All posts by Vivienne Lynge

Just Write 2 – Get Words Onto The Page

Hey ~ V here.  It’s easy to say, Just Write.  It’s much harder to do.  Writing can be a lonely job.  Even when I have a nice outline and quiet time to write, I still find reasons to procrastinate.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t actually like to write, most of the time.  I love to create, I love to have a finished product I’m proud of, and writing is the only way to get those people in my head clamoring for attention to shut up! 

There are some who might say a trip to a psychiatrist could help with the voices, but I’m pretty sure I’m not schizophrenic.  I’m just imaginative.  And I would like to use those powers for good (and someday make a living at it.)  So, I write.  But the actual writing, the deciding what words to use and typing them onto the screen part, is kinda boring, and surprisingly hard. 

How do I do it then, you ask?  Good question!  Well, I’ve heard that “In every job there is to be done, there is an element of fun.  Find the fun and snap, the job’s a game.”  (Kudos to those who can identify the source of that wisdom!) 

So, I find the fun. 

  • I challenge myself – let’s see if I can write this whole scene today
  • I commit myself (again, not due to schizophrenia) – I’ll announce my goals to the public so that I dare not fail.
  • I might post my word count or goal on Facebook as a carrot and stick thing.  If the carrot isn’t enough to get me moving (I’m so proud to post a nice 2,000 words written today), then maybe the stick will beat me into doing better next time (Only 200 words written today – frowny face.) 
  • I could dare a friend to beat my word count (Susannah Hardy and I have a double dog dare starting on Monday.) 
  • I sign up for Nanowrimo.  If you aren’t familiar with it, read up!  Nanowrimo is a GREAT (Free!) challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November.  Over 100,000 people around the world Nano’d last year.  They email you pep talks, give you tools to chart your success, and create local communities where you can go to write-ins with other Nanoers.  And Camp Nanowrimo is starting soon.
  • I start dreaming up my next project with the promise to get started on it just as soon as I finish the current one.
  • I reward myself with pastries.  Generally, pastries are off limits, but if I’m off to write 1000 words, an almond horn might be just the incentive I need.
  • I skip the boring parts of the story and write the exciting parts out of order.  I can connect it later. 

And of course sometimes the fun eludes me.  I might only write a few words one day and a few the next, but I know that if I keep plugging along at it, eventually, I will get to a point where I’m excited again and 10,000 words will just flow from my fingertips.

Today’s Secret:  Find the fun and do whatever it takes to get the words onto the page. 

Take in the Local Flavor

Hi – J here.  Authenticity is important in books, whether they are set in reality or some made up world.  If your world is made up, you can imagine the authenticity, but you still have to include those details for the reader.  If your book is set in an actual place, do what I do: plan vacations to those places.  Or conversely, set your books in places you have visited.

When you are away from home, be sure to take special notice of the local flavors and differences.  For example, when I decided to set my first novel in Philadelphia, my husband and I actually took the train (as did my characters) to Philly.  Many details of our trip found their way into the book, which made it a better story.

I just concluded a family vacation in Nashville, Tennessee.  I found lots of interesting things that were different from my Connecticut home.  Some things may not be Nashville things, but rather other interesting details (all of the faucets in the ritzy home where we are staying turn backwards – what I naturally think of as “off” was “on” there.)  Others are absolute – the rock that lines the side of the highways isn’t the granite I’m used to at home, but some kind of sedimentary bedrock thing.  I must investigate to find out what it is so that I can drop it in a future novel set in the area.  The food so far has been um…Wonderful!  I’ve had biscuits with white gravy (who ever heard of white gravy?), waffles with strawberry marshmallows in it, and fabulous flautas.  We ate at Jack’s BBQ which we found by following our noses for two blocks.

JK Rowling might do this best.  The Harry Potter books are full of fun interesting details that make the stories great but aren’t actually required to tell the story.  She could have gotten by without inventing a slang term for non-magical people, but I think the world would be poorer without the term, “Muggle”.  Don’t you?  PS: If you haven’t heard, she’s got a new announcement coming out next week.  Check out Pottermore for the count down.

Scribes’ Secret Unlocked: your stories can be richer when you include a few interesting details that may not actually move the story along.  It’s OK to do this – even though you hear time and time again, “If it doesn’t advance your story, cut it out.”  You can be sure that somebody in a future novel of mine will be scalded by backward-turning faucets.

Just Write – The Approach

Hey, Vivienne here.  Last week I stole Nike’s tag line and said, “If you want to be a writer, then just do it.”  I thought I’d follow up with a little series of “Just Write” thoughts.

Today’s thought is on The Approach to writing.  I jealously listen to authors say, “the story just came to me” or “the characters just go where-ever they want and take over” or some other magical the-story-was-licked-onto-the-page-by-fluffy-kittens type of tripe.  Those kinds of things never happen for me. 

My experience in creating a story is more along the lines of what YA author Kady Cross said recently, “I vomit up the first draft.”  It’s ugly, it’s sweaty, it’s noisy and probably smells bad.  But that’s how I get through a first draft.  And I’m happy to be in such good company!

My mother once told me that she had no imagination at all (it’s not true, but she seems to think it is) and that if you put a blank page in front of her it would stay blank.  I couldn’t imagine that!  Give me a blank piece of paper and I’ll create a story, or draw a picture or fold it into an origami cup.  It won’t stay blank for long.  But notice I wrote, I’ll CREATE a story.  That’s ‘cause I’m an idea machine.  I have tons of ideas, I’ve just historically been bad at follow through.

However, like in any undertaking, it’s important to know yourself and to acknowledge the things you are good at and areas where you suck.  I have learned that without an outline, a road map of what comes next, I end up with a never-filled blank page.  I’ll be writing along happily and then I get stuck.  I don’t know what happens next; I don’t know what scene to write.  Procrastination begins. 

I might do some “research” also known as wasting time on the Internet.  True research usually has a specific purpose.  The other day I needed to describe a flapper dress, I went to Google images, looked at some vintage flapper dresses, wrote about an imaginary dress based on the images and moved on.  This research took all of fifteen minutes at most.  Procrastination “research” can take up weeks of trolling around purposelessly. 

Or I might decide to edit what I’ve got written so far – a potentially endless task.  Or worse, I might find myself on downloading free trial after free trial and playing video games.  How I love Diner Dash!

At any rate, I’ve learned that while some people get their stories from kitten spit, mine come from diligent outlining.  I harness the idea machine and write a several-pages-long outline of all the scenes that might/could/should/will happen in the story.  Then I rearrange them into a nice order and I write them.  That way, when I choke, I know what comes next.  I might even skip around and write the scenes out of order if I’m stuck on a boring bit.  I can always connect them later. 

I told you it wasn’t pretty.

Today’s Secret: Identify your strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage.  No matter what “respected” authors say (don’t we all deserve some R-E-S-P-E-C-T?!) there is no wrong way to approach your craft.  Write your story however you want, but just write it.

Just Do It

Hey, Vivienne here.  Short and sweet post today, folks.  If you want to be a writer, there’s really just one thing you have to do: write.  All the rest of it has to do with publishing, which, let’s be honest, is a different animal.  If you have dreams of being a writer, nothing is stopping you but yourself.  How freeing is that?

What other dreams do people have where they have such control over their destiny?  If you dream of being a doctor, there are lots of people who might tell you, “Sorry, you can’t get into medical school.”  Or you can’t afford it.  What about being a CEO?  That’s a pretty hard gig to get.  President of the United States?  Well, since 1789 there’ve only been 44 of ‘em.  Ballerina, fire fighter, chocolatier, there are lots of reasons why you might not be able to realize those dreams.

But being a writer is all up to you.  Even being a successful writer is up to you, because of course, you define your own success.  For me, successful means earning money through this endeavor.  Yes, I have a specific dollar amount in mind, but that’s not the point.  And I have lots of milestones along the way (see Katy’s post this last Sunday for important information on that topic).  But, those things aside, I am a writer.

Because I write.

Today’s Secret: Put your butt in a chair and write.