Invoking The Muse

 

muse image

So, on Thursday night, I invoked the muse. It had been a while, admittedly. The holiday season combined with too much analysis and a good dash of sloth all combined to create a distinctly non-creative stew.

But last night, I got hungry, hungry for real food. I realized I truly may never amount to anything if I do not work harder at my goals. Some of those goals are not completely under my control, but being a published writer is. So, I sat in front of my laptop, opened the document, and edited until around 11PM.

And just like that, the muse returned. She came slowly at first, having been ignored for so long. But deep down, she knows that I am honest. Though my devotion to a schedule might not be steadfast, my longing to be a storyteller and my thirst for the waters of creation are genuine.

Now, she’s gifted me with a little flame to tend. A flame that is growing steadily brighter as I read the story I began writing nearly five years ago, remember the joy it brought me, listen to the playlist I made for it, and find all sorts of ways to improve it. I had stopped editing seriously somewhere around Thanksgiving, but there will be no more long hiatuses.

The muse has been loving and extraordinarily patient. She is standing by to help make this novel the best it can be, as well as tending other stories for me in the strange nether world where ideas reside. I am already hearing the siren’s song of those other tales, as a matter of fact.

But first, I must finish what I started. I must apply myself faithfully and deliver the story I promised, the story that has been such a delight to me, to the world. No more fooling around.

Write on.

 

How Long Should Writing A Book Take?

clock on book

As you all know, I have been working on my novel for over four years now. I started this blog in 2018 during the second draft. I intend to self-publish in the first half of 2020. Since the time to send my baby out into the world is drawing close, it has me thinking (among a million other things) about how long it took, and asking a question: how long should writing a novel take from beginning to end?

This is a question not easily answered. Writing a book is certainly fun but no cake walk. There’s the first draft where you become hopelessly enamored of your story and write on pure passion, the second draft where you see the myriad flaws in your romance, and usually a third or, you know, sixteenth draft in which you reconcile the first two states and make peace with them. Then, there’s the designing and marketing phase, which isn’t writing, but is every bit as serious and important as the actual writing.

How long is all this supposed to take? There’s no real answer to that. Everyone has their opinions, of course, and everyone works at a different pace. If you have to do any significant research for your book, as I have had to, that can also slow you down. So can procrastination, perfectionism, and all the other tiny incidents that make up the game of life.

As I aim for publication in early to mid 2020, that makes five years of work for this project. I personally feel that is too long and for my next novel, I will aim to complete all drafts and publish within three years or less. The story is percolating within me now, and I intend to start outlining soon, to avoid any sort of writer’s block. Taking several years on end also heightens the possibility of burnout, another notorious writer’s enemy we all should strive to avoid.

If you are a writer, nail down exactly how long you wish to spend with your book and try to stick to your deadline. Your audience will thank you. 🙂

 

Write On!

 

 

 

The Third Draft! We’re Almost There!

Girl Jumping

Yes, I took another long hiatus. Summer tends to have this effect on me. But, I am back and I have big news!

I am now working on the third (and hopefully final) draft of my novel. I completed the second draft in July, and am now seventeen chapters into my edit. Between hand edits and the help of amazing editing tool ProWriting Aid, I am well on my way to producing the best work that I can.

Like usual, everything is taking longer than I thought, so this means my book will not hit the market until 2020. If all goes according to plan, I would love to put it out there to coincide with the anniversary of when I began working on the first draft in earnest, which would be mid-March. If not, April would be perfect too.

I will try to update this blog more frequently. You might get some posts about editing! Stay tuned and Happy Autumn!

Why You Must Write the Stories You Love

heart-1137257_1280

I have always believed that a writer must write the sorts of stories they love to read. Writing for market trends — known as “being a hack” — was never something I could nor wanted to do. Since childhood, I created my stories from whatever my imagination seized upon. As an adult, I continue the practice. I don’t think we will ever learn completely why stories are written and where the ideas originate. Some of them are, of course, based upon personal experience, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For those of us who craft tales about characters much different from ourselves, having experiences we have never had, in locales we have never been able to visit, there’s no explanation for writing what we do. I couldn’t explain to you in a million years why I keep circling back to eighteenth century France in my own work. Something beckons me and I have no idea what it is. I only know I have to acknowledge the call.

I grew up believing it was natural for writers to flex their imaginations in whichever direction they were drawn. That with a sharply – honed  sense of empathy combined with proper research, we could place ourselves in the shoes of a completely different person and experience life through their eyes for a while. Whenever I follow this instinct, my writing breathes in a way it never could if I did not. To me, this dedication, this passion, is what bestows life everlasting upon a book. It is, indeed, the very essence of being a writer.

book-2097311_1280

Unfortunately, I am witnessing what appears to be a slow but steady erosion of the writing spirit. There are many voices now saying that it’s not a writer’s place to craft stories too far removed from their own sphere of earthly existence. Some voices scream, others whisper or imply, but make no mistake, all speak the same message: It is inappropriate to stretch your imagination. Giving life to characters outside one’s own race, culture, gender, religion, sexual preference, state of health, or life experiences is over-reach that cannot be tolerated. It reeks of privilege and appropriation.

I have been watching these debates rage for a while now in real-life and online. I’ve withdrawn from several writing forums because of them and dedicated a lot of brain power to the subject, brain power that would have been better applied to writing stories. If these ideas are taken to the extreme that many in the publishing world wish to take them, we will be left with little more than unsatisfying memoirs as author Lionel Shriver noted. Imagine what our bookshelves would look like if writers never left the confines of their own life experiences on the page. We would be deprived of many great works and the shimmering richness that makes up the reading world we all love.

Though I can be moody (how typical) and an epic procrastinator among other things, I consider myself a basically good person. I place a high value on all life forms. I endeavor to be respectful and honest. And for years I have sought to expand my consciousness through spiritual searching. Those who know me very well would (hopefully) describe me as a good friend and a sympathetic ear. Outside of self-defense, I would never intentionally harm other human beings. But I maintain a hardline stance on unabridged freedom of artistic expression for creative as well as legal purposes. Naturally, we should strive for accuracy and excellence in all that we do, but the writer’s imagination should never be shackled by the political rhetoric du jour.

Indeed, it is the writer’s duty to portray and preserve the stories of humanity in all their beauty as well as their ugliness, to seek out the beating heart of human experience and capture it on the page for others to find. We can learn a great deal from the arts. Studies have shown that avid readers have more empathy and higher EQ than non-readers. That says a lot about the importance of honest writing.

I will continue to write what my imagination embraces, write the stories that reveal themselves to me, uncensored. I am too authentic to fake things, too in love with my trade to dumb it down. I don’t foresee my work getting a great deal of flack, but for those writers whose work will  leave them more vulnerable to criticism, I hope they are also willing to follow the siren song of the stories within that seek release.

In closing: Always write honestly. Always write what you are called to write. Refusing to do so will only strangle your voice and flood the bookstores with mediocrity.

Write on.

 

Why Reading is Essential to Writing

library-425730_1280

I have heard that some writers have a phobia of reading while they are writing. They believe that the words of another writer might sneak into their subconscious and influence them too much, dampening their own voice, even resulting in plagiarism.

I can sort of understand where this fear comes from. However, in my experience I have found it to be untrue. If I don’t read, my inspiration dries up. My words become blah and even my desire to keep producing dwindles.

I really believe that reading is to writing like sunlight is to flowers. It’s nourishment. If not for reading other books, would a desire to write your own ever have even been born in you? Probably not. Other stories fuel our passion and even sometimes help us when we are stuck by providing new ideas. One thing leads to another and before you know it, the story you just read is feeding the tiny one that’s already growing somewhere deep within.

columbine-3379045_1280

So if you are a writer who doesn’t read while you are working and you are finding yourself stuck, pick up a book, either a new one or your favorite one. Lose yourself in it for a while, a solid hour or more. You might just find that the struggle is gone or a lot easier to deal with when you look up.

Write on!

What To Do When You Doubt Your Writing

Feeling down about your work? Read this.

angel-2899333_1280

*** Originally written for The Odyssey Online in 2017 .***

Every writer doubts their work at some point or another. Maybe you received feedback from someone that was overly harsh or downright rude. Or your inspiration dried up, leaving you feeling desperate and defeated, or maybe you just can’t see the value in your own words. Whatever the reason, all writers encounter these things at some point in their writing careers.

We all fall prey to negativity sometimes and feel discouraged. But, you cannot allow that to stop you from being a writer.

Say that aloud: I cannot allow doubt to stop me from being a writer.

I am guessing that you did not start writing to please other people. I am guessing that you started writing because you felt an uncontrollable urge to translate your daydreams onto paper, that you had a love affair with words since you were a child, that writing gave you a joy unlike any other. If I am right, then you have no valid reason to quit.

It’s no secret that first drafts generally suck and that any piece of writing needs to be reworked at least once to make it the best it can be. Sometimes you will get rough criticism and other times it will be accurate. (It is possible to have haters of course and those sorts you should just ignore.) This is all part of the game. But you have to believe in what you are doing. You have to write for writing’s sake. That’s an essential part of becoming a successful writer, or really a successful anything in this world.

woman-850330_1280

If you are feeling epic doubt, pinpoint exactly why. If it was due to negative criticism, be honest and ask yourself if the person who gave it to you has a point. Maybe your character really is one-dimensional or the ending does seem contrived. If you can see the flaw, you can fix it and move on. If you determine the reader either misunderstood or just doesn’t like you or your work for some reason, disregard it.

If you feel like your writing is garbage no matter what, you have to ask some different questions. Do you feel this way because you feel inferior across the board in your life? Did you never learn how to receive compliments or believe in yourself? These are things that frequently are not taught to us and can leave us floundering as adults.

Do you perhaps need to stop comparing yourself to authors who won Nobel prizes for literature? Comparing yourself constantly to others is a surefire way to inhibit your growth and make you feel bad about yourself. Don’t even compare yourself to writer friends you have. They are not you.

Bottom line: The road to success is not an easy one, but not an unnavigable one either. Keep at it. Others have done it and you can too.

 

Write on!

 

Images by Pixabay.

Why You Should Join A Writing Group

Five reasons every writer should belong to a critique group.

startup-593341_1280

 

*** Originally written for The Odyssey Online in 2017 . ***

The very title of this post probably has some of you cringing. Join a writing group? Where I actually have to let others read my writing, or worse yet, read my writing out loud to people who might not like it? Shiver. I could never!

Ah, but you can—and you should! I have belonged to a writing critique group for around nine years and have been moderating that group for at least four. During this time, I have learned a great deal from my fellow group members. Without further ado, here are some reasons you should seek out a critique group—and, you know, actually go to the meetings. 😀

1. It Will Hold You Accountable

We all know writers love to procrastinate. Attending a writing group will force you to produce consistently.

2. You Will Learn How to Take Criticism.

feedback-1213042_1280

As a writer, learning to take criticism is a must. We often don’t see the flaws in our own work, so other people need to point them out for us. Helpful group members will be respectful but honest about your work and you will grow accustomed to receiving real feedback.

3. It Will Help Keep You Inspired

Nothing fuels inspiration like reading or listening to other people’s work, which is what you will be doing in a writing group.

4. You Will Make Human Connections

Writing can be a lonely craft. Meeting other writers will get you out of your own head and you may even make new friends, or meet people who work in other fields related to writing, such as editors or publishers.

5. It Will Sharpen Your Editing Skills

Critiquing other people’s writing will help hone your own editing skills, which will make you a better writer. Win/win situation.

So where can you find a writing group? Your local library or college are usually good places to start. So get up and get going! You owe it to yourself!

 

Write On!

Cover Image Credit: Pixbay
%d bloggers like this: