Tag Archives: writing process

Instant or Delayed Gratification?

mick-stevens-i-wrote-another-five-hundred-words-can-i-have-another-cookie-new-yorker-cartoon

How are you with delayed gratification? When I was in nursing school, I would study so hard to make good grades, but sometimes, even though the grades were good, family matters and personal issues would result in me having to withdraw and wait a year to pick up the course again as everything was in sequence for the nursing program.

I really wanted to see my family’s standard of living improve, so I stuck with it and endured to the end, but it wasn’t easy. It took me eleven years to get a four year degree.

Nobody says writing, publishing and marketing a book is easy. It takes months, even years, to write and prepare a novel, publish, and even more months and years to effectively market, unless you already have a fan base built up.

Do not be discouraged. If you really want to see your books sell, it will happen.

When things seem to slow down, and progress seems too far away, I sometimes need to step outside of the task at hand do something that gives me a sense if instant gratification. I make jewelry, bead necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Unlike my writing, hours later I have a completed project in my hands. It is that feeling of completion with something tangible to show for it that helps me along.

If you are one of us writers who needs instant gratification, knit, crochet, bead, paint, draw…find something that will give you instant gratification to balance out that feeling that your writing project is an eternity away from completion. Or find some way to reward yourself for smaller accomplishments along the way…a weekend spent camping in exchange for a weekend of writing, a Sunday drive along the coast for a week of writing, a video game for every fifteen hundred words.

Then go back and write!

Don’t give up!

Find your balance.

cropped-baj5bjdcaaa9uqk

Serious Writing Flaws in First Draft

author board 002

I don’t like to tell other people how to write because I am no expert, but I can share my own personal experience with the process.

More than three quarters of the way through this manuscript, I went back and read a few chapters. This is a first rough draft, mind you, but I can see a tremendous amount of work in front of me.

I have a tendency to rush through TELLING you what my characters did or didn’t do. I want to spit the story out in a hurry rather than SHOWING the building of character presence.

I know a writer’s style can break the rules, and I am certain mine will. But there are some places you really can’t skimp and write effectively.

 

For example:

Which tells you most about these characters?

A) Brandi was dressing herself and applying fresh make-up as they spoke. A brunette wig would do for her plans for the day. Not too much make-up. Wearing a skin-tight, short tube skirt and a low slung sweater top, she set aside the heels in favor of her sneakers.

 

B) Brandi tugged on her hair at the mirror as they spoke. The braided black wig that she chose emphasized her African-American features, while her light coffee colored make-up delicately smoothed her Caucasian skin. A tight white tube skirt clung to an ample derrière and a low slung sweater top showed off both her heavy implanted breasts and small waist. She set aside her familiar stilettos in favor of more comfortable gym shoes to walk the streets today.

 

A)    He had thick, dark hair and tough, tanned skin.

 

B)    The Florida sun had not lightened his thick, dark hair, but had toasted and leathered his skin.

 

They don’t even seem like the same people to me. I have this vision in my mind of who these characters are, but conveying that to you properly is a challenge.

 

And emotions:

 

A)    She held her nose. “You stink. You could use a shower. They have that right over here,” she said, pointing toward the pool area.

 

B)    She turned her head, wrinkled her nose, and waved her hand in front of her face. “You smell like a chitlin boil dumped three days at the landfill! There’s soap and shampoo in the shower stalls outside by the pool.”

 

A)    After fourteen flights of stairs he was exhausted and panting. He tried to hide behind a potted plant at the end of the hall.

 

B)    After fourteen flights of stairs he was panting. He could barely walk the six feet to the end of the hall to hide behind a potted plant. His legs ached. His knees shook. Trying to stand up straight to conceal himself behind the foliage made the leaves tremble.

 

See what I mean? I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s fun work. But we’re a long way from finished with this. This could take months.

I know the right way to write. It’s just faster and easier to write the wrong way. But that’s what makes the first draft like sliding down the slide, riding the merry-go-round, swinging high through the tree limbs, wriggling your toes in the sandbox. It’s a literary playground.

I LOVE FIRST DRAFTS!

I was originally editing as I moved along and the writing process was dragging. I was getting frustrated. I feared I was going to give it up before I got the story out there. Lose it from my mind. I gave up the method instead.

Ask me how I feel about writing when it comes time to edit.

Writing Process: The Halfway Point

A short while back a friend and fellow blogger invited me to participate a writing process blog tour. Shamefully, I never got around to answering those few questions, and acquiring two more participants.

You see, my writing process is not very well defined. I have never claimed to be an expert. I am learning every day and honing my craft as I venture on this journey. We all do. It’s a never ending process, learning.

For example, I thought of myself as a panster, a linear writer. When I wrote my last book, I sat down and passionately went from beginning to end without much thought to structure. I wanted to write out the story. I told it as it was in my mind, letting the characters develop as I went along with the storyline unfolding. I didn’t use an outline. Chapters were long, some covering years.

This novel is different. It has patterns, almost like a formula. I had to complete a fairly involved outline to manage the details, so now I am using that to guide the storyline. Basically, I am taking that outline and fleshing out the facts and the descriptions, adding the words. There is a distinctive rhythm to it. Chapters are 1500 to 3000 words (+/- 100 or thereabouts), so even the longest are short. It tends to run 1500, 3000, 1500, 1500, 3000, 1500, 1500, 3000, in alternating POV between the detective and the sidekick for the first half. I have become a plotter, maybe it is the nature of the work.

Now that the detective and his future sidekick are about to be together, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with word counts or POV. Primarily the detective’s POV, with the story continuing to be told in third person narration. Here’s the Scrivener outliner of what I have so far. The binder on the left is filling; the synopsis window on the top right corner holds the fish skeleton of the novel. As you can see, the green lines indicate lots of progress. I am about halfway finished by my best guesstimate at  fifteen chapters and 31,500 words.

halfwayoutliner

 

In the editor mode, I have the fish skeleton to refer to as I move along. I would show you my corkboard, but I have added some character sketches and profiles which would be spoilers, and I don’t want to ruin it for you.

Editorhalfway

 

I started this in November, put it aside in December in frustration, and did not pick it up again until May 4th. I worked on “Surviving Sister” for a few months, but did not make much progress on that story.

I don’t have a name for this WIP, but I’m thinking about something along the lines of “Leisure Lagoon and the Asian Moon” or “Alliance Lagoon”, “Paradise Saigon”, “Hot City Cold Case”, “Cold Case Hot Nights”, “Murdered Before Midnight”, “Cold Blood in Paradise”, “Cold Case Hot Play”, “The Jernigan Connection”,  “Naked Revenge”, “Naked Malice”, “Naked Evidence”…I dunno. I’m still playing with that. I want it fairly short. I am thinking of using the last three as series titles for the first three books.  It would work well for the stories I have in mind.

Any one of those make you want to read the book blurb?

My writing process is obsessive. I don’t know how the rest of you writers out there process the information for your books in your head, but I can tell you what happens to me.

I can sit down and write 3000 words naturally flowing one day, and struggle over one sentence the next. I am averaging about 1700 words a day. But the actual word count is not the struggle. The struggle is in my head. Despite having an outline, which has been extremely valuable (thank you Carrie Rubin), there is always something going on in my head. ALWAYS!

I write for hours, or I write for minutes, but all in-between (and during) there are thoughts about plot, exposition, character, conflict, motive, climax, resolution, setting, humor, seriousness, and so on, bouncing around in my mind. I write a while, I get up and pace, go smoke a cigarette, have a bite to eat, try to take a nap, go to the grocery store, drive across town…all the while thinking, thinking, thinking, of what to write next and how to write it. Then I return to the keyboard, minutes or hours later, and write. Now, consider there are two interconnected plots. Of course there is reading and revising…which goes on constantly…even with a first draft, because I cannot let it go until I feel it’s right.

It’s an obsession.

It never goes away. And when I am not thinking about this book, I am thinking about the next one.

So that’s my writing process. Later, I’ll tell you about my research process, which is also a part of my writing process, and is very deep, even for things that might seem quite shallow.

Progress Update with Peccadilloes and Celtic Thunder

It wasn’t that long ago that I was whining about being in a pretty deep funk. I thank those of you who beared with me through all of that.

flowers summer orchids 001

Today I wrote 1740 words which brings the grand total on this project to 16,146. I did manage to kill two people today and blow up a Church.

flowers summer orchids 003

I also managed to swim 853 yards. That might not put me in the Olympics but, for someone as sedentary as I have been this past winter, it is progress.

flowers summer orchids 002

Here’s the lyrics to a cute little Irish ditty. You might want to sing along.

God forgive my peccadilloes, I pray.

“A Place in the Choir”

by Celtic Thunder

[Chorus]
All God’s creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low and some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got.

[Repeat Chorus]

Well listen to the bass its the one on the bottom,
Where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus,
moans and groans with a big to do,
And the old cow just goes moo.

The dogs and the cats, they take up the middle,
Where the honeybee hums and the cricket fiddles,
The donkey brays and the pony neighs,
And the old gray badger sighs.

[Chorus]

Listen to the top with the little birds singing,
And the melodies and the high notes ringing,
And the hoot-owl cries over everything,
And the blackbird disagrees.

Singing in the night time singing in the day,
And the little duck quacks and he’s on his way,
And the otter hasn’t got much to say,
And the porcupine talks to himself.

[Chorus]

Its a simple song living song everywhere,
By the ox and the fox and the grizzly bear,
The grumpy alligator and the hawk above,
The sly old weasel and the turtledove.

Readers, Writers and Editors: Need Help and Thoughts on Attribution and Dialog Tags

 

SAID_thumb4I have some questions about attribution or dialog tags.

When I wrote the first manuscript of “Red Clay and Roses”, I used very few attribution tags in dialog. Often the action was stated and a comma indicated the quote, followed by the quote, and the end quote.

When the work was edited, the editor told me that I needed more attribution tags throughout the manuscript.

It was a lot of work to go back and add these. The work seemed chopped up to me. There seemed much greater pauses in the action than I had intended. It was also a challenge to come up with unique and original tags for such a long manuscript. The flow was affected, but I left them. The editor said it read better, but I felt I lost some of the writing style.

Now, I am working on a new manuscript. Again, the only time I have been using attribution tags is when I want to indicate a certain tone of voice, or a thought the character is having.

I don’t really want to go back and edit these into the entire manuscript, so I am asking for thoughts on this. Is it a style issue or am I clearly wrong to write so much dialog without attribution tags.

******************************SPOILER ALERT***********************************

Here is an example from my new WIP:

Original

Snatching open the screened door, Claudette found her mother writhing on the living room floor in front of the piano. Blood oozed from a wound on her head. Her limbs twitched and jerked violently and her eyes rolled back. Her jaw was locked. Claudette saw her daddy standing in the kitchen, gun in hand. “I didn’t shoot her! But maybe I should have! She’s having an epileptic fit. I think she hit her head on the piano bench when she fell.”

Claudette looked mildly reassured and knelt beside her mother, “Hand me a cold rag.”

Hershel wet a cloth and brought it to his daughter. “Laura Belle Barber, my own wife, pulled a gun on me, Claudette! She was angry about yesterday’s tips being too little to buy any groceries, she accused me of holding back money from the family to buy liquor, and she pulled a God damned gun on me! I didn’t even know she had a gun!”

Laura Belle relaxed and was snoring deeply in post convulsion slumber. Hershel laid the small pistol on the counter next to the sink, “She pointed the gun at my face, and I pushed her back, grabbing the gun, and that’s when it went off.” He pointed to the hole in the ceiling, “I guess we best check upstairs and make sure nobody got hurt.”

“You do that, Daddy. It’s a small scrape, nothing serious. I’ve got things here. Go on to work afterward. You’re going to be late. You don’t need to be here if someone has called the police. Check with the Marshes upstairs. Tell them you were cleaning the gun when it went off, and then go on to Chuck’s. Here’s your music, get going.” She passed him his briefcase from beside the piano.

Hershel took his briefcase from Claudette as she went back to tending her mother’s wound, “Where’s Carol?”

“I left her outside, just go, Daddy. Like I said, I have things here under control.”

After I added Tags:

Snatching open the screened door, Claudette found her mother writhing on the living room floor in front of the piano. Blood oozed from a wound on her head. Her limbs twitched and jerked violently and her eyes rolled back. Her jaw was locked. Claudette saw her daddy standing in the kitchen, gun in hand.  He immediately began to defend himself, “I didn’t shoot her! But maybe I should have! She’s having an epileptic fit. I think she hit her head on the piano bench when she fell.”

Claudette looked mildly reassured and knelt beside her mother, “Hand me a cold rag,” she demanded.

Hershel wet a cloth and brought it to his daughter. “Laura Belle Barber, my own wife, pulled a gun on me, Claudette!” He explained, “She was angry about yesterday’s tips being too little to buy any groceries, she accused me of holding back money from the family to buy liquor, and she pulled a God damned gun on me! I didn’t even know she had a gun!”

Laura Belle relaxed and was snoring deeply in post convulsion slumber. Hershel laid the small pistol on the counter next to the sink, he continued, “She pointed the gun at my face, and I pushed her back, grabbing the gun, and that’s when it went off.” He pointed to the hole in the ceiling, “I guess we best check upstairs and make sure nobody got hurt.”

“You do that, Daddy. It’s a small scrape, nothing serious. I’ve got things here. Go on to work afterward. You’re going to be late. You don’t need to be here if someone has called the police. Check with the Marshes upstairs. Tell them you were cleaning the gun when it went off, and then go on to Chuck’s. Here’s your music,” she offered, “get going.” She passed him his briefcase from beside the piano.

Hershel took his briefcase from Claudette, as she went back to tending her mother’s wound, and asked, “Where’s Carol?”

“I left her outside, just go, Daddy. Like I said, I have things here under control.”

To me the attribution tags seem to slow down the action and steal the flow from the event. It seems too stifled.

What do you think? Does all speech need to be introduced or qualified?

Writing & Publishing: Would You Have Done Anything differently?

Truth is: I did not sit down and say, “I am going to write a novel.” Or, “I am going to sell books.”  I feel being candid about my personal experiences with these processes of writing and publishing is the best way to help other aspiring authors. I deeply admire and respect all of you who have authored books. Yesterday, I made a post about my progress with getting my paperback version accomplished.  That post prompted more questions which I am attempting to answer in this post.

First: What is “Red Clay and Roses” about?

Red Clay and RosesGeorgia, the elbow and the armpit of the Southern U.S.A post-Civil War. Jim Crow Law is enforced keeping the black and white races separate. A century after the Civil War started, nearly two lifetimes later, battles are still being fought in the 1950s and 60s.  Major changes are introduced in the South.  Follow an African American family’s trials and tribulations and an interracial couple’s struggle to face an unaccepting society in this faction novel, “Red Clay and Roses”, by S.K. Nicholls.  An engaging read that explores the harsh realities of living in the South during this era, one that slices right down the middle of serious women’s issues and racial issues that our constantly evolving society continues to encounter today.

You can also read a more detailed book description on my novel page here  or at Amazon.

I don’t want to belittle the work effort that went into this project, it was enormous, or the work effort of other authors, but I want to tell you, honestly how this went for me:

  1.  As I have mentioned in my interviews, I wrote a factional account of events that occurred in other eras, a fictionalized true story. After a year on the shelf, I shared it with many friends who encouraged me to publish. They were teachers, nurses, college professors, family, friends and colleagues.  A couple of these people are even authors.  Retrospectively, to spend the time to creatively develop the writing into a formulaic novel template did not occur to me.
  2. When I made the decision to publish, I was clueless.  I did not have a blog. I had researched some, but honestly, if I knew then what I know now, I would have been too intimidated to put it out there.  I did it. I put it out there.  It won’t be unpublished simply because it is not my best possible work.  It will remain there as example of my earliest writing.  It is a good story.  It is not bad writing, but I know that it is not the best I can do.  The publishing process for the eversion was simple in comparison to the paperback.  If I had it to do over I would have had them published by the same company at the same time.  I think that would have simplified the paperback process.  I would have also passed the MS through the hands of a couple of professional editors BEFORE publishing, not after. Revision and final editing was done recently, rather than before the publication of the eversion in March 2013.
  3. To date, I have sold 110 copies since March 23rd.  Most of those were sold on Amazon and through smashwords the first three months after publication.  I had thought it was selling better on Amazon than smashwords but my data shows me that smashwords and all of the other retail platforms combined (according to my independent publisher) have sold 58 copies, and Amazon 52.  Technically, Amazon is the single best retailer, because smashwords figures are combined with all of the others (B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc…).  I had no plans to get rich, or even be a best seller, so I am not disappointed. At least 110 people now know the true story that I wanted to tell, and they know of the sacrifices real people made to get us where we are today.  Would I like to sell more? Of course.  I want the story told.
  4. I set out to document a story. I did not set out to make a name for myself as an author.  Seriously, I wanted the story recorded for posterity.  I truly did not intend for it to be entertaining.  People might ask, “If not to be entertaining, then why write?” It was written to encourage others to think about harsh realities of other eras and to reflect on their personal indoctrinations and belief system.  Is it entertaining? The reader would have to decide. I am sure parts of it are. Parts of it will make you think deeply.  It is supposed to. It is an engaging read that explores the harsh realities of living in the South during the 1950-60s, and during the Civil Rights Movement. It will force you to examine your own belief system and come to understand the origin of a hatred we still seek to eradicate. It speaks to women’s reproductive rights and responsibilities.
  5. Specifically, what would I have done differently about the writing process, the technical aspects of putting a novel together?
  • There would have been no separate Introduction or Conclusion chapters. Possibly, there would have been a prologue introducing the ledger and The Good Doctor via Hannah Hamilton and her visits with Ms. Bea.
  • The first two chapters regarding Ms. Bea, and the first two chapters regarding Moses Grier, would not exist in their current form, but parts of their stories would have been incorporated into the remainder of the book.
  • The entire book would have been written in third person omniscient, using fewer dialogs and more show than tell. A craft aspect of writing that I am seriously working on developing.
  • The first chapter would have opened with the action of Althea’s tragedy and the reactions of all involved.

I will publish an authored work again, I am certain, but it may be years down the road.  I will also do things differently with regard to both the writing and publishing processes.

If you are interested in the book, the paperback should be ready within the next two weeks, realistically, and I will post the “gone live” date.  For Read Tuesday, the eversion will be available through Amazon for 99 cents during the week of December 8th-14th.  I would have made it free, but Amazon makes it so difficult, I have learned from experience, to go back up to your original price when you do that.