Recently, I was asked by Danielle Boonstra to participate in the IC Publishing Summer Blog Tour in order to share my insight into the Writing Process. I think it is so interesting to read about the unique ways writers go about our craft and I am happy to share my own approach in hopes that it might be encouraging to others who find it challenging to commit to a regular writing routine.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to Sheri Andrunyk.
Sheri is the founder of I C Publishing (sponsor for this blog tour) and the I C Bookstore, entrepreneur expert, and author of Working From Home & Making It Work and Hearts Linked by Courage. She is extremely passionate about providing more choices and high level support to other writers, business professionals, wellness coaches, and spiritual mentors.
How Do You Start Your Writing Projects?
In reality, my projects usually find me before I find them. Back when I had a newspaper column with a deadline I started writing about an hour or two before deadline, but the idea had probably been marinating in my subconscious for a few days. When I sat down to write, the words just flowed, almost magically, it seemed to me. It was the easiest kind of writing I have ever done. Comparing that to my writing now, I have to admit that I think much of the ease of the process came from having a deadline to meet.
Now I don't have a deadline and it takes me a lot longer to get started. The ideas grab me in the least expected places and then they nag me to write about them. I might be going for a walk and notice something about a tree that reminds me of something about life in general and I say to myself, "I should write a blog about that."
For the rest of the walk, I keep hoping that I don't forget this insight. If I have my mobile phone with me I usually call my land line and leave myself a message. If my husband (poor patient man!) listens to the voice mails before I do, he is likely to hear me ruminating about this new idea. Not in just one message or two - more than likely, there will be three or four!
By the time I get home, however, the reality of my daily life in my four-generation household sets in. There are grandchildren to play with and my almost 99-year-old mother to care for. So I put off writing the blog. But, if the idea is good and really does resonate with me, it will remain a nagging presence in the back of my mind. It is almost as if it is saying to me, "If you don't sit down and write this soon, I am going to keep interfering with all your other thoughts. So get to it!"
That, of course, should be enough to get me to the computer and it usually does. But once I sit down to write I am likely to be waylaid by email, Facebook, etc. Usually, I end up writing the blog late at night on the day before I have a really busy schedule. It is almost as if knowing that the next day won't provide any time for writing is what gets my creative juices flowing. As you can see, I am easily distracted from what I intend to do and I write best under pressure, which is why the writing process for my novel required me to literally get away from my family, friends and online life for a period of intensive writing.
Writing my novel ~
When I finally decided to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing "the great American novel" I decided to turn my allotted week in November of 2010 in my parents' Newport timeshare into a writing week. My husband was my only companion. He spent the days sight-seeing, visiting museums, reading, and eating (all things I really love to do with him!) and I was able to concentrate completely on writing the novel from 8 a.m. until about 6 p.m each day. Then we would go out to dinner and I would talk about what I had written. This is where I Call Myself Earth Girl was born
The hours flew by. I felt as if I had been writing for two or three hours by the time 6 pm arrived. I had tons of energy and felt very happy during the entire week. I dreamed about the story almost every night. For me, this immersion was the perfect way to get started and I made so much progress that by the 7th day I had completed the first half of the book. By that time, I had also revised my goal from "the great American novel" to "a really compelling story."
How Do You Continue Your Writing Projects?
As you may have gathered from what I have already written, I am not very disciplined about making sure I have daily writing time. To be honest, I really want to change that. But in the recent past my writing projects have fit in when and where they can.
Blogs don't take me that long to write. I only need an hour or two from start to finish. I always have a backlog of ideas and topics so that is never a stumbling block. If I had the time, I could write three blogs a day and never run out of ideas. Some times this is very frustrating because I can't find the time to write about all the things I really want to explore through writing. I think it is important to emphasize that I really do mean "explore" because most writing for me is also a process of discovering more about how I think or feel.
With my novel, I needed another period of immersion to continue with the process. So a year after the first week, I spent another 7 days at the timeshare with my husband. I wrote from morning until dinner time and finished the book the night before we checked out. (We had a late dinner that night - a very celebratory one!) To be honest, I could have used more time, but I had a burning desire to finish this story and I did not want to wait another year to do so.
I would not actually advise other writers to use this process unless you can get your weeks of immersion much closer together. It can be very frustrating. I thought about the book on some level almost every day for the year between writing weeks. But I did not outline it or try to set up plot points. I did not want the year in between the writing sessions to interfere with the flow that I had while writing with intensity during my writing week.
Each day as I wrote I just let the words come. I did no revision during these two writing weeks. The story revealed itself to me and I simply tried to add details to support it and keep it coherent. Much of what I wrote actually surprised me. Writing the messages from the spirit in the story told me things about what I believe that I had never put in words before. I discovered a lot about myself while writing this book.
How Do You Finish Your Project?
I knew that my first draft needed revision and I knew I wanted to find a publisher. So, I spent my timeshare week the next year doing the revisions and looking for a publisher. Luckily I was able to complete both tasks during that week.The main reason I could find a publisher so quickly was because a friend told me about a publisher who could be queried online without the help of an agent. Once I had signed a contract, I spent time revising without the benefit of a week away. I managed to fit the revisions into my daily routine, wedged here and there between my family obligations. Of course, having a contract had the same affect as having a deadline. I knew I had to make steady progress to in order to submit the final manuscript. I completely changed the first chapter and even added a character who has turned out to be an important figure in the sequel.
All in all, it took me from November 2010 to November 2012 to write, revise, and find a publisher. From November 2012, until February 2013, I worked on revisions. The book was released in August of 2013. One of the things that held it up was how long it took me to settle on a cover. But I am glad I took the time - I love my cover! Actually, I love the whole book. So, despite the fact that it took so long, it was definitely worth the time and effort.
What’s One Challenge or Additional Tip That Our Collective Communities Could Benefit From?
Trust the process of letting words flow. I know so many people who get stalled out in the writing process because they worry about being skilled enough, unique enough, interesting enough. My advice is just keep writing. You can always "fix" it after you have finished, but if you self-censor and self-criticize while you are writing, you may lose your authentic voice. If you are inspired to write, don't let self doubt stand in your way.
I do Finding Your Voice writing workshops with individuals and groups in order to help aspiring writers to find, or reclaim, their authentic voices.
Passing the Pen
And with that, I pass the pen to one of my favorite fellow writers, Kathleen O'Malley. I met Kathleen shortly after my book was released and I was immediately drawn to her warmth and insight. We have appeared together at various events talking about why and how we write. Check out her links and be sure to look for her post on July 16th. Check out her links and her post on July 16th!
Kathleen O'Malley, DC is passionate about transforming lives. She is an integrative wellness chiropractor, mentor to adolescent and young women and has authored two inspirational books - Messages from Within: Finding Meaning in Your Life Experiences and Messages from Children and What They Can Teach Grown-ups.
Find Kathleen on on Twitter @KOMalley and at her website.
Thanks for reading and following the IC Publishing Summer Blog Tour.
Jan Krause Greene is the author of I Call Myself Earth Girl, a novel which explores how a woman gradually opens herself to mystic wisdom when she discovers she is pregnant and is convinced that she conceived the baby in a dream. She is currently working on the sequel, as well as two other books. She also helps individuals embrace their authentic voices through Finding YOUR Voice Writing Workshops.