Writer Do Nots

This advice is so spot on that more writers deserve to see it.

Samurai Novelist

Take this advice to heart:

  1. Never write a novel to prove something.
    If you are going to be a novelist, then just do your job. Publishing a novel is not a way to prove something. The objective of a work of fiction is to transport the reader to another world created in print. It is not meant to impress people who have no intention of being transported and probably only will be looking for faults in your work anyway.
  2. If you write for your own therapy, it’s not for publishing.
    Every writer has a book that is not meant to be published. We might call them private journals, notes, fiction for my own consumption, whatever. If you write something for yourself, keep it to yourself. There is nothing shameful about writing something that cannot be published. And things that are written for your mental well being rarely accomplishes the objective…

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Be Outlandish. Write Books with Wings #amwriting #nanowrimo

fox2bsmelling2bflower
Photo credit: front-porch anarchist 2012

 

As a writer, here are some things I try to remind myself.

Reach out for, and welcome, scary, crazy ideas because those can be the most brilliant. (Ask Vincent, Sylvia, F. Scott, and the gajillion artists who’ve come before us.)

Don’t be afraid to be outlandish. Think outside the box. Believe there is no box. When writing, allow yourself the freedom to freewheel unfettered through a galaxy of creativity. God, I love that part.

Revise with confidence. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get things right. Big, scary, daunting, multi-faceted, novel revision is a marathon, not a sprint–a marathon during which you get to stop and smell flowers, daydream, listen to music, and read other books (how cool is that?), with the ultimate goal of crossing the finish line with a novel you can be proud of.

Polish your novel until it has wings to fly: to overworked literary agents who perk up because you’ve written exactly what they’re looking for; to readers who are moved by your words, excitedly turn each page, and feel a sense of loss when they reach the last word.

Then write more novels to make those readers happy again.

–Eve Messenger

What is Your “Moment?”

Many successful people actively visualize their life’s ambitions. Over and over, they imagine a specific moment that captures the essence of what they’d like to accomplish.

Before he made it big as an actor/comedian, Jim Carey used to drive to the top of Mulholland Drive, look out on the sparkling lights of Hollywood, and visualize himself receiving  a million-dollar check for his acting work. Professional quarterback Drew Brees, before winning his first Superbowl, saw himself walking out onto the playing field.

What is your “moment?” Here’s mine.

Invigorated by a long walk and at peace with how well my family is doing, I sit in my lovely office with forest light cascading through the window.

Copies of my published novels rest on a shelf.

My literary agent emails to say my latest book has gone to auction and that another has been optioned for a movie.

My imagination swirls with scenes, dialogue, and characters’ intentions for the new novel I’m writing.

Then I write, and the words flow beautifully.

Stick close to your novel until it’s done so you’re less tempted to break up with it. #amwriting #writer

When I’m writing my novel, I love it.

But when I’m away for too long, doubt sets in and I’m filled with everything that’s wrong with it.

With a novel in progress, distance makes the hard grow colder, so stick close to your novel until it’s done, nurture it every day, and you’ll be less tempted to break up with it.

— Eve Messenger

I Did It; I Called the Police.


Yes, and I’m nervous and excited about it all at the same time. After weeks of fear-fueled procrastination, I called my local police department–on their non-emergency line, of course. My intimidation only grew as I spoke to the first officer: a stern-voiced woman with a disconcerting ability to speak while barely opening her mouth. I explained in a very scattered way that I was calling as a local resident and writer (yep, that’s the word I used 🙂 ) with a question about police procedure in a missing persons case.

(Note: The book I’m working on is not a crime story, but it does contain an important incident involving the police, and I wanted it to be accurate.)

As she patched me through to the detective division, my palms really began to sweat. My thoughts at this point were: I’m not worthy; the detectives are busy solving crimes; I shouldn’t be troubling them with a petty writing question.

But then I told myself: it’s just one question, and I repeated this aloud to the next person I spoke with, Sharon, who surprised me by speaking in a lilting Scottish brogue. (I’ve never heard a character on a cop show speak this way, and since that’s pretty much my only exposure to police detectives, I was surprised.)

I’m not going to say getting an answer from Sharon was easy. If today’s call was any indication, law enforcement officers do not like giving definitive answers to questions like:

If there’s a missing person whose vehicle is taken into evidence and there’s no obvious sign of foul play, how long might it take for the vehicle to be returned to the family?

Sharon went off on several tangents (I took notes anyway), and I kept reeling her back in with comments like, “That makes a lot of sense. What do you estimate the range of time might be for a vehicle to be returned to the family?”

More tangents.  More variations of my question. Then, at last, an answer:

In a missing persons case, if a vehicle is taken for evidence, detectives and CSI officers try to process and release it back to the family as soon as possible. If there’s no blood stain or other evidence of homicide, the vehicle might be returned to the family in as soon as a day.

Eureka! What a relief to finally have an answer to my question; the uncertainty had really been bugging me and was putting a crimp in my plot timeline.  Now, as I dry off my sweaty palms, I want to share that I am also proud of myself for taking another step in my journey toward becoming a successful published author. For those of you who’ve read my blog, you know this is my mission and my dream.

— Eve Messenger

The Epiphany of “Write What You Know”

Epiphany

“Write what you know” messed me up as a writer for a long time but not anymore. I was conflicted because I thought Mark Twain’s adage meant I could only write with authenticity about experiences culled from my own life. But this morning, as I contemplated the third draft of my YA fantasy novel, I had an epiphany. My protagonist — a feisty, daredevil fifteen-year-old girl living in a magical, alternate world — might be very different from me, but she is exploring the great theme of my own life: Who am I? Why am I the way I am? Where do my people come from?

I am writing what I know.

My Name is Eve, and I am a Recovering ‘Pantser’

pantsing

I’m one of those writers you might call a ‘pantser,’ you know, the kind who writes a novel with reckless abandon — sans plot outline — until I reach the semblance of an ending.

It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s FRESH.  And I’m afraid if I don’t write like that I’ll overcensor myself , or worse, get bored because I already know what’s going to happen.

But.

Revising a pants-style, mutant pit first draft of a novel takes a really, really, really, really long time.  I’m not saying I’ll never pants a novel again, but I’ve done it twice now, and the first novel was such a complicated mess I had to stick it in a drawer until I became “a good enough writer to tackle such a complicated plot.”

This second full-length novel, a YA fantasy, I’ve been revising for dozens and dozens and dozens of hours…reordering scenes, consolidating bits I had epiphanies about later in the writing, just, you know … Clean-up on aisle seven…and twelve…and one…and fourteen.  Clean up the whole damn store.

But hey, writing and revising a novel should take as long as it needs to, right?  And who’s to say I would ever have been able to come up with the cool, out-there things that happen in this story (don’t mean to brag, just sayin’) if I had NOT let my imagination flow 100% unhindered, not even by a plot outline?

But.

I’m not as young as I used to be (I’ll admit) and have a lot of stories I want to write. So many.

Yet here I am, dozens and dozens and dozens of hours into revising and fleshing out this first draft into a flow, a scene order, that tells a cohesive story.  Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel — I’m three-quarters of the way through — but I’m not even talking about all the fun edit-y things like crisping up dialogue, bringing out sensory details, polishing prose.  I’m talking about just getting the first draft into an order that makes sense.

Outlining would have been so much easier.  More importantly, it would have been FASTER.

Then this morning a lovely thing happened.  A brand new character, with a brand new story, in a brand new genre (still YA), danced herself right onto my computer screen.  And she brought a LOT of her story’s plot with her.  God bless her.  When I’m done with this YA fantasy, I might just be able to write a novel using a proper outline.

HALLELULAH.

Now if I just knew the best way to outline a novel.  Any suggestions?

–Eve Messenger

Fellow Writer, What Puts You into a Creative State of Mind? 

Creativity

I’d be really curious to learn what stirs your imagination and creative spirit.  If it’s music, do you usually listen to the same music, or does the music vary depending on what you’re creating?  Reading great literature?  Exercise — rigorous workouts or leisurely strolls?  Habit, as in writing at the same time every day or in a particular environment?  Meditation?  Random things?

I’d love to hear from you!