Saturday, October 27, 2012

Confessions of a Deranged Writer

Photo courtesy of irkengirdib
Okay, admit it. I'm not the only writer that title suits. he he

For those of you who know me, you can admit how weird and more than a little crazy I tend to be. It's okay. I've often thought the same thing myself ABOUT myself.

For those of you who don't know me, hang around. Get to know me. I'm sure you'll soon agree with those who've known me for years.

As I tell people - "My brain is a scary place to live." ;-)

Which brings us to - confession time.

Confession #1 - I am a "pantser". Some prefer to call writers such as myself "intuitive" or "organic" because they aren't too keen on the "pantser" title. Call it whatever you will, I don't particularly care. None of the titles bother me in the least. For me, the title is one of those "A rose by any other name" situations. The title doesn't change how I work. I write by the seat of my pants, totally on the fly and with very little preparation beforehand.

I have no use for outlining prior to starting a project. I find the very act stifling to my creativity. I know "plotters" thrive on having a properly developed and fleshed out outline (though how developed and fleshed out seems to vary greatly from one writer to the next). More power to them, and I'll cheer for them and offer encouragement as they work on their outlines. It just ain't for me. I'd rather have a root canal than try to write that way again, and I'm only being partially facetious. Yeah, I hated it that bad.

As far as a synopsis? Yep. Familiar with those. That's the summary you write AFTER the book is written. (I can hear some "plotters" disagreeing with that statement. he he)

Oh, and just for the record - me and summaries? Not the best of friends. Summarizing an entire book in a single page doesn't come easy to me. So I'm still working on wrapping my head around that process.

Confession #2 - As a result of Confession #1, I rarely know how a story will end before I reach that final chapter. In fact, I rarely know what will happen in chapter 2 while I'm writing chapter 1. I find out when I get there, and it's not unusual for me to start writing a chapter, thinking it's going to go one way only to have it suddenly shift and go a completely unexpected direction (usually related to Confession #5).

Confession #3 - I research as I write. Research before I start a fiction project is rather pointless from my point of view, not to mention generally a waste of time. I don't know what exact details I'll need until I write that story. In the past, I've been a good little writer (at least in some people's opinion) and done an inordinate amount of research before I started a project, only to get a short way into the project and realize I needed details my previous research didn't provide. Which meant, of course, more research. So I research on the fly and seek the details I actually need at the time I need them. Works out beautifully and saves me countless hours researching information I end up not needing.

Confession #4 - The one thing I know when I start writing is my characters, and I continue to learn more about them as I write. I let them drive the story, and sometimes they take me on an incredibly wild, exciting ride. Who needs roller-coasters or other nausea-inducing adrenaline pumpers? All I need is a good cast of characters and ideas for a few situations to throw at them to keep their lives interesting. They do the rest.

Confession #5 - I sometimes argue with my characters. Yes, I know how that sounds. But when I want them to do one thing and they balk and want to do something else, we argue. They usually win. The last time that happened, I argued with my heroine for a full 2 hours. She won. Nothing more humbling than losing an argument with a fictional character. he he

Confession #6 - I lose sleep over the life of fictional characters. Seriously! It is common (and in fact, frequently occurs) that I go to bed exhausted, thinking my muse has gotten impatient with my late night writing and gone to bed without me, only to have a scene suddenly start running through my head the moment it hits the pillow. grrrr So I have to get up, power up the laptop or grab a pen and paper, and write that scene. I've done upwards of 1K in a half hour or so in the middle of the night, knowing if I don't get up and do it then, it'll have eluded me by morning.

Confession #7 - I LOVE NaNoWriMo! The challenge of meeting that one-month deadline in writing 50K spurs me to push myself, stretch those writing and thinking mental muscles, and I get to interact with other writers around the world and find out I'm not really so weird after all. What's not to like? I know there are those out there who would poo-poo and even flat out devalue and denigrate NaNoWriMo, but I ignore them. Just because they see no value in NaNoWriMo for them personally doesn't mean there's no value in it for others. For some of us, tremendous value in fact. The enjoyment of interacting with other writers alone is worth having! Throw in the writing itself, and WOOHOO!

For the same reason, I enjoy ACFW's Novel Tracks (Writing and Editing). Though I set my own goals for those, setting a goal spurs me to work harder than I would otherwise. And in the process, I get to interact with other Christian authors.

So, do I feel bad about any of these? Not on your life. My way of writing may not work for others, but it works great for me.

So be you "pantser", "plotter" or something in between, what confessions do you have to make? Have you figured out where you fit on that spectrum yet? If not, what are you doing to figure out what kind of writer you are and how best you work?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ready or Not, Here It Comes!

Photo courtesy of taliesin on
It's said only two things are certain in this life - death and taxes. That's not exactly true. There's a third absolute certainty no one escapes.


Change comes. Like it or not. Ready or not. It comes. Every single person on the planet faces it.

Life is not stagnant. It's ever-changing, ever-shifting, which means we're ever-changing and ever-adjusting, whether we realize it or not. Even the slow creep of age hits us all and brings its own changes and challenges.

Sometimes, change is good. The birth of a child. A new job. A squirming, playful new puppy. Marriage to your beloved. The arrival of spring after a long, cold winter. The start of the summer rains. Or, as an author, one of your books being published.

Sometimes, it's not so good. Loss of a loved one. Losing a job to downsizing. Foreclosure of your home. A very dear friend moving away. Loss of health or ability. Having to walk away from a well-loved hobby. A publisher you've worked closely with closing their doors and leaving you floundering.

If you notice, all of those involve loss in some way or another.

We don't tend to lament change when it's good, even if it causes stress. Like the adjustments to life that a new child or bringing a new puppy home requires. Or the mega-huge adjustments getting married brings. Although, most aren't too keen on "spring cleaning". he he

When the circumstances of the change aren't so good, we tend to have a very different response. We whine, groan, cry, grieve, rage and/or go into depression. Or just try to pretend nothing is going on - go about our day putting one foot in front of the other and keep ourselves too busy to stop long enough to face whatever the change is. And no two people deal with change exactly the same way.

The key to remember when facing change, no matter how difficult?


Even when we know a change is in God's control and He won't allow anything without a purpose and a reason, it's still hard. As human beings, we go through the emotional process even if we're trusting the Lord. Trusting God with a loss doesn't make that loss magically go away. It just makes it more bearable and assures us that it's not random happenstance.

It's hard sometimes to keep focused on God's will and God's work when we don't like the changes He's allowing in our lives. I'm going through this right now - struggling to stay focused and do what's right in God's eyes even as I grieve. It ain't easy. The human part of me wants very much to be angry, hurt and rail against God and a few folks along the way. But I know that's not how He wants me to deal with it.

Change isn't easy. Neither is the grief that so often comes with it. But at least we don't have to walk that journey alone. We may not see Him, but the Lord is always there.

... and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. 
Matt. 28:20 (NASB)

His unwavering presence is certainly what's getting me through these days. I've had some major changes thrown into my life of late, and I hate them! I'll be flat-out, dead honest about that.

But I decided I have three choices:
  1. I can sit around feeling sorry for myself (yeah, I want to do that).
  2. I can rage about how unfair it is (um, yeah, kinda want to do that, too, some days).
  3. Or I can put on my big girl pants and accept God's will and plan in these matters (did I mention I actually DON'T want to do that?).

The former two won't change matters. The change has come and will come regardless of how grown-up (or not) I act about it. So, I figure it's less stressful to be a grown-up and go with the flow. Even if I don't like it. At least I'm not facing any of it alone, and I'm not grieving alone. Others grieve with me, and the Lord is always there.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
Matt. 5:4 (NASB)

So what changes are you currently facing? Are they good or bad? Are you dealing with them the way you'd like? Are you letting the One who loves you most see you through?

And for you writers - is it affecting your ability to write? Affecting the writing itself if you ARE writing your way through it?

Photo courtesy of hotblack on

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tools of the Trade

I get asked fairly frequently about what software I use when writing. I used to write using MS Word. Exclusively. Until I found something WAY better.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2011 and heard about one of their sponsors - Write Way Pro. I chose to try out their free 30-day demo then bought it 2 weeks into the trial. LOVE IT! I don't miss writing in Word at all. WWP was designed specifically for writers and has all kinds of really cool tools built into it. And the price was great!

Don't get me wrong. I still use Word from time to time. But it's more of a weigh station now. I no longer use it for writing.

Along with using WWP, I also heard on the ACFW Loop about a handy-dandy freebie edit helper called Smart Edit.  You can't ask for better than free, right? I've got it customized to help me edit manuscripts. It flags things I want flagged, ignores things I want ignored, and in general helps me deal with some of my writing weaknesses (like overuse of the words "briefly" and "quickly" for some unknown reason). - UPDATE, this program is no longer available for FREE. It's been upgraded and now carries a cost.

Write Way Pro and Smart Edit are my choices. There are other options out there as well. Scrivener and YWriter come to mind. YWriter is a free software download available in a variety of places online. For those on a really tight budget, it may be right up your alley.

I've heard very positive things about Scrivener. Like WWP, Scrivener offers a free trial so you can check out the software and see if it's to your liking. Apparently there are some great tutorials for Scrivener on YouTube, so it should be very easy to learn for most people.

If you're a writer looking for writing software, I highly recommend downloading the free trial versions of these softwares. Try them out, see which one suits you the best. Then get writing!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Almost That Time Again!

November 1st is coming fast. And with it comes NaNoWriMo! Woohoo!!!

For those of you who don't know what that is, or what all the excitement is about, NaNoWriMo is short for "National Novel Writer's Month".  It's an annual event that takes place in November.  Over the course of the 30 days of November, writers from all over the world get together, virtually speaking, to write their hearts out to reach the 50,000 word goal.

50,000 words in 30 days may sound unreasonable or out of reach, but it's do-able for many people with some dedication and self-discipline.  That actually comes to 1,667 words per day.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who writes more than that in emails each day.  he he

I'm hoping to add a widget to my blog as we get closer to the 1st so others can watch my progress if they feel so inclined.  (Just waiting for the widgets to be updated to 2012.)  If you're a fellow WriMo, find me on the NaNo site as userID "xandert" and we can be writing buddies.

So, are YOU up to the challenge of NaNoWriMo?  If so, join in the fun!