Thursday, March 13, 2008

LET'S MAKE WRITING FUN!

Wow, Alice! You provided another tough blog act to follow. But I'll give it a whirl.

I mentioned in my comment that I recently discovered something about myself. I prefer to do fun, easy things that show immediate results. How can someone with that personality trait write a 300-or-so page book? Good question, and that may be why it's previously taken me a long time to produce a book.

So I've decided to come up with ways to make each part of the writing process fun and easy.

Being an office supply junkie, my first step in writing a book is to stop by an office supply store to buy an easel pad, several dozen packages of sticky notes in a variety of colors, highlighters -- in at least a dozen different colors, and clear pushpins (unless, of course, I can find pushpins in the same color as the sticky notes so they don't distract from the color scheme I will use for plotting).

On the way home, I stop by the mall to leave breath prints on the display cases at the candy store -- no drooling allowed and I can't actually purchase any chocolate because I gave up sugar years ago. However, I do encourage others to eat twice as much chocolate so my share doesn't go to waist -- I mean waste. As consolation for no chocolate, I stop by the book store before leaving the mall to buy an extra book (or two or half dozen) for "research."

Back in the car, I drive as close as possible to the nearest Starbucks to smell the coffee. I don't drink coffee, but love the smell! I also make a mental note to stop by the used book store in case they have some gotta-have-em research books in the $2 bin or in the freebie box out front.

Once at home, I greet and feed the herd of dogs. After eating, it's nap time or, for a nice change, a soak in a bubble bath. This is prime time for percolating ideas -- I am plotting a book, after all. If the grandkids have left soap crayons in bathroom, ideas can be written on the tile walls. Drawing lines on the grout between tiles counts as cleaning if I turn on the shower when I'm finished and rinse the tiles. Note to self: don't forget to copy ideas down on paper before rinsing the walls! By the time I am soaked to prune-wrinkled consistency, the major plot points should have bubbled into my mind and can be written down on the easel pages which now line the wall of my office.

Whew! I probably should celebrate all I've accomplished by calling a friend and going out to dinner. After all, I'll need to keep up my strength to start playing What-If with the sticky notes tomorrow.

The morning dawns bright and sunny. However, I remember that some authors dream fully realized plots, so I retrieve the blankets from the dogs who have stolen them in the night and go back to sleep. I wake up two hours later to the excited barking of my youngest dogs, who are chasing the squirrels from window to window around the house, but no memories of a dream.

However, that's OK. I've decided to make a game of seeing how many pads of sticky notes I can fill with ideas in one day. A different color for each character and each plot point. Fun and easy, right?

Since my e-book publisher responds very quickly and wants to see a full manuscript with submissions, my plotting goes beyond the first three chapters and slides into the Three Weird Sisters (to borrow Alice's term for beginning, middle and end). To plot the entire book, forms are fun! So I print out forms onto which I can transfer all the ideas from my sticky notes. A form for each character, a form for each scene. Gosh, I may have to go back to the office supply store to buy colored paper to coordinate with the colors of my sticky notes. And maybe I should do storyboards for each major character and each setting in my story...

OK, much of the above was written in jest. However, I do have fun with plotting. Then at some point in all this fun, I realize I haven't actually written much of the story yet. So I "get serious" and sit down at the keyboard to write. But does switching to "serious" really help the writing go faster and smoother? Or does it just add tension to the shoulders?

What do you think? Have you ever written a book that you enjoyed ALL the way through? Do you celebrate smaller victories, such as writing 1000 words in a day? Is the challenge check-in a celebration for you? Do you treat yourself to something special when you reach the half-way point of the book or when you finish a scene that was particularly difficult? If you do something special, what is it? If you decided to celebrate smaller accomplishments before you actually write "the end," what would your reward be?

14 comments:

Alice Sharpe said...

LOL, Genene, that was a fun thing to wake up to this a.m. Thank you!

If even half of the easel paper, story-board, colored sticky notes in coordinating colors is true, I have this to say, "Ack!" Oh, maybe I could also say, "Run!" You're a one woman paper blizzard! I picture a strong wind blowing through one of your windows (perhaps one of the pups left it open during the squirrel races) whipping up that confetti of character arcs and black moments and plot points, twirling them through each room like mini-tornados until all that's left of you is a rainbow of squares topped with some gorgeous long hair.

I like what you're saying, though. Writing should involve fun moments. It doesn't have to be drudgery. I have written books that I enjoyed every moment of. Many of them, esp. at the beginning. They're harder for me now for many reasons, but I still enjoy them at times, and this time through, actually miss writing every day in that straight, get to the end way you do when there's a deadline looming.

Thanks again for the smiles.

Paty Jager said...

Cute blog,, Genene! And I can see you doing all of that! LOL

So far I've enjoyed the Halsey brother books all the way through- sure there was a rough spot or two, but after some thinking and brainstorming with others the rough spots became scenes I enjoyed. I love the characters in each of them and I think that comes through in their stories.

My celebrations- 1000 words, a great scene, just getting to the end are celebrated with Dove Chocolate. But then, I also eat it when I'm stuck or having a time with a scene. Hmmm... I guess I just eat it all the time. (could be why my butt's expanding)

I've tried to be as organized as you, I have a black foam core board with squares drawn on it to post sticky notes of my plot. But it sits there. I rarely use it. I have different colored sticky notes, but they are used to make notes to myself that I lose. I had a wealth of highlighters at one point, and highlighted the dickens out of my stories for editing, but I find I am doing most of that in my head now. So my grandkids and husband play with them.

I've found a chart with the characters GMC on it and one with some background on them, then that Seven thing and I'm ready to roll on the story.

Genene said...

Hi, ladies! Glad you got some smiles from the post today.

Alice, your visual of swirling sticky notes made me laugh. Thanks!

Alice and Paty, it's so nice to hear there are books you enjoyed writing all the way through the process.

Since I tend to drag out the process, there are times I get frustrated with my lack of progress. By reminding myself to have fun with this gift of creative storytelling, I hope to also enjoy the entire process as well as be more productive.

Thanks for sharing, ladies!

Danita Cahill said...

Genene, that was fun. It's also fun to type your name really fast Genene genene genenenenenenen. Anyway, whererere was I? Oh yeah, your post. I loved the bathtub part and how drwing notes with soap crayons and rinsing counts as cleaning. LOL.

Each part of the book-writing process is fun, and hard work and a hateful bore all at the same time. When I'm in the throes of a long project, I like to reward myself with chocolate or walks. Sometimes a trip to a bookstore, or an office supply store is also a good pick me up. And call me sick, but I love to peruse Goodwill. I have found some of my favorite things at those stores.

Karen Duvall said...

I love your enthusiasm, Genene! And I'm with Danita on typing your name really fast. That is fun! 8^)

I have to say that I enjoy every step of the writing process. And there's so much variety that you can never get bored. If I'm not having fun, I know the book isn't working. That's when I close the file and put the failed effort in the dreaded "dead book" folder. Sigh.

Now that I'm between projects I feel a little disoriented. Like waking up from a dream. I had a book idea fill my head while walking the dog yesterday, but I'm resisting it. It's not my genre! Though I read widely in several genres, I tend to write only adventure/paranormal stuff. The idea plucking at my brain cells is women's fiction. Where the hell did that come from? Must resist. Must resist... Who the hell wants to read about a middle-aged widow who takes up pole-dancing and embarrasses the hell out of her adult children? But I digress...

Soap crayons. Wow, you have something there, Genene. My shower is fiber glass, but the smooth white surface is perfect for writing on. And some of my best ideas come to me in the shower.

Thanks for a fun blog post!

wavybrains said...

OMG Genene, you are just the organization queen. I shiver to think of what your house must look like! I'm thinking you would faint at my messy house and chicken scratching all over my outlines.

But, office supplies, now office supplies ARE fun. I just don't actually USE them.

I can't say as I've ever had fun ALL the way through, as every project has been victim to at least one major bout of burnout/writers block. Here's to hoping though.

What I'm finding fun right now is writing by hand. I'm filling up yellow legal pads with no need to hit spell check, fix formating, do a little research, hit thesaurus, surf the internet . . . And no dreaded white screen. It's a lot easier to fill up a notepad page.

Also, I find little editing games fun--find all the -ly and -ing words. Find all the "be" verbs. Look for places to get deep POV. This is way more fun than "how do I fix that."

I usually reward myself for finishing a book and for doing major steps--mailing out submissions, getting requests etc.

wavybrains said...

Oh and Karen--WRITE THAT BOOK.

I totally want to read about the Widow pole dancing. In fact, I think you should go write the first chapter right now before someone reading this blog goes "Aha!"

:)

Alice Sharpe said...

I agree with Wavy, Karen -- write the book.

Karen Duvall said...

Alice and Wavy, you're too funny. (snicker-snort). I'll think about it. But I just see this really strong minded woman in her fifties who wants to do something daring and to feel sexy again, while facing ridicule from her straight-laced, Harvard-grad sons whose personalities are totally opposite hers. But hasn't this storyline already been done to death? It sounds familiar to me... I need to read more WF.

Paty Jager said...

I want to get a tattoo. Not sure why. I'm kind of like Rose in the comics. You know her biker alter ego. Well there's an alter ego of mine who wants a tattoo. But whenever I say anything about it around my conservative daughters-- My, my you'd of thought I said I was going to work in a strip club! So I can so equate with your character!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

ROFLMAO, Genene. That was definitely fun.

I, too, love office supplies. So much in fact, I started my college career as an accounting major. I visualized myself in a high-rise office building, seated behind a regal desk, looking out over a vast view of mountains and water while I chatted happily with my blue file folders, purple laptop, multicolored sticky notes and green paperclips.

Alas, it was not to meant to be. A 7:30 accounting class cured me of my obsession with office supplies. So I said "screw it" and signed up for a science course - which, luckily took place after lunch - and discovered the joys of dissecting and making things explode.

But I digress...you had a question, didn't you?

No, I've never written a book that's been a piece of cake. Each one is challenging for different reasons. Yesterday my daughter asked me which book I've written is my favorite. And my answer was, "The one I just finished." Not the one I'm working on now - because that one is my challenge - but the one I know is done - at least as done as any book can be.

Thanks for the fun post!! Wavy and I are switching days tomorrow because she's got a question burning a hole in her fingertips which she wants answers to. So I'll try to come up with something pithy for her day next week.

Genene said...

Danita and Karen, glad to hear I'm not the only one who sometimes gets too many letters in my name, or gets the n's and the e's tangled. After all these years, you'd think I could spell my own name! :)

How could I have forgotten a trip or two to Goodwill? I have found such cool things at thrift stores -- silk blouses and dressy slacks and jackets, some with the Nordstrom price tags still on them. What fun!

Karen, I don't have a "dead book" file. Perhaps I should. Mine seem to get resurrected or merged in with another story -- something to keep them undead. Is that more your genre? :) But I'm with Wavy. If you have a book tormenting you -- write it! Why not a pole-dancing widow? Was it you who was tired of stripper heroines? The Universe does have a wicked sense of irony. Make this best pole-dancing heroine ever written -- with your own special voice, of course! And what parent could resist a little reverse revenge on their children -- all in fun, of course!

And, Paty, don't say anything to your daughters. You can keep it a secret and just tell us on the blog! I'm too much a wimp to even think about a tattoo. Needles poking into my skin? I've never even had the guts to get my ears pierced!

Wavy, I think Alice's vision of a tornado of paper is more like my everyday house than painfully neat and organized. Though I have made great progress the last few months in getting rid of things I've packratted away for over 20 years.

It's interesting that you're writing longhand on yellow pads now. I remember doing my first serious story that way, thinking I couldn't write directly on the computer. Now it would take some effort to switch back to writing longhand. And I like that you reward yourself throughout the writing process. That's what I need to remember to do.

Oh, Eli, I never thought about being a regal organization queen! What fun! Of course, I'd have to find my desk again. It was clean a week ago, now it's covered with stacks of "stuff" again. Maybe because I too like to sleep in. But dissecting? Just like tattoos, I'm too wimpy! But explosions -- I could get into that. In fact, I have a book partially written where the heroine's uncle generates explosions on a regular basis.

Are you working on the third book in your series or the second?

wavybrains said...

Genene,

Switching back to longhand after years of being tied to the computer is particularly freeing.

So much of my day is on the computer--email, lesson plans for school, and the evil, evil, evil internet. Sometimes trying to write is a bit like trying to order tea in a bar. Not gonna happen, especially if you're trying to give up the beer.

So it's kind of nice to do a few pages long hand. And the typing will be its own reward somewhere down the road.

Genene said...

Wavy,
Had to chuckle -- evil, evil, evil Internet? The blessing and bane of our modern existence!

It sure is handy when I'm editing and want a thesaurus, but it sure can eat up time quickly!