This past weekend I finished the first draft of my fifth paranormal wedding planner book, FOR WITCH OR FOR POORER.
I sat my butt in a chair and wrote 9,635 words over the course of a weekend. And just so you know, that is NOT a normal occurrence for me. By Sunday evening, I was exhausted.
I told my father I felt beat up and that I had cried twice while writing. He went into “Father-Mode” and said if writing makes you cry, you shouldn’t do it!
And I had to explain to him that I wasn’t crying because I was writing. I was crying because of WHAT I was writing.
I always know the good scenes are the ones that pull raw emotions from me. I can find myself laughing out loud, or just plain excited about what the characters are facing. But some of the most powerful scenes are the ones that I cry through while writing them.
Those pack an emotional punch because I’m with those characters experiencing their heartache and their growth and watch as they move forward and allow someone else to be close to them.
For this story, it isn’t just about the emotional journey of the main couple, but also the emotional journey of family whether born into or chosen to part of.
Good stories are about emotions for both the reader and the writer.
Tonight I came home from work and worked out. The exercise DVD I used had me huffing and puffing and sweating, but when I was done it gave me a boost both psychologically and physically which I definitely need for my evenings.
For writers, we have to exercise our “writerly muscles” as well. Sometimes that means we brainstorm – like stretching our muscles so that we can get to the heavy lifting part of the exercise/writing.
Other times it means digging into the characters and plot – which is equivalent to the warm up part of the routine.
Then it’s all about writing those scenes. The crux of your workout, where you are chugging along and sometimes you’re flying high and other times you are wondering when the heck you’re going to be done.
Then there are the special scenes that just seem to “click” – that is the boosted part of the workout where you are really getting that heart rate up.
Finally you finish by jotting down some notes for tomorrow’s scenes. That’s your cool down period.
And so the cycle continues as I write my stories, stretching and conditioning my writerly muscles.
I am working on my newest novel and I am always excited when I start writing a book because the brainstorming and idea-generating is fun. The beginning of the book is also fun because I am introducing the characters and laying the groundwork for the story.
And of course the BIG scenes are fun – the first kiss, the first fight, the first love scene, the big battle against evil, the resolution – all wonderful and exhilarating to write.
That shouldn’t be a surprise since life is the same way. We love the BIG life events – weddings, births, anniversaries, parties, holidays.
But what we don’t necessarily get excited about are those “in-between scenes” or day-to-day life events we live. And I have to remind myself of that when I feel like I am slogging through them as I write.
But these scenes are important. They lay the background for the characters and the plot that will take the reader through the book. You can’t only have the larger-than-life scenes in a book. The story needs to be grounded, much like we do in our own lives. And the little things discovered in these scenes become a sweet resolution in the big scenes as well.
What makes the big scenes in books and big events in our lives so special is that they don’t happen every page or every day. In reality, we need the big and the in-between to keep our balance. So back I go to write my next in-between scene. May you find the same balance in your life too!
As many of you know, I am writing a Mind Sweeper spin-off trilogy based on Misha’s family. What you might not realize is that I am writing them simultaneously. Here’s what I mean…
Misha’s book has been written and edited. Next will be proofreading. In the midst of that, the first draft of Aleksei’s is completed and I am going to be doing some scene edits before I send it to my editor for detailed edits. And let’s not forget that I am also in the process of writing Sergei’s book right now as well. That will be going for content edits the first week of June, and then detailed edits once Aleksei’s book is done.
Have I made you dizzy?
If not, you will be soon – hang on. Because not only is the writing and editing craziness happening all together, but I am also writing some crossover scenes as well. So a scene in Misha’s book might also appear in Aleksei’s book and another scene from Aleksei’s book might be part of Sergei’s. The fun part is seeing the scenes in a different point of view!
Crazy, right? Maybe, but I’m up for the challenge (or maybe I’m too dizzy now to slow down). Either way, I hope you’ll be up for the read!
Over the years, I have talked about my writing process. Every author is unique in how they write books. Some write fast drafts that are bare bones 1st versions that they then flesh out. Others write detailed outlines and follow them. Still others write character sketches.
Some authors write linearly and others not so much. I fall in the “not so much” category.
Don’t get me wrong, I always start out with the best intentions to write the book from point A to point B. After all, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right?
Not in my creative process. I start at A with B oh so far away. Then C shows up and distracts the crap out of me! “C” is normally a scene that forms fully fleshed out in my head. And I then HAVE TO write it down. It’s a compulsion really.
So while TO HAVE AND TO HOWL is spending quality time with my editor, I started on a new Mind Sweeper story. Misha has been begging for his story for quite some time now. And boy is the story writing itself out of order!! I keep picturing scenes and then they come to life on the computer screen.
Since Misha is larger than life (literally and figuratively) it makes sense that he is letting me know how he wants this book to go!
I’ll follow the twists in whatever direction they take me until I type the end. Sometimes you have to break the “rules” to accomplish what you set out to do.
If you’re a writer, how does your process work?
I don’t have time to watch much TV anymore. Between my day job and my writing, watching TV is a luxury. However tonight I had a show on as I was working on my computer. When a commercial came on, I would mute the TV. But then for some reason I started to watch the commercials without the sound and I was fascinated.
If you throw out the wacky ones (and lets be honest, there are quite a few of those) and you concentrate on the commercials that tell a story, you can get hooked. And the more I started to examine the “good” ones, the more I realized that they resonated with me. They told stories of love and family. They were snippets of emotion that pulled you in and held onto you for the thirty or sixty seconds.
For writers, I think that our scenes are snippets of emotion. The good ones are remembered and talked about because they elicit emotions. We become part of the scene and the character’s laughter and tears become ours as well. Because that’s what a good scene does – it evokes something from the reader (and the writer).
So I got up this morning and packed some snacks for work. In the midst of cleaning up, I attempted to use my garbage disposal. Instead of the ridiculously loud noise that it normally makes, a pathetic ‘blehhh’ sounded from the sink. I shut off the disposal and tried again – nothing this time. Wow, I so did not have time to worry about this. So on the way to work I called my handyman who also happens to be my father.
Dad being Dad made me explain exactly what happened. It wasn’t even a fun story to embellish (and trust me as a writer I can embellish). I summarized it as ‘blehhh’ and death. My garbage disposal had met its maker.
But as Mark Twain once said (and I am paraphrasing) “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Dad repaired the disposal and it is back to its obnoxiously loud self once again. And it got me thinking about my writing. How could a garbage disposal get me to think about writing you might ask? Well, sometimes as writers we create a scene or a character that makes perfect sense in theory but doesn’t translate well once the story begins. In other words my work is suffering from ‘blehhh.’
So we have choices to make (and choices stink sometimes, kind of like the food down a disposal…okay that was a cheap comparison, but you saw it coming, right?).
Choice #1 – repair the character or the scene. This is the most obvious choice. But it doesn’t make it any less difficult. Figure out WHY it isn’t working and then perform ‘word surgery’ on that scene or character to liven them up.
Choice #2 – repurpose the character or move the scene to another part of the book (and jazz it up, of course). Sometimes a scene might not be playing well because it is not in the right place. Writers have to be flexible and willing to move stories around.
Choice #3 – kill them. Now I don’t mean kill your characters in the story, although that is a possibility. I mean strip them from the story. Now as writers we hate to do that, but ultimately the story has to pull the reader in.
So once you have made your choice and completed your repairs, you need to flip that switch and make sure your story is working again. For me I don’t want the ‘blehhh’ and death scenarios for my creations. Ultimately like my garbage disposal resuscitation is my goal. I have invested too much of myself in my words and written world not to fight for it.
I know, I know, I keep writing these obscure titles and you wonder what the heck I am going to talk about. But that is part of the fun (at least for me, anyway). So what do I mean about today being a filler day? I’m glad you asked. In the past I have explained about hooks which keep the reader’s attention and make them turn the page. You will often see hooks at the beginning or end of chapters so that the reader just has to keep going….
But filler is important too. Filler scenes lay the groundwork and move the story forward but are not a climactic scene or what I like to call a ‘big wow’ scene. I think of it as yin and yang. Balance. You can’t have a ‘big wow’ scene one right after the other or they lose their punch.
Today I am working on some scenes that develop the characters and set the plot up for a big scene that is coming up shortly. At this point the reader is exposed to the growing attraction between the hero and heroine which will become all the more important when the big reveal happens. And it will affect their relationship going forward. Ultimately, all scenes have meaning and should advance the plot and characterization.
Look at it this way…if we know nothing about the characters do we care if they win the battle against the big bad ugly or end up together in the end?