Little Read Writing Hood (or Writing Gratitude)

Full disclosure: my title has nothing to do with this post; I just liked the sound of it.

I, like many others these days, have been pondering how much I have to be grateful for, despite the current difficulties surrounding us. For today’s post, I’m focusing on reasons to be grateful as a writer, published or not. Why am I grateful? Let me count a few of the reasons:

1. I write stories, mostly long and a few short, that make me feel good. I’m grateful for that marvelous fluttery feeling! I fill my stories with interesting characters, I hope, that are learning and growing to be better people, which is what I aspire to be myself. Sometimes, I slip life lessons onto my pages or find ways for my characters to discover or display virtues like courage, kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness. Virtues I hope to make shine in my own, everyday life.
2. My writing makes my mother happy and a few others happy too, which I find so heartwarming. I wish I had the magic power of making people feel good all the time. Meanwhile, I practice.
3. I’m not quite sure how it happens (besides spending long hours and thinking-heavy time in the desk chair), but my books get finished somehow, for which I’m exceptionally grateful.
3a. I’m truly grateful to be a published author, and remind myself that it wasn’t that long ago when I wasn’t yet “out there.” This helps me to remember to carry on, even when I don’t want to because it’s not going as well as I’d like. Pre-publication, I reminded myself that if I carry on, I could be published one day, and that fueled my writing engine. I’m grateful I talked myself into continuing on.

4. The fervor that accompanies writing spills into other endeavors and helps me to believe I can accomplish a task that may seem challenging. I am grateful each time I make the attempt, even if it’s not entirely successful. I tried! Anything is possible when we make the effort.

Breaking Down the Novel

I’m busy working on Book Five these days. One would think (not me, but others might), that after writing four books in the same genre, in the same series, featuring the same main characters, the story should flow smoothly. But in fact, sometimes, it doesn’t flow at all. A plunger would be helpful (not the toilet unplugging kind, but the elusive type that could work to unstop the writing mind).

During my first stab at it, nearly five thousand words later, I didn’t like the locale I’d selected for heroine Corrie’s latest adventure. She was investigating criminal activity at a nursing facility. In real life, I am blessed with older relatives who are experiencing some challenging issues. This location and the events struck too close to home. Back to the drawing…or more accurately, the writing…board.

I painted another adventure with words and, this time, the opening sequence hobbled. Not just because Michael (Corrie’s love interest) and Corrie were on horseback. But because Michael had planned a special date which, naturally, was upended by a crime. That’s a typical day in the life of Corrie. But the crime was a little too dark for my liking. The beauty of writing (one of the many) is the flexibility. If a scene or a character doesn’t work, they can disappear, forever, or until some future scene beckons them back. Meanwhile, I get to flex my writing skills and fan my creative fires.

I find writing alternately scary and marvelous. Kind of like Halloween.

Scary because of the ghosts, goblins and witches, but marvelous, too, because of the ghosts (the Casper types), carved pumpkins and candy.

Back to writing. It can be scary because the sheer amount of words that need to coagulate in a cohesive, engaging and enjoyable manner can be daunting. 77,000 words, give or take.

I break the draft down, starting with the title. In my first two tries, I mulled over the title while I wrote. Not a good sign. In my previous books, the title came first. After the arrival of the title, I challenge myself to write 1000 words. I can do that. After I write the 1000, I ask, can you write more? I can do that…usually. And so on, until sooner, hopefully, rather than later, I reach The End!

What I Learned After Writing Five Books (About Editing Mostly)

I consider myself a newbie author. Meaning, I’ve got a lot to learn, and with every new book, comes new lessons learned. Here are a few that stuck with me after I completed Book #4 – SLIGHTLY MURDEROUS INTENT:

1. Please, PLEASE, please don’t edit the first draft while you write. If you do, you risk not expressing what is truly in your heart. So what if the draft’s a little rough around the edges or even all over? Go for it because you are not only allowed a second chance, but many chances to make corrections and edits;

2. Don’t wait until right before a deadline to start writing or those many chances I just mentioned will diminish. Which brings me to this quote by Douglas Adams:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

I like the concept and the whooshing is intriguing, but the reality for me is, I love the satisfaction of beating a deadline. Or at least, getting to it on time. If the deadline passes, this is what I feel like doing:

Yep, climbing up to the treetop and hiding out.

3. I believe in flexibility, in one’s physical and mental capacity, in eating, sleeping and practically everything, but writing. If you truly want to reach “The End”, a schedule is a must. For instance, schedule in one full hour of writing. Or two or six. If that doesn’t work, schedule fifteen minutes. And don’t waiver.

You can eat…or drink after the allotted time. Trust me. The satisfaction of actually doing it is incomparable. Doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write something. Know why? Yep. You can go back and edit to your heart’s content (or close to it).

4. Last lesson for today: After you’re done with final edits, you’re not. A publisher once told me to edit the book from back to front when final edits are complete. I dragged my feet (or my fingers, in this case), but I did it, back to front! And you know what? I found errors I’d missed. Not many, but still.

A little effort can go a long way!