From Imagination To Publication

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Writing Mode

First, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has shown their enthusiasm and support for me by following my blog (even though my mom probably made you).  Whatever the reason, thank you. 
I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately.  I’m in deep.   This is good, because, although you may be under the impression that all I do is think about writing, you’d be wrong.  I also have a full time job, a wedding to plan, and as much as I hate to admit it, horrible brain-rotting T.V. to watch (I’m addicted).
BUT…my point is that I am in writing mode.  I love writing mode.  This is partly thanks to my SCWC buds, Holly and Chris, who are working on their manuscripts and are letting me read/critique them.  Their books are great, and reading great books always makes me want to write.
While I’m waiting (impatiently) to dive into the editing of The Descendants, I am working on writing the sequel, which I am completely in love with.  For some reason, this book is just pouring out of me.  I think it is because I am equipped with the right tools this go ‘round, and I have several things/people to thank for that:
1.       Southern California Writers Conference!
If you love to write, or want to write, you should go to this conference or another like it.  I learned more about writing there than I have in…well forever; not to mention, the people I met offered insights about my work that I never considered.  The next SCWC conference is in September, and I believe it’s in Newport Beach.  Hope to see you there!

2.       Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
This book changed the way I look at writing.  When I was working on The Descendants, there were times when I gave up.  I set the book down and vowed never to touch it again.  It was too much, too large a task to complete…what was I thinking.  Well, my Uncle John passed along a token of knowledge being a writer himself—Bird by bird.  The title comes from a childhood memory of Anne Lamott’s little brother, overwhelmed with a book report on birds that was due the next day.  Their father, a published writer, told his son to take it bird by bird.  Although Anne imparts many valuable pieces of advice, the one important thing I took from her was to take it one little section at a time.  I am too much of a perfectionist to crank out 30 pages in one sitting, but if I take it a paragraph or even a sentence at a time, before you know it, I have a chapter, and then eventually a novel.  Holly and Chris – I am bringing you both this book for our little writer’s-fest this weekend.  Can’t wait!

3.       Vampire Diaries
Ok.  I know some of you may roll your eyes, but hear me out.  This show changed the way I write.  If you haven’t seen it, you should (because it is awesome), but also because it is a great example of a page turning story.  At every commercial break they leave you hanging, and just when you think you know exactly how it is going to play out, one of the main characters gets stabbed in the back and DIES!  My point is that the writers for this show are genius.  They basically think of the least likely and unexpected thing to happen, and that’s what happens.  Then the fun part is figuring out how to make it all turn out okay in the end.  So, in writing the sequel to The Descendants, with every chapter I think to myself…what is the last thing anyone would expect, and then I write it.

4.       Realizing How I Write
I didn’t really understand this when I was writing The Descendants, but everyone’s writing process is different.  I think this is why I gave up so many times.  I just hadn’t figured out how my mind wanted me to write.  So many times I would sit down at the computer, with the whole day ahead of me, and NOTHING would come out, not one word.  Then other times, I would be in the car, and dialogue would just be playing in my head nonstop, and I would have no way to write it down.  I’d have to wake Brian up from his nap in the passenger side seat and say, “Hey, wake up.  I need you to write for me.”  He isn’t a fan of this method.  What I eventually figured out is that I need to plot in my head before I write.  Throughout the day, I travel in my mind to the place where my Descendants story exists and basically press the play button.  The dialogue starts up again, mostly because there is no pressure (the blank computer screen isn’t staring me in the face saying, “Write or fail.”) and really there isn’t any risk in thinking.  So I work out all the details, the plot, the dialogue and I run through it in my head until it is formed into a scene.  Then, when I finally sit down at the computer, I have fully crafted ideas that have been molded and remolded by the little perfectionist in my head.  So now, when I’m running on the treadmill at our office gym at lunch and my boss asks me, “Aren’t you bored?”  (I have no music, no T.V., no newspaper or book)  I always tell him, “No.  I’m writing.”


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