How I Write

The last thing I like to do before hitting the sack at night is to find something to tickle my funny bone. A TV show, a book, a YouTube video, even a Twitter post. Ending the day with a chuckle practically guarantees a good night’s sleep and waking up with a smile. To find a way to make others smile or feel dandy – that’s the real bomb. And, it’s also my reason for writing. That’s me in the photo below with some of my favorite smiling faces at the Camarillo Library, after a wonderful author panel.

If you’ve read my books, you’ll note my pen barely touches the paper. Translation: I write light. My heroine, Corrie Locke, is mostly a straight-laced, newbie lawyer…when she’s not bending rules, wielding illegal weaponry (though she’s never actually shot anyone…yet) or beating the %#*& out of a villainous type. She’s not exactly an amateur sleuth, and word has been getting around about her case-cracking skills

I’m constantly on the lookout for offbeat situations for Corrie and her crime-solving pals. They’re always up for it since nabbing bad guys beats the mundane day job every time. For instance, in MURDER GONE MISSING, Corrie and former security guard/now Corrie’s legal assistant and night law school student, Veera, visit an animal farm and stumble upon a surprise murder suspect.

I usually start out writing each scene straight and keep revisiting until I can mold it into something more amusing. I need constant action on the pages or it’s just not entertaining enough for me. The average person may be capable of walking a straight line from point A to point B. Not Corrie. A lot has to happen between the two points before she reaches her destination.

My favorite part of writing is spitting out that first draft and then combing through again and again to determine whether:

– The characters (main and supporting cast) sound and appear as they should in each situation;

– Each scene involves as many senses as I can squeeze in ( for instance, what does Corrie see, taste, smell, hear and touch?); and

– I’ve excess material that can be deleted without affecting the plot.

If I just can’t get a scene to work, I take it out and move on. That prevents me from feeling hampered and promotes manuscript progress.

Author Self-Care: Sanity Boosters

Being stuck in traffic is not the most productive way to spend one’s time. Being stuck makes me contemplate my sanity, as I notice it dwindling away.

If I’m going to lose my marbles, there should be a more compelling reason, don’t you think? The last time I was immobilized on the freeway, I refocused my perspective on how to improve life. Especially my writing life. Self-care jumped to mind.

When I’m writing, my state of mind can get intense, especially when I’m feeling a different sort of stuck. Stuck because I’m unsure about what I’ve written, I need to clean up a scene, I’d rather be doing something else or… you fill in the blank. Instead of stewing or feeling pressure, it’s far better to:

1. Step away and relax: When I shift direction, I come back feeling ready to roll. The shift can be as simple as dish-washing (Agatha Christie credited dish-washing as, “The best time for planning a book…” or reading or walking or spending time with loved ones (human and canine/feline/even poultry, in my case). It’s because the focus slides away from writing and onto a task that doesn’t require as much mental finesse. The key is finding something to massage and unwind the mind.

2. Say NO to social media: You don’t have to shun it forever, but back off for a bit, if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Make sure time spent posting or tweeting is no more than 10-20 percent of the day. And make sure you make it fun. Otherwise, why bother?

3. Exercise: Back to the bit about walking. Scarcely a day went by that Charles Dickens didn’t “flee his desk and take to the streets of London and its suburbs.” . Dickens was onto something. Taking in the sights, sounds, and scents of a walk can be refreshing and stimulating on the psyche as well as the body.

4. Eat well: Your mind and your body are the only ones you’ve got. Doesn’t it make sense to take the very best care of them? That includes eating well. I have an urge to snack when writing because…what writer doesn’t love a distraction? Sometimes, I give in and other times I flex my muscles of self-control. When I do cave, I make snacks light and healthy. I can reward myself with more later.

When you find yourself tensing up, no matter what the activity, stop and find a way to switch gears to ensure a positive frame of mind. After all, how can we progress in writing and in life unless we keep ourselves in tip-top shape?

Writing: Self Motivation

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing. But if I don’t, I feel lousy, dejected, and dissatisfied. Not writing is not an option. Instead, I take a few minutes to find sources of motivation.

One simple means is picturing myself after I’m done – what a feeling of accomplishment! Plus, I’ll have time to read, garden, and do just plain nothing if I want to. If visualization doesn’t do the trick, I’ll read from the pages of one of my favorite authors. That usually ignites a fire beneath me, making me jump up and get started on my own writing. I love the power of words to create images and page-turning stories. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll hunt down stories of really big authors and how they wrote some of their greatest stories in conditions that were less than favorable.

Take Robert Louis Stevenson, for instance. He wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde one sleepless night when he was suffering from advanced tuberculosis. In his aggrieved state, he wrote the book in three days! How is that even possible?

Unhappy with the first draft, he ripped it apart, literally, and rewrote the whole shebang, again in his ill state, in three more days. That’s 64,000 words in six days. I have to pause right there because even in my well state, I can barely imagine writing as he did. Mr. Stevenson wrote more than 10,000 words…a day. Most writers consider one – two thousands words per day an accomplishment. At my best, I wrote 2500 words a day for two days to complete my first short story. I do know that at least that much is possible by yours truly.

What Robert Louis Stevenson showed us is that:

All we need to do is try. These days, when I sit restless in my chair, and distractions are shouting out my name, I think of Robert Louis Steven and stay put. Thank you, Mr. Stevenson for showing us what we’re capable of accomplishing.