Why Do I Write?

It seems like such a pointless waste of energy, doesn’t it? Countless hours spent reading, researching, and procrastinating in order to plot out a fictional word that no one cares about. Except of course, you.

The reason I write is simple. Michael Jackson once said he was all filled up with music. I understand that statement, as does most every writer. I’m all filled up with stories. There are invisible people screaming at me in my head to type out their stories. They range from fairies to freedom fighters and all are vying for my attention.

In order to have some peace, I have to write. If I don’t, the voices get louder and more muddled as time goes on. They don’t just invade my waking thoughts though. They also like to attack me in my dreams. I can’t tell you how many stories I have written in my sleep. Thankfully I have been able to write some of them down upon waking, but like most, I forget almost all of my dreams as soon as my eyes open. Sad, really.

I don’t write because I think I will be rich and famous. The rich part would be nice, but fame? Bleh. I’m a very private person, so I cannot begin to imagine what Anne Rice or Stephenie Meyer have gone through. I don’t write because I want to show off my elite skills. I don’t have any.

In fact, when I began writing my debut novel, Ashes to Ashes, I had to learn all over again. The last writing class I attended was in High School – almost thirty years ago. Boy have times changed! I mean when I was in school adverbs were great! Dialogue tags were a must! Telling a story was perfect. Nowadays it’s – adverbs are bad, purple prose is bad, dialogue tags are bad, show don’t tell and the list goes on and on. Made my head hurt. Still does!

I don’t write for anyone but me. Sure, I’d love to have an audience one day, but for now, I write the books that are in my head. I entertain myself with my own words and characters.

Why do you write? Tell me in comments!

KM

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Just Write

Have you dreamed of writing a novel for longer than you can remember? Why haven’t you written it? What is holding you back? Perhaps it is fear of the unknown. Maybe it is the belief that you don’t have the time. Or it could be that you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. We’ll have a quick talk about each of those factors and more below.

Fear of the Unknown

I have found through connections on the Internet that there are people who procrastinate writing the novel of their dreams simply because they are scared. They don’t know what to expect, so therefore they don’t write. To this I say with a roll of my eyes, get over it. Fear of the unknown is easy to face. Fear of a spider or falling off of a cliff is not so easy. Open your writing software and start writing. No one is going to know you are writing except you. Pound away at your keyboard and pretty soon you will have paragraphs. In no time at all, you will have chapters. Before you know it, you will have a book.

No Time – Maybe One Day

Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of putting things off until “one day.” Today might be your last and every moment is precious. What a tragedy it would be for the world if you denied us the book inside of you because you kept putting off writing it. There is only one person in the entire world capable of writing your story and that is … you.

In today’s busy world it is difficult to find the time to write. However, I challenge you to simply get up a half an hour to one hour earlier each day and spend those precious moments writing. You may only get 250 words out each day, but that’s 250 words you didn’t have before. Try to think of it this way. If the average novel length is 60,000 words, it will take you 240 days to write a novel. That’s eight months. This doesn’t take into account the days you might have a few hours to write and pump out 3,000 words.

If you have the time to post up selfies, chat on Facebook, Tweet 100 times a day, you have time to write. No more excuses.

Being Overwhelmed

This is the one excuse I do understand. In the beginning I too was overwhelmed and didn’t know quite where to start. In fact I think it’s the main question I see from new writers most. “Where do I start?”

If this is your question, try writing an outline. You may never use it, but it helps kick start your story. If all you have is a vague middle, write it out in a paragraph. Now add. Keep adding until you have a brief paragraph for each chapter. Remember, a book needs a start, middle and an ending. Don’t worry if you don’t have an ending mapped out yet. It’ll come to you.

Read your outline and let your characters talk to you. Is what you see, what they want? Oftentimes our characters have a different idea of how they want to tell their story. This is normal. Keep at your outline until you feel you can start writing.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Imagine your character(s). What are they doing? Write it down and let it flow. You will find to your surprise that when you allow the scenes to come to life in your mind, they play like movie scenes. In no time at all you’ll have the scene captured and be able to move on to the next scene.

One final piece of advice, write without distractions. Stay off of Social Media during your daily write times. Avoid household distractions such as TVs, radios, children, etc. And lastly, just write! There’s no excuse not to.

Let me know what you think in comments!

KM

Chessy the Cat

I was so excited after I’d finished my NanoWriMo challenge, I spent a couple of weeks editing and stupidly thought I was ready for publishing. Oh the arrogance of new writers.

I begged and pleaded, tried to bribe folks to read me! Then Chessy the Cat walked into my life. She happened to post in a Facebook group that she had down time and was looking for books to beta read or review. Ohhhhh. Here was my chance!

Now remember, I stupidly thought my book was ready for this. I had edited. I had edited again. No beta readers. I was ready! Boy, was I so very wrong.

Chessy was and is a remarkable person. She dedicates her time to reviewing books for authors. She doesn’t like zombies, vampires, supernatural, gory stuff, etc. But she’ll read mostly anything else. Here’s the thing. You’d better have your story tight and you’d better have your ducks in a row. Why? Because she’s honest. The one solitary thing all authors need – an honest reviewer.

Now, she was easy on me. Much easier than I deserved. She read my book in a few days and sent emails with questions, comments, suggestions. Here’s the thing. Once I had applied all her suggestions, I arrogantly asked her what she would give me star wise if my book were published. You ready for this? Her response was, “If I were to review it as it was given to me, 3 out of 5 stars”. My heart fell. But … let me tell you, she was absolutely right.

I read the book from start to finish and fixed things I found along the way. Keep in mind, I’m a fuddy duddy. In my era we double spaced after periods! Removing those was tricky. Breaking the habit was even harder. I edited all the way through. Then, I did it again. And then I ran it through two software programs. And now it sits with beta readers and a proof reader. Because even though I did all that, I still missed stuff. Guess what? So will you. You aren’t godlike. You are human, so your brain will fill in missing words without you even realizing it. Trust me.

Chessy loved my story, but she pushed me to do and be better. She’ll do the same for you. So, check her out at chessythecat.wordpress.com. Message her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/chessythecatsbookshelf and when she has time -and- if she wants to read your book, she’ll read it and review it.

Love you Chessy.

KM

The Process Pt. 2

As I said in the previous post, I had almost 80,000 words of pure bunk. More errors and typos were in the manuscript than actual sentences. What was worse was that I discovered that people didn’t like cliffhangers, so … I had to write more!

Ugh!

So off I went and before I knew it my 79k words turned into about 110k words. I was ready to publish right? I mean that’s the point isn’t it? Write, publish.

Boy was I wrong and you are too if you think that.

The first draft is for you and for you alone. Don’t make my mistake and show it to anyone, except maybe your spouse or family. Why? Because now come the dreaded rewrites.

Rewrites

Give your manuscript a few days rest so you have a clear mind and then pull it back out. Your task? Rewrite every chapter until “the end.” What? My first writing wasn’t brilliant enough? No. Really, it wasn’t. No one’s is. Trust me on this. Pull it out and start reading. As you read, you will see problems, inconsistencies, errors. You will see better ways to word your sentences, so do it. Don’t stop until you hit “the end.” But … but… what about editing? Yeah, that comes next, grasshopper and you will hate life. Get ready for it.

Editing

From what I have seen most authors would rather have all of their teeth pulled without any anesthetic than edit. Why? I think it mostly revolves around ego, but for some it is an overwhelming process that is terrifying. What do I mean it revolves around ego? Well grasshopper, many or most authors are so in love with their words that they don’t want to do the necessary culling. They just can’t imagine deleting line after line of text. It’s essential to the story! Or … is it?

Editing is simply cutting the fat from your bones. You want to remove everything that is not necessary. Why make a sentence length 30 words, when it can easily be 10? Tighten it up! Cut away those extra words with relish. While you are doing it, you will find you can reword sentences to be active instead of passive. You can dump a ton of dialogue tags. I mean really… if it’s two characters talking over the course of one page, do you really need he said, she said? Nope. Dump it. Streamline it. Polish it like an antique silver set.

Now do it again. What?!?! Yes you heard me. Go through and do it again. Your eyes will be crossing but do it again. Look for extra words, misplaced words, typos, missing punctuation, spelling errors, grammar errors. Look for every single little thing.

Now, pass it off to a beta reader or three. While they read, play minecraft or grow a garden. Trust me, you might turn into a skeleton while you wait. That is, unless you have https://chessythecat.wordpress.com reading you. She will get back to you quickly, but it might not be what you want to hear.

Let’s face it. All writers and authors want to be petted and praised for being brilliant. The thing is, 7/10 times we probably don’t deserve it. Make sure your words are the best they can be before you share them. Then get ready for critique. And if you listen to nothing else I say, listen to this – DO NOT TAKE CRITIQUE PERSONALLY. If someone critiques you, they have taken time out of their busy lives to read your words and have made suggestions or comments to try to help improve you. See it as that and nothing more. It’s hard. I know it is. Buy some ice cream, binge on Netflix while you sulk, get over it and fix it!

Now you get to do the absolutely horrible part. The real edits. Prowritingaid.com is a self editing software that is free for up to 3k words at a time. I highly recommend it. Use it. Fix your errors every 3k words at a time. Don’t stop until you are done.

Read it again, but this time – out loud. Finding errors? Fix them.

Now you are ready for round two of beta readers. Let them read and enjoy life. Try not to fret about what they are reading.

Apply changes you agree with and now – here is your decision. Are you self pubbing or indie pubbing? Hire an editor. Polish it once more with a professional. Why? Because this is your face to the world. Do you really want to be known for typos, grammar errors and misspelled words? No, I didn’t think so.

Traditionally publishing? Oh your journey is just beginning! Now you get to write a synopsis. More on that in the next post.

Post your thoughts in comments! I look forward to reading them.

KM

The Process

As I said before this book (or rather trilogy) began from a dream. I was disconcerted by the dream and wrote it down. Suddenly the dream blossomed into characters and scenes and plots! It flowed through my mind like a movie on a big picture screen.

Having never written a novel, I was overwhelmed. Where do I start? The first thing I did was join Facebook and search for writing groups. The groups offered good and bad advice. The following is a listing of what I did.

Allow my muse to speak

That’s right. I let my character(s) fill my head with their story. I found that it happened mostly in the shower or grocery store, but there were times it happened late at night. I found myself asking them things like “Why did that happen?” Guess what? They answered me and backstory flooded my poor, overflowing mind. Within a few weeks my brain was so full that I literally had to do something about it. Which brings us to the next step.

Character Files

I already knew what the characters looked like in my mind, but I needed a similar digital picture. I spent hours going through images on the Internet until I had found the bulk of my digital character faces. I saved the images to my computer in a sub folder named “character images” and renamed each image accordingly. It’s amazing how a digital image can motivate you to write about that character. But, that’s not all. I then made a file for each character listing ages, height, weight, strengths, weaknesses, etc. And since my characters insisted on handles, they each were given a nickname. Next came the harder part.

The Outline

I had already begun to write chapters, but it was helter skelter. I found myself writing a chapter in book 1 and the next for book 3. I was all over the place like a mad woman. Frazzled and frustrated, I stopped. I made myself spend a day writing an outline. In this outline I focused on a small paragraph for each chapter of what I wanted to see happen. By the time I finished oh, 8 hours later, I had written an outline for 1 1/2 books.

Writing

Now that I had reference files and an outline, I began to write with gusto. However, I didn’t know all of the “new” rules. Keep in mind, I’m an old fuddy duddy. My last writing class was when I was 17 and that is almost 30 years ago. (Whoever said that a lady never tells her age is a woman who is terrified of aging. I don’t care about all that nonsense. I am 46 and pretty proud of it. I’m alive and kicking!) Now back to the story. In my golden days, adverbs were not bad, passive voice was not bad, dialogue tags were not bad, purple prose was great, and so on and so forth. I wrote like I had learned to write.

During this time, my oldest daughter was boarding a plane (finally) to come back to the United States. She’d been in Japan for two years with her husband and my two grandchildren (one of which I had not gotten to meet). I was determined to write as many chapters as I could for her to read on her flight home. I pounded away relentlessly for hours on end, trying to capture the “movie in my head” in black and white text. I made it to chapter 12 and my sweet husband slapped it in a PDF. Off it went to my daughter for her flight.

Then I did the unthinkable. I shared a chapter with my Facebook writing group and quickly learned all the new rules. I was devastated. I sucked. The book sucked.

Instead of giving up, I set out to learn every new rule there was. I read countless articles, did online free classes, worked with others in critique groups and … I learned. Well, for the most part. I still have trouble with that tricky show vs tell thingy ma bobber. Sigh.

I edited my chapters to remove all of the adverbs and passive voice I could. I was so proud of my work, those first twelve chapters, that I started begging people to read chapter one. Within days I was deflated. The remarks were quite unkind. But that’s the deadly mistake I made as a writer and one you should never make. I didn’t finish the story. I stopped. Draft one should be written solely for the author. It’s the characters telling you the story. It’s not a story to be shared.

After the snarky comments from not so nice authors, I quit. I didn’t write a single thing in the book for months. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t written, though. My characters still haunted me day and night. So around late September 2015, I pulled out the manuscript, dusted off the cobwebs and started reading. The story came back in full color. My characters forgave my hiatus and began screaming their story to me.

By mid October I had edited the story as well as I thought I could and I started “NanoWriMo”. I know Nano starts November 1st, but I thought that as long as I wrote 50k words by mid November, I still participated and won. That’s exactly what happened.

I believed in myself and my story. I wrote as I never have before. My story grew from 25k words to 79k words. I was thrilled, until I realized I had a load of bum.

I think this post is long enough. I’ll continue this in the next post! In the meantime, tell me about your experiences. What did you do?

KM

 

Dreams

Do you dream in color? Are your dreams mostly scary and vivid? Mine are and have been for all of my life. In fact, I still remember a dream I had when I was fourteen years old. Back in that day, I was an active church member and part of a Bible debate team. I had watched a horror movie and apparently it stuck with me. I dreamed the most vivid dream of Chuckie as a clock. My debate team had traveled to our next competition and we’d rented a house that was apparently “infested with demons.” As I went through the living room I saw a clock hanging on the wall. It was a male doll. His stomach was the clock face and his arms were the “hands.” When he saw me, his face screwed up in anger and he somehow produced a butcher knife and began to stab the wall. He was trying to escape and come after me.

I’m sure you can imagine the sorts of dreams I have had over the years. Everything from alien invasions to being murdered. I’ve since learned this is an attribute of a writer. Our minds apparently never stop imagining, even when we are asleep. Thus, the curse of the writer life. We don’t rest well, because we are always dreaming – day or night. We tend to be introverts, quiet, and crabby. Sound familiar? Well then, you just might be a writer!

The dream I had that started my novel was about a young woman who learns that her mother is the diabolical scientist who ended humanity. Her biological brother chases her into a crumbling parking garage and she tosses a futuristic explosive at him, killing him and destroying the garage. The mother is enraged and takes the young woman prisoner for execution.

There you have it. The start of Ashes to Ashes. Only, it didn’t quite work out that way. That scene will not come until book 2, which by the way, is in the works.

Did a dream start your story? Tell me about it in comments!

KM

In the Beginning

I’ve never been one to do the whole blog thing. I’m old school. In my teenage years we had a Texas Instruments computer that used big cartridges. Almost all of them were middle school learning tutorials, but there were a few games. There was no such thing as the Internet, Social Media, etc. I can remember spending hours upon hours attempting to beat that silly computer at chess, or alternatively spending hours and hours doing data entry to watch a stick man dance. Boy have times changed.

For now this blog will be about my journey as a writer. I encourage you to follow along and ignore my many typos and grammar issues. I’m not as worried about those in a blog as I am for a published novel. I mean seriously, I am typing to the same world that types out things like, “Brb I have 2 do stg smh.”

If you are a new writer, you may find some of my journey helpful and possibly avoid the traps I fell into. You may find yourself laughing with me, crying with me, or flinging curse words at the walls. In any case, this is my journey.

Many online friends ask the same question: “When did you start writing?” I’d never given it much thought. I’ve been writing since I was a toddler, though most of it was in my head. My earliest memories are from when I was six or seven. I had a gray pin striped dress with a red bow and red stockings. I would sneak into my room and dress up, then play “Orphan Annie.” I weaved more stories than I can recall about my orphan life.

As I aged, I began to write. First it was poetry and later came actual chapters. At the age of thirteen or so, I began a book. It was based on the popular television show, “The Love Boat.” I recreated the cast and wrote my own storyline using friends as my characters. The “book” got passed around to many and soon I had a small following. Pity I didn’t pursue it.

I got married and became a mom at the ripe age of eighteen. By the time I was twenty five, I had four children and a ton of housework. There was zero time for writing. I was lucky to get dressed each day.

Now that the nest is empty and I have loads of free time, I began to write a fairy tale book for my grandchildren. When that didn’t work out, I changed gears. I had a dream and in it, Ashes to Ashes was born. That was almost seventeen months ago.

That’s right. My novel was born because of a dream and as of today sits in its final edits. In my next post, I will share the joy and heartache of writing the novel.

Until then, I would love if you’d share with me “When you began writing” in the comments.

KM