Why Do Writers Write Part Two: Why I Write

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It’s been a peculiar four months to say the very least. Between fearing for the health of my loved ones and the fate of my country, living through a historical time has been no cake walk. But, the clouds have some silver linings. Being furloughed has left me not only more time to cook, garden, and work on crafts, but more time to discover what sort of day job I would prefer. The insights gained have led me to begin the process of getting qualified for something I have always loved but never gave much thought to doing professionally. I also had another poem published.

The stress of these last few months interfered a great deal with the editing of my novel. To effectively “check out” of reality and get lost in the pages of my manuscript for an hour or two requires a feeling of safety, something which I lacked a great deal of throughout the spring and early summer. I am getting back in the saddle now, but am thinking my book launch might be delayed until 2021.

Getting back to my story and playing with the beginning of my next one, has proven to be extremely therapeutic, and I can feel a small measure of joy reigniting within me. And, I’ve found myself thinking lately…why do I specifically write? In an earlier post, I explored why writers write from a more universal standpoint, from where exactly does the urge to write stories come? That’s a question for the ages, but for me I believe writing is a pleasant and relaxing retreat, a delicious little fantasy of which I am the creator. I cast the characters, craft the setting, set the mood, and have control over something which humans don’t always have control over: the end. From this exercise, I derive a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It also allows me plenty of ways to play with the English language, another of my favorite pastimes! In my writing, I can explore questions and feelings I don’t always explore in everyday life. Writing makes me feel better when I feel bad, and great when I feel good.

Talk to me! If you’re a writer, why do YOU write?

Write on, Brave 2020 Participant! 😉

PS: Follow me on Instagram! @kamoscatello

Why You Must Write the Stories You Love

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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.

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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.

 

Writing: The Evergreen Discipline

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I’ve been a naughty girl recently. I have fallen off schedule with my blog posts! :p This post was originally supposed to go live on the Solstice, but better late than never.

While my complacency and focus on holiday fun did not earn me coal in my stocking, it certainly did nothing to advance my literary aspirations or grow a potential audience. But I have become wise enough to know that sometimes we owe ourselves forgiveness and rest. All work and no play makes humans dull, after all. We must never lose the joy of life and living in the moment.

The holidays are behind us and the new year is upon us. Here on the East Coast we have nearly three months to move through before we see any evidence of Spring.  I feel a strong connection to the earth and find great wisdom in its workings. Each season brings its own symbolic lessons with it. Winter’s lessons are those of adversity — of being tested by the cold, by scarcity, by difficulties that seem interminable. But, we also have the lessons of perseverance, of rebirth, and hope. Our days will gradually lengthen and, even though we are still very much in the “darkness”, we have the promise of summer that will eventually be realized. We will overcome the challenges this season brings and bask in summer’s abundant warmth again as we always do. In winter, we will rest and mine the possibilities nestled in our dreams. We will contemplate and chart a course to follow in the coming year and hopefully succeed at it. Things may look bleak or even dead on the surface, but life never ceases, energy is always circulating, expanding.

In my living room, the Christmas tree still stands lit and decorated. Trees have always been one of my favorite parts of the season of light. The evergreens have a lot to teach us. They are one of the few plants that retain their color and needles in winter. Winter does not strip these hardy trees naked. If anything, their beauty shines brighter beneath glistening snow. They stand tall and full, defiant in the face of biting coldness.

I feel like the writing journey is a little like an evergreen. Even in the darkest, coldest  times, the urge, the talent is always there if we look deep enough. It is something that cannot easily be destroyed. Challenges can actually strengthen it in some aspects. If an idea is a valid one, it will remain “evergreen” — always there (or at least there for a long time), waiting for us to notice it, standing tall and proud in any season, distinguishing itself from a myriad other ideas that have fallen dormant and lost their allure or perished when critiqued or analyzed. Maybe every writer needs to look upon their path as an evergreen one, maybe we would all do well to cultivate the lessons of the evergreen.

I hope your holidays were wonderful ones and I wish you all the best in 2019! You’re probably wondering if I made any New Year’s resolutions. I have — but magical things should be kept secret lest they lose their potency and I certainly have some magical desires this year.  😉

Why I Have Decided To Self-Publish

With proper time and effort, self-published books can look and be as good as traditionally published books.

Book and daisiesBefore I proceed, I have not written this post to disparage those who work in the traditional publishing fields such as editors and literary agents. I am sure these people work hard at their jobs and are passionate about the written word. But I have chosen a different path.

After a great deal of thought, I decided to self-publish the novel I am currently at work on. This avenue had been suggested to me before by other people in my midst, but I fought the idea tooth and nail, justifying it with my erroneous belief that truly talented (or “real”) writers don’t need to self-publish. I thought no publisher would overlook something that is truly good and readers would sniff contemptuously at anything they discovered to be self-published. I have thankfully broken free of those beliefs. Why? Because they are false.

Many fine books have been rejected numerous times by the big houses only to become best sellers. It was only due to perseverance on the authors’ parts that we have those books to enjoy. They persisted but I wonder how many other skilled writers gave up after one too many discouraging e-mails, the gems they might have penned relegated to a desk drawer forever? I also happen to know other very talented wordsmiths who have received rejection notices even after rewriting and having their manuscripts professionally edited. Contrary to popular belief, books do not always get rejected because they are bad. Sometimes, the publisher has already published a similar work and cannot take on another, or it simply didn’t tickle someone’s fancy enough.
 
So far I have poured three and a half years into my novel. I would hate to see a project I have given my heart and soul to languishing in a slush pile forever. The writing world these days is highly competitive and the odds are pretty heavily stacked against new authors. They are just too risky to take a financial gamble on in a world where producing and marketing books is so expensive.
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Another variable that makes self-publishing an attractive option is not needing an agent. As great as I am sure agents are, they are difficult to acquire and, well, also have to be paid fairly for their work which dips into my author income.
 
My third and honestly, biggest reason for self-publishing is (almost) full creative control. I am free to chose the cover design, book length, publishing house name, and make the final call on what ultimately gets cut and what stays in the story. I can also set my price and earn higher royalties. These are all particulars I understand traditionally published authors have little control over.
 
Am I worried that readers may not buy my book if they know it is self-published? Not a great deal. Some readers do balk at self-published books over concerns that they are low quality. Admittedly, there are self-published books that are low quality, but that isn’t simply because they are self-published or the authors lack talent. From what I have seen as a reader, writers get so excited over sharing their book with the world that they forget to revise and take their time crafting a quality work. I share that excitement, I truly do; but years of working in sales has taught me that in order to make a good name for yourself and build a loyal customer base, you must offer a product that people love, that people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on, a product good enough that they will come back for more. These sorts of products take time and I intend to polish my work to the best of my ability.  
                                                                                    
Will people be able to tell my book is self-published? My guess is no (unless they read this blog. 🙂 ). With proper time and effort, self-published books can look and be as good as traditionally published books and I intend to put in the time and effort. I am sure self-publishing will be a big challenge, but I plan to give it my best. (I might be a Libra, but I have strong Virgo influences in my chart and Virgo is nothing if not exacting. 🙂 ) The internet has opened up a whole new field to writers and the publishing landscape is indeed changing. Follow my blog for updates on my progress!
 
What are your thoughts on self-publishing? I would love to hear them!

What Do Baking And Writing Have In Common?

A good story, like a good cake, is a composition of many ingredients — plot, characters, theme, and word usage to name the most important ones.

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Happy Monday! I generally only blog twice a month, but I was inspired last night after baking a Dutch apple bread. 🙂 ❤

As you are well aware, writing is my oldest passion. One of my other great loves is food and the preparation of food. I just love cooking and baking. (Baking particularly lets me play with one of my favorite things– chocolate!) I post recipes compulsively on Facebook and stare longingly at high quality cookware. I am an addict.

So what on earth does food preparation have in common with writing? For me, quite a bit, I have found.

Timing

As we have to take time into consideration with baking, so do we with writing.  When baking, you need time to gather the ingredients and get your baking area set up (prep time) as well as actual bake time. When writing a novel, you must consider your “prep time” as well as your “bake time”. You must first gather all of your “ingredients” — writing materials, your outline, inspiration, and any research you must do before setting to work. You should certainly figure your prep time into the entire process.

You also must observe the bake time. You cannot remove a cake from the oven too quickly nor can you leave it in too long.  It will either be under-done or burnt. The same is true for a story. You cannot hurry it along because it will seem flat, rushed or full of errors–things the keen eyes of your readers will certainly catch and not appreciate. You also cannot drag the story out by adding too many extraneous details or scenes or allow it to molder inside of you and die.

Ingredients

All ingredients must be gradually added together to form a delectable (or hopefully delectable) creation. Most recipes give specific instructions as to when and how the ingredients are to be combined. First, last, creamed, beaten, stirred, sifted, mixed, folded, etc. A good story, like a good cake, is a composition of many ingredients — plot, characters, theme, and word usage to name the most important ones. They must blend well together and each will unfold and develop in a certain order and in their own good time. Each genre also requires a special touch or effect. Just as there are all sorts of cooks and bakers, there are writers who excel at each genre.

Trial and Error

Not all kitchen experiments are successful. Sometimes you follow an inferior recipe and sometimes you make a mistake or several that destroy the food. Whatever the reason, we all fail sometimes and we can all learn from our failures.  Being a writer is the same as being a baker. Sometimes your writing is delicious and close to perfect. Other times, it falls flat. Sometimes it’s a success but does not get the attention it deserves. That’s okay.  You always have tomorrow to go back to the kitchen or to your writing office and begin anew.

Bon Appetit and have a wonderful week! ❤