old dogs.

But there may be more. Perhaps working with pen and paper just lends itself to the creative process in a way that tapping out words on a computer can’t. Maybe it’s because computers suggest speed and precision, while putting together the first draft of a story or book often rests on anything but speed and precision.

Or, again, maybe I’m just an old dog.

When you’re writing out a first draft in a notebook, you’re ready to work anytime, anywhere. On park benches, at the coffee shop, the library, on trains … there probably aren’t many places I haven’t worked on a first draft. One of my favorite places to open up a notebook and write a few pages when the opportunity presents itself is at work. A notebook is so inconspicuous – much more so than a laptop – and nobody has a clue what I’m jotting down when I open that notebook … well, until now, if they’re reading this.

The point here is that I’m ‘on call’ whenever I’m working on a first draft, and I like to have that notebook handy wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. Writing a first draft should be fun, unimpeded by too many concerns about getting it right. If getting through a first draft yields nothing more than a block of stone I can get serious about chiseling in the second, third, fourth, and fifth drafts, that’s good enough. And old-fashioned pens and notebooks seem to fit the bill just fine.


***



***

Steven Verrier, born in the United States and raised in Canada, has spent much of his adult life living and traveling abroad. Publications include Plan B (Saga Books, 2010), Tough Love, Tender Heart (Saga Books, 2008), Raising a Child to be Bilingual and Bicultural (Hira-Tai Books of Japan), and several short dramatic works (Brooklyn Publishers, USA). Currently he is living with his wife, Motoko, and their five children in San Antonio, Texas.

You can visit his website at StevenVerrier.com

Jul 6, 2010

Life in the First Draft by Steven Verrier

I’ve known people who’d labor over the first draft of a piece of writing to such a degree that they were defeated before they knew it. They were so excruciatingly meticulous in the early stages that they’d dread sitting down for another round of writing.

If that weren’t enough, they’d have that first draft planned out to the point where there wasn’t a lot of room for creativity to work its magic. The predictable result: that first draft wouldn’t be the inspired piece of work it might have been – or it might never even be completed.

I try to limit planning before I begin writing to what’s necessary to get the project underway. I may have only a key character or two in mind, an opening situation to fuel interest in the character or characters, and a sense of the conflict to follow.

Almost any setting can work, and when I think I’ve hit on the right combination … once I’ve got just enough to start the engine … that’s the time to start writing. Too many writers, unfortunately, miss that magical moment to begin – they wait for more and the engine stalls – and what could have been an enjoyable experience turns out to be a chore.

Just get it on paper. That’s my philosophy when it comes to writing a first draft. Let the characters lead you, the writer, not vice versa. When I write a first draft I don’t want my characters on leashes. I want them to develop minds of their own; after all, what makes writing a first draft so enjoyable is the unpredictability of it all.

Of course, I have an idea where the characters will go and how they’ll react in certain situations – just as I have an idea what a neighbor or colleague might do in a certain situation – but if my characters end up going in directions I didn’t foresee, so much the better. If I have a strong feeling they’ve made a wrong turn, we’ll have plenty of opportunity to work that out in the second draft.

That pretty much epitomizes the different approaches I take to working on first and second drafts. Anything from the second draft on … well, that’s the time to fret, to chop, to labor, to sculpt, to polish … and it can be torture. The first draft allows a writer to be creative. When I’m working on a first draft – though I’ll sketch details and take notes about where I think the story is going – I try not to look in any great detail more than a chapter or two ahead.

Similarly, I try not to look back in an overly critical way at what I’ve already written. Even polishing the previous day’s writing is out of the question. Just get it on paper. Write out the first draft, however it turns out. Enjoy the process; don’t let it torture you. There’ll be plenty of torture later.

***



***

Steven Verrier, born in the United States and raised in Canada, has spent much of his adult life living and traveling abroad. Publications include Plan B (Saga Books, 2010), Tough Love, Tender Heart (Saga Books, 2008), Raising a Child to be Bilingual and Bicultural (Hira-Tai Books of Japan), and several short dramatic works (Brooklyn Publishers, USA). Currently he is living with his wife, Motoko, and their five children in San Antonio, Texas.

You can visit his website at StevenVerrier.com