Write or Rewrite?

It’s a LOT more fun to write than to rewrite. In the case of writing, it’s the creative surge within—and as it flows out—onto the paper that makes it so enjoyable. 

One moment the page is blank. Within a few minutes, the page is half-filled.

One moment, it is a small spark in the brain. The next, it is a living, breathing, and growing organism.

A thought begets another thought. And that thought multiplies into a grouping of thoughts that are just begging to be a story. And that story is NOT GOING TO WAIT!

Sometimes the ideas come so fast that there’s no time to check for grammar, spelling, or errors of any kind. They spill out and if they aren’t acknowledged right away, they fade, sneak off, or even run away. It’s hard to recoup them.  Often, it’s not possible.

So, like many of you, I have carry a pad of paper in my purse and a notebook in my car. If an idea comes into my head, I pull over and scribble it down. If I’m in a restaurant, a napkin may have to suffice. In the doctor’s office, I once wrote down an idea on the paper liner from the exam table. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

So what happens when you are in the middle of writing and someone calls you to say, partake of luscious ribs from the grill?

That’s what just happened to me. Seriously. In the middle of writing this blog, my husband announced that the ribs were ready a good hour earlier than I had expected.

Now, I couldn’t disappoint the chef (or my stomach) so I closed down my writing program and graced my husband with my presence at the table. The ribs were great and I wasn’t sorry I let them interrupt my writing, but now I am back in front of the computer and I’m stalling…

I’ve lost my momentum, my train of thought. I’ve forgotten where I was headed with all of this. Things aren’t quite jelling the way I had planned.

So, I’ll give this what I call the “Fifteen Minute Rule.”  If, within the space of fifteen minutes, nothing earth shaking or mind blowing has taken place, I’m shutting it down. Powering off.

Because it is not as exciting when you’ve lost that edge, that quirky way of expressing something ordinary in a new and different way that makes us all sit up and take notice.

Because it is more fun to write than rewrite.

[From an earlier blog post.]

The Writing Journey

People sometimes ask me how I got started writing. I think it really started with reading. I grew up in a home where my mother modeled the love of reading.

In elementary school, I was fortunate to have teachers who took time to read to the class after lunch recess. (A perfect way to calm down a rowdy group after a lively game of volley ball). I looked forward to this time of day, as they read to us about children in other countries, cultures, and time periods. My understanding of the power of the written word to transport and inspire began in those classrooms decades ago.

It shouldn’t surprise you, then, to hear that I grew up to be a teacher and that one of the favorite parts of my day was reading to my own class after lunch. I literally had to force myself to read only one chapter because I could have easily read to my students all afternoon! I could look out at that sea of young faces and tell which ones were also caught up in the story and equally disappointed when we rejoined the present world and turned toward our math lesson.

When my own children were small, I didn’t have a lot of time for writing, so I wrote short stories, poems, or skits. I guess it was just enough to satisfy my yearning to create. But, I definitely wanted more.

Once I retired, I worked part time as a reading teaching for a few years before I decided to write in earnest. I remember the day I first sat down in front of the computer. I knocked out that first paragraph

My husband and I love to go to movies, so it was a natural next step for me to try my hand at screenwriting. I loved the action and I could see in my mind’s eye just what my characters would say and do—how they would interac. However, I soon learned that without relocating and forming connections in a world of actors, directors, and producers I was going nowhere.

So, that brings me to the present. It is a stimulating time for me because I have found that writing fiction fulfills that inner longing to create and bring to life characters that not only I, but other readers, can enjoy. By the power of the written word, they come to life. They live, they breathe, they have a voice. 

I live in their world, as much as I do in mine. My characters become my friends and my constant companions. And, yes, I do still harbor that secret hope that some day they will live for all to see—on the big screen!

Please write and let me know how you started your writing journey.

**Summary of earlier post.

Writing in the Zone

I recently saw an energy bar called “The Zone”. That made me think about the Olympics and a comment made by one of the gold medalists, saying that he performed especially well because he was “In the Zone.”

Even though I try to write everyday, I must confess I am not always in “The Zone”—that sweet spot from which I write nearly perfect scenes. Where the Point of View Character speaks, authentically. The action takes place in my own mind’s eye and translates to the paper, via the keyboard.

In “The Zone”, there’s no anxiety, other than the suspense in the story itself. I’m able to express myself just the way I hoped.

So, if there truly is such a place as a “zone”, then how does one get there? Accidentally, or due to some extraordinary effort?

I am closer to writing in “The Zone” when I get caught up in my story, emotionally. When I actually become the character I am writing about. It also happens when I take the time to give myself what I call “a flying leap.” That’s when I go back a chapter or two from where I finished off the day before and then read forward to that place where I stopped. 

This gets me immersed in the world of my story, again, and lets me feel the emotions that drove my writing the day before. 

From there, I just write on.

So, whether we’re talking about a school zone, a safety zone, or a time zone, being in one is a pretty good place to be. 

It’s that almost-magical place from which thoughts freely flow and fingers fly across the keyboard—that unique world in which writers write at their optimum. 

How do you get there?

Do You Need to Write Every Day?

We writers have been told to write every day—no matter what. I would agree with that, but I think it really doesn’t matter what we write, as long as we stay in the habit of writing.

Letter writing, blogging, answering emails, writing Thank-You notes, and so on. Let’s not forget the occasional magazine article, Letter to the Editor, or skit for a club or church group.  These may be just as valuable in developing our writing abilities as in our writing that is devoted strictly to our “books.”

The important thing is not to get lazy and forget what we’re about. Writing is just like any other habit. If it isn’t cultivated, it dies on the vine.

You’ve heard that the only way out of the forest is through the trees. And, it follows that the only way to get a book written is to write!  

I’ve formed the habit of writing in the mornings, taking a break for lunch and a short walk, then coming back to my computer to reread what I wrote a few hours earlier. I often edit and rewrite a little. Sometimes I keep going until exhaustion sets in. 

When I’ve given it my all and have no more to give, I head for bed. Five days of that routine and I reward myself by switching gears completely on the weekend. I help my husband with whatever renovation project he’s got going. Totally different than writing, it rejuvenates me and gets me ready for another five days in front of my computer.

Care to share your writing routine? Tell us what energizes you.

Rewritten from an earlier post.

When I Forget the Words

Have you seen instances on television of celebrities, football players, and even olympians who don’t know the correct words to the Star Spangled Banner? Or, perhaps witnessed an interview of a person who got tongue-tied, searching frantically for just that right word?

Writers can write and rewrite on our computers until we get the words to flow just the way we want them. We can use a thesaurus and a dictionary to help us choose words and check on meanings. 

The Describer’s Dictionary by David Grambs is very useful. For example, say you want to describe the color black. The book gives these words: ebony, ebon, sable, jet, onyx, ink black, coal black, anthracite.  The book is divided into words for various Shapes, Patterns and Edges, Surfaces and Textures, Light and Colors, etc.

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi includes all emotions in an easy-to-use alphabetical format that is further broken down into Physical Signals, Internal Sensations, Mental Responses, Cues of Acute or Long Term experiences of an emotion, emotions that specific examples May Escalate To, and Cues of Suppressed emotions. I especially like the Writer’s Tip which is provided at the bottom of each listed emotion.

If you know of any other resources that writers might find useful, please let me know. One I’d find extremely useful would be substitutions for adverbs. If there isn’t one out there, already, maybe this would be a project you’d be interested in taking on!

Which Voice Should I Listen To?

Will people like it? Is it a “page turner”? Are the characters believable?

My mother would answer “People will love it. I could hardly put it down!”  I could ask any number of family members and they’d answer the same.  Families.

If I’d pose the same question to my friends, maybe for a few who read A LOT would make comments about point-of-view, unique voice, and so on.

However, when my critique group is asked for their honest opinions, I will get suggestions for improvement. They may point out issues with spelling, grammar, syntax, and verb tense. 

If I enter a writing contest, based on reading my synopsis and 10-15 pages, judges will use a rubric to assess such things as a good “hook”, marketability, professional impact, and pacing. They may even respond by asking to see the entire manuscript.

From those comments—some from very prejudiced persons—I base my decision as to whether or not my book is ready to send to an editor, a publisher, or whether it is in need of extensive revision. 

Three groups of people, each with a unique connection to this writer, each with a different focus, each possessing varying degrees of expertise.

So, which group, if any, should my professional-writing self listen to? The one with the most expertise? The group of avid readers? Professional judges?

And should I act on their advice? Base my future actions on what they have to say?

How much weight do I give their comments over my inner voice—the one that desires to move forward and get my novel published?

Lots of opinions. Lots of questions. I’m not sure I have the answers—yet.

So, I make a decision to read yet another “how to” book, attend just one more professional conference, sign up for an additional writing course.  

Then, with added confidence, I  decide to trust

the voice inside my head, 

my gut, 

my common sense, 

what I know to be true.

Simple Changes To Give You That Spark

I write in my home office. But there are many places to write that are relaxing, inspirational, and energizing. Sometimes a simple change of scenery might be just what a writer needs to kick-start their writing day.

There are endless possibilities: on a lounge chair in the backyard under a leafy tree; in the comfy reading chair in the bedroom; at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee; floating on a raft in the swimming pool; on a park bench; in a gazebo; by a fish pond; in a coffee house; on a porch swing; in a flower garden; near a waterfall; in the corner of a bookstore.

Do you love to travel? Compile a writing bucket list: sitting near Niagara Falls; overlooking the ocean; in a warm cabin with snow falling outside; on a deserted island; on a sailboat; in the rainforest; at the top of Mount Everest; at the base of the Statue of Liberty; in an art museum; on an airplane; in a hot air balloon; on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Macinaw Island.

You can also change when to write: at sunset; at dawn; during a blizzard; in the middle of the night; after a good meal; on a spring morning.

When’s the best time for you to write, emotionally? Choose an intensely emotional time: when extremely happy; sad; feeling ‘blue’; lonely; angry; frustrated…. 

Changes in the where and when can be used to give authors that spark—that edge.

Have Fun!

“Write, write, write. It seems like that’s all you do, anymore. You should let yourself have a little fun, now and then!” A friend of mine commented. 

Yes, it IS hard work—and yes, it CAN feel like solitary confinement at times, but it really IS what I want to be doing. Because it IS fun!

I could be cleaning house, exercising, paying bills, doing laundry, shopping, reading, people watching, decorating…

But I like writing! It’s the act of digging deeper into myself, asking more and more of myself while creating characters that are exciting, whimsical, hilarious, endearing, and even scary at times. It is the telling of their stories—their hopes, disappointments, dreams, accomplishments— that is so compelling. 

The voices of my characters call to me. I see their faces. Feel their impatience.

So, I set aside my laundry, put something on the counter to defrost for dinner, and hope there will be enough time at the end of the day for a walk around the block. 

I warm my cup of coffee in the microwave and head for my home office, satisfied that I’ve made the right choice for my day. 

Fantastical Fantasy

I write Fiction; not Fantasy.

However, I thought I’d try my hand at it. Throw caution to the wind and let myself create. No rules. Simply write with abandon.

Or so I thought.

But I found that creating new imagined worlds can be daunting.

In the course of just one afternoon, here are three things I learned:

  1. The new world in a fantasy can be done most easily by thinking of our present world and changing just one thing. How about a world where one can speak things into existence?

2. Build your characters’ stories around behaviors that will make your imagined world captivating and believable.

When readers allow themselves to live within an imaginary world, improbable events can seem probable.

3. Be consistent within your story. If your character can speak things into being, don’t have him cower in the shadows when faced with an enemy. Why not have him create a powerful weapon just by speaking?

Please share something you’ve learned about writing Fantasy.

   

Say It With Heart

Recently, I’ve read quite a few articles on when and how often to write. Authors are giving advice on # of words to write per day and # of days to write per week. They give opinions on where to sit while writing, how often to get up and take a walk, optimal lighting, inspiring music, and so on.

Nike says “Just Do It”. IMAX offers: “Think Big”. Sony uses the slogan: “Make Believe.” Energizer’s is: “Keeps going and going and going.” Kodak: “Share moments. Share Life.”; Taco Bell: “Think Outside the Bun;” Pizza Hut: “Make it great.” 

My personal writing motto: always write what you will be proud to reread some 20+ years from now. Write the truth, without prejudice or malice; write from the heart; write words that honor God and others.

Keep plugging along. Don’t give up. Push forward. See it through. Move ahead.

Don’t click on “publish” until you are sure it is spelled right, it looks right, it sounds right. And when mistakes come, extend yourself the grace to forgive your own humanness and imperfections.

Then, get yourself back to the keyboard. It’s a brand new day. See it from a fresh perspective. Write from your soul. Say it with heart.