Archive for My Methods

A Solitary Writer’s Life

I need to be alone to create, whether I’m alone in the sense that there’s no one here with me, or alone with myself and my thoughts in the middle of a crowd. As long as I’m able to center myself within my mind, I can enter my world and create.

However, times come when I can’t be alone or I’ll go crazy. Most humans need interaction with others and being a writer doesn’t really make me that different from everyone else.

I get lonely sometimes, when I look up from my computer and realize I’m not part of the world I’ve created. I’m not a character. I don’t live in that world.

The real world beckons.

There are writers who will tell you they never have problems separating themselves from the characters they create. Good for them. I’m not sure I always believe them, but who am I to say what goes on in another writer’s mind?

If I couldn’t become the characters I create, how can I be sure their actions and reactions are genuine? Because for me, creating a character is about more than writing down a set of actions and saying that’s what happened. The dispassionate observer will always make different choices than the one made by the person who’s actually in the moment.

This is why I believe a synopsis written before-hand will almost always lead you astray.

I become my characters and I write as if I were in the situation I’ve created, and my ideas come when I move about the room, talk to my friends and my enemies, see the things around me. I translate what I see and what I do into words and write them down.

This is the reason why I don’t think out my story before I create. This is the reason I have to be alone. When others are talking to me or interrupting me, I can’t be someone else. I have to be me.

But then the time comes for me to leave my world and re-enter the real world. Because a solitary writer doesn’t have to be a solitary person–can’t be, if authenticity of character is important.

The way people behave changes as society changes. A good writer has to stay on top of those changes so their characters are reflective of real people. Every person you write should have some basis from someone real. Only then can you write characters that real people care about.

The things real people do are great story fodder.

I don’t always want to be the characters I create, but there’s a strange joy in figuring out why someone has done something.

If you’ve hit a stumbling block with your story, think about your characters.

  • Are they making genuine decisions or are you forcing some issue?
  • Are you becoming that character in their moment of crisis or are you playing puppeteer?
  • Is your character boring you?
  • Have you reached a point where you don’t want to be the person you’ve created?

These questions can help you, if you think hard and are honest with your answers.

There are times when a writer must be solitary, but don’t assume you should always keep yourself locked up in a creative state. Sometimes you just need to listen and learn from the people around you, so that your ideas can flow freely.

(Comments on this topic are welcomed.)

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Relearning to type

I’ve let myself become slack in my keyboarding skills and lately, I’ve noticed a distinct backward trend in my ability to type a coherent word.

I don’t know if it’s because I get so excited with my ideas or that my mind just goes too fast for my fingers to keep up, but I have become overly dependent on the backspace key.

So, I’m relearning to type. If that’s something you can actually do, that is. I sure hope so. I think my writing sessions at the keyboard would be greatly improved if I could keep up a little better with the words flowing out of my mind.

I’ve gone to typeonline.co.uk and am using the typing practices.

Apparently I type anywhere from 44 words per minute to 68 words per minute, with anywhere from 1 to 14 errors. Ouch. No wonder I get frustrated when I’m typing! I’m really not that good at it.

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A single program doesn’t fit all needs

I’ve been writing more articles lately, relative to fiction, and I’ve noticed a transition back to Microsoft Word. For all my website coding and page building, I continue to use NoteTab, and I adore EverNote for jotting notes and ideas, but for some reason I find myself scared to actually write in the program. Maybe I don’t fully trust its capabilities yet.

I write fiction exclusively in WriteWay Pro. It’s a good program that fits my needs in that area of writing.

Word, on the other hand, lets me write articles quickly. I don’t have to sacrifice time with the spell check because I keep the autocorrect turned on and the squiggly lines let me know when something I’ve spelled is questionable. The grammar check gives me notice that I might need to take a second look at a sentence or paragraph. I don’t always follow the advice it gives, but it helps eliminate work in the editing phase.

My point here is don’t let yourself get caught in a rut, using programs that aren’t the best programs for any given task. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Take advantage of them.

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Writing as an effective distraction

I had surgery yesterday, and although I’ve spent the day in bed, at some point, watching television and sleeping lost the ability to keep my mind off the pain of stitched up wounds.

I’ve discovered that writing has the ability to keep my mind off things much better than reading, so here I am, writing in my blog when I can barely keep my eyes from crossing because of the pain medication I took a little over an hour and a half ago.

I don’t think I would try to write fiction at the moment, because it would require too much concentration, but I do think that this isn’t the first time I’ve used writing as an effective distraction from unpleasantness.

As a girl, I had a habit of using books as a way to hide from the world. On the night I received the news that one of my favorite uncles had died, I remember almost nothing except holding the phone and overhearing the news as it was delivered to my mom and then returning to my bed to cry. That night I finished reading a historical romance novel instead of sleeping.

After I started writing, it became my avoidance method of choice. I’ve written lots of pages of my stories while trying not to think of certain somethings.

I doubt I’m the only person who has found writing to be just the right kind of distraction.

My husband and parents didn’t tell me about my uncle this time until after I’d come out of surgery and was on my way home. Neither wanted me to be thinking about death as I went in, and I can see why they did it, but I don’t think it was necessary.

My uncle died during the night on Tuesday, a few hours before I had my surgery.

I hope that my aunt understands how badly I wish I could be there for her right now, instead of in my bed.

And if any one of you have found writing to be a solace or an effective distraction during trying times, be sure to share. Thanks.

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I write best when I’m not writing

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment. –Robert Benchley

What a wonderful quote, and true.

Why is it that writing is easier when I really ought to be doing something else? Not to mention that writing gets about as hard as it gets when I’m supposed to be writing.

I’ve made time for it. I have all my equipment at hand. My book-in-progress is just waiting for me to write another word, another sentence, another page.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Why is writing so hard sometimes?

I’m trying out the trackbacks. Who knows if I’m using them correctly, because although I’ve had a blog for over a year, I rarely do more than post entries and read other peoples’ posts.

Heather tagged me with an interesting question (and if I’m using “tagged” in the wrong context you can tell me, but it’s unlikely I’ll ever get it right). She asks, “Why is writing so hard sometimes?”

I don’t know. More often than not, for me, writing is hard. If I knew how to make it easy, ever, I’d sell the idea for a million and retire for a couple of years. (A million doesn’t go as far these days as it used to, does it?)

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What to do when the writing gets hard?

Sometimes it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing a stranger. Whether standing behind you or beside you, it is you and you wonder how you got there, because you thought you were here. And then there are the days when you know who you are, but you don’t, and you wonder. Do I know what I’m doing? Do I know who I am when I’m not writing?

If you can answer yes, you’re lucky, and you shouldn’t forget that. But if you answered no, then you’re like me and that’s not such a bad place to be.

But it can be better.

I’m not a philosopher, far from it. But I know a few tricks when it comes to writing.

If you’re a member of a lot of writing listserves, go no mail and mean it. Don’t visit the web interface and read the messages you’re not getting, because you don’t want to see what other authors are saying. You need freedom to remember why you’re a writer and freedom to think your own thoughts. Sure you learn from these other authors, and sure you enjoy their company, but if you don’t concentrate on yourself, you might forget who you are and why you do what you do. How can you write what’s in your heart and in your head if you don’t even know who you are when you’re not someone else?

If you have a critique partner or a critique group, choose to keep it all to yourself for a change. Don’t talk about it, don’t write about it in email, or in any other fashion. You’ve always been told to share, but in this instance you want to be stingy and keep what’s you close to yourself.

Don’t post excerpts for anyone to see. Posting is committing and committing is for later. You need your space and you need air, and you certainly don’t need someone breathing down your neck for more.

Remember to laugh, because laughing is as fun as writing should be. Even that which is hard is good, and running from a beehive with your friends is terrifying until you’ve gotten away. And then you laugh until you cry and roll around on the grass, and wasn’t that the best day you ever had?

If you take writing too seriously maybe you’re not taking it seriously enough. If it’s a forever kind of thing you want from this you’ll have to let go. You can’t live in the moment forever and the future doesn’t exist. You have to want it today and tomorrow and yesterday, but if you do, you’re going to lose yourself, because when is life about work and how does living take second place to something else? It shouldn’t and you should remember this when your son asks you to look at his project because the next time you look he’ll be gone.

Take it one moment at a time and remember that one moment isn’t all you get. Your lifetime is full of moments and when you remember that you’ll realize tomorrow is tomorrow and today is today and you do have to live in the moment after all. But that isn’t so bad, because you’re not waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow is waiting for you.

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I’ve Discovered Order

I’m taking a break. From what, you ask? From disorganization and disorder, from the inability to concentrate or focus on any one task long enough to make significant progress to get it done. I’ve discovered order.

Or maybe not. :-) But I have discovered EverNote, a free note-taking application that sparkles so brightly in my future that I feel like I’m in love. And I’ve been using it for exactly one day. :-o

I guess the reason I’m so enamored of this product is because it fits me so perfectly. I have stacks of single-subject notebooks floating around my house with notes upon notes upon notes, and I can never find the note I’m looking for when I really need it. I write everything down. I write on stickys, in tablets, in text files, on my calendar, in my to do lists, in binders, on the telephone book, everywhere, anywhere… This program was made for me.

It suits my writing and my personal life. It even fits well with my website development projects and business notes.

I’ll report back in a few days, weeks, months, and let you know how it goes.

And if you’re a writer who does lots of research, you should seriously consider giving this little powerhouse a try. I don’t think I’ve ever run across a program as well-suited to a writer’s research notes as EverNote.

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Writing Interruptions

I started this post back on 4/17/05 but got interrupted. By what, I can’t remember. I kept meaning to come back to it, but every time I thought of it or saw the little draft mark beside the entry, I didn’t actually have the inclination to finish. Well, now I do.

So, here it is. The post that almost got away. :-)

What’s allowed to interrupt my writing? Or, what should be allowed to interrupt my writing.

  • Business. Income is a necessity, unfortunately. But not just any business. In fact, I’ve finally put a limit on the amount of business I allow in my life. Time limits have done wonders for the amount of time I have available for writing. The only problem I’ve encountered is that the time limits haven’t actually affected the amount of writing I do. :-) Seems I’m not too fond of writing when I don’t want to write.
  • Friends in need. But only friends in need. Not friends in want, or friends who are bored. Or even friends who think they need a friend’s shoulder to cry on when they’d be better off drying their tears and getting on with their lives. However, I’m not talking about you, I promise (whichever of my dear friends you happen to be). ;-)
  • Family. There’s nothing as important, and yet, I find it easier to say no to family than to anyone else who tries to interrupt. The unfortunate part of this is that it should be harder. But I’m practicing being better at saying yes. Time limits, remember? They aren’t just for business, you know.

Do I have my priorities right? I don’t know, but I think it fits me and my goals, so yeah, maybe my priorities are exactly what they need to be. And if they’re not, then next week I can change them again. As my mother likes to remind me, people are in a constant state of change. How or who you are today may not be what you are tomorrow. Your priorities and goals should reflect this.

So, what’s allowed to interrupt your writing? Seriously, I’d like to know. :-)

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Muse-less

For those people who believe you have to force yourself to work through just about anything: It’s easy to understand your own processes but almost impossible to understand another’s. Even I find myself thinking a friend’s method can’t be right, can’t be the best way, because I know my way is best. Only the truth is, my way is best for me, and maybe not even that. My way is best for me sometimes, and my other ways are best for me at other times.

Today, I can’t concentrate on working, because I’ve had some bad news about my grandfather. It’s not the worst possible news, but it could be at any time, and that keeps my mind from settling on anything long enough to focus. And without focus, I’m not worth much.

My ability (my need) to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else is my greatest strength (and my most damning weakness) as a writer. Because if the thing I’m focused on is not my writing for the day, then my writing isn’t going to get done.

I’ve tried to change my ways, for too long. There’s a point you reach when you have to stop working against your natural tendencies and starting working with them. I think I’ve reached that point. But I’ve also noticed that it’s just as hard to set up a method based on something you know and feel but can’t quite understand as it is to set up a method you think should work but never does.

Tell me to sit in my chair and write and I’ll ignore you. I’ve learned my lessons about writing, and for me, if I force myself to write when I can’t, I hate writing. I hate it with enough passion to avoid it as long as possible. And then I write, and I realize how much I love to write. How much I depend on it to keep me balanced.

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