Monthly Archives: October 2013

Masks, Costumes, and Writing

So it’s Halloween. I thought I’d make today’s post reflect that. When you think about Halloween what’s one of the main things that makes it so exciting? What does everybody love to do? Dress up. It’s a time to wear costumes and masks that can either hide you or reveal more about you. It’s a time to step outside of yourself a little, try something new or out of the ordinary, and show your true colors. Maybe your friends will see you in costume and find out something new about you. Like maybe they didn’t know you like superheroes until you show up decked out in a custom Iron Man suit. Maybe they had no idea you were outgoing enough to show a little skin or maybe you wear something that completely covers you, leaving people only to guess who is behind the fabric and makeup. So let’s take these possibilities and apply it to writing.

Character Masks

Take your characters in your most recent project. And throw away their titles. Hide their personalities. Give them all masks. Now, take your hero and write him doing something awful. Take you villain and write him doing something nice, selfless, or heroic. Don’t over think the fact that the hero shouldn’t be evil or the villain shouldn’t be honorable. That’s why they’re wearing a mask right now. No one has to know.

What did you come up with? The answer, hopefully, is depth. Heroes aren’t perfect. They’re damaged. They can still have a dark side, a reason to make them have purpose. Villains don’t start out evil. They aren’t incapable of heroic qualities. Maybe you wrote your hero committing a murder as gruesome as something the villain would do. Now ask yourself why. How can that act tell us something about him? Did he do it in self-defense or to save another life? Was he hesitant? Did he shed a tear or apologize before delivering the killing blow? These things show his true colors.

What about the villain? Did you write him sparing the life of someone? Did he go out of his way to help another? Maybe it ties back to his own tragedies. Maybe he spared the life of a child because he lost his. Maybe he helped a woman feed her family because he grew up on the streets.

By making your characters do things unexpected or out of the box, you give them depth. You strengthen their back-story, show their emotional side, and give them a cause for their actions. The point is that characters, just like people, aren’t one-dimensional. They have things that drive them, good and bad sides, and pasts just like we do. These things shape them and turn them toward the hero or villain side. By showing the good in the villain we can sympathize with him and understand him a little more even if we still hate him at the end. By showing the bad in the hero we can realize he isn’t perfect. It shows he’s trying, but he still has a lot to learn. He still needs to grow. That’s what your plot and character arc will tackle.

So take the masks off and apply what you discovered. See your characters for something more than they are right now. Everyone loves mystery. Your characters may be hidden or shrouded in obscurity and questions at first, but they can’t stay that way. Readers need to know why someone acts the way they do and what drives them to be who they are. They’re good or bad for a reason. So let them hide for a while and then start pulling pieces of their costumes away and reveal what’s really underneath.

Writing in a Comfort Zone

Writers tend to box themselves in. They write in one genre or style exclusively and forget about all the other possibilities out there. I’m a perfect example of that. I write so much contemporary YA I don’t even know if I’d be good at anything else even though I do have other interests. In honor of Halloween pushing you toward things unusual and abnormal for a night, maybe you should do the same with a writing session.

When you sit down at your computer next, try something new. Maybe you’re like me. My day to day writing outfit is Young Adult. But maybe tonight I should slip into another outfit. Maybe my costume will be a different genre. I’ll hide behind Fantasy tonight and see where that leads me. You can try the same. If you’re a non-fiction article writer, try your hand at fiction. If you’re a journalist, brainstorm that novel idea you’ve been holding back on. If you’re a Fantasy writer, try a contemporary story in the real world. If you’ve never read Young Adult, get your thoughts in the mind of a teenager and let them take off.

Branch out. Be someone else tonight. Discover the possibilities, and if it doesn’t work out you can take the costume off tomorrow.

Do you box yourself in when you write or do you write in many forms and genres? What do you wish you could write that you’ve never tried before? Do your characters have depth and progress believably? Share and post in the comments! And Happy Halloween!

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Sharing is Caring…and Terrifying

It’s a strange battle writers face when it comes to sharing their work. What a writer often wants more than anything is to publish and share their hard work with others. Yet at the same time there is a fear inside at the thought of putting yourself out there. Suddenly all the work you’ve done alone, the midnight brainstorming sessions, or the notebooks of top secret novel ideas are ready in one piece to be shown to others. It isn’t your secret anymore. It’s no longer for your eyes only. And you worry what people will think, how it will be received, and if your hard work even means anything to someone other than you. Sharing that part of yourself is both a dream and a nightmare. You feel excitement and dread. But at the end of the day, you can’t feel either, good or bad, if you don’t try. So here’s my first venture into sharing a piece of original work. It’s a short story called Intentional Fate. If you have any reaction, whether it be praise, scrutiny, or advice, I encourage you to post a comment. Feedback is how writers learn and improve. And thank you for taking the time to read. Here goes.

Intentional Fate

You’re soaking in sweat. Your heart is pounding in your chest so fast it hurts. Your eyes begin to water so badly that tears escape, and you realize it’s because you haven’t blinked in minutes.

You stare.

You stare ahead.

Away.

At nothing at all.

Especially not at the mess beside you.

The few people left in the cafeteria with you are staring back. At you. But you don’t look at them. You don’t acknoweldge their horrified faces or meet anyone’s fearful eyes. Doing that would only confirm the grotesque scene you know is resting beside you. And you can’t allow that knnowledge to seep in.

Suddenly you register the warmth on your face and the slow trail it burns into your skin as the liquid slides down your cheek.

Adam’s blood.

Adam’s blood is on your face.

And you can’t wipe it away.

Even if you were able to make your frozen limbs work again, wiping that warmth away would be like wiping him away. And if the blood is still warm then his body is too.

His body.

Did you really just think that?

Is Adam really gone?

You can’t make yourself look down at the floor to check. The hysterical crying you hear all around you seems to be answer enough.

Adam is gone.

And now people are looking to you for answers. People are staring like you hold the magic key to this puzzle. But you’re only fifteen. What answers could you possibly have? They should know that this isn’t much of a puzzle to solve anyway. Not when you know exactly what kind of life Adam had.

Had.

Adam is gone.

You finally look away at the barricaded doors. Everyone thinks this is something bigger that it is. They think they could be next. That you might be hiding a gun under your windbreaker too. They think you might be the one to take them out. That you’re part of some violent plan that will erupt onto national news and cause yearly memorials for all the people you’re about to punish. You were Adam’s best friend after all. Surely his best friend was in on it? Surely his best friend knew what Adam was going to do during lunch today. And they stare at you. Like you might pull the trigger next.

But you didn’t know. You weren’t in on anything.

You had no idea.

You’ve never even seen a real gun. And even when Adam took the one out from the inside of his jacket, you had barely registered what it was before Adam pulled the trigger.

Then it was too late.

And now that’s all you hear. You tune out the pandemonium of your classmates. You ignore Principal Byrnes who is trying to ask you important questions you don’t have the answers to. All you hear is the memory. The moment from ten minutes ago. And it loops through your head. Over and over on agonizing repeat.

The rustling of Adam’s jacket as he dug around inside it.

The click of metal as he cocked the hammer.

And Adam’s voice. Meek and hopeless.

“I’m sorry, Scottie,” he’d said.

Then the shot sounded.

BOOM!

And Adam fell from his seat. Right after his blood sprayed onto your face.

The screams rang out. Your classmates ran around in panic, squealing like banshees, afraid for their lives.

But Adam only wanted to take one life.

His own.

And that’s what you hear now.

“I’m sorry, Scottie.”

BOOM.

Screams.

“I’m sorry, Scottie.”

BOOM.

Screams.

“I’m sorry, Scottie.”

“I’m sorry, Scottie.”

Why didn”t you know? How could you not know it was coming?

How could he leave you?

Principal Byrnes taps the side of your face with his palm. It feels like he’s swatting at a fly. You refuse to meet his dark eyes. Refuse to leave the comfort of your head. If you acknowledge Byrnes you have to face the truth. You have to snap back to the cold reality beside you. And he still wants answers. Answers you can’t give.

You hear him though. But he’s not talking to you anymore.

“Cover the boy, for God’s sake,” he says.  And you see someone hurrying out of your vision to follow his orders. “Harris, search this one. Make sure he’s clean.”

Now you feel hands on you. They’re patting your body much harder than Byrnes tapped your cheek. Up and down they go. Your chest, your abdomen, you legs and ankles. All of it gets smacked and stroked as the vice principal attempts to find some hidden weapon.

But you don’t have a waeapon.

You don’t have an explanation.

You don’t have a best friend.

“I’m sorry, Scottie.”

BOOM.

Screams.

The person reenters your vision. They throw a blanket over the mass on the floor.

The body of Adam.

You slowly look down. Blood soaks through the fabric. It runs from beneath the blanket’s edges.

“Get these kids out of here,” Byrnes says. “Tell the police the threat is over. We need medics.”

He stoops down at your feet.

“Take this straight to the police chief,” he says, and you look up enough to realize he’s holding Adam’s gun. Folded in a napkin like a poorly wrapped present. Vice Principal Harris takes it and hurries from the cafeteria.

You sit quietly as your hear the buzz of your classmates’ fear grow faint. The crying recedes, the terrified screaming disappears, the shuffling of feet escapes through the doors.

And the doors close behind them.

You are alone.

You are alone with Principal Byrnes and the body of your best friend.

Something cold touches your face. It makes you flinch.

Principal Byrnes is wiping at your cheek with a wet towel.

He’s wiping away Adam’s blood.

“Scott,” he says. “Scott, look at me.”

You struggle to move your eyes. You struggle to calm you body, but it won’t stop shaking. You manage to meet his gaze.

“Why would Adam do this?” he asks you. “Why would Adam take his life like this? Did he plan to shoot up the school? Did you know what he was doing?”

You don’t answer. Suddenly you’re angry. Angry he doesn’t know. Angry he couldn’t see how sad Adam was. How hard he struggled to be happy.

Then you hate yourself too.

You should have seen this. You should have known your best friend well enough to see the signs. His mother left him…his father blamed him…his schoolmates tormented him for no other reason than because they could. Adam was an easy target for everybody. He finally gave them what they wanted.

He targeted himself.

Why did you ever think he wouldn’t want out?

Why didn’t you help him?

“I’m sorry,” you whisper.

Why didn’t Adam tell you how bad things were?

Adam is gone.

Why didn’t you save him?

Adam is gone.

“I’m sorry too, Adam,” you repeat, and this time the tears flow heavily.

“I’m sorry, Scottie.”

BOOM.

Screams.

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“Write What You Know” and Other Lies

When you’re learning how to be a writer or gathering informtion and tips, there are a few pieces of advice that like to be recycled. One of them is the popular ‘write what you know’ phrase. It’s purpose is that if you want your writing to be believable or for a reader to trust your writing, then you need to be writing about something you have personal experience with. You need to stick to what you know so you’re writing is real. I’ve never understood this mentality. Maybe I’m seeing it all wrong. If you don’t lead an exciting, adventure-filled life though, how will writing what you know be any interesting? Isn’t that what fiction is for? To break away from the reality you know and create circumstances and worlds that aren’t real?

I think this phrase can still work if it’s tweaked a little. Writing what you know isn’t about actual events, places, or people. It doesn’t apply to your epic dystopian world, your no-way-that-vampires-are-real characters, or even your book’s bloody battle for the freedom of the kingdom, or whatever else you may be writing about. It’s how you depict those things. It’s making your character’s believable, developing their arcs plausibly, conveying their relationships truthfully, and making their inner and outer struggles something we can believe in and even connect with. The one thing readers, writers, and characters in books have in common is that we are human. So what really matters when you get down to it is that the writer creates their characters in a way that the reader understands.

Writing what you know then is easy. Your characters may be in some imaginary world, dealing with problems real people have never faced, or they may even be someone in the real world, but the most important thing is that the reader believes them. They understand why they think the way they do, why they’ve made the choices they have, why they react a certain way. They believe the relationships you’ve generated. In the end, it’s the people of your story that need to be real. You don’t need to have lived the actual events in order to write them convincingly. The topics of my three books, for example, are loosely this: child abuse and bullying, high school in-crowd power stuggles and secret romances, and kidnapping and survival. Have I lived through any of these things personally? No. Does that mean my books are all crap and I have no right to create them? I sure hope not.

Write Daily

This isn’t horrible advice, but it’s not necessary. Some people say if you want to be a writer you need to be writing every day. I disagree. Sometimes taking a healthy step away from the computer is just as beneficial as sitting in front of it for X amount of hours. Writing for the sake of writing isn’t helpful creatively. If you’re sitting down to write just becaue you think you have to in order to be successful, you’re doing it wrong. You need to believe in what you’re writing and want to put it out there. If you’re following prompts and excercises, that’s great, keep at it. Inspiration can be found there and jump start your creativity. But if you sit down and say “I’m going to write” then stare blankly at your screen or force out words that you don’t even care about, what was the point in making yourself write that day? Give yourself a break and write when you are compelled.

Set a Word Count Goal

No. The word count is not your friend. It’s a nagging, evil little tool that will make you hate yourself at some point or another. Maybe you think your story is perfect as it, but it’s 500 words shy of the word count. Or maybe it’s 1000 words too long. What are you willing to cut, add, or rework into your story? Those aren’t bad things. Cutting, adding, and reworking are good. They are necessary. What isn’t is forcing yourself to write X number of words a day. What scares me about that is that you will be more concerned with the number of words you write and less concerned about the quality of them. There’s a quote I read by Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why, that simply says, “Words count, not word count.” I wrote that down and taped it to the top of my monitor as a reminder. It’s good advice.

Do you disagree with any of these tips? Did I miss the mark? Do you have any tips to add, either helpful or overused? Post below!

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The Meaning Behind the Title

We’ve all been there. You’re starting a new endeavor and suddenly you need a title. Maybe it’s a new username for your Youtube channel, an updated email address, a clever gamertag, the name of your next videogame character, or in this case, a blog title. And suddenly you stop dead.  You can’t go on any further until you come up with that title. All you want to do is upload videos, send an email, compete online, or just start blogging. But no. That username is already in use. Title can only contain lowercase letters. You must add at least one symbol, number, and capital letter. Please try again.  And again.  And then maybe one more time too.

That’s what happened when I started this blog. I either typed a title that was already in use, couldn’t find the right words, or just plain wouldn’t commit to anything. I felt like I was spending more time holding down the backspace key than actually moving forward and being productive with what I came to do: create a blog.  I could have let that deter me, but instead I found my title.

The backspace key is your friend. Not just because it allows you to back up and correct your typos or change the delivery of a sentence, but because it unlocks new possibilities. Sometimes it’s easy to fall in a rut with your writing and you back away from change. Maybe you hit the wall creatively and can’t figure out how to move forward. Maybe you’re too proud; you feel accomplished that you wrote anything and letting go of it or admitting it isn’t your best is harder than coming up with a new angle. I’m guilty of all of these.  They’re easy to fall into. But nothing you write has to be permanent. You don’t have to just settle, be stuck, or feel afraid to delete what you wrote. Sometimes deleting is the answer.

That’s what I meant when I named this blog. Backspace Blog: When Being Uncommitted Saves Lives (Fictional Ones at Least). I ran into the most headaches with my first novel. I was still figuring out my process and trying to find my way. I was afraid to delete anything. My mentality was I wrote this so therefore it must stay. No.  Just no.  That is not how you write successfully. You have to be able to step back, look at what you wrote down, and chop it to pieces. You have to know when something isn’t working, when something needs to be tweaked, when you’re just saying way too much. You gotta be able to press that backspace button.

I was stuck for long periods of time on that book. I wanted to give up a lot because I just couldn’t make it work. But it’s because I was holding on too hard. I needed to let go. When that happened, everything clicked.

Deleting your work isn’t a failure. It isn’t giving up. It’s recognizing that you can do better. It’s realizing your writing can take another direction. Maybe that character isn’t supposed to go down the path you have them on. Maybe that scene of dialogue just isn’t conveying the right thing or seems out of place. Maybe you’re trying too hard to make a character feel or act a certain way and they’re trying to tell you they disagree. Part of writing is weighing all your options. Just because you wrote a scene one way doesn’t mean it’s the only way or even the right way for your novel. It’s okay to be uncommitted to what you wrote. It’s okay to be unsure. That means you recognize when something isn’t working or know that you could push harder and write something better. Writing is trial and error sometimes. It sucks to write a whole storyline and then realize 100 pages later you made a mistake and a different path would work better. But that’s learning.  That’s creating.

So be uncommitted. Write as many possibilities as it takes until you find the one that works. It could save your characters, your plot, and your whole project. Don’t give up or be afraid to rewrite. That’s what the backspace button is there for. It can make all that mess of words you’ve been staring at for hours just disappear. A blank screen can be more motivating than scrupulously keeping track of your word count.  Who cares about word count if the words aren’t working right? A blank screen is endless possibility.  The backspace key is your eraser. Use it.

Have you experienced any of these circumstances? Has there ever been a time when you were afraid to let go of something you wrote? How did you fix the issue?

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Censorship & Book Banning

I remember being in middle school and reading books for the Accelerated Reader Program. It was great because although reading was required you got to choose your own books. I loved going down to the library and browsing the shelves until I finally found one I wanted to check out. And back then, honestly, I read more adult books than I do now. These days I read YA almost exclusively but back then I didn’t even know what YA was. My favorite author was Mary Higgins Clark. I read most her books on the AR list. Other authors included Tom Clancy, Stephen King, and Tolkien. I was first introduced to censorship back then.

I remember reading different novels, completely lost in the story, and then suddenly I’d come across a word that had been marked out in black Sharpie. I’d flip through the pages and see more black bars scattered here and there and sometimes even full sentences. And I always imagined our librarian just sitting down at her desk with a Sharpie, reading the whole library book by book, marking out all the inappropriate words and phrases.  Sometimes I’d try to infer what the big bad word was or squint my eyes and try to see through the black ink. I wanted to know what was so horrible.

But a part of me thought it was cool too. I mean, someone obviously took issue with a few chosen words here and there. They could have removed the book from the shelves completely.  They could have restricted it. But they didn’t. They just created their own black censor bars and let us kids read around them.

The truth is there is always some form of censorship, restriction, outrage, or banning when it comes to certain books and underage kids and teens. Parents always want their kids to read, but then want to control what it is they can get their hands on. But reading preference is a huge divide. You have to find your place, and at a young age it’s especially important. It might shape the entire way you view books and reading.

So here’s my question. Should books for minors have a rating system? Should they have to be regulated and rated like movies and videogames? Should they be slapped with a warning label that says “Explicit Content” like CDS have? How would that change our society?

Of course I don’t want this to happen. It breaks my heart when kids have to read Harry Potter in secret or some angry mom appeals to have a book removed from an entire school or public library. One person’s complaint shouldn’t dictate an entire library or affect other kids whose parents allow them to read what they like. In an increasingly digital age parents should be excited to have a kid who chooses books over tablets and smartphones. No, I don’t think every book is appropriate for all ages. But if it’s written and aimed at children or teens’ then it should be understood that the content within is relevant to that age group or connects to them in some way.

The beauty in most stories is just that. Their connection to readers. Books containing sex, drugs, drinking, cursing, magic, rebellion and anarchy, eating disorders, gay characters, survival, and other taboo topics aren’t how-to guides on how to be a delinquent. They aren’t meant to brainwash your child into behaving the same way or flaunt dangerous topics just for the sake of it. Reading about magic didn’t make me believe I could wield it, learning about eating disorders didn’t make me want to try it, and watching pages of violence unfold didn’t make me run out and start a riot. What those things did do was give me an escape into another world. They opened my eyes to other imaginations. They connected me with characters. This is why I read.

It’s not the magic or violence or sex or anything that draws me in.  It’s the characters. It’s watching how they react to a situation, seeing their journey unfold, realizing their relationships, and rooting for them as they navigate their hardships and discover themselves. THAT is what matters. The fact that your child feels something when they read, that they cry or gasp when something happens, that they stay up past their bedtimes to find out what happens next, that they see things differently after they turn that last page, or feel a connection to a character when they think no one else understands them… These are the things that matter.  These are the things books can do.

At the end of the book it isn’t how many blacked out curse words or sex scenes or descriptions of violence that make it good or bad. It isn’t the fake magic that you don’t want your children to believe in.  It’s that they want to read. It’s that books mean something to them even if it’s in a way you don’t understand. That is the real magic. So why would you ever want to take that away?

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Perceived Impressions of “Young Adult” and Why They are Wrong

When I tell people I read and write young adult books I run into a few issues. At best I get a half smile and head nod and at worst I get the wrinkled nose and grunt. I’m not saying this is always the case, but it’s happened enough times for me to compile a list of annoying responses.

They automatically assume I’m writing a fantasy, dystopia, or paranormal romance.

It’s great that YA is getting attention. People recognize it more than they used to, and that’s awesome. The problem is that there seems to be a direct correlation between YA and some type of fantasy/paranormal theme. Like people think all YA falls into these categories. And, yes, it is a huge part of YA. Walking into a Barnes & Noble these categories take up most the shelves. There’s an audience and demand for that, and it’s been massively hyped, especially since Twilight’s success. Everyone knows Twilight. So it’s easy to say, “I write Yong Adult books” and the response to be, “Oh like Twilight!” That’s when things get awkward. “No, not really. I write contemporary stuff, you know, without fantasy and all that.” And then the person looks blankly at me because they don’t have a famous example to shout out off the top of their head.  This leads to me rambling to try and explain myself or just nodding silently while I try to ignore their disappointment. My point is YA doesn’t automatically mean fantasy.

They believe I imagine myself as the next Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling.

People think I’m writing because I think I can be as famous and successful as these authors. I think they believe I’m trying to hop on a bandwagon and come up with a fantasy series that will sell millions and make me rich. I have no expectations of that. I don’t anticipate being a household name or earning millions. Seeing their success didn’t suddenly make me believe I could write and sell books. Yes, they are inspiring and talented authors to look up to. But they aren’t why I write. I don’t sit down and type with money and fame in mind, just as I’m sure they didn’t. I write because I need to and because I have stories to tell. Mirroring someone’s success or having unrealistic expectations of similar grandeur is not on my mind when I write.

They wonder why an adult would read books for teens.

This one might be my favorite. Why on earth would someone who isn’t a teen be reading teen books? Sure I’m not exactly a grandma, but so what if I was? Teens read adult books, don’t they? But people admire them for that because adult books are somehow more credible. Look, maybe this isn’t an issue for you.  Maybe you think I don’t know what I’m talking about. If that’s the case, I envy you.  Because that means no one judges you for your reading preferences. I’ve gotten “You’re too old to be reading these” and “Why don’t you read books for your own age group?” It sucks. It’s like somehow my reading a YA book is a bad, dirty thing.  But think about it. Who writes those teen books? Adults, most of the time. They’re the ones creating these teen characters and high school situations so why don’t you go bother them for not writing about adults? Why do I have to get dirty looks or listen to snickering for my choice of book type?

Some of the best writing advice I ever received was simple: read. Reading helps you write better. It familiarizes you with how plot unfolds and how voice can sound and how pacing can be done. It shows you different delivery methods and page layouts and narrator types. So if I want to write YA wouldn’t it make sense to read as much YA as possible? It’s research. It’s inspiration. And it’s fun. Oh yeah, and it’s my choice.

What about you? Have you ever encountered an awkward assumption, judgment, or question aimed at your reading or writing habits? How did you respond?

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The Basics: Who What When Where Why & How

Who I write about: I write primarily in the Young Adult genre so my characters are teenagers with ages ranging from 15-18. I enjoy creating tough situations for my characters to navigate through. It touches your emotions more and maybe even makes you a little uncomfortable seeing young people in rough circumstances. Also, everyone can relate to those teenage years. You’re either a teen now or you were a teen at some point before and still remember what it’s like. Teen characters don’t have the luxury of long years of life experience or fully knowing who they are yet. So watching them navigate their stories and struggling and overcoming is more intriguing to me than writing adult fiction.

What I write about: I write contemporary Young Adult fiction. No, YA doesn’t always mean fantasy, paranormal romances, or dystopian universes. My stories are all set in the real world. I’m not trying to say my stories are real depictions of every high school or teen scenario out there, but the goal is to make it real enough that you can picture it happening or maybe know someone like the character you’re reading about. I touch on a lot of emotional content, and my characters are often angry, confused, guarded, and struggling with the hand their dealt. Seeing how they navigate those hurdles, discovering the choices they make, and depicting the relationships they have are all part of the journey.

When I write: I usually do my best writing in the afternoon, though I’ve been known to stay up until 3AM as well. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a ten hour writing day, staring at the monitor, typing at super speed, and letting everything come together.

Where I write: In my office surrounded by three miniature Schnauzers. There’s usually a can of Mountain Dew at my side and a playlist of music going on in the background. I use music to fuel the emotion in the scene. And also to block out the noises on my street.

Why I write: The most important question. I write for me. Yes, of course, I want to be published. I want my work to mean something to other people. I want someone to find some enjoyment or importance in it. But first of all I write for myself. Because when I don’t write I feel completely lazy and worthless. It’s silly, but I’ll get incredibly depressed if I go long periods without writing or can’t make the story work how I want. Everything feels great and wonderful when I’m writing well, and it feels horrible and pointless when I’m not. I hope that if my books ever reach an audience people will feel something. They’ll laugh, cry, gasp, wrinkle their nose, throw the book at a wall, mumble under their breath, roll their eyes, or even cringe. I want to reach people and see them have a connection to the characters or the story. I want to provide an escape from reality. I want to give back that feeling I get when I read.

How I write: It usually starts with something small. I’ll have one random idea. For example, I decided I wanted to write about a kidnapping.  That’s all I knew, but I wrote a 60,000 word novel about it. Or I thought it would be interesting to write about two teenagers who lived across the street from each other. Bam. That’s another book. Sometimes I just imagine a short scene or exchange of dialogue in my head, and I wonder what could come from it. In any circumstance it’s always about the characters. I may not know the character’s name, why they’re saying what they are or feeling what they’re feeling, but that’s the joy in writing. You take what you imagine and figure it out. You have endless paths to consider, and you find the one that fits. The characters will grow and their stories will shape.  They drive the plot. So how I write always starts with who I write about. Sometimes I outline, but it’s usually just a list of scenes or events I want to use laid out in order.  Mostly I write down those random scenes I want to incorporate or those snippets of dialogue I want to use later in a “notes” file, and then I free write and let the characters take over.

What about you? Who do you write about? When do you feel most productive? Do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? What’s your process? And why do you do this? What does writing mean to you?

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