With that in mind, for the next few weeks, we'll visit questions which readers/authors had about the writing process, followed by my honest, I-don't-have-all-the-answers answers (as biased, bizarre, or bewildering as they might prove to be!). We'll touch on book publishing and marketing later, but, for now, it's all about the writing. So, without further ado, here's Writing Tips- Part 1:
Question #1: Writers are often encouraged to bring out their personality and/or their personal experiences in their work. What advice do you have for writers who maybe think their personal traits have much to be desired?
Answer: Our lives are filled with story ingredients, even in the mundane moments. Hilarious or heartbreaking conversations, dark or quirky memories, and even behaviors we witness while walking through the grocery store can all be fodder for story. Don’t underestimate your power to observe and create something compelling out of what may appear trivial. A good story is in the details, so pay attention to body language and facial expressions, both in yourself and in others—these can be used to enhance a character. Perhaps you believe your personality is a little dull to fashion a lively character out of it, but don’t feel inferior without reason and don’t feel you must pigeonhole yourself into trying to script your entire personality onto a page. Instead, take bits of yourself and embellish or dress them up in a unique way. All of us feel that we’re not as riveting or noteworthy as we might like ourselves to be. That’s often why we write and read: to explore the lives of those we sometimes wish we were. A story character is usually a mixture of personalities, motivations, and behaviors which we have witnessed in real life, so don’t believe for a moment that you have nothing to offer in terms of your personal experiences, perceptions, and dreams. You are a writer, after all, so you’re already a creative, artistic person by virtue of your craft, and there is nothing at all lacking, inferior, or boring about that!
Question #2: Describe your writing process.
Answer: I write in spurts seasonally. When I am inactively writing, the ideas are still germinating in my mind. I gather story ideas or scenes on Post-It notes over time, and then connect single scenes together to form a plot line. I used to get frustrated over spells of inactivity, but I soon learned I needed them to recharge me so I could revisit the scenes with fresh eyes and an open mind. I also struggled with perfectionism, wanting each word, each paragraph, each page to be polished and perfect from the first effort. I’ve slowly learned over several years to allow myself freedom to embrace the drafting process. The first draft is the spaghetti draft, where noodles, sauce, and uncooked meatballs go flying all over the walls, smearing and staining everything. But at least there’s something to work with, even if it’s messy. The second draft is meat cooked rare, where there’s some flavor present, but it’s not quite ready to serve. The third draft is a hearty helping of meat and potatoes, where the dish is prepared and ready to be plated. The final draft is a perfectly seasoned meal served with a decadent dessert.
The polished quality of writing comes by rewriting, so I allow myself liberty to revise, rinse, and repeat. Revising is about quality, not speed. When I begin a scene, I might have a general idea of where I want the scene to end up, but I allow myself the opportunity of total exploration as I begin, so the characters determine where the scene goes based on their interactions. It keeps it fresh and exciting to see what happens; I feel like I am a reader as I write, holding my breath, laughing with glee, or cringing with trepidation as the characters engage the story full force. This approach enables me to take my hands off and not interfere with the story being told. It keeps me flexible and removes the perfectionistic rigidity of pre-planning and pre-determining everything ahead of time.
More writing process Q&A to come in the weeks ahead!