I have to admit that I rarely find true pearls of wisdom hidden among the constant barrage of ads on television, radio, and in the print media. However, this year there has been one series of commercials that I have found particularly inspiring. Iím sure youíve seen the ones Iím talking aboutówhere football fans exhibit all kinds of strange behavior to ensure the success of their favorite teams. At the end, as they celebrate, the commercial ends with ITíS ONLY WEIRD IF IT DOESNíT WORK.
I love the wisdom of that simple statement. Like most authors I know, I have a few personal quirks when in comes to my writing. I suspect we all have small rituals that we follow, whether itís in the way we do something or maybe in the tools we need close at hand in order to get the job done.
I also suspect that sometimes weíre a little embarrassed by those rituals, but we shouldnít be. If something as simple as having a new color of sticky notes sitting by the computer helps stimulate your creativity, then by all means they should be there. Even if all they do is make you happy, thatís okay. A happy frame of mind makes it easier to work. If you need to play Solitaire for a few minutes to get yourself into the right frame of mind, then start dealing the cards. It takes a huge amount of self-discipline to take a book from that all important first word on the page all the way to THE END. Anything that helps maintain that focus and get the job done shouldnít be considered frivolous (at least within limits. I just found a new game of solitaire that's pretty addictive.)
Personally, I canít start a new book or even a synopsis until Iíve hammered out the first few lines using a mechanical pencil and a journal-style notebook. For some mysterious reason, I find approaching a blank piece of paper far less daunting than I do a blank screen on the computer. Besides, when I cross something out on the page, I can still see it. Maybe Iíll go back to lift a phrase or even just a word from one of those early attempts. Often, I come at the scene through different charactersí points of view until I decide which one has the most to say. I can jot down notes and try a few free form descriptive sentences without feeling as if I really have to get it right the first time. When Iíve finally got that all important first sentence perfected, I can transfer it to the computer and set off on the long journey telling the story from beginning to end.
While that might not work for anyone else, it does work for me. And after close to thirty books, short stories, and novellas, why rock the boat?
Another quirk of mine: I truly canít work when itís quiet. I need music playing as I work or I canít concentrate. This was true for me back when I was in school, too. I did years of homework in front of the television or with the stereo on. I can ignore a constant source of noise, but if itís too quiet, then every noise distracts me. If I need to work away from home, Iíd do better working at a coffee shop than at the library. It helps me to know that about myself.
Another example is that I print out hard copies of my chapters and put them into a three-ring binder because I edit better on paper than I do on the computer screen. Remember when I mentioned being happy about a new color of sticky-notes? Iím that way about new colors in 3-ring binders. I have a non-writer friend who is awfully understanding about the fact I canít walk into an office supply store without heading straight for the notebook section to see if they've come out with any new colors since the last time I looked. Lately, itís been pastels. Again, anything that excites me helps to energize me.
And the notebooks arenít just pretty; theyíre functional in that they keep everything organized and in one place. Recently, Iíve started making a spreadsheet for my new series that includes all of the character names, their ages, hair color, eye color, job--all those picky little details. I used to keep all of that in bins next my desk. But as my process has evolved, Iíve found printing out the spreadsheet and sliding it into the clear view cover on my notebook keeps that information instantly available. Itís saved me a lot of time searching through files.
Itís all about identifying the important components in your own individual process when it comes to writing. What works for you and what doesnít. Thereís a reason why most speakers talking about writing and craft begin with the caveat that if it works for you, use it. If it doesnít, donít. It really is that simple.
On the other hand, I have to be selective. Just because I want something doesnít mean itís useful. Iíve always said that if they put a coffee shop in the office supply store, Iíd never come home. Yes, I covet pretty pens, fancy file folders, and all things bright and shiny. However, I donít NEED them to do my job. Clutter and distractions hinder my productivity; they donít enhance it. As hard as it is, Iíve learned when to walk away. You can also get caught up in the sticky web of the latest craze. Remember new doesnít always mean better.
So, my advice is to figure out what helps you focus and what makes you more productive. Anything else is a distraction. And if you write better in your favorite panda bear jammies with a cup of mocha hot chocolate at hand, thatís your process. Take ownership of it. After all, like they said in the commercial, itís only weird if it doesnít work.
Good luck and good writing,
Alexis Morgan has always loved reading and now spends her days imagining worlds filled with strong alpha heroes and gutsy heroines. She is the author of over thirty books, novellas, and short stories that span a variety of genres: American West historicals; paranormal and fantasy romances; and most recently, contemporary romance. Alexis has been nominated for numerous industry awards, including the RITA© from the Romance Writers of America, the top award in the romance genre.
They are cursed by the gods, and war is their salvation. Love is their deliverance.
For centuries, five legendary warriors have braved their battles shoulder to shoulder. But now, they must divide and conquer as lone champions against evil.
Duncan, a scholar at heart, is drawn to an isolated abbey rumored to hold the answers to countering the terror unleashed by Duke Keirthan. Inside the cloistered walls lies the hidden collection of forbidden lore on dark magic. But the real key to the salvation Duncan seeksóboth for the people of Agathia and his soul--is the abbess herself, Lady Lavinia. Hunted by the duke who seeks to harvest her powers, Lavinia knows Duncan wants to help her. But can she trust the tortured warrior with her secrets?
In the end, it is only by joining forces that they can save not only those they are sworn to protect, but each other.