Procrastination—Friend or Foe?

Fog Bank - Minto Brown Island from the Salem Waterfront - Edited

I should be writing. I’m a halfway through the first draft of my story for an amazing anthology I get to be a part of. Only 2,500 words away from the finish line. That’s not a lot. I could be done in half a day if I put my mind to it. Instead, I’m watching the fog burn off the river as it unhides the bank of trees. Yes, unhides. Sounded better than reveals, to me.

The thing about procrastination is there’s a time and a place for it. Ya know? It always gets a bad rap, walking around with a nasty reputation like a loose girl in the back of a fast car, who, truth be told, there is also a time and place for.

Today’s procrastination brought me quiet reflection, regeneration, and the beginnings of a new poem. I’ve pushed my poetry to the back burner for far too long. Procrastination, the little tramp, allowed me to bring it out and go for a playful romp.

Procrastination didn’t shake its finger at me, or a judgmental head—like expectation does. He just quietly encouraged me to enjoy the moment, to re-acquaint myself with an old friend. Sometimes procrastination smells the flowers before I think to. I think I’ll write him a thank you note!

I should be writing. What should you be doing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Character Costume Parade

It’s Halloween night and as I sit here contemplating a topic to write on–about writing–I think of my characters and the many “hats” I require them to wear, to become just who I need them to be for any given piece. So I’ve dragged out some of my gang and locked them each in a room, with no windows–just a box of costumes and asked them to try on a few and tell us a little bit about themselves. Please enjoy this Character Costume Parade inspired by the wacky holiday where at least one day a year we have the freedom to dress up and become anyone we like!

 

CHRISTINE

Christine is a 10 yr old, red headed, precocious lil gal. She loves her dysfunctional family and really has no idea that all families aren’t exactly like hers. Her bestie is a school chum named, Pearl. The two girls have many zany adventures as they sojourn the pages of my stories side by side.

ME: Christine, can you tell us a bit about the costume you picked?

Christine: It’s not a costume, per-say.

Per se – frequently misspelled as P-e-r-s-a-y. Per se is an adverb and means: by, of, for, or in itself; intrinsically.

Momma’s an English major. She demands that I be well spoken. But my teacher is actually the one responsible for my vast vocabulary. She has us memorize our spelling words along with their definitions. I can converse with most adults on a level they can comprehend–which blows a lot of them away. But, I digress.

Digress – verb (used without an object): to deviate or wander away from the main topic or purpose in speaking or writing; to depart from the principal line of argument, plot, study, etc. Sorry, it’s a habit.

I dressed like Pippi Longstocking. It was the natural choice given my red hair and quirky nature.

Quirky –  adjective: characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.

Me: And how do you think you identify with the character of Pippi?

Christine: We’re adventurous girls, me n Pippi. I know some folks can’t grasp the concept of kids with independent spirits but we’re wild and free. I really like that about myself and it’s fun to have a girl to look to who represents the essence of my character.

Essence – noun: the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character.

Me: Sometimes, do you wish I’d written your character less like Pippi and more like–

Christine: Laura Ingalls Wilder? Interesting that she’s much more respected than Pippi, but has a similar personality.

Naw, I don’t wish to be anyone other than who you’ve created me to be. I like my red hair and my wacky family and my dog–Slumpy, and my bestie–Pearl. I wouldn’t have myself any other way. I just wouldn’t be me, then would I?

Me: Truly, you wouldn’t. You don’t seem to give me any grief or hassle like some of my other characters. Of course, we’ve not yet reached the teen years.

*playful wink*

Any parting words you’d like to share with our audience before I leave you to play dress-up?

Christine: I hear teens are more of a challenge to write than me. I know you have this one girl who’s quite promiscuous and has been in trouble. Mama says boys won’t marry a girl who gives away the farm. I’ll pass on the definition of ‘promiscuous.’  I think it might make some grown-ups uncomfortable to hear a girl my age define a word like that. I’m guessin’ we all know what it means.

I like the life you’ve created for me. And I like that sometimes you allow me to take the lead and shape some of my adventures. And I super-duper love you for giving me a puppy for my birthday! My parents kept saying “no, Christine” but you up and wrote him as a surprise mystery gift. No way were they gunna say I couldn’t keep a birthday gift!

Me: Well, I hope you prove trustworthy of the responsibility, Christine. We’ve yet to see what adventures are in store for you and Pearl with Slumpy by your sides.

Now, I’m off to another room to speak with another character. Have fun!

 

UNNAMED FEMALE CHARACTER

This young lady is not the girl to whom Christine made reference above. I actually intended to let said girl come and play with the box of costumes and share whatever she’d like, though that may have been unwise, before Christine even mentioned her. However, I’ve another character, who won’t stay quiet and is busting down the door to see the light of day. Unfortunately her sole role was in a piece I’d only begun to draft, and as I did, the character that emerged, and overtook the project, was nothing like the girl I’d imagined and painstakingly attempted to create. This girl was, in fact, the complete opposite. I didn’t get very far before I shelved the project because she was turning it into something that it was never conceived to be. Alas, I never gave her a name; so, to this day she remains the nameless girl from ‘Flying Fat.’  I’ll just refer to her as UFC, short for unnamed female character. Brace yourselves!

Me: Oh, I see you’ve found the box of costumes and decided on the lovely pink princess frock.

UFC: Aye, isn’t that what you want me to be? A nice girl who gives off airs and does as she’s told … dressed in a sparkling pink gown, of course. I mean, that’s why you’ve hid me away … yes? Because I wouldn’t conform to your ideal of who I should be?

Me: I see you’re still bitter. The truth is, the story I wanted to tell wasn’t suited to you. The girl I was writing it for was, admittedly, someone quite different from yourself.

UFC: So you thought you’d just stuff me away in the dark recesses of … where, your memory? Forget all about me; make sure my story never got told?

Me: I agree–your story is an important one. But, it wasn’t the project I intended to pen. When you popped up, out of nowhere, and just took the whole thing over … I didn’t know what to do. So, I shelved it.

UFC: You mean you shelved me!

Me: I suppose so, yes. I mean, you were taking over the project. And, I hadn’t quite encountered a character like you before. Not one that I’d created anyway. It was a tad overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what else to do really.

UFC: How ‘bout telling my damn story and not locking me in the closet like I was some monster–treating me like a perp instead of acknowledging that I was the victim!

Me: It was obvious you were a victim and that you’d been perpetrated upon. I never meant to treat you poorly. I’ve explained why I had to do what I did, why I couldn’t, at that time, tell your story. It wasn’t even close to the tale I set out to tell. And you weren’t the girl I meant to summon.

UFC: Because I wasn’t your perfect little princess. I was noone’s princess and far from perfect after they were done with me.

*UFC twirls around and curtsies for me, holding the corners of pink taffeta in each hand. A stiff smile stretches her lips thin. She flutters her lashes*

UFC: More to your liking, M’lady? Sweet as sugar … and save the spice for the prince who wakes me at midnight with true love’s kiss? He’ll have to take me over his knee to teach me some proper manners but he won’t leave any visible bruises. Men are trained in the ways of abusing their women. Yes?

Me: It doesn’t appear that any of the therapy you insisted on for your back story has helped in any way.

UFC: Therapy? Nay. Since it was a court appointed punishment by the King and Queen. I went, but put no real effort into it. I doubt old baldy would have believed my tale anyhow. Nobody else did.

Me: Perhaps it’s the manner in which you conduct yourself that keeps people from being able to connect with you. I know I certainly felt intimidated by such an egregious personality. No matter how hard I tried, or what scenario I put you in, you just weren’t interested in being personable.

UFC: Personable? Sorry. My mind was busy processing years of abuse at the hands of a trusted adult and how that effectively turned me into an invisible tub of lard. Guess I forgot to schedule lessons on how to be ‘personable.’

Me: Fair enough … but as I’ve already stated – your story, while not new to you, was big news to me. Unexpected news. I was neither in the place to understand it nor appropriately deal with it. It wasn’t because you weren’t a pretty little princess. The other story didn’t showcase one of those either. It was because I couldn’t cut through all your brashness to figure out where you came from and where you were going. Because you wouldn’t avail yourself of the therapist or group therapy or any other tool I tried to contribute. And because, though you never told me the details, I knew your story was so shocking that I wasn’t going to know how to let you tell it outside of the boundaries I was trying to provide for you.

It had nothing to do with the person you think I wanted you to be. Honest.

UFC: It had nothing to do with the person I think you wanted me to be? You didn’t even take the time to give me a proper name!

Me: I knew that was going to come up. Shall I name you now?

UFC: What? So you can look good and proper in front of your friends? Pass! Let them see who’s the real monster here.

*UFC turns her back and flounces across the room to sit in a corner, facing the wall. I slip quietly out, leaving her door ajar just a bit.*

 

DOMINICK

Oh, where do I start with Dominick. He’s been many a girl’s dream. He’s successful and handsome and strong, intelligent, wealthy, stupidly attractive, in control and … sexy. Oh My God–sexy!
It’s like he stepped out of a sort of bad boy mold, though appearances might beg to differ. He’s married–just a year–and already looking for something more stimulating than the wife who lies in bed next to him. He’s used to getting what he wants, the way he wants it. One day … he decided he wanted Rebecca. ← (the female lead in his story) And neither of their lives were ever the same.

D: What’s with the box, T.

Me: Costumes. Pick one and try it on. Anyone you like. Think of it as a game.

D: For whom am I dressing?

Me: Me. And our guests. They’re watching too.

D: Kinky.

Me: Come on, D. Not that kind of game. Just pick something that speaks to you. Maybe something that represents who you are, or who you’d like to be, or maybe someone you think I want you to be.

D: I already know who you want me to be. I’m wearing that outfit.

Me: You’re wearing a double breasted, three piece Armani suit, D.

D: Exactly. You’re favorite. It was my birthday gift from you. Like me, you have exquisite taste.

Me: It was from Rebecca. But thank you.

D: Come now, we both know you’re Rebecca.

Me: We do, do we? How’s that?

D: You know you’re in love with me. Rebecca’s just your … “host”, if you will.

*I sigh*

Me: You certainly are the most confident man I think I’ve ever met. I’ll give you that.

D: You’ll give me whatever I like.

*Dominick walks over to me, backing me away from him until I feel the rough wall–firm behind my back.*

D: Tonight, I think I might just like you … “Rebecca.”

*I gulp*

Me: Old reliable. You’re becoming predictable. Careful, D.

*I  hold the gaze of his lovely ice blue eyes. He brings his 6’4” frame as close to me as possible. There is no air between us. He lowers his head until his mouth finds my ear.*

D: You like the wall. That’s why I use it. Because, it always works!

*I shudder*

Me: We have an audience, don’t forget. This interview isn’t rated for adult content.

D: Not my concern; I didn’t write it. Besides, I know you like to be watched. I know all your dirty little fantasies, T, because I know you. That’s what you like about me.

Me: This has fast taken a turn I’d not anticipated. I only intended to write a little ditty about whatever outfit you chose to model. Let you have some voice to share your thoughts with the world. Are you not interested in that, D?

D: I don’t have an appetite for interviews at the moment. I do, however, have another suit I’d be happy to model for you.

*His hands find the knot on his silk tie and he begins to release it. I watch as he slides it from around his neck and then moves on to unfasten his belt. I want to avert my eyes but … he’s right; this gets me every time.*

Me: I hate that you’re right about me. I hate you! You know that, don’t you?

D: That is, again, no concern of mine, my red headed mistress. Now, are those clothes going to remove themselves or do they need some help?

*TL draws the curtains.*

He’s a bastard y’all. But he’s sexy as hell and I can’t let that go to waste!

*winks and waves goodbye*

 

EPILOGUE: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Sometimes the writer is in control and sometimes the characters are in control. I’ve experienced both. Here, you’ve seen both. (Thanking God for little Christine right about now.) Bringing them out to play in some way, allowing them to air their grievances or have a discussion with you, another character, someone from their story–these can be great tools for fleshing them out. A good character is worth it’s weight in gold. And why not? They are the driving force of any story. So spend some time getting to know them and what to expect from them when you open their Pandora’s box. They just might surprise you.

Flying by the seat of my pants

I only just opened my e-mail to discover I was up for a blog post today and nearly missed it altogether. I’m a bit of an airhead these days I’m afraid.  Ironically, that personality trait is a pet peeve of mine.  And so it is that in this season of my life I should begin to display such symptoms.  Rats!  Double Rats!  Ah well, even airheads deserve their dues, I suppose. Right? Of course right!

So, here I am up at bat, desperately wanting to wow the lot of you, who follow this blog, with my winning personality and skilled writing and … I’ve no clue what to write about. The timer is ticking; I can see the sand falling through the hourglass. It’s my time to shine and all I’ve got with me is a dim flashlight. Bullocks! Double bullocks! (It’s not a bad word if you’re not British, is it? *grin*) Therefore, I have decided to pants this posting–thus, the title and our topic. Quick, grab a cup of coffee and a popcorn ball (because, they’re just so grande and they remind me of being a kid) and lets have a go from inside the mind of an airheaded pantser. That sounds like jolly fun, doesn’t it? (I must confess, this entire thing is being written with a British accent, in my head. Reason being–that I’ve been on a bit of a Celebrity Big Brother binge of late and well, the show’s done in the U.K. now isn’t it? So, for the most part, the majority of people on it have lovely Brit accents–which are now stuck in my head! *another silly grin*)

There’s lots of opinions and ideas and discussion about plotting versus (not plottering verses, plotting as opposed to)–I guess they call it “pantsing”.   I’ve just learned that recently, the word for the way my wacked-out brain handles the stuff of creating when it comes to prose and even poetry.  I quite like the word–Pantsing!  In high school it meant something all together different, didn’t it?  Something you were not just scolded for doing, but punished for, yes?  And now, I can choose to pants all I want and it’s perfectly acceptable.  That is, to the other pantsers.  The plotters–eh, not so much sometimes.  But I’ve found a place where we pantsers and the plotters can all live together peacefully; where we can coexist, and give & take from each other’s creative styles. Isn’t that lovely?  Want to follow me into that world?  … The world of … a Pantsers mind? Let’s go!

First, let me define for you the word: Pantsing. Though, you may have been able to contextually surmise its meaning, I’ll set the record officially straight. Pantsing, is when an author approaches the creation of a piece without plot and outline. No official plot and outline, that is. Nothing on paper, (I know, what’s paper? Who even uses it any longer?) and nothing in a document–no outline of a plot, just vast nothingness. I’m pantsing right now! (Don’t you wish you could see that?! *wink, wink, nudge nudge*)

I can only speak for myself, which believe me is not only enough but something you should all be grateful for. Here is an example of my writing process:

Inspiration: I’m really a words person. Language romances me.  Some are won with a beautiful melody but I prefer the caress of prose. Frequently, my inspiration comes from dialogue. Something I hear in a television show, movie, real life conversation, or perhaps a phrase or sentence I’ve read (on a sign, billboard, in a periodical, or even a book) that grabs my attention. These words begin to formulate ideas that ping from every direction of my red-headed brain. The ideas ruminate until the strongest of them surfaces and begins to take root. (Pardon me, while I conjure the image of a spermatozoa’s journey to penetrate an egg leading to the creation of a baby; that’s pretty much what goes on in here.)

Idea: Let’s use one I’ve already done. Technically, this part is the inspiration but I’m leaving it here under “idea”, cuz I’m a rebel like that! So there I am all snuggled in for the night watching my favorite medical drama when this doctor begins to explain the process for the being on a transplant list, and receiveing an organ from one, to her patient. She explains that transplant patients are clocked in to the second, so when an organ becomes available, it goes to the person on the list clocked in first. In this case, her patient missed receiving the available organ by 17 seconds. Which meant the person ahead of him on the list was clocked in only 17 seconds sooner.

I started thinking about one of my favorite sayings: “It only takes a moment for everything to change.” Then I started rolling about short spans of time and all the moments that can, and do, occur in those little blips. I tossed around different lengths of seconds to see what seemed most plausible for a handful of normal life events to occur within. I came up with 11 seconds. This birthed the idea to write a short story about a young girl and all the significant moments in her life that occurred within an 11 second time-frame.

Writing:  I loathe the outlining process. I need to get in there while the idea is fresh and new and exciting and follow that little creative burst swirling around in my head.  If I have any research to do, I sort of pants it too, by Google-ing things as I go. I can’t get bogged down with research because I’m jonesing to get to the good stuff — which is the writing of the story that’s waiting impatiently to burst forth.

This is where the “pantsing” occurs. After an idea takes hold, and I know it’s one I want to pursue, I sit down and start writing. The story just comes together and the characters emerge kind of on their own. They start doing things and saying things and lord forbid I have an independent idea of my own, they pretty much override my decisions and do what they want.

Like this one time, (hahaha, you thought I was going to say “at band camp”, didn’t you?) I was writing a piece about an overweight teen. She was going to share anecdotes about her life as a “fat kid” and people’s different responses to her as a heavy person. I wanted her to be casual and funny and easy-going and … when she poked her head out, she was bitter, angry, and apparently in group counseling. Her attitude was rough and her feelings were raw and she made everyone in the group sessions uncomfortable. By the way, group therapy was HER design, not mine! I mean, she hated it but she’s the one who wrote the back-story about her parents forcing her to go, you know–the whole parents that don’t “get” the teen angsty sort of thing, … anyway  I would have spared her from it but like I said, I get vetoed quite a lot.

Finishing touches to the first draft: Once the idea is down in story form, that’s my first draft. Then, and only then, do the tiny little rebel plotters and outliners, that hide out in my grey matter, get to come out with their pickaxes and pencils and make some notes. Usually, the notes are solely to remind me of one thing or another as I go along, so I can keep my details straight. Or, sometimes my Indy-500 brain speeds ahead and writes the ending, or maybe a scene for later use. I let the plotters make notes of intentions because as I mentioned in the beginning of this little journey, I tend to be a bit of an airhead these days and I don’t want to forget my genius ideas! *laughs*

That’s it, basically. That’s my pantsing process. If it makes no sense to you, don’t despair, you’re not alone. I know it doesn’t make sense to the Plotters either!

*waves goodbye*

I C Summer Blog Tour – “Navigating the Writing Path: From Start to Finish”

Having a bunch of busy writers keep to a schedule is really difficult. So now and then, holes open up in the space-time continuum into which we must shove something to keep the universe from imploding. Luckily, at the same time we discovered a gap on the horizon, Cayenne Michaels asked if someone wanted to follow her post in the blog tour. Heck, no, I said. Let’s get ALL the authors at Happy Authors Guild to answer, all at the same time!

Cayenne patted me on the head and gave me back my pacifier. Yeah, out of the dozen or so writers here, only four were available to answer. Partly because so many had already done the tour on their personal blogs. Here’s the great job Cayenne did with the tour: http://cayenne1976.wordpress.com/

But four is pretty good, and so without further ado:

The Players.

Polly J. Brown. She likes reading, writing, running, participating in triathlons, and mud runs. She writes contemporary Romance.

Lizzie Hermanson. This crazy lady likes Jane Austen. Need I say more? Oh, alright, she is also writing contemporary Romances.

E.M. Youman. Not an N. Sparks fan, but very creative and funny. And just to be different, she’s writing contemporary Romance!

T.L. Taylor. A great conversationalist, she likes pushing the boundaries of conventional ideas, even her own, but especially yours. She writes flash fiction and short stories, but has one novel in the works.

Here are the Questions:

1. Share how you start your writing project(s). For example, where do you find inspiration? Do you outline? Do you jump right into the writing? Do you do all of your research first?

E.M: Story ideas come anywhere at any time, it’s more about training yourself to be tuned in for the story. Carrying a pen and paper to catch the ideas are crucial. A lot of times, I’ve gotten the inspiration to write when I’m stuck in a hot car.

I start all of my writing projects as free writes. This means I either grab a pen, or my laptop and write whatever comes to mind on the story. It’s often a bunch of jumbled scenes, but’s it’s enough to tell me where I want to go. After I’ve got the dirtiest rough draft possible, I make an outline. This is to organize the jumble of scenes. Then I make a list of assumptions. These are the things I don’t know anything about, but I’ve included them in my story like I know them firsthand. I research those assumptions. First instance my current work in progress features a scene about Tigers. I’ve got them hunting in the day time, but I’ve discovered they mostly hunt at night. That’s a big detail.

Once the research is done, it’s time go into edit mode. There are several stages. First there is the developmental edit. At this point I’m using my research to correct assumptions. Then the scene edit. This is where you cut the fat. Does your main character really need to spend three pages telling the reader about sweater manufacturing? Finally the copy edit. That’s where I work on fixing the grammar. This usually takes me several passes and I don’t always do each step in an orderly fashion.

PJB: I used to jump head first into writing and see where the story took me and many times that path lead to a dead end.  For my current story, I took a different approach. I set up a rough outline indicating what each chapter would be about, breaking out chapters by scene if I was able.  I created character descriptions for each of my main characters and developed a good sense of their motivations. I found that this approach gave me enough guidance to write a draft without having many creative blocks. It was flexible enough to allow me to add or delete scenes as I needed and I was able to jump between scenes if I didn’t feel like writing in chronological order. 

L.H:I’m not a planner. I work out the internal and external Goal, Motivation and Conflict for the hero and heroine and go from there. I usually do the research later when I see what I’ve got on the page.

T.L.T: I just get ideas. Tons of them. They roll around in my head and mash together like a swirl ice cream cone.

I get a lot of my idea’s from dialogue, actually. I’ll be watching a TV show, or a movie or even eavesdropping on a strangers conversation, and I’ll hear something that grabs me and makes me go “Whoa! I need to write a story around this idea.”

For example: I was watching one of my fave shows, a medical drama. And a doctor was explaining to her patient that patients on transplant lists are clocked in to the second. So when an organ becomes available, it goes to the first person on the list. In this case, the patient missed receiving the available organ by 17 seconds. The person ahead of him on the list was clocked in only 17 seconds sooner.

I started thinking about short spans of time and all the life moments that can and do occur in those moments. I tossed around different lengths of seconds to see what seemed most plausible for the normal things of life to occur within. I came up with 11 seconds, and wrote a story about a young girl. It’s flash fiction which is really brief, and follows her from the moment her parents split to the moment she has her first child. Each blurb is an important and life-changing episode in her life that transpires in just the span of 11 seconds.

I loathe the outlining process. I just need to get in there while the idea is fresh and new and exciting and follow the little creative burst and get it on paper. Once I have a first draft and am ready for revisions, I may do some slight outlining in my head or a note or two for future reference but that’s as organized as I get.

I tend to do research as I need it for the scene I’m writing. Otherwise, I’d get bogged down and never get to the good stuff — which is the writing of the story that is waiting impatiently to burst forth.


2. How do you continue your writing project? i.e. How do you find motivation to write on the non-creative days?

E.M.: Sometimes I just stop writing. But I don’t stop working on the story. If I can’t write then I read. If I don’t feel like reading, then I go to my favorite online writers group (Scribophile) and critique others’ work. If I’m in a real funk and dreaming about hitting the delete button, I’ll stop working on the story and write poetry. Weird, yes, but it works.

PJB: I would love to keep to a schedule for continuing my writing project. However, my biggest obstacle is finding enough time to work on it.

I am the type that prefers to work uninterrupted- once thoughts start flowing, I need to put them to paper (or screen) as soon as possible or I’ll lose them. However; in my household, it is wishful thinking. Most of my writing occurs after the children have gone to bed. I take my laptop to the basement and work distraction free for a few hours. 

On days that I truly don’t have time, I make sure that I have done one thing, no matter how small, to improve my writing. Simple things such as jotting down a new story idea, reading an article about writing, doing research- anything counts. 

L.H.: I always have 2 stories on the go so that when I get stuck (which is most of the time!), I can switch. I also read through some of my writing craft notes and hope to find inspiration.
Do you keep to a schedule?

E.M: I try and some days I succeed more than others. I find my most productive times to write and edit are in the morning. I give myself an hour of reading and an hour of writing every morning. When I can, I try to write before I go to bed as well.

T.L.T: I never have a schedule. I don’t do well with most deadlines and I’m not disciplined well enough to self schedule. When I hit a slump, I stop and wait and look for inspiration. Sometimes I’ll read or work on another piece or talk through my stumbling block with someone. But, I don’t push through very much. To me, it hinders my creative process. I want to turn out something good in my first draft. I know it’s going to need improving but if it’s complete crap, the process of polishing it up and turning it into something usable is way to tedious. I’d rather wait until I have a handle on what to write next. So, if I put it aside for 3 months, then I do. I can do that because there’s no publisher breathing down my neck at the moment. If there were, I’d have a different writing process, LOL!

 

How do you find the time to write?

E.M: It feels like a magic trick, but when writing becomes an important part of your life, you find the time. I write when I wake up, sometimes before I go to bed and I take a pen and paper. I often write while I’m in the doctor’s waiting room.

Thinking about a story is still writing. If you haven’t got time to write thinking about that next scene will make that hour you can squeeze in more productive.

T.L.T: I’m blessed. I’m a stay at home wife and mother with a tween that I home educate. She’s self sufficient so I have all the time I need/want to write. I actually spend tons of time with her and stick to writing while she is in dance class 4 days a week for 2 and 3 hrs at a time. I’m also a night owl, so once everyone is tucked into bed at night, I’ll disappear into a fantasy and whoop it up until the wee hours of the morning. It’s saner, safer and cheaper than hanging out at the local bar. Also, my whole immediate family writes, so frequently we can be found spending time together, each working on our own pieces.

 

3. How do you finish your project? i.e. When do you know the project is complete?

T.L.T: Honestly, when the I run out of words. I’ll be writing along and all of a sudden … nothing. I know when I’m stuck or uninspired and I know when I’m done. When the words stop, it’s like turning off a faucet. I sit back, look at the last sentence and nod and say, “That’s all there is folks, there ain’t no more.”  

Do you have a hard time letting go?

T.L.T: Not so far, not really. But I write mostly flash pieces and short stories. I have one mosaic novel I am currently working on. Those characters have been with me for 3 years now. When I finish their story, I know I’m going to go through a grieving process. Their story has always been with my, unfolding, with I enjoy them. One day, it will end, and I already know I’ll be devastated.

 

Do you tend to start a new project before you finish the last one?

E.M: Yes, but not before I have completed the rough draft for the first story. Once that rough draft is done, my other stories clamor for attention.

PJB: It is tempting to start a new project before finishing the last one and I admit I am guilty of getting sidetracked on a regular basis. For example, right now I am down to writing the final chapter of my current story. A full draft is less than a week away from completion and instead of devoting my time to finish it I’ve been working on short stories.

New ideas are fresh, exciting and can break up the monotony of editing, but the downside to starting new projects is that the older ones may never get completed. Flirting with temptation is fine in small doses, but I would not start writing a new novel length piece until the current one is finished. Instead I write scene outlines, dialogue, sentences, character names or anything else that comes to mind in a notebook that I carry in my purse. When the time comes to start a new project, I will compile all of my notes and be ready to go.

L.H.: I find finishing incredibly difficult. I usually have the end written before I get half way through, but that dreaded middle section is always difficult to complete.

T.L.T: Dear Lawdy, so guilty! I have no less than a dozen works in progress and a folder of about 50 ideas that have no work on them yet, just a sentence or two of ideas. I’m never at a loss for something to work on, and still sometimes I’ll fuss and say, “I have no good story themes.” It’s kind of like when your fridge is full of food and you purposely left all the snack stuff in the store. and you go to see what you can munch on while everyone’s in bed and you’re reading a great book, and … nothing but carrots and celery! LOL


4. Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.

E.M: If I had one tip it would be to let your mind wander. Have you ever had a moment where you’re on the phone and you pick up a pen and start doodling? You don’t know what picture you are drawing, but it’s appearing right before your eyes. Writing is a lot like this.

PJB: Never stop learning. Read. Ask questions.

L.H.: The Margie Lawson colour coding system:

  • Buy yourself some highlighters–four different colors, at least.
  • Take a book from your keeper shelf.
  • Highlight Emotion (visceral responses only) in pink, Dialogue in blue, Internalizations (including narrative, exposition, backstory, flashbacks, or narrator’s comments) in yellow, Tension and Conflict in orange, Setting and Description in green, and Nonverbal Communication (including dialogue cues, action, body language, and senses) in red.
  • Ideally, there should be a nice representation of all the colors on every page.

 

T.L.T: I’ll be honest. The challenge is also the tip: LISTEN TO THE FEEDBACK! We all want to think we are creative geniuses from the start of the gate. But, if we can’t hear what other people are saying to us about where our pieces work and where they need some polishing, then we deceive ourselves. Often, I initially blow off all my feedback with a sigh and a shrug. I let it sit for a few days, then go back and review it again. The second time, I see what they are saying, almost without fail. I keep my feedback until I am completely finished with a piece because you never know if it will be the 5th or the 25th time you read a comment that it will spark something in you that turns the whole project around for the better. So please, mull over your feedback, even when you’re sure you and your project has been completely misunderstood. And to that end, give honest and constructive feedback, that is meant to give the author a leg up and help with the polishing of a piece until it shines.

 

This has been fun to pull together, and I really wish I had a blogger to hand this off to. If someone volunteers in the next day or two, I’ll update this page. Have a great week.