Why Do Writers Write Part Two: Why I Write

dream girl

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

Writers, Don’t Be So Serious!

Why I stopped trying to prove I was a “serious” writer – and why you should too!

Laughing Girl pic

I have visited this theme before in a previous post, but as my growth arc continues (hehe, you thought growth was only for fictional characters! :D) my understanding has deepened and I needed to touch on this again.

I used to have an obsession with being taken seriously as a writer. For years, I did not want to admit that I was essentially writing a romance. My current WIP is not quite formulaic, but I think it will still fit in the category. When asked what I was writing, I would reply with “fiction” or “historical fiction“. I would have rather choked than admit I was writing about, you know, two people having a relationship centuries ago and navigating around obstacles  in the way of that relationship. It was childish behavior, fueled by fear of condemnation from the “literati” who don’t consider genre “real” literature, and the knowledge that our current society often looks unfavorably upon anything that is traditionally feminine — and what is more feminine than love stories?

But, this obsession was causing me to take an overly-serious attitude towards my work. Yes, writers need discipline. Sometimes we need to force ourselves to write or finish projects after the honeymoon phase ends. And we need to devote time and energy into making a truly good, marketable product. However, an obsession with whether the majority of the reading public is going to take you seriously will only hamper your growth as a writer, not promote it. It might even stop you from telling the sorts of stories you love.

sunflowers-3640938_1280

So how have I combated this? I simply embraced what is. I like to write romances. This does not make me a silly person. This does not make my writing bad. I just enjoy writing about people and their relationships. And really, what is so wrong about that? My stories probably won’t become some monument to American literature. That’s fine. If I provide other humans with some much needed relaxation and entertainment, that’s great. If I get lots of four and five star reviews and generate some extra income, that’s awesome. All I really want is to put my creations out there. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone — and neither does any other writer.

If you’re a writer who is struggling with validation and serious-to-the-point-of-being-delirious syndrome, take my advice: lighten up. Enjoy what you write. If you do that, your best work will pour out and you’ll find it much easier to polish and sell. Some people will love your writing, some people will hate it. That’s fine. That’s life. Stop seeking validation from without. That only comes from within. Whatever sort of write you are, love that writer with all your heart!

Write on!

Writing In The Time Of Corona

woman in bed

 

Yes, the title is inspired by the title of one of my favorite books – Love in the Time of Cholera.

I don’t think the current situation with Coronavirus or COVID-19 needs any explanation or introduction. Its nasty reputation precedes it!

Now for the serious part…

For the last eight days, I have found myself trapped on treadmills of worry due to Corona’s widespread and assorted effects.  Numbers and deaths are rising, but our data is unreliable and we don’t really know what is right at this point, if we have already hit the peak or not. Most of our freedoms have been curbed for the foreseeable future, and I have realized I am more of an extrovert than I believed. The pain of separation from friends is not to be taken lightly.  People are frightened, and the media is whipping us all further into a mass frenzy of terror with their constant coverage. Ignorant remarks online likening Corona to the Black Death are not helping.

One of my fears came true today – a lay-off, hopefully only temporary, but unsettling nevertheless. I haven’t been unemployed in the past twelve years and though I have no intentions of working in the travel industry for the rest of my non-retired life, I would rather work there than have no job at all.

Work on my manuscript ground to a halt about ten days ago. This massive interruption may put a dent in my plans to publish this year. Though I knew I did not have the means to hire an editor, I did intend to have my novel typeset, have the covers designed by a professional, and set up a website. Depending on how long this lay-off lasts, publication may not take shape at all this year.

So where do I go from here? I don’t remember the last time I felt this adrift. I have a great deal of fear now, and I sense the great fear in the collective consciousness too. I fear for my family and friends who are older or somehow immuno-compromised. I don’t want to see mass amounts of people die. But I also fear the aftermath of this nightmare. When the smoke clears and COVID-19 has been contained, where will our society be and how will it recover? Will these lockdowns ultimately do more harm than good? How many will continue to suffer from poverty and mental anguish? How many businesses closed forever, how many dreams shattered? Are we heading into a second Great Depression, a sustained period of social and political unrest? How many divorces, suicides, spirals and relapses into alcoholism and drug abuse will we see in the months to come as a result of isolation, unemployment, and desperation?

galaxy-4954417_1280

But, whatever is going on, creativity never ceases. The muses do not really sleep. They’re always awake, kindling fires deep in the subconscious, whispering in our ears. My creativity has been strangled this last week by so much worry. Perhaps now that one of my biggest fears is manifested and “purged” if you will, I can focus again.

I must focus. There’s really no choice, I suppose.

I have always had a strong spirituality, and I will turn to this in the trying weeks to come. My writing has also always been a safe haven for me in times of sadness, and it will be so very much now. My critique group will continue online for however long it must, which should give me some inspiration  to continue. Friends have checked in on me through text or phone calls and I live with family, so my lot could be much worse. Facebook video chat is pretty cool, and so are the streams of operas and plays, and virtual museum tours.

I suppose I should use this “down time” to put my nose to the grind stone and edit like a hurricane. I certainly can’t say I’m just too busy this week or burnt-out from work. I just need to pull my attention from the insanity going on outside my door and look inward, to the mysterious place of dreams and inspiration.

Times of adversity don’t last forever…but the writerly spirit does. I will continue to remind myself that this is but a temporary limbo, that every day of worry is one we will never have to repeat, one day closer to a cure or a drop off in cases and deaths, one day closer to the end of lockup –er, lockdown.

One last insight. Like many Americans, I am accustomed to a rather cushy life. Aside from the usual nonsense and glitches of daily existence, my experiences of discomfort have been mostly fleeting and highly personal. I have never lived through a global crisis of this sort and magnitude. My book is set during a tumultuous time that took place over a span of several years. Hopefully, an economic crash does not unravel the very social order of the United States and tip us into something even more frightening and destructive — like a revolution. I now find myself with a whole new admiration for other humans who lived through times of darkness and uncertainty.  The day to day stress of such things is extraordinary and coping with it and moving forward takes strength. Humanity’s survival through so many ghastly happenings is a testament to the amazing durability of the human spirit.

One thing’s for sure…I will never again take dining out or sitting with a journal and some coffee at Panera for granted ever again.

 

Be well, and 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

How Poetry Made Me A Better Writer

Poetry is the gift that keeps on giving.

bookwhiteflower

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

Poetry is a curious beast, to say the least. (Hey look, it rhymes! LOL.) It can be beautiful and intriguing, but devilishly hard to understand, and even harder to write, or at least write well. I have loved poetry since I was a child, and filled up several notebooks over the years with my own poems, or, more accurately, my “efforts at poetry.” Though I have never considered poetry my “main writing gig,” I do admire the genre and feel I am beginning to get a grasp on writing it. A kinda, sorta, infant-like grasp.
***UPDATE: I have since had several poems published so I am officially out of pre-school. 😀 ***

But what I really want to share here, is the great influence poetry had and still has upon my fiction. Some of you might be wondering how that could be so. Poetry, especially modern poetry, is short, and often highly personal and not as clear-cut as straight prose or fiction writing. But poetry has taught me two valuable lessons that have helped me tell better stories:

1. Notice the small details

Poems focus to a great extent on small details and subtle nuances. The way light glimmers off of broken glass. The smell of autumn leaves. The way a person removes their gloves or holds their coffee cup. Yes, this is found in fiction too and plenty of books on how to write fiction, but I have to say that poetry has been my greatest teacher when it comes to observing tiny details and learning how to bring those details to life on the page, which is the essence of writing. That brings me to my second point.

2. Unique Descriptions

Poems are nothing if not unique. Reading them or listening to others read them, you will encounter similes and metaphors that you have never heard before, that capture the image or feeling of the subject so well that you remember them for days or years to come. Reading poetry or attending a poetry reading are kindling for my writing fire, and sometimes the whole ton of logs. I really credit my love of description to all of the poetry, both classical and modern, that I have enjoyed over the years.

My advice to all writers: explore some poetry. Even if you don’t particularly like it, you may learn some valuable lessons and others too. You might also find that you love it, and the things we love often become our creative inspiration.

 

Write on!

Cover Image Credit: pixabay
%d bloggers like this: