Notes to Self on Pushing the 1st Draft Forward

It never ceases to amaze me how much my feet drag during the writing of the dreaded first draft.

I don’t mind thinking about what to write. Or about what my characters do, say, eat, drive, clue-gather or how they crime-solve. But when it comes down to the actual writing of the words, no-want-to-do.

This post is mostly for me, and people like me, whose heads spin during the drafting phase. That spinning makes it a wee bit challenging to write anything. When that happens, remember:

– Forget about finding the right words. They’ll show up on their own, later. I promise.

– Not to worry about character voices being on point or distinct. In the first draft, you’re merely willing your fictional peeps to rise up from their lifeless states. What are you like when you first wake-up after a snooze? Witty? Clever? Rarin’ to go? I didn’t think so. Give your characters time to breathe, and they will jump to life.

– Forget about timing within the story. Does the day and time really matter? A little. But the beauty of it is that you can go back and recreate the timing any way you please. How’s that for flexibility? If only real life worked that way.

– Not to forget about why you write. Isn’t it about spending time doing what you love? Questions will pop up during the head-spinning phase. Who am I? Why am I torturing myself by trying to pull out a story? What do normal, non-writer people do during their down time? Why can’t I be like them? Am I hungry again? NO. This is the time to pull out something you’ve published and read it. Or if you’re not published yet, find a book you love and imagine writing one that’s just as good or even better. Because when you finish that darn first draft, you’re going to feel splendid. It’s a huge accomplishment!

– Location is everything, right? Yes, if you’re buying real estate, but not necessarily if you’re writing a first draft. I know I write a Southern California Mystery series, but So Cal is huge! The book opens in Santa Monica because guess who hung out in SM recently?

Once I find the main locale, I let my heroine lead the way. Guess where my heroine ended up? Sorry, I can’t divulge because it would be a spoiler alert (if you might lose sleep over this, email me and I’ll spill the beans).

Carry on!

Make Writing Fun

Writing is a passion of mine, which automatically equates to doing something fun and exciting, right? Not necessarily. It’s up to each writer to create and find the fun. Kind of like planning a party or a vacation…or teaching kids. Fun may run and hide once in a while, but we can gently reel it back where it belongs.

Remember your early school days? You probably had a stand-out teacher. Exceptional teachers aren’t born that way. They’ve got a few simple tricks up their sleeves, which we writers can borrow. A few suggestions to rev up the fun meter when writing:

Read before you write. Not just anything, but something inspiring. Something you find superbly written that contains punchy words, lines and action. Sources might be a newspaper article, a book, a poem or even a quotation. Studying talent helps increase the flow of our own writing talent.

Take notes. Eminem provided this tip: collect bits and pieces of inspiration wherever you can find them, write them down and save them in a shoe box. Inspiration equals fun. Eminem shuffles through the box when he’s writing a song, and picks out words or lines that might lead him to an idea. I write ideas in a notebook as they pop into my head, and run through them once I’m done with the first draft. Reading these inspires me to make the story shine.

Don’t forget to do something fun that isn’t writing. We need down time to regenerate. If I don’t utilize downtime now and then, I feel like I’m studying for the Bar Exam…again. Which means there’s a possibility my head may explode. How fun would that be?

But there are deadlines that must be met. This is the part where you remind yourself there are carefree ways to write or rewrite that don’t involve sitting/standing behind a desk. In fact, it doesn’t involve a desk at all. I rework my writing when commuting to work, when watching TV, when walking or petting my dogs. Washing dishes is a great writing stimulator (and makes for clean dishes). This deskless writing allows for more relaxed thinking, leading to a flow of ideas. We don’t need to feel pressure while writing.

Please don’t forget the fun of writing, keep that spark lit and find ways to restore the sheer joy of writing. That’s what we signed up for!

It's Alive! Novel Settings

At nearly four books into my Southern California Mystery series, I just realized something: each book has a VIP in it. No, not the type of VIP you’re thinking of. This VIP is a Very Important Place, located in SoCal, of course. Very important because each place meant something to yours truly. And now they serve as a little more than just another pretty backdrop to Corrie Locke, my fictional heroine.

In MURDER AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS, much of the action takes place in Newport Beach. Balboa Island, to be exact, where I spent a great deal of time in my early days. It’s a cozy, peaceful community with gently rolling waves and a small town feel to it, if you don’t count the upscale homes and yachts. Balboa Island was the perfect place for my heroine to experience a slight mishap (okay, maybe more than just a slight mishap).

Book #2, MURDER GONE MISSING, revolves around, and up and down, a college campus, kind of similar to this one: I didn’t actually go to Cal Tech as a student, but I did spend time at the Jet Propulsion Lab, a stone’s throw away from, and owned, by Cal Tech. One of my little guys harbored a not so secret fascination with everything technical. He’s also the tech advisor on all of my books.

A movie studio in Culver City gets top billing in Book #3, MURDER: DOUBLE OR NOTHING. There are also plenty of nods in #3 to days spent working at a similar place in my early legal life.

Settings almost behave like characters in novels, and in the case of my books, the settings range from innocent bystanders to villainous cads out to trip my heroine so she stumbles and falls hard…or worse. The strange part is I never plan for my settings to be anything, but just that. A place for Corrie to hang out. Yet, they seem to come to life on their own as soon as my heroine steps into the picture. Go figure.