Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – Part IV

Native Grass at Zion Canyon - bruce witzel photo

93,000 words and I’ve got all the characters on the playing board. That might be a tad misleading. 93,000 is my total word count but many of those words are beyond where I finally introduced my last three characters. As explained in previous posts, I write forward and backward, all within one main document. If I’m deep into the storyline of one character, I might skip to any point in the book where a scene requires me to jump into that character’s head again. The longer I stay with a character the more he or she reveals to me.

I thought it would be fun to share my writing schedule. Morning are the most productive for new writing. Right before bed the night before, I will have reviewed the section that I plan to work on the next day. My subconscious dream self is in on the process and I often do wake up with ideas. I get up and go for it. I’m usually bleary-eyed and done in by 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. I need to get outside to walk, ride my stationary bike and think. I’ll try not to come back to the work until after supper when I sit in my easy chair in the living room and go over what I’ve written.

A writing session involves having several documents open on my desktop. The first draft document – obviously – and backed up every single night without fail. I open my character grid for the current book and another that covers all the books. You wouldn’t believe how often I forget someone’s last name. The other day, looking through the overall character grid, I discovered that Fiona’s mother’s name is Kate. She gets mentioned occasionally. I had decided to name a new character at Micah Camp, Kate. That would be an unfair confusion. So, the Micah Camp Kate became Paula with a quick change using the replace all function. I always have a lunar calendar for the year my story takes place open and waiting. Again, you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to put two full moons in one month. The reader should never have to worry about the passage of time or the phases of the moon. That’s my job. I’ll also keep the character sketch for a new character open if I’m writing a scene where this person makes an appearance.

I often have CBC podcasts playing in the background as I work. I’m not really listening but I like the sound of familiar voices and on some level, knowledge is integrated. But there are times when I must switch over to iTunes and blast some music. My favourite pick right now is Justin Timberlake’s song from the Trolls movie – Can’t Stop the Feeling. If you want to shake up the writing routine and give your back a break, play this song, get out of your chair and dance around your writing room for a few minutes. Great blood flow to the brain.

Trolls movie - Google image

What is your writing routine like? When do you do your best work? Does it have to be quiet or do you like some noise in the background? Come down into the trenches with me and let’ talk.

Write your way into writing: Steinbeck did it – so can you!

In honour of John Steinbeck’s birthday, I’m reblogging a post I did way back in June of 2012 – my first month of blogging. How times have changed but Steinbeck’s words on warming up to writing are as relevant to me today as they were back in 2012.

disappearinginplainsight

We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome.

Taken at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California Think about what Steinbeck’s mother thought of him when you’re worried what your own mother thinks about your hopes and dreams

One of our ancient methods is to tell a story

Begging the listener to say and to feel

“Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least the way I feel it.

You’re not as alone as you thought.”

(John Steinbeck)

Today I want to tell a story about how to write your way into the work of writing. In 2010 my husband and I took a three week driving trip around Northern California. One of the highlights of the trip was the city of Salinas and a visit to the National Steinbeck Center. I’ve always been a huge fan of Steinbeck’s writing so I really enjoyed gaining insight into the person of John Steinbeck…

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Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – Part III

Lake view from our deck

Current writing weather alert – excruciatingly raw with glimpses of brilliance. I’m writing a first draft and that explains the word raw. Brilliance may come off sounding egotistical, but we all have parts of our writing that we fall in love with. Why else would editing be so hard? It’s not as if we’re paid by the word like Alexander Dumas writing The Count of Monte Cristo. We don’t want to cut because we’re smitten by our own creation.

I hit 86,000 words today and got past my first climax point. Who would imagine a simple birthday party would be so hard to write? It’s always a challenge when I bring a bunch of the characters together in one scene for a party or a book club or a baseball game. I’m dealing with multiple interactions between and across characters. A scene like that is anything but simple.

I usually stay in one character’s point-of-view for an entire chapter section. But rules are made to be broken. When I’m writing a scene with multiple characters, it can be limiting to have access to only one character’s thoughts – especially if I want to wring everything I can out of the scene. I think the trick is to make the transitions as smooth as possible and have characters who are unique in the way they think so each voice is clear for the reader.

In my writing life, it’s taken me a while to turn a deaf ear to the following types of criticism – too many characters; too many points-of-view; too many storylines. The stories I want to write are told from multiple perspectives and I’m more and more comfortable with that.

This type of storytelling isn’t for every reader. Nothing any writer chooses would be. We can’t write to please everyone. So, I’m choosing to write for the reader who is willing to make an investment, to get in as deep with these stories and characters as I do. It’s a tall order but what the heck … go big or go home.

Do you read or write stories with multiple character perspectives? Do you love or hate this writing style?

Sunrise silouette from our deck