We’re two weeks into the new year (and a whole new decade!) and I know plenty of writers who made some lofty resolutions. Here at WITS, we keep it simple and stick to one word to guide our writing journey in the new year.
Frankly, one word is about all I can handle at the beginning of January.
The holidays have usually left me breathless. Someone in my family is often sick over that holiday break (this time it was everyone). My house is predictably a raging mess in early January.
There’s a special writing area I’ve created for myself. A glass-topped desk with very little to clutter the surface: laptop, coffee mug, desk lamp, and my little “owl with tiara” mascot.
The desk faces a large window that looks out on trees and distant hills. No houses, cars, or people. A black ergonomic chair.
I like having this special, dedicated place. I do other things there—emails, PayPal, cropping my photos—but mostly it’s where I write. The time of day varies, from early morning to late at night; the place, less so.
I wondered what other people did, what their writing spaces were like. So I asked.
I posted a photo of my desk on a few Facebook groups for writers and invited people to respond with their own photos or descriptions. A lively discussion ensued, with dozens of people taking part.
A minister, a priest, and a rabbi are walking down a dark alley — no, this is not a joke, but hang with me here — when an eight-foot, three-headed monster jumps out, roars, and bares his sharp teeth and claws.
The minister throws a punch. The priest runs. The rabbi can’t seem to move.
See? I told you it wasn’t a joke. It’s acute stress response; that is, the way our bodies and minds handle the presence of an immediate threat.
One fights. One flees. One freezes.
You’ve heard of those, but how can writers apply this knowledge to our stories? How can the fight-flight-freeze response be used to ratchet up tension and guide action for our characters?
I am a ghostwriter by trade and have years of experience writing and publishing books. When people hire me, they do so because I have a sense of the process.
Often (too often) people hire me and stop listening. They don’t always trust what I am saying to them, even though they hired me for that very purpose. I don’t know all the answers to publishing and writing questions. Luckily, for those times I don’t know, I have built a team of other professionals I trust to provide me those answers.
I’ve been thinking about my writing journey and that of others I know, and trust is a powerful determiner for a book, from concept to publishing. Trust is not something given lightly, but at times, we have to take a risk and place trust outside ourselves to move a book from our heads to the page.
It’s not always easy to do. We must ask questions for clarity.
There are many pathways to writing and publishing. Whichever one we choose, we must see it through and trust those guiding the way. We must rely on our inner voice and the advice of others throughout the entire process of writing, but I believe that it can be a methodical process in which we can increase our chances of success.
Writer karma. It’s one of the myriad phrases I’ve learned over the last three years since I emerged as a writer. Writer karma has led me, an emerging writer, to be here at Writers in the Storm as a new quarterly contributor. Hello!
A bit about me…
I didn’t discover writing as a creative outlet until I was almost forty, a year after my eleven year-old son Matthew was diagnosed with a brain tumor. As our family recovered from the trauma, an awareness grew in me that our story must be told.
My first draft was dreadful. Even my 20th draft was shitty. But that didn’t deter me, perhaps because I didn’t know how crappy it actually was.
Then, I quit.
My son’s recovery was slow. Painfully slow. I found it impossible to write the story as we lived it, without yet knowing the ending, so I packed writing away and left it to languish. In 2016, when I medically retired, a voice in my head said, “Finish your book.”
Recently, I received feedback on my manuscript, Cold Karma, from one of my beta readers and was pleasantly surprised. “I really like reading your books,” he said. “You don’t bog things down with a lot of unnecessary details. You let the characters tell the story.”
If I had been wearing a hat, it would have had popped off like a champagne cork due to my head swelling three sizes.
I’m used to getting comments on plot, characters and dialogue, but this wasn’t about those things. His comment was about my writing style—about me as an author. After my head shrunk back to normal size, I put on my analyst cap and thought about what he said.
“You let the characters tell the story.”
That was the key thing that set my work apart for him? But…HOW did I accomplish that?