Big Foot Pam & Dixie Dandelion Ride Again

lone ranger 1

This coming weekend, June 28 and 29, Pam and I are hitting the trail to St. Louis. Pam is speaking at Saturday Writers. After this, she and I will be doing book signings at: All on the Same Page bookstore (great name for a book store) on Friday from 3-5 and on Saturday we will be at The Book House from 3-5.  I’ll be doing tarot readings at The Book House and am charged up over that.

I think there is a saying about the destination isn’t important, it’s the journey that counts. This isn’t the first road trip Pam and I have taken together, and I can testify the journey is always an adventure. Pam and her GPS are joined at the hip. This relationship can, and has, caused some challenges to say the least.

One of the main problems is we get to talking and laughing and don’t hear what that monotone lady on that-there dee-vise is saying. They need to make one that screams at you. “Shut up! Turn here, stupid!

Another problem, or challenge, is when we get off the beaten path to make a pit stop. I swear to God, I held my pee all the way from the Oklahoma State line to Oklahoma City because we couldn’t find a place to pull over that agreed with the GPS. Coming home we stopped to get gas in what had to be the worst part of this little town. No kidding, I took the credit card and stood with the cashier, who happened to be in a store with bars on the windows while Pam struggled with the gas pump.The attendent finally had to go out and help Pam which left me in the store wondering who was going to rob it first, the bag lady or the punked out, hoodie guy. It took forever to pump the gas but only seconds for Pam and I to burn rubber out that place.

Now, you would think these little mini-adventures would stress us out. And they do. At the time But. We get tickled and start to laugh. And that is the best thing about riding shotgun with Big Foot Pam.

If I were driving, we’d die. GPS or not. We would just die. I zone out behind the wheel. Honest to God, I’m a looney-tune when I drive. I know that about myself which is why I don’t drive on long road trips. So, I am forever grateful to Pam or Jan, Patty or Linda for taking the reins Besides, these little happenings along the way make for priceless memories and wonderful blog posts.

This year has been kinda rough for the Sisterhood. Life got in our way. All of us are busy facing challenges that have kept the five of us apart. We hate it.There are events in the works that will unite us and the Sisterhood will ride again however. Until then, we do what we must.

I can’t wait for this weekend. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Tonto had the Lone Ranger. Big Foot Pam and I have each other.

Missouri is the “show me state.” So look out, St Louis. Here comes Big Foot and Dixie.

 

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Plotting–All You Need is the Tip of the Iceberg

Okay, I’ll tell you the truth.  I’m in California at the moment.  And, yes, I know, the stereotype of the Golden State is that the entire land mass is one giant L.A.  But, you’re thinking of the wrong end of the state.  I’m from the far north and that’s where I am visiting.  With family.  Not a single one of whom has a computer.  I’m serious.  And it gets odder still.  Unless I borrow my mother’s Volvo and drive ten miles to the library, I have no Internet access at all.  Talk about off the grid.  I’m not kidding when I tell you I’m going into Bigfoot Country.

And I love it.

However, since it’s my turn to write The Sisterhood blog, and I’m off playing with Bigfoot, I am re-blogging an earlier post from my personal blog.  So, if you’ve already read this post, I apologize. If it’s new to you, then hop on over to my blog and sign up as a follower. See what you’ve been missing? (http://pamelafosterspeakerwriter.wordpress.com/)

But, seriously. . .here’s the post.

The way I plot is to have a scene or character in my head, sit in front of a computer and let that scene play out on the monitor.  I become the character and follow where they lead.  Very soon after starting a new book, usually within the first draft of the first chapter, I have a general idea of where the story is going.  This sometimes veers slightly as a character refuses my direction and goes off on her own, but within a few thousand words, the general plot is visible to me.  After that, I start each chapter with a clear objective in mind and then follow the character.

As I write, the plot becomes more and more clear.

I think of the story as ice that forms slowly in my subconscious until one day it breaks off and floats into my conscious.  I see only the tip, but the entire story is there.  All I do is allow myself to see below the surface in order to get the tale on paper.

 Of course, I go back and tighten the plot thread in the second draft.  Tighten it again in the third draft.  But all I have when I sit down and type that first word on the computer is a scene, an idea for a character, a vague image of a storyline.  

It has come as somewhat of a surprise to me that this is NOT the way most authors write.

Evidently, many people have actual plot boards and outlines and bar graph.

Here’s what I want you to take away from this post:

Each of us has a different writing process.  Find yours.  Try everything until you stumble on what works for you.  Then write.  Write everyday, even if all you have time for is to scribble a story idea on the back of a Walmart receipt.  No writing is wasted.  Everything you create will stay with you and, if it doesn’t fit in what you’re currently writing, it will find you again when you need it for the next book.  Stop trying to get it perfect before you touch fingers to keyboard.  You are a writer.

Write.

And, when you take a break, please share  with us how you plot.  Do you channel a character?  Design a spread sheet?  Fall into a trance?

Collaboration or Catastrophe?

Would you like a recipe for catastrophe?  Combine five, very distinctive and opinionated women writers, fold in unique writing styles, shift in a myriad of different genres. Beat it together to pour out a unified presentation.

You’d think you’d have a catastrophe, right? Five hard-headed women with strong hearts with nothing in common besides the love writing and for each other.

Well, the Sisterhood’s gathering resulted in laughter and….of course…a kick ass presentation.

Trust me, we’re well aware that we’d get a lot more work done if we’d just shut up and work instead of rolling on the floor laughing.

I think this is good insight into the behind-the-scenes of a Sisterhood meeting.

Love this one. It shows who we are so well. Ruthie has said something extremely off color–check out the grin on her face. You know it had to be good for Pam to have a surprised look on her face. Jan, is secretly thinking “God, I wish I could’ve said that out loud!” Linda is being Linda…appreciating anything and everything. I was laughing too hard to make it into the picture.

I made it into this picture, but as you can see none of us could take it very seriously.

I’m not sure what we were thinking, but you have to admit Jan looks pretty darn sexy on that table!

Don’t ask. It doesn’t take us long to slip into goofball mode.

Hot Damn! Bigfoot!!

THE WRITE MINDSET

Posted by Linda Apple

www.LindaApple.com

“If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire must be not to write.” ~ Hugh Prather

 It seems lately that I’ve not been as concerned with the nuts and bolts of writing as much as the mindset of writing. After all, if your mindset isn’t right, you either are not writing or not doing your best work.

So today I want to know. Are you a writer? Or are you someone who talks writing? Do you attend conferences to rub shoulders with writers and talk the game or are you there to network in hopes of promoting and selling something you have already written? It’s so easy to talk the lingo and play the game. But what does that accomplish?

 Nothing.

 I know some writers who were rejected after their first few submissions. They were offended. Discouraged. So what did they do? They picked up their pencils and went home.

Then there are writers who refuse to accept constructive critiques. They argue defensively and eventually, when no one wants their work, they start talking the talk instead of writing the words.

Rejection and critique are not the writer’s enemies. Quite the opposite, they are the gym where the writer grows stronger. Avoiding the computer or pen and paper is the writer’s true enemy. 

Gene Fowler is attributed to saying, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit, staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

 It is discouraging and seems hard sometimes. I get it. But don’t quit. Get in the writing habit. Write a paragraph every day. Perhaps an observation about life or something you heard on the news. Start writing for contests. Even if you don’t win, you will have written. AND the entries that do not win are the bones for pieces that WILL win in the future or something you can submit. Don’t quit!

 My agent, Terry Burns, makes this promise: “There is only one guarantee in writing. If you don’t write, you won’t be published. So don’t be a talker, please. Be a writer! Don’t give up! Keep it up! Write!

My question is this, are you a writer or a one who talks about writing? Are you discouraged? What are you doing about it?

To all of you who have overcome discouragement, what words of advice do you have for those who are struggling?

www.lindaapple.com

www.lindacapple.wordpress.com

Purple Prose By Any Other Name

Posted by: Jan Morrill

www.janmorrill.wordpress.com

I love finding a new word–a unique word that I can roll over my tongue, maybe even blog about. Like this one:

pleonasm:

\PLEE-uh-naz-uhm\, noun;

1) The use of more words than are necessary to express an idea.
2) A superfluous word or expression

Synonyms: copiousness, garrulity, loquaciousness, verbosity

Isn’t that a perfect word for a writer? So much nicer sounding than purple prose. Though I’ve wilted at accusations of purple prose, I can almost say I wouldn’t mind being accused of purple pleonasm.

What is purple prose, or its more sophisticated cousin, purple pleonasm? Wikipedia defines it as:

… a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader’s response.

There was a time when I thought this was precisely how a gifted writer should write. In fact, allow me to make a true confession. Here’s an excerpt of a story I wrote several years ago:

Photo by Mugly
WikiCommons

 
The rising sun bade goodbye to the night’s moonglow with a kiss of violet, pink, orange and finally golden yellow.  Earth accepted Sun’s kiss and blushed with color.
 
Here is the critique given to me by a prominent college professor/editor, whose name I will change to protect her innocence:
 

PROFESSOR HEMINGWAY:  “Oh. . . my . . . God.”

JAN: (Smiling and thinking to herself) I knew she’d love it.

PROFESSOR HEMINGWAY: (Pulling her hair out)  “No. No. No!! This is SO purple. I hate purple prose!”

 
Perhaps this is the slightest of exaggerations. But as you might imagine, I went pale and queasy all at once as I watched her tear my pages to pieces before she laughed maniacally and tossed them in the air. They drifted, down, down, down like giant snowflakes on a day that for me, had become as cold as the words she’d cast upon me, as misty as my eyes.
I digress. . .
 

Photo by Piotrus
WikiCommons

Some lessons are best learned the hard way. I think. . . I hope . . . my writing has come a long way. At least now when I read that passage, I feel the same kind of roiling in my stomach one with a tummy full of cotton candy might feel after one too many turns on a favorite swirling, twirling carnival ride. 

Photo by Andrew Dunn
WikiCommons

Still, I do kind of like passages of pleonasm. Though Wikipedia calls a phrase that “draws attention to itself” purple prose, I must admit, sometimes I like to be pulled out for a moment, to float in the art of how the words were put together. To me, it is akin to walking through a museum and finding one piece in particular that draws me to admire and wonder.

When I write my first draft, I let purple prose flow through my fingers to keyboard to my heart’s content. It’s the dancing, skipping, doing cartwheels of my writing. (See my propensity for purple?) But, as I described in my blog entry “Synonyms for Hate,” when I begin my editing process, I pull it from my manuscript like crabgrass from my garden–though a bit more begrudgingly, I must admit.

I like salt, too. Just a sprinkle. But too much, and the meal is ruined. It’s the same with purple prose. A little here and there adds an artistic touch. Too much, and the author might as well spill a gallon of paint over the story.

A purple prose is a purple prose . . . by any other name–even if you, like me, prefer to call it pleonasm. And it’s subjective. Every reader has a different tolerance level. My advice to myself is to use it sparingly. I’d much rather leave my reader hungry for more than feeling stuffed and bloated.

How about you? Do you use purple prose? Do you like to read it?

A few great links:

http://www.debstover.com/purple.html

http://www.fiction-writers-mentor.com/purple-prose.html

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/12/15/books/in-defense-of-purple-prose.html?pagewanted=all

Writing Tips: Plotting Your Bestseller

Posted by: Pamela Foster

www.pamelafosterspeakerwriter

___________________________________

“How’dya  come up with the idea for that story?”

That’s the question I hear most from non-writers.

Well, that’s the query I hear the most after, “I’ve got a great idea for a story.  How ‘bout I tell you about it, you write it and we’ll share the profits?”

For writers, a more pertinent query is, “After that first scene comes to you, how the heck do you plot your way through three hundred pages?”

The answer is that we all do it differently.

Staci Troili uses a plot board that would send me screaming into the woods.  http://stacitroilo.com/2012/07/30/how-project-planning-in-corporate-america-helped-me-write-novels/  But it works for her.   Her books are wonderful.

Dusty Richards tells me he doesn’t know until he writes each chapter what’s going to happen, says that’s the fun of writing.  Since he’s published over 100 western novels, I’m going to concede that method works for him.

Claire Croxton insists the first thing she does when sitting down to start a new novel is find perfect names for the cats. Again, the method works for her.  There’s nobody better at southern snark than Croxton.

Here’s what I do:

I generally start a new book with a vision that comes to me while I’m gazing blankly off into space or washing my hair in the shower or staring at someone at Walmart,  er I meant to say Neiman Marcus, and wondering what on earth they think they’re doing.

Once I have that first scene, I start writing.  This means I often flounder around a bit in the beginning of a book. End up with half-a-dozen false starts on my computer.  But, eventually the characters take shape and stumble through their story for me.

In case you’re not already thoroughly confused about how best to plot, click this link to find out what everyone from L’Amour to King to Irving have to say about plotting.  http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/thoughts-on-plot-by-famous-writers/

Here, finally, is my point.  There are people out there who will share with you what works for them.  Take advantage of that knowledge.  Part of the writing process is sorting through all the expert opinions and dividing what works for you from what you need to drop like a hot rock.

In the end, it’s your story. Only you can find it and only you can tell it.

Join the discussion:

So, how’dya come up with story ideas?  Once you’ve got that idea like a splinter in your brain, how’dya plot the rest of the book?

Picture the Scene

This week’s question is by Pamela Foster:

Explain your process when you sit down to write a scene.  Do you enter into the mind of your character?  Picture the setting?  Fall into a trance? How do you turn pictures, scenes, in your head into words on paper that call forth images in the mind of your reader?

PAM:  I start with a lesson plan.  (That teaching credential pays off after all)  What do I want to happen in the scene?  How am I moving the action forward or developing the character?  Then, when I have a general idea of what I want the scene to accomplish, I move on to specifics.

First, I decide on the place the scene will take place.  Once I’ve figured that out, I move on to asking what would be the smells in this scene.  I’m a great believer in scent as a trigger for emotion.  If I can make a reader smell what the character smells, I’ve got them.  I want to know what time of year it is.  What time of day?  Where is the light coming from?  Light is another trigger for me, a way to place the reader right there in the mind of the character.

Then I move to the mind of the POV character.  Is she happy?  Sad?  Worried?  Confused? What, exactly, is she feeling?  I introduce the secondary character or characters.  A scene with two characters, one male and one female, is the easiest scene to write. The more people you put in a scene, the more movement and the more personalities there are bouncing off each other, the more difficult the scene is to write.  I would advise a new writer to perfect the two person scene, before moving on to the group shot.

All that takes very little time, it becomes natural after a while and I think this is one reason a writer needs to write every day.  Practice really does make you a better writer.  Once I’ve arranged all that in my mind, I get out of the way and let the characters lead the way.  Sometimes the scene leads in a completely different direction than I planned and almost always there are surprises before the scene is completed.  That’s one of the great joys of writing.

RUTH:  Wow, for some crazy reason I had a tough time answering this question.  Thanks a lot, Pam.

I’d like to say that I don’t consciously think about a scene, but that isn’t exactly the truth.  A hint of an idea might be hiding in the shadows of my mind that will eventually take over and consume me body and soul, but I do have to take the human footsteps and actually sit with my fingers on the keyboard before the magic happens.  Does that make sense?

Scenes play like mini-movies in my head. When I put them on paper I “watch” the movie and just type what I see. I suppose I’m in a trance-like state while this is happening, however I’m still conscious of the cats running like striped-ass apes through the house so I’m not totally in a daze.   If I have trouble finding the right words to bring the images forward to the reader, I act the scene out, often talking the dialogue as I type.

I do become the character.  Doesn’t every great writer?

LINDA:  I daydream! Recently a speaker made this statement, “A writer is one who is working even when staring out the window.” How true! I let several scenarios play like a movie in my mind. Then I write it down and continue on with the story. Then after the first draft, I revisit each scene and let it play again. By now, I’m more connected with my characters and I know how the story actually ended (they don’t always end as we writers intended them to, do they?) I add twists, flavor it with more senses, punch up the dialogue and internalization, as well as sprinkle in just enough attitude and emotion.

JANWhen I have a scene in my head and I sit down to write it, I close my eyes and put myself in that scene as my character. What does she see, smell, hear? Move in. Closer. Closer. What is she thinking?

But in writing a scene, I also ask myself, what is the purpose of the scene? Does it move the story forward or is it fluff? I’ll admit, there have been a few scenes that I’ve liked so much, yet the scene had no purpose. But, because I couldn’t let the scene go, I created a reason for it to remain . . . a way to move the story forward.

If the reason for a scene is strong, but the scene itself is weak, just won’t go down on paper, I often “interview” my characters. There’s something about changing methods from trying to get a story down on paper, to literally asking your character questions. It’s amazing how much your character will “tell” you, if you ask the right questions.

CLAIRE:  My process is this: I wake up in the morning with an empty head (some would claim it stays that way.) I get something caffeinated—usually Diet Coke, but sometimes coffee—and sit down in front of the computer. I have no idea what I’m going to write or a goal for the day. I simply review what I’ve written the day before and let the words flow forth. If I get to a scene that is causing my writing to slow, I skip over it and continue to write. Then, I’ll go back to difficult scene and ponder it.

The pondering can last for days. I usually start another project, making a quilt or gardening or cooking, The entire time the scene is floating around in my head. As the day progresses, I’ll get the scene worked out in my mind and I’ll either finish writing that scene in the afternoon or I’ll wait until the morning. If I wait overnight, I have to take some notes so I’ll remember what I’d figured out.

It’s not a very scientific process, but it works for me. It’s amazing where and when the ideas come to me. Last summer while I was picking green beans, I had a conversation in my head between two characters that resulted in one of my favorite scenes in Redneck Ex. The other day, I was trying to figure out why my characters in Loch Lonnie were locked away in a storm cellar during a tornado. While weeding my roses, the answer came to me and boy was it a doozie!  So, out there that I thought I’d experienced sunstroke, but it’s a really good scene.

The most frustrating thing is when I quit writing for the day, but my characters continue their dialogue while I’m trying to do other things. I forgot to put sugar in an apple cobbler once because my characters were having one heck of a donnybrook. The cobbler was awful, but the resulting scene was pretty darn colorful.

Favorite Characters

Claire Croxton asks this week’s question: 

We’ve all written numerous short stories and/or novels with tons of interesting and fascinating characters. Who is your favorite character from all your writing? Tell us about him/her and the qualities that you admire about them.

JAN: To me, asking which is my favorite character is like asking which is my favorite child. But if held to the fire, I suppose I would have to choose Sachi, my eight-year old character from Broken Dolls. Though she is a fictional character based on my mother’s true story, (see my blog post about my mom and Sachi), she is also a make-believe character created around many of the things I am not. All the things I was not allowed to feel, or was afraid to feel, as a child, Sachi feels. In Broken Dolls, Sachi longs to be accepted at a time when Japanese-Americans were outcasts. Yet, she does not let that stop her pursuit, and in the end, she finds acceptance by accepting others who are also “different,” like her black friend, Jubie. In the end, she realizes it’s okay to be different.

For me, this is the joy of being a writer. I can take a character to places I’ve always wanted to go, make her say things I’ve been afraid to say, do things I might never do. Sometimes, it helps me understand myself a little better. And, if I can help someone else understand something about herself in the process, it’s the icing on the cake. Oh, wait . . . how cliché. It’s the wind in my sails. The A-1 on my steak. The cool side of the pillow. You get the picture.

 

RUTH:  Black as midnight, mysterious as death, Madame Katanga from The Rook and The Raven is without a doubt, my most favorite character I’ve ever created.  As soon as her name popped into my mind, the witchy-haired Jamaican clairvoyant possessed my being.  I couldn’t read a scene without slipping into her accent and surrendering myself completely to her will.  

Madame Katanga knows many things and can predict the future with one toss of the chicken bones. But for all her wisdom, she is also vulnerable; her greatest fear being that because of her dappling in all things supernatural, her granddaughter will be lost from her forever. Never-the-less she stands firm in her spiritual beliefs and while she would never be found in church at high mass, she would never ridicule the ones that are because all peoples are the children of The Creator. 

Madame Katanga is as wild as a Louisiana hurricane and has a heart as big as her bosoms that her alligator-toothed necklace rests upon.  She stirs the the witchy woman in me.  One story is not enough for this wonderful, colorful character.  Perhaps a sequel to The Rook and The Raven can be found in my future?

PAM:  My favorite character is Robert Lee Johnson, better known as Bubba. He hails from Noisy Creek, a little bitty town in South Georgia where two of my earlier books are set, Redneck Goddess and Noisy Creek. Bubba relocates to the Pacific Northwest and is the good friend of Samantha, the protagonist in Bigfoot Blues and Limited Visibility.  Straight-forward, honest, with a heart as big as Dixie, Bubba is rough-edged socially and all you’ll ever need in a friend or in a lover.

Bubba is my favorite character because, in flannel shirts, jeans and work boots, he’s a true southern gentleman.  An honorable man who listens to Samantha and gives her what she wants and needs before she knows she wants it.  Other men may bring flowers and candy, swear they’ll walk through fire for her, but Bubba brings Samantha’s favorite coffee.  On a cold, rainy night, it’s Bubba who lays a fire ready for the match.   And, when Samantha is in an impossible situation, it’s good-ole-boy Bubba who steps up and shows her he’s right there, his hand firmly in hers.

I may not write romance, but honey, can I build me a man or what?

LINDA:  I have written several short stories about a little boy named Charley. He is based on true experiences of my daddy, Charles Diehl. Charley makes me laugh and I love his attitude. He is the typical eleven-year-old country boy during the 1930’s, doing the typical country boy devilment. It is an innocent time where the worst things kids did was moving the church outhouse a foot behind the “pit” for the evening services.

I like all my protagonists because they embody those close to me. My antagonists are all the things wrong with the world wrapped up in a personality.

CLAIRE: When I first pondered the answer to this question, the heroine of Redneck Ex came to in mind. Then, I stewed a bit and realized that even though I think Dr. Summer Leigh Johnson is an absolute delight, (see her interview on Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews on April 14th!) I’m in love with a secondary character from Redneck Ex: Joshua Elmer McRoy.

Josh started out in this world as a bit character, someone to occupy Summer Leigh’s time while she got her bearings. She had flown to Germany at the request of her ex-father-in-law to check on her ex-husband, Dwight Sullivan, who had been injured in a car bombing in Iraq. Josh and Dwight are roommates at the hospital. I fell in love with him instantly. Seriously, the first words out of his mouth made me smile.

Josh is a young, good-old-boy. Without question, you’d trust him with your deepest, darkest secret. He’s the type of guy you want around during a crisis—mechanical, level-headed, intelligent, savvy. Lord knows, he’d never think of himself as intelligent! He’d kick the ground and blush if you suggested such a thing. So, I guess that makes him humble too, huh? And, that boy has a big heart—melts at the sight of a puppy.

I was surprised that so many readers have commented on his storyline in Redneck Ex. I was in love with the guy, but I didn’t think everyone else would be too. Obviously, he’s lovable.

Let me know what you think about him.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, who is your favorite character, and why?

Battling Your Evil Editor

This week’s question is by Linda Apple:

Do you have that Evil Editor perched on your shoulder like a buzzard squawking at every word? How do you overcome trying to make the first draft perfect and just get the story written?

PAMELA:  When I sit at the computer there’s nothing but the character and me. I never second guess myself when I’m writing.  It’s only words.  If I don’t like what I’ve written the next day, so what?  That’s why they make that delete button.

However, I begin each day’s writing by going back over what I wrote the day before.  That gets me back into the character and it’s the first time I edit. That’s when I hear the voices of the Northwest Arkansas Writer’s Workshop.  The members live in my head and whisper encouragement and suggestions in my ear.

I cut and paste, chop the heads from prairie dogs (the use of the same word in close proximity), add a line or two, delete a paragraph here and there. Then I flip the switch on the voices and get on with the day’s new creation.

Once I walk away from the computer, I agonize over plot, argue with the direction the characters have taken, jot down descriptions or ideas that invade my head, generally make myself crazy second-guessing myself until I sit down to write again. But, once I start to write, that all goes away.  My writing process is like watching an internal movie.  All I do is put the story down on paper.

CLAIRE:   When I sit down to write, I pack a sling shot and a Glock. I have to kill that dastardly buzzard every morning. He perches on my shoulder and squawks every time I misuse a comma and/or split an infinitive. Once I get him silenced, I’m able to write, to get those words on the page. What I find most interesting is that while I’m writing, I can’t get my internal editor to shut up; however, when I’m actually in edit mode, the only thing I can think about is the next story. Seems I have an evil editor and a wicked writer battling in my head all the time.

JAN:  The blasted buzzards are swarming over in my part of the world. I mean, I’ve already re-typed that first sentence three times. The darn buzzards . . . no, wait . . . the dang buzzards . . . nope, erase that . . . the blasted buzzards. Yeah!  . . . are hovering . . . no, wait . . . flying. Damn, what’s that word I’m trying to think of . . .oh! Swarming – that’s it!

Obviously, that Evil Editor is about to devour me and my manuscript right along with me.

But, I recently found comfort in an article by Jhumpa Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize winning author. (See my Monday Mashup with a link to the article—oh, all right, I’ll give it to you here, too.) In her article, “My Life’s Sentences,” she states, “The urge to convert experience into a group of words that are in a grammatical relation to one another is the most basic, ongoing impulse of my life.” When I write, every sentence is an art form, a puzzle to be solved, a story.

So, for me, it’s a long, slow process. But I love every bit of the struggle.

RUTH:  When I was a rookie writer I was obsessed with getting the first draft perfect.  Every word that Spell-check underlined had to be fixed on the spot, my new thesaurus took a beating, and I’d be stuck for endless minutes trying to think of a name for a character or town.  I’d sit for hours at the computer, my head pounding, my butt numb and still have only a few paragraphs to show for my effort.  Creativity ran and hid. My writing was forced, flat, and well . . . boring.

That’s when I learned my first huge lesson in writing: trust the voices in my head.  My characters were itching to tell their stories and were interesting and exciting enough on their own without me trying to make them so.  I ignored the misspellings, the repeated words, and put blanks when names and locations didn’t come to right away.  I just wrote.  That’s when the magic happened.   The story flowed.  The second lesson I learned?  Write first, edit second.

Of course when all else fails, I find the most excellent way to banish the Evil Editor is with a tall glass of Dr. Pepper mixed with a shot of Captain Morgan.

LINDA:  From the first day I decided to pick up the proverbial pen and become a writer, a dark shadow loomed in the room and landed on my shoulder like a buzzard. I called this tormenting feeling the “Evil Editor.”

Why?

Because this feeling made me question every word I typed. I worried about having that perfect opening sentence. I worried about grammar, sentence structure, using a word too many times, clichés, purple prose, weak characters, unrealistic dialogue, telling instead of showing. Well you get the idea.

These worries literally froze my mind. I’d type and retype the first paragraph for weeks! Sure, I knew to just write the story and fix it later. But no one told the editor on my shoulder.

It has taken years for me to get through my thick skull that writing is in layers. First layer are the bones of the story. Spit out the bones!

Second layer: put flesh on the bones! It is okay to have skinny parts and fatty parts. The next layer will make all things balanced. Flesh out the bones!

Third layer: add the muscle and shape the story up. This is my most recent discovery. Because I knew the ending, I put foreshadowing in the beginning. It really gave my story depth and interest. Give some curves to the story!

Fourth layer: Fine-tune the story. Find all the little blemishes and clear them up. Clean up the story!

The Evil Editor doesn’t like this approach. I can attest to the truth of this because she left my shoulder and went to someone else who has yet to discover that writing a novel is done in layers!

What do YOU do to tame that Evil Editor?

The Business and Passion of Writing

This week’s thought-provoking question is by Ruth:

We all know that the publishing world is changing.  The big New York publishers are fading fast and electronic books are the future.   An author must become an expert in social media and spend endless hours on self promotion. Writing has become a small business. My question is: Why bother?  What drives you to keep on writing? 

PAM: I write because when words flow from my fingertips and a brand new world appears across a white page–little black symbols that trigger images in the minds of others, so close to the visions those squiggly lines created in my own head that we all enter the same world–it completes me.

I write because it’s my God-given talent.

I write because I don’t want to take Prozac and drinking makes me puke. (www.pamelafoster.blogspot.com)

RUTH: To conjure a character from the shadows of my mind, to breathe life into him/her or even it, to gaze in wonder as my fingers fly across the keyboard typing out their thoughts, hopes, and fears, to empathize with their faults, to excuse their behavior, to know they trust and have chosen me to bring their story to life to share with all mankind, is not only a great honor but creative magic at its best.

Thousands of people say writing a novel is on their bucket list but very few realize that dream.  Storytelling is easy.  Writing is hard work.  It’s commitment.  Dedication.  Endless hours of agonizing over the exact word or phrase that expresses my characters’ emotions and actions.  But the reward, the feeling of accomplishment, the thrill of holding that published book in my hand with my name as author in bold font, to be able to say, “I did it!” and to know I made a dream come true. These are some of the greatest feelings in the world.

And that’s why I bother. (www.truthsbyruth.blogspot.com)

JAN:  For me, writing is both a selfish act and a giving act. Anyone who knows me knows that I am kind of reserved by nature. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t have the same feelings that someone who’s more demonstrative and gregarious might have. Love, hate, passion, evil, temptation, regret, envy . . . every human emotion. Writing is and always has been, my way of expressing myself.

I used to write in journals, until they were discovered and read. Now, I write fiction. It is a way for me to create characters who are tiny parts of my innermost feelings, fully-developed on paper. The creation sometimes is and sometimes is not, my sharing a piece of who I am. The reader can decide which it is. Even in my writing, I sometimes hesitate to express a feeling through my characters. But, when I do, and when someone thinks, “I understand,” or “I’ve been there,” it’s like my soul has connected with another.

It’s true that writing is a small business, and it’s terribly distracting because I love the building a platform via social networking. Honestly, I’d social network even if I didn’t have to build a platform–that’s the problem. It takes me away from my writing. But today, this is one of the challenges any writer who wants to “get her work out there” must face. (I discuss this challenge more in my blog post, “My New Writer Space.”)

A writer must not only be creative, but disciplined. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh: “No mud, no lotus.”

LINDA: There are several reasons I bother with writing. First, because it is cathartic to create worlds that contain the same frustrations and disappointments as I feel, and then give solutions. Being an inspirational writer, it is my hope that somehow I can connect with my readers and perhaps encourage them, maybe even give an idea for solutions to help them in “their real world.”

Secondly, I love social networking! I love people. And it is also great research. I note how different people think and express themselves. So I consider it a part of my creative process. Some in the social networking world may wind up in my novels.

Finally, it is a small business. But it is that for everyone. Even Steve Berry. I spent time with him and his wife Elizabeth. They are constantly working the business and the social networking world. STEVE BERRY! One would think his publisher would do it all, and of course Ballantine Books does a lot. But Liz and Steve do too. So if they do, how much more should I?  (www.daydreamonpaper.wordpress.com)

CLAIRE: That Dixie comes up with some hard-hitting questions. Why bother with social media? What drives you to keep on writing? I have a contemporary romance (Redneck Ex by Claire Croxton—The Wild Rose Press) on the market at the moment and another, Santorini Sunset coming out in May. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was when I started working on my third romance. It seemed like every time I started to write, I’d get sidetracked by social media—Facebook posts, blog entries, Twitter feeds, etc. I cursed all technology and vowed to go back to writing with a chisel and stone tablets. Then, I started watching my sales ranking on Amazon. That really opened my eyes.

When my book was released, the sales were pretty good. After a couple of weeks, sales started slacking off. One of the wonderful authors at The Wild Rose Press asked me to do an interview for her blog. The day that interview came out, my sales ranking rose. Sure, it wasn’t in the top 100 in romance sales, but it was pretty high. I was thrilled and my loathing of social media lessened. Sure, it’s tedious and time consuming, but it really does make a difference in sales and getting your name out there so new readers can discover you.

As for the writing part, if I won the lottery and had enough money to buy that castle in Scotland I have my eye on, I’d still write. It’s what I do. Those stories are inside me and they have to get out. I’ve dabbled in writing my entire life. It took me way too long to get to the point where I actually pursued it seriously. Now that I’ve done that, there’s no turning back. I love it. It feeds my soul and I’m hooked.  (www.clairecroxtonromanceauthor.wordpress.com)

We’d love to read your comments about why you write, and how you balance the business side of writing with the passion of writing.