I’ve read a lot of books, blogs, websites and magazines that tell an author exactly how to write. While some were helpful, others led me astray, until I went with my gut and realized wow, were they wrong. Then as I write that I realize that there is no right or wrong with writing as far as the information I’ve read. It might work for some people, but just doesn’t work for me. Writing is an art with some flexibility, but there are standards, like grammar, of course. I’ve been asked if I would like to do a workshop for young writers, so now I must think of what to tell them. There’s one thing I’ve read multiple times by multiple authors “Write every day even if its worthless”, and I won’t be telling them this. I don’t agree with this tenant. I know some may be screaming at their computer screens because I say this, but it doesn’t work for me. I won’t force myself to write if I’m not inspired. I do, however, think about writing everyday even if I don’t pick up a pen or computer to type. My mind is on my characters, their emotions, their actions, or on editing, marketing and producing my novels. Now onto the actual writing process. When I write an essay for college I break out my English Composition book and Longman’s Handbook. I pull my sources and then divide them into piles, I write a basic outline, and then an in depth one with thesis, topic sentences, supporting sentences, and conclusive statements. Finally I sit down and write the essay, re-read it once, wait a week and then review it. I then hand it to my English tutor father and he reviews it for me too. Sometimes he rips the whole thing apart, and when I was a teenager I hated it! Now I enjoy the one-on-one conversation we have about fixing grammar, flow and supporting facts.
Now, there are many authors that follow this format for their novels too. I’ve read articles that say a book can never flow right without an outline. I, surprisingly, don’t follow this for my novels at all. I’ve never written a true outline for a novel. When I start writing a new book, I start somewhere smack in the middle. It’s a scene that runs the whole book around it, one that’s strong and I can’t let go of the images in my mind. Then I just write, here there and everywhere. I write at least 20 separate, strong scenes that are the reason the book is alive. Then I go back in and connect them all together. All the while I have my iPhone ear buds stuck in my ears and I am making the silliest faces ever. If I ever wrote in a public place, I think passersby would think I had issues. I find myself making the faces my characters would as I type their words, and describe their expressions. I dive into their worlds completely. I do write in first person, which some may find limiting, yet I know every single character and could write the novel from their point of view. This way I am able to sit in my main character and know exactly what that supporting character would do to react to the person I am “being”. I know just as well what the supporting character is feeling as much as I know what the main character is feeling.
So, what happens after I write a book? I let it sit for a few weeks and then start tearing it apart. I write its blurb and with every one thus far, I have written 15 or so letters to agents seeking representation. I carefully picked every agent making sure they were a member of AAR, researched their authors they represented and read their novels. The silent rejection or the form letter is the usual. I did get one “The topic just wasn’t interesting”, which is the most I have ever gotten as far as a response. You may be wondering, how did you end of self-publishing then? My father sent me an email one day that he had gotten. There was really no rhyme or reason why he would have gotten that email. He hadn’t signed up for information on self-publishing, and I had never thought about it. After the last batch of silence for In Between Seasons I had decided I most likely never be published, but I write because I love it, so I had somehow reserved myself to that–it was just a hobby, a dream since I could draw. Until he forwarded me that email. I sent one more agent letter out, and then waited a month. I signed into my Amazon account to look for a birthday present and there on the front page of Amazon was an article about KDP. It reminded me of the strange email my father had received, and I decided then that I had to prove myself. I would self-publish, work my buns off, and then show an agent I was a “proven winner”.
My writing process has changed now, it’s the same haphazard inspiration when it strikes, but now I am surrounded by support I never thought I would receive. Writing novels had always been very private for me. I’ve written novels since I was a pre-teen, but I hardly ever let anyone read them. A best friend or two was allowed to see my journal, and as best friends often do they gushed they were great. I entered numerous poetry contents, and won many of them, but my novels never passed out of my hands. I was partly afraid someone might lose the material I had worked months on and I would never recover it (This did happen once…and I still have no clue where it went. I do know who had it though!). The other part of me was afraid of what people would think. My English tutor father had never read an inch of any of my novels until I decided to make the move to self-publish. I set impossible standards and deadlines and my father got caught up in one of them. He had to read In Between Seasons in two days, for a press release was sent and a newspaper article set to come out. He was amazing and did just that, read for two solid days straight to finish editing my novel. I realize that I am extraordinarily lucky to have him to help me, and now a group of supportive indie authors. I even have a published mentor who is just as a mentor should be: very honest and constructively critical. My best friend, the person whose huge library is to the left of me now, who is also very honest and constructively critical, bought a grammar book and is excited to help edit my next novel. Now I have people who will help me make sure I put out the best product possible as a writer. My husband helps me with promotion ideas, his musical genius will be on my book trailers and he deals with me dragging him to grave yards, abandoned buildings and random locations to take pictures for my novel covers. He also deals with my “moods” when I’ve been a character for too long. He knows that look in my eyes and says “Oh, you’re writing in your head again, aren’t you?”. He leaves me alone when I get this look.
The best thing about self-publishing is the support of my friends new and old, and my family. The best thing about the writing process, is the writing process. So, what will I tell those teenagers?
*Don’t give up, write because you love it, not because it’s going to make you a ton of money (God only knows if it will).
*Let others read your work and be open to what they have to say, even if it hurts to hear it.
*Know that not everyone will like your writing and steel yourself for it. When someone says something scathing you will not be prepared for it no matter what.
*Listen to your parents–they’re always right.
*Listen to your gut too–it’s not always right though!
*Longman’s Handbook will always save you in a pinch!
*Read a lot, and learn from other authors.
*Surround yourself with a support team that is honest, constructive and encouraging.
*Writing is more than writing. It’s editing, marketing, promotion and hard work. It’s drive, passion and talent. Nothing in life that is worth doing is easy.