Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Musings: Tricks, tools, rituals, writing habits

Happy Sunday.

Putting this together it's a wet fall-like Saturday with Sunday being much the same. However, it's the weekend and time isn't stuck at 9-5 or even 8-5, it's a little freer. And to those who work the weekend...thank you.

Those of us who write, or basically create, time and days blend together. Every free second is our time.

Lately, Terri's been asking about it changes our writing, has it blocked us...and from there the next question is:

When writing do you have any tricks, tools, rituals that assist getting your ideas working?

I usually have one or two ideas rattling around in my head. I've learned over the years that there is no point whatsoever in trying to force any of them to take flight.  I simply play with the potential plot, individual scenes, and/or characters.  If they don't go anywhere, fine.  I file them away for possible future recall.  If there is a spark, I play some more, and if the story seems to be growing, out comes the trusty pencil and paper.

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

When I was in college I remember reading about how certain “triggers” in your environment would help you study better. As a Communications-English major, I discovered studying and writing in the same place really helped me. When I wrote my first novel I employed the same trick. At the time, I was writing at my dining room table, but I found sitting in that same spot every night helped me write. I also have a piece of quartz I’ll hold while the computer is firing up. I left the dining room table for a desk, and I’m still more productive when I write in my own space. When my debut romantic suspense novel MIND GAMES released, a friend gave me a necklace of citrine, malachite, and aventurine. Citrine harnesses creative energy and brings inner calmness. Malachite has many energies and can be used as a grounding tool to assist in bringing dreams, visions and wishes into physical reality. Aventurine is known as the gambler’s stone because it’s the luckiest of all stones in games of chance and helps you believe in your talents. I wear the necklace every time I sit down to write. I’m wearing it now. True story, I was writing really late one night and fell asleep with the necklace on, the next afternoon I received an acceptance email from Muse It Up Publishing to acquire my series the Last Cold Case. Those are my rituals and I’m sticking to ‘em.

When I've got an idea for a story, I write down as much as I can in my notebook, before I forget it. Then, when I'm going to sleep at night, I 'watch' the story like a movie in my mind, and often, further ideas come to me. If I wake in the middle of the night, I re-run the movie, and as I go back to sleep, I let my mind wander. Sometimes, the half-dreaming, half-asleep state leads me to places I'm not sure I would have gone if I'd been completely awake although in the morning, I have to remember to write any ideas down before I forget them!

I am somewhere between a plotter and a pantser in terms of writing style, so I generally have a rough outline starting out that has the high points of the novel. It covers the beginning, the ending, and the major plot points at least. For Geek Games, for example, the third in my Novels of Aleyne series, I had, in addition, notes for scenes up to the first plot point. For Rob's Rebellion, the fourth in the series, I didn't have a lot of scene notes. I'd used the novel for homework for an online class, however, so I had several scenes meant to appear later in the novel. These served to help flesh out the plot.

I generally work three or four scenes ahead. I picture the scene, complete with scenery and dialogue, as a movie running in my head. Then I take notes, including any notes about future scenes. I usually type right onto the computer, but if I'm stuck, I'll use pen and paper as somehow this serves to free me up. I've heard that writing by hand engages a different part of the brain than typing, so perhaps that's why it works. Or maybe it's simply that it forces me to slow down – I'm a fast typist – and think more about what I'm writing.

Not really.  There are times I wish I did, especially on those days that can end up being weeks that I just plain don’t feel like writing, so I don’t.  During these times, I imbibe the works of others as I read, read, read. 

I tend to do a lot of my writing in my head before I ever get it down on paper or on the computer.  If I have a scene, and or characters all figured out, their conversation, their actions, I don’t mind sitting down and getting it in print.

But if I don’t have a clue as to how to proceed, I just don’t.  Sometimes it only takes a word, a phrase, an idea, or a picture in my head.  And when I do sit down to write, it just flows as the characters themselves take over.  Maybe they were waiting all along for me to just put my hands on the keyboard or pick up a pencil! 

Other times it just takes a season of good hard praying to get those floodgates open!

While I’m writing the words usually flow from my head to my fingers and I rarely have a problem with a story. However, when I get stuck I have found that the best thing for me to do is to go back to the plot and actually figure out what is going to happen. For me this is a thing I don’t usually do. I don’t usually plan out my scenes. But sometimes a scene needs very specific blocking, like a scene in a play or it won’t work. At that time I actually make a diagram to see where each character will be and what they will be doing. In After I had to do that with a scene where all of the characters were in a scene, but I couldn’t figure out how it would work. It was only when I took it apart after it was written and figured out what was happening that I realized why I felt it wasn’t working.

When I was writing my first novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, I ran into trouble with Jennifer Taylor’s plot. So I actually took a workshop to help me to figure out how to go on with this book. During this workshop I learned how to weave my secondary character’s plot into the story so it worked. I really don’t think I would have finished my book if not for this workshop from Children’s Authors Bootcamp. Also I learned that you have to think of plot like a play and that was a big help too.

In the past, when I was stuck, I actually wrote some short stories and that helped me to go back to my writing. Sometimes you need to stop writing and do something that is shorter. Then when you go back to your writing it is much easier to continue. Or, the other way, is to just stop and take a walk or do something around the house. Many times that works. But it’s late at night just before sleep that I work out most of my problems with a story. It may take a lot of nights, but before I go to sleep I will go through the scene that is causing me a problem. Then when I get back to the writing I will have the solution.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

1 comment:

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

So many interesting posts here. So many different ways authors write, which proves there's more than one way. We have to find out what works for us and go with it. Each story may be different too.
Thanks for sharing your creative stories.
Happy writing.