Tuesday, February 21, 2012

But What Does it Look Like?

My friend's short story was so good I literally went, "What?" at the end. I wanted to know more. So when I suggested (read: begged) she keep going, she said she was really busy right now but she was interested in doing more with it this summer when her schedule opened up a bit. She went on to say:

     “…The time lapse [between now and this summer] will help me flesh out exactly what I want to say as well.  I may do outlines and notes in between now and then to keep my hand in it though. Any advice?”

Yes. First of all, thank you for saying you'll keep going. I think you've got something.

Second. Honestly, time is probably one of the best things you can do for a story. If you have time to allow for time, good. 

What is this? Find out here

Simmer the story on low. Constantly let the heat slowly pull out the delicious flavors. Yum. But of course, with that comes the obvious – the heat must be on. We can’t just put the pot on a cold burner at the back of the stove and expect it to cook. We've got to be thinking about the story, the characters and their histories, their relationships, and writing about it…

I've done my research on a lot of writers and all of them, all of them, say writing daily is the key. 

For some reason I used to discredit this, most likely because I was reading it and hearing it so much. Now I’ll affirm it. In fact, I can’t stress it enough. Here's the difference, though -- everyone says to write, yes, no one ever says what that looks like. Do I have to be sitting down at a computer? Does it have to make sense to anyone else but me?

Something you want to get published will need to be legible, so most likely on a computer/typewriter, and if you want an audience of any kind, it should probably make sense to them on some level.

But that's not what I'm discussing today. I'm not talking about the final-draft. I'm just talking about the daily-draft, the bit we do for habit, our due to the muse. Whatever you want to call it.

That can look like many things:

I had a professor once who suggested I always keep a post-it pad with me, and that worked for awhile, in conjunction with one of those little black books? Easy to slip in a back pocket or bag...but I found that if I left it somewhere, for some reason -- Ugh! -- it would completely throw off my gig.

So I suggest instead that you always keep a sharpie with you, because then you can write on anything that’s handy – the infamous napkin, the side of a box, winding around a multivitamin bottle, your hand/arm/closest body appendage…

Of course traditional journaling is good. Traditional sit down and write in a book I found in the "Journal" section of my local bookstore type stuff. This works. I still do this, though in my current version I'm more likely to write in a steno I found in the "Office Supply" section of my local dollar store.

For awhile writing in cookbooks was my thing. I loved writing sloppy tid-wits in the section labeled "Fish," and sweet, gooey gossipy things in the "Desserts." 

I'm a visual person, so I like finding images to go along with my stuff, sometimes. Or better yet, finding interesting images to flesh-out with words. Yes, I'm well aware this is an old stand-by of creative writing classes. But it's an old stand-by because it works.

If all else fails, and I absolutely can't find words, I draw a picture and try to caption it. Remember, habit is the key. It doesn't have to look pretty, you just need to feel good about dedicating that time (be it 10 minutes or 10 hours) to yourself and your craft.

Also, a couple of quick bullets:

  • Practice writing short, powerful excerpts. My “300 Words or Less”  days are done for a reason – when it feels like you’re just too busy, at least try for 300 words or less.
  • Outlines are helpful, but be flexible. I’ve written and rewritten the outline for the book I'm working on four times now. Each version has the same general idea as the one before, and I already know how the book ends, but the outline is a tool that becomes more clear as I continue to plow through. If an outline just complicates things for you, drop it and keep writing.
  • Know and use your primary learning style(s) to help you write. Like I said before, I'm visual, so to make my story come to life and seem more real, I visualize the scene, the dress, the action that I’m trying to portray, and then I try to fit words around them. I am in love with "Google Images." If you’re a tactile person, find objects that will help you make it more real. If you’re an audio person, find music and sounds that help you create the scene, the dress, the action...kind-of like a movie soundtrack or something.

Total pages logged as of today: 152 (so I'm behind on my goal, but pushing, pushing. If I do an extra page here, another there, I'll make it. Still 8 days...)

Moment of Magic today:
For Mardi Gras, I suggest you find some way to make your way into your very own Fairy Paradise, whatever that may look like to you. Here's one version...


  1. I love it! Great advice. I am not really a journaler (even though I have like 5), but I will take your advice and do what works for me. I am interested in Ben's future journey so I won't let him down. Also, since I am mentioned on this blog, by the transitive properties of the internet I am now a celebrity. :)

  2. Love that you wrote in cookbooks! I've never been good at journaling, though have kept sketchbooks. I am visual like you. And as a writer, yes writing every day is essential. But hard to pull off!

  3. DR -- I'm glad there was a smiley-face at the end of your celebrity sentence. Phew.

    The story will just fall into place (for the most part) in the summer if you're working daily now on developing your writing voice and style. I promise.

    Sandra -- thanks for following! I saw you joined up a little bit ago. Welcome, welcome. Thanks for the comment too. I agree, everyday is hard to pull off. But worth it. I can see the subtle improvements in my own writing since November...okay, January...when I really committed myself to the daily fight to write.

    Sketchbooks are great. I love the big open whiteness... plenty of space to doodle and write both. No lines directing where you have to make your mark. You can write in spirals if you want? What the..? :)

  4. Writing every day is a necessary habit that I am only now creating for myself. Like you, I have read it many times, but didn't take it seriously. I thought talent was enough, but working daily on one's craft takes whatever talent you have to a whole new level.

    But there are so many ways to fit this daily practice into a busy life... thanks for showing loads of different ones I'd never have considered. Love the cookbook idea, there is definitely something about all the yummy photos that gets creative (and salivary) juices going. How fun...!

    1. Leslie -- thanks for coming to read, and for your input. What are some ways you use to fit in the daily fight to write?

    2. Leslie--I like your comment because as I was reading it the thought came to mind that no one expects an Olympian or a concert pianoist to only practice their craft every once in a while. We all know that it take dilligent daily practice. So I'm wondering why writters read the "daily writing" advice and don't heed to it. Hmm...that's interesting to me.

    3. Excellent point, Heth. So true.

  5. I love this post for 2 reasons. 1st because I love that you are giving advice to others who are wanting to write and who are writing. It is amazing at what you have learned about yourself and writing in just the short while that you have been writing your book. I am so proud of you. As you have heard me say many times "what am I meant to learn from this?" You have learned so much already! It excites me to think of what other lessons are instore for you. :)
    2nd reason I love this post is that I hadn't read it before today but amazingly enough I had 3 Moleskine notebooks (the ones you can stick in your pocket) to give to you when you came up for a visit. Positive thinking...ask and you shall recieve. :)

    1. Ahhh! Part of me is all, "No more lessons, no more lessons..." cause usually learning is hard and involves some kind of falling down you have to pick yourself up from.

      But the other part of me is okay with it because I'd rather be learning than not.

      And thanks for the notebooks for two reasons: One, now I have new little notebooks that I haven't been able to find ever since Borders went out of business in this state. Two, no I know what they're called and I can try hunting them down elsewhere :) I love that you had them, still, after all these years. Awesome.

  6. Thanks for linking back to this, see not even published and able to dispense great advice at just the right moment!

    And look how far you have come, I feel I should drop to my knees and perform some kind of elababorate bow. I am in awe and all in a baby in the house!


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