Getting Started

Getting started.

Should be easy, right? I mean, you have a brilliant idea. You know it’s going to be the best book ever. So, you get settled at your computer, open word, and then…nothing.

Happens to the best of us. Just yesterday I was talking about having that very experience. Staring at the screen, waiting…just waiting.

Then, when the first words found their way to the screen, they were ‘Hey, Pickle.’

Not what I was expecting. And, not two words I would have ever written if my daughter hadn’t been chanting ‘pickle, pickle, pickle’ in the background, taunting her pickle hating best friend via facetime.

However dumb those two words might appear while sitting there, isolated from the story and taken completely out of context, the truth is, they made for a brilliant opener.

Not only did the words free-flow from that moment on, but those two simple words became their own little side-story, laced in all throughout the novel. By the time the book was published, readers everywhere were on #teampickle.

Now, in the event that you do not have access to a silly, childish argument about pickled foods, here are some other things you might find of help (and, also more practical).

Clear the clutter. If your desk is a mess, your head is a mess. Trust me on this.

Snacks. They help. If in no other way than shoving pistachios in your mouth somehow helps you feel productive even as you’re staring at the empty screen, writing nothing.

Let your mind wander. Think about your main character, what are they doing when they’re not really doing anything? Maybe they like to eat pistachios. Maybe they hate them. Maybe their pantry is empty except for an old ass bag of stale nuts. Maybe they’re contemplating if they’re hungry enough to eat them. Maybe they’re remembering that one time someone they hated in high school had an allergic reaction to them and nearly died, thus making it impossible to hate them anymore, because, well, the shame of hating someone for no reason will do that when they nearly die.

All this to say, write any words that spring to mind. Even if your first words are ‘I have nothing to say’, I almost guarantee you, it will prompt your characters to respond. The words will follow. The story will come to life. All it takes is that first breath. That first pulse. Doesn’t have to be strong.

It’s kind of like any dramatic hospital moment you’ve ever witnessed in a movie or on tv. That agonizing wait as everyone stares at the monitors, willing that blip to pop up. That’s literally all anyone wants. One blip and your happy ending is essentially promised. All is well. Life is present.

That’s your empty word doc. The blank white screen. It’s just a heart monitor in some fictional hospital room. Give it a blip. Any blip will do. Even if all the blip you’ve got is ‘Hey, Pickle’.

 

 

 

 

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Writers are excellent listeners…

SO YOU (1)

To write honestly, to write emotionally and profoundly, you must be a good listener. You can only create multi-dimensional characters if you understand the multitude of dimensions human beings are made of. If you’ve seen below the surface. Heard their most personal stories and witnessed their private thought processes.

I don’t share people’s secrets in my writing. But, I harness their experiences in my own way, taking the emotions and consequent actions I’ve witnessed and recreating new characters and situations to apply them to, helping me create more genuine, more relatable stories.

I’ve been blessed with an extraordinary life. In my thirty-plus years, I’ve experienced more than most. Much of which has been heartache. Loss. And abuse. I’ve witnessed first-hand the damage of addictions and mental illness. I’ve become familiar with death and grief. I’ve been practicing since childhood. But, I’ve also traveled the world. I’ve driven across this country many, many times. I have been exposed to people of all cultures and beliefs. Have eaten foods in the countries they originated. I’m fluent in two languages and can muddle my way through more in a pinch. Lived in nearly every terrain. Been at home slinging drinks in the city of Las Vegas and felt completely in my element living life on a ranch riding and training horses day in and day out. I’ve been blessed. I can write about A LOT of stuff. BUT, I don’t only want to write about me. My thoughts. My feelings. Diverse as they may be, they’re still only mine.

So, the next time you encounter someone who wants to share, vent, cry – listen. Really listen. Become a judgment-free zone where secrets are treasured and trust is valued. And know that those parts they share of themselves stay with you. They become a part of your human experience, twine in with your thoughts, your heart and your passion. Your writing. And you won’t just become a better writer for it. You’ll become a better, more compassionate, wiser human.

I craft stories by nature. I create from my heart. And what others put there, comes out in a new form, with new life. I’ll always be a listener. A watcher. An observer.

But I’ll always be a writer, too.

There is no wrong way to write a book…

SO YOU

Good news for all! There is no wrong way to write a book. As long as it works.

And therein lies the secret to unlocking all your writer dreams, of course. Which way works for you?

Over the years I’ve had countless conversations with other writers about their process, and hardly any two writers approach their craft the same. It’s an art. It’s meant to be personal. Intimate. Yours.

Of course, there’s the standard brainstorm, outline, and write which certainly works for those who crave plans and organization. However, most of the writers I’ve know, are pantsers, meaning they fly by the seat of their pants, no planning, no outlining, just an idea and go –

But, those are just two entry points into writing. And, you may find you prefer to take an approach that combines both. Being prepared, but being flexible enough to let the plan fall by the wayside when the characters take over and tell the ‘real’ story. And they will. They always do. Trust me on this.

The bottom line is getting that story out of your head and onto paper and I say do that by any means necessary. If you want to spend a great deal of time prepping, do. Write character pages, full descriptions – physical, mental, emotional. Their history, their likes, dislikes, flaws and all. Figure out your storyline – there are fantastic tools out there to help with this, story graphs to follow to ensure you complete your story arc in a way that will satisfy the reader. Sometimes, learning your story inside and out is exactly the confidence boost you need to be able to tell it. Writing with the lights on, so to speak.

On the other hand, you may find you’re more like me, and prefer writing in the dark, being just as surprised as the story unfolds as your future readers will be.

I found, after years of trying the first approach (because, let’s be real – it’s fun writing out all the pre-story notes, figuring out all the character details, the plot – the ending!) that I never completed a single project, because I grew bored with it. Once I knew how it was going to play out, there was nothing left to motivate me to do the actual writing. So, I’d move on to the next idea. I did this over and over, and over again.

When I finally scrapped all my previous notions of how to write (and the fact I’d convinced myself that I was incapable of finishing anything – years of experience had taught me this, after all – so that lesson had to go) I managed to complete my first story. The first draft looked like this –

Drew – You know who this song always makes me think of?
Jerry – No. Who?
Drew- Marissa
Jerry- Seriously?
Drew – Yeah, pretty lame , huh?!
Out of nowhere a girl shows up and sits down next to them.
Marissa- It’s ok, this song always makes me think of you, too.
Drew – Really?
Marissa – Yeah, every time I hear it, I think ‘I bet Drew thinks of me when he hears this song.
Jerry laughs
Drew- Very funny…
All of a sudden there is a bright light and we see the girl lying in bed waking up.

The whole thing was written out in the most basic sort of script format because sticking to dialogue was the easiest way for me to write the story without getting lost in the details along the way. After it was complete, tieing it all together was easy. And exciting. Because I’d finished something. And once I finished that first draft, I knew I’d be able to tell any story I wanted to moving forward. And I was right.

I wrote my first four novels in the same format. By the fourth, however, I decided I no longer needed to do twice the work, and come novel number five, I was able to write a complete novel, no steps skipped, no details put off, just sit down and write.

But, it took practice. Constantly working that writing muscle, always making it stronger, more disciplined, more capable of going the distance.

And that’s really the basic truth of it all. It doesn’t matter how you go about doing it, it’s going to take work. There is no easy formula, no set of steps to write a book that will work for everyone. You just have to go for it and keep experimenting along the way.

Some writers I know will write random chapters and string them together once they have enough. Others like to write everything by hand because that’s how the story flows best for them. You might be the sort who likes to read the last page of a book first, in which case you may also enjoy starting by writing the ending and then discovering the story which leads up to it. It really doesn’t matter how you do it. Just that you do. That’s the only way to write a book. You have to write.

 

Some fundamental basics…

SO YOU

More and more frequently I hear from people, “I want to write a book.” or “I’ve always thought about being a writer.” To which I say – “Fuck yeah! Let’s do it!” Because, after all, I think being a writer is awesomesauce and I want everyone to have a slice of awesomeness.

Thing is though, a lot of people…or writers…apparently expect to hit publish and then sell a hundred thousand books. In part, because there are people at fancy entrepreneur conventions who will tell you it’s just that easy and others on Facebook spamming you with write a book in twenty-four hours workshops who will lead you to believe it’s true. It’s not.

Writing is not easy. And, it’s not for everyone. But, for those of you who feel called to put pen to paper, to string words together and tell your story, here are the fundamental basics of what it takes to make that happen.

You want to be a writer? Fucking write.

Don’t spend your time doing frivolous shit and then claim you just can’t get in the mood. Let me tell you something, writer’s block is a motherfucking myth. Doesn’t exist. Total bullshit. No such thing. URBAN FUCKING LEGEND created by writers who knew there were others out there who would buy the hype and therefore it would cut down on the competition.

Don’t think you can write consistently? You can…if you write consistently. Nobody says you have to churn out five-thousand words a night. You don’t even have to come up with five-hundred. You can write five and they can be the dumbest fucking words you ever wrote. Doesn’t matter. Write them anyway. Then do it again the next day, and the day after that until what you’re writing isn’t total shit and it amounts to more than one sentence. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. Period.

Don’t think you have time to write? You do! Get less attached to sleep and more familiar with coffee. There’s a reason all writers drink it. It’s what keeps us all functioning.

Basically, what I’m saying is, following your dreams, whatever they may be, is going to take some work. Some serious effort. Practice. Failure. Multiple mistakes. Compromising. Eating some hefty portions of humble pie. Puking them back up again. Then going back for seconds. More practice. More effort. More failure. And then, maybe….SUCCESS.

So, you still want to be a writer? Then, fuck yeah – let’s do it!! Because being a writer is awesomesauce and everyone should have a slice of AWESOMENESS!!