How Kathy Writes a Book: Part 5…A Time Out

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Parts one through four have magically (okay not magically who am I kidding there was sweat, there was blood, there were tears…) produced a first draft.

TA-DA!

Now, what comes next?

Nothing.

I put that manuscript in time out. Was it bad? Well, no. But if my brain thinks about it any more, it will explode.

I have the luxury of this option. Some people on deadlines don’t, and maybe someday that will be me, but if I can manage it, I will always take a break after I finish the first draft. Always.

The longer the better, one month…two…six! Longer! I want to forget what I wrote. No thinking about it. No glancing at notes. No making notes. Nothing.

Going back to words that have been forgotten means: spotting things that make no sense, seeing the holes, sensing where scenes need to be added or deleted.

I critique for others. I work notes for all the ideas swirling in my brain. I write a short story. I read. I watch movies. I ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.

I am at this point right now.

Because I have goals of querying this manuscript later this year, I put Nowhere on a month long time out. THAT’S ALL? Yup. It will work.

While I forget all the words, I read one full manuscript and a partial of another for a couple wonderful people. Notes for the second book in this series have been started. A call for short horror stories caught my eye, so I am working on that.

What happens after this month is over? Come back and find out.

 

 

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How Kathy Writes a Book: Part 4… The Writing of All the Words

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Welcome back to my series where I share how I write a book.

A little informative. A lot entertaining, hopefully. A bit of insight into how my creative brain works.

This process is different for everyone. And hearing how each writer approaches their work is fascinating.

So parts 1-3…I’ve had an idea, which grew and threw a tantrum until it got all my attention. I wrote all the notes I could, from characters, to the theme, to scenes, to the story, to the world until a voice in the back of my head called for me to JUST WRITE THE THING.

I pushed through my fear of messing it all up and wrote that dreaded first chapter.

Once that first chapter is down and I acknowledge that I’ll have to rewrite it a million times (and who cares, been there done that, right?), I can move forward.

I CAN WRITE ALL THE WORDS.

Now that doesn’t mean it all flows out in an easy wave. Some scenes come pretty fast and others like to torment me. Some days I write 0 words and others 3000…that’s right, I don’t write every day. Don’t want to. I have a family who I kinda like. I have places to go. You ever see those tweets where someone wrote 10,000 words that day, yeah, that’s never me. Never. If I write 1000 words, I am a very happy camper.

Though I never know how many words have been added until the end of the day, until just before I close the word doc. If you remember, I keep my word count covered while I write, otherwise I focus on that tiny number in the corner of the screen and not on what I’m doing. At the end of the day, I peel back the paper and write that number on my calendar. Whether it’s 1 or 1500, I watch the word count grow.

All words are good words.

Seriously, in the first drafting stage…ALL WORDS ARE GOOD WORDS.

I write them. One after the other. As I write a scene, the next one comes into focus. Characters show up, they talk, they cause things to happen, they reveal who they are. I’m pretty sure aliens beam the story into my brain or faeries magic it into being.

As each chapter is crafted, I write down what happened in a notebook. Helps me keep track of where my brain wandered.

I write linearly (is that a word?). Every scene is in order. I even write the transitions, though I find those the most difficult. I leave myself notes to check world building, to check what someone said previously, to write something better later, to add more detail.

What great notes I leave myself. Future me loves it.

That mess of chaotic notes from part 2? You’ll find my flipping through pages like a maniac, searching for one bit of information I scribbled in the margins somewhere. I rip out pages to shove them in-between other pages to keep like information together. I look through my list of scenes all the time, checking to make sure I’ve included the things I want. The computer glares at me as I dive into the chaos. But it’s all part of the process.

A process of typing…

of staring…

of thinking…

of procrastinating…

of giving up…

of searching through the chaos of scribbles…

of letting my brain work on the story even when I’m at the store or working out or falling asleep…

And I write. Chapters whisper when I have reached their end. New scenes emerge. The story develops. The story changes, grows into what it is meant to be. I make a list of what to check and what to add when I revise.

And this goes on and on…for months. Until I reach the end.

And have a first draft. The longest, hardest part for me. Filling the blank pages. It feels darn good to have a first draft. I’ve piled all the sand in the sandbox and have what I need to work with.

What’s next? Stay tuned…

 

How Kathy Writes a Book…Part 3: Chapter One

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We all write in different ways. I have been sharing my manuscript-writing journey.

It begins with the idea.

It continues as I scribble-scrabble all the notes, solidifying the idea into a full fledged story…well, as full-fledged as I get. I know the world. I have a list of scenes (though no idea of the order in which they occur). I have characters and character arcs. I have a theme.

A restlessness flitters through my brain. I keep working on notes. I keep thinking.

There is a point where I know it’s time to move on. I know all I can know and to learn the rest of the tale, I have to discover it…I HAVE TO WRITE IT.

The time to open a new word doc arrives.

This is the scariest part for me. The part dripping with doubt. Can I really write ANOTHER book? All I can think of are the thousands of unwritten words, the blankness that spread out before me.

I would be happy to keep writing notes, keep brainstorming, but…I can’t. I can feel the need to take the next step.

I open the word doc…

I type the title…

I cover the word count at the bottom of the screen…BECAUSE WHO NEEDS THAT PRESSURE?!?!?!!?!??!

I type…

CHAPTER 1

Then I stare. There it is. The beginning. The opening. So many possibilities. Not a mess. I can still make it perfect. Like a pool waiting for you to dip a toe in…or jump in…

 

But I question. Do I know where this starts? Do I have a story that can fill page after page? THERE IS SO MUCH WORK TO DO HOW CAN I DO THIS HOW DID I DO THIS BEFORE IF I TYPE SOMETHING I WILL MESS IT UP

Every time. No matter how many of these piles of words I write, I will always question.

After hours of panic and doubt and staring. I write…

then delete…

then write…

then delete…

And the panic grows. I can’t do this. So much blankness. So many words waiting. So many scenes that I will just mess up. This won’t be what I want. This won’t live up to my expectations…all the thoughts crowd in. Eventually I deal with them.

THIS IS A FIRST DRAFT WHAT THE HECK ME JUST WRITE THE DARNED THING YOU CAN FIX IT LATER SO SHUT UP ALL YOU DOUBTS I GOT THIS

Once I embrace the mess I am about to create, once I free myself of the doubt, once I set my mind to fun mode, I write.

As much work as writing is, it should always be fun. If I focus so much on making it perfect, it will never happen.

As I write the beginning, I know we will meet again. I never get those pesky openings right on the first try.

I have to jump in. Write words. FUN WORDS. Do they make sense? Who cares. Do I have everything in there I need? Who cares. Do I doubt every thing? YUP. BUT WE AREN’T GOING TO THINK ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW

Word after word. Page after page.

World set-up. Character intros. Paint the scene. Set the tone. Set up the theme…the story.

Before I know it, I come to a line, a sentence…a feeling…I have finished chapter one.

And type…

CHAPTER 2

 

And you can probably guess what happens next…but stay tuned anyway.

 

How Kathy Writes a Book…Part 2: The Notes

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Writing is a solitary process. Everyone does it differently and ISN’T IT WONDERFUL!??!!?! How all writers sit and end up with so many words on the pages and no one approaches it or executes it the same. No one. Well, one thing is the same. The blood, sweat, and tears. So many tears.

So here’s my tale of how the stories magically (okay not really magic, like I said, there’s a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears) become stories. It’s fun to know how others do the wording. It can be helpful. It can be entertaining.

So last time on How Kathy Writes a Story, I shared the beginning of the process…the idea. How one tiny spark…an image, a sentence, a question…grows until it starts to scream in my head.

Then I move onto the next phase.

*cue dramatic orchestral music with lots of brass*

The notes.

The scribble-scrabble days or weeks or months of taking pen in hand and putting thoughts on paper. Yup. Paper.

Gimme all the notebooks. All the glorious blank pages full of possibilities.

I set out to neatly arrange my notes. A place for characters. A place for world building. A place for everything and everything in its…

Yeah, well, that lasts for about two seconds, then I let the mess happen. That’s how I work, in chaos.

I write whatever my mind tells me to write. My thoughts flicker from characters, to emotions, to the world, to bits of dialogue, to scenes…it’s a great ball of tangled string that I get the pleasure (really, me, pleasure?) of unwinding as I write.

ALL THE NOTES

Characters. What do they look like? What is their background? What do they like? What do they hate? What do they want? And for my main character…the character arc.  How do they grow and change during the story?

World. This can get complicated. I have created so many worlds…most for a series of three books. From fantasy to reality-based, the world is important and, for me, can be a character in itself. For fantasy, I design worlds based in a purely visual sense. I paint it in my head, making sure the colors and textures all play with each other. I add the people, the creatures, the flora. If it’s a fantasy world, I bring it to life with a history, religion (if any), government (if any). In both reality-based or fantasy, I need to know what the characters believe. I draw maps, of the worlds and towns and neighborhoods. I draw houses and jot down what color the rooms are, where the furniture is. I need the visual reference. Class schedules. Work schedules. There is so much to know.

The action. Any scenes that pop into my head, I write them down. Any snippets of dialogue are recorded. Pages of scenes, all needing to be put in place.

Any thoughts that come into my head are scratched onto a page.

All the thoughts.

All the things.

If I think it…I write it down.

That organization thing I pondered at the beginning gets completely lost. I rip out pages and shove them here and there to try and keep the illusion of organization. I keep important pages separate.

Though I do spend a lot of time going through those notes searching for that one thing I KNOW I WROTE DOWN SOMEWHERE WHERE IS IT…

But, hey, when you live in chaos, embrace it.

So where’s the outline? Yeah, nope. Outlines don’t live in chaos. I have a different method. The calendar. For reality based, this is easier with a calendar already in existence. Months, days…I know what happens when. I pencil in events that I know happen, leaving all sorts of blank days for all the things surprises to happen. For fantasy-based, this is harder. I have made up calendar years for worlds, but I have run into the problem that structured time just doesn’t work. In my Doors books, going from world to world makes it impossible to have a calendar.

Note writing is the most fun. Listening to the characters, asking them questions, dreaming up the whole thing is a happy place for me. Though most of it never makes it on the page, it makes the world better…deeper, stronger.

But, eventually, the note writing moment ends. I have to start writing. Do I know everything? Nope. But I know enough. Let the games begin.

To be continued…

 

How Kathy Writes a Book…Part 1: The Idea

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Everyone writes differently. Everyone’s mind works in its own way. From plotting to pantsing…from an extensive series of notes to a scribbled mess on napkins…from writing scenes in order to jumping around the timeline…from writing a bare bones first draft to a more detailed version…writing is as individual as each individual.

I find the ways everyone writes fascinating and, at times, helpful when I am finding that my “way” isn’t working. I have ten manuscripts in various stages of draft-y drafts and so many short stories here and there, so I might know enough to share. Though I don’t know enough…

So here’s how I…Kathy The Weird and Creepy Free-Spirit…write a book. May it intrigue, give insight into the odd goings on in my head, and entertain.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

The idea.

Before there is a story, there is the first thought, the thing that drives the author to write.

This idea can come from an image, a name, a character, a sentence, a question. I wrote a story inspired by: a tree in my in-laws’ front yard, the thought that what if a door could access anywhere in the universe, the question of what if fate messed up, the name Ember, the sentence “who enters the trees never returns”, a character who turns into a faerie, a world dying and needs to be saved, a girl who wants friends, the question what happens to those who have faith in a faithless world…and so many more.

Seriously. Inspiration is everywhere, in the smallest of things, the strangest of moments, or the sparks of emotion.

Think of a huge snowy hill. Each time I have an idea for a book or short story, that tiny bit of information forms a snowball at the top. I keep the little frozen ball safe in my mind. Then I wait. I let my creative brain listen to it, think about it. I talk to the characters, if any have come forward. I dream of the world, if it has shown itself yet. I wonder about themes, about emotions that go with the characters and ideas.

Some of those snowballs roll down the hill, gathering mass. Some roll fast, others slow, and a few not at all.

Those that roll the fastest get my attention.

At some point that attention focuses and that idea turns into my work in progress.

To be continued…

 

Not So Much an ‘If’ Thing as a ‘When’

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‘Ifs’ can dominate thoughts. If this happens, if I can do it, if the planets align…

if…

If…

IF…

When the ‘ifs’ move in, doubt comes with it. Frustration follows. Stress. Emotions crumble.

That little-bitty word can knock down towers of confidence, that stuff we work so hard to build, that stuff that teeters ever so closer to the edge of falling away.

So, we burn the ‘ifs’ with fire. Set them ablaze and try on a new word. WHEN.

When it happens. When I do it. Visualize the beautiful picture you will create when all the work is done.

‘When’ holds hope. ‘When’ carries possibilities.

‘Ifs’ path winds down a hill to an end. ‘If’ will let you down, release its grip on your hand and flutter off into nothing.

‘When’ climbs ever upward, wrapping around your heart and pulling you to where you want to go.

Though the journey of ‘when’ can twist and turn into uncertainty, the bright light at the top never fades. We’ll slow now and then. We’ll fall. We’ll stop to huddle in the shadows and cry. We’ll step from the trail to take a break, maybe go on vacation. The road won’t be easy or straight. The path won’t go the way we think, or hope. But we’ll keep going holding tight to the ‘when’.

Because it will happen. When it does, we’ll celebrate. When we reach our goals, we’ll throw confetti, maybe bake cookies.

Then we’ll find a new ‘when’. A new goal. Because life isn’t a set of stairs leading to a top. Life doesn’t have an end. There’s always another step.

So stomp on the ‘ifs’ and tell yourself ‘when’. Let yourself have bad days. Let yourself fall. Let ‘when’ help you back up and you will succeed. With the powerful magic of ‘when’, anything is possible.

A Wrinkle in Time: The Healing Child-Me Needs

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When I heard a movie was being made from one of my favorite childhood books, I nearly died of joy. The book A Wrinkle in Time changed my view of books, not just a story but an emotional experience, a book of wonderful ideas and a creepy darkness. As I’ve gotten older and moved here and there, a few books have accompanied me on that journey from childhood to…well, now. A Wrinkle in Time is one of those special books.

There it is…creased and loved and held together with contact paper. I can’t remember where I got it, but I’ve had it forever.

I love this cover more than the fancy new one.

My daughter and I went to see the movie yesterday. I know it’s not been a favorite. The reviews aren’t good. I was told not to go see it. But I needed to see it. I needed to see someone’s vision of the book.

The movie was a feast for my heart and soul. I am Meg. I have always been Meg. Not just pre-teen-me, but present-me.

The movie follows the book pretty darn good, though that wasn’t a priority for me. Tessering from one place to another…the constant search for Meg’s missing father. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which are portrayed a bit differently than the book, but it didn’t bother me. Everyone has a vision and everyone has a right to let that shine. I love to see others’ interpretations! When the books and movies differ that adds a whole new wonderful experience.

Costumes. Make-up. Effects. Acting. Writing. I didn’t spend time analyzing any of it. I watched the movie and enjoyed the movie. I went on the adventure. The only thing that bothered me was Mrs. Who, her character felt a bit flat.

I took child-me to see this movie. I let child-me experience it…though present-me was more than willing. This is based on a middle grade book. A fantasy. A way for Meg to gain her power, to love herself. So, this is a kid movie. An escape. That’s what I let it be.

Meg faces the dark within herself. A girl with beautiful curly hair, who hates her hair. A girl who won’t let anyone close to her because she isn’t worth it. A girl who won’t ask the questions because she fears the answers. A girl who isn’t good enough.

This was…well, still is me.

The power of this movie exists in Meg’s journey, how she grows, how she starts out hiding from the world, not believing in herself, to learning to fight for her life and holding her head up high because of who she is. Because the universe came together over so much time, so much energy to create her.

So much of this movie hit the perfect emotional notes for me. Meg doesn’t believe in herself. She doesn’t like herself. When asked if she would like to return as someone else, she says yes. How many kids feel like this? How many adults?

As the adventure continues, Meg goes because her little brother means so much to her and he keeps running off into the fray. The more she discovers, the more she realizes her power. In the end, when her father, the adult, the one who is supposed to fix everything, when he cuts his losses and runs, Meg stays. She fights. She can’t see the consequences, what she might lose, only what she has to do. She saves her little brother, she saves herself by embracing her faults as strengths, by seeing only what she can see. It’s magical.

And the IT. The darkness that invades the universe. Meg learns to see it. Not just in herself, but in everyone. That mean girl at school is hurting just as much. That self-doubt can be defeated with the light let in through the pain.

The love of Meg for her adoptive little brother is wonderful. The new friendship she makes with Calvin gives her strength.

Love conquers all. Love of family, of friends, of self. The movie left me crying happy tears, left child-me wrapped up in a warm embrace. My heart and soul drank in the light of this movie. So many don’t believe in themselves, suffer from the black of the IT. But we all have the light within us to defeat it and the light grows when we let in others.

All the time, all the energy the Universe used to create us…what a marvelous thought. Everyone has a place. Everyone has a worth. Everyone is important.

A Wrinkle in Time is light in the dark.

The Finish Line: I Can See It! Can You See It?

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Word count is important as the writing happens. Watching the words grow is a huge part of creating a manuscript. I write down my word count at the end of every day so I can see the progress. One word or 1000 words more and I am a happy writer.

The first 5,000 words…the first 10,000 words…

25,000

50,000

But…

Eventually, the word count doesn’t matter anymore. I still keep track, but am no longer waiting for the next milestone. Scenes click into place. The end of the story comes together.

This is where I am now.

I reached the top of the hill made of words and am on my way down. The scenes come faster in my mind, the emotions run high.

Now, the worries of the manuscript being good enough, of it being what I want, of CAN I EVEN WRITE ANOTHER BOOK all fade. I will get to the end, where all the words sit in a pile waiting for me to mold them into the best book it can be. Revising is easier for me than drafting. Blank pages hold all the fear. Words ready to be changed, deleted, and added to make me happy.

Of course, after I finish, the words will be pushed into a dark corner to wait. Revising works better when I forget what I’ve written.

What to do in-between? I DON’T KNOW! I DON’T CARE! I’m not going to think about it.

I’m going to have a party. BECAUSE I WILL HAVE WRITTEN ANOTHER BOOK!

How this keeps happening? I have no idea. Writing a book is such a daunting task. Starting on page one leaves a heavy weight of doubt as to whether it is possible. But writers write.

Fast. Slow.

One word at a time.

Months. Years.

We do it. We push through the doubt and fear.

Because we have stories to share.

Happily Whatever After

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I recently read The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer. My daughter loves these books and, since I’m on a middle grade reading frenzy, I thought I would finally pick them up.

I enjoyed them! Adventures. Humor. Great characters. A world of fairytales.

And this wonderful very un-fairytale-like thought at the end, one I whole-heartedly agree with.

Happily ever after isn’t real.

Happily ever after is a dream fairytales give us…a dream continued in the romance genre, heck it’s a requirement for those books. When the point is reached where everything falls into place. When everything is going to be great from then on.

This is simply not real.

Which is why people read them. Sometimes we like not real. We like the dream come true. We like to live in a place where everything is okay.

The escape is nice. But…

Happiness isn’t something you reach, a platform you climb on top of and relax. It’s what you hold onto when you can wrap a finger around it and try to keep it from slipping away.

But there’s always change, another challenge waiting to twist our feelings, try our strength. Happiness is something we fight for, work towards.

There are no happily ever afters. Only happy in the moment, finding happiness everyday, facing every challenge hoping to get back to the joy. As much as happily ever after sounds like a good thing, the place to be, even if it did exist, life is better with the fight. As much as life can hurt, that only makes the happiness stronger, better when we are able to hold it, for the moment it is ours.

Live for those moments. Strive to reach them, knowing you have to work to keep it. Knowing the work is worth it.

Beginnings AKA the Evil Spawn of Hell

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I am drafting. I like to write a first draft without going back to revise anything until the whole thing is on the screen. Get the story out kinda deal.

Well, it was my turn in my online writers group…The Walrus Writers, yes the name means something, but if I tell you I’ll have to kill you. So…yeah.

Anyway, I decided to send them my first chapter…and I did a bit of revising, because PANIC OMG I CAN’T SEND THEM THIS! happened in my head.

But really, there was nothing I could do to make it fabulous…it’s THE BEGINNING. Maybe I started it in the wrong place…maybe I left out some important information *cough*character’s age*cough*…maybe I should have added a couple scenes. I DON’T KNOW! But everyone’s comments made me think about all of that and more.

But I am drafting. So no going back right now. I’m going to let my creative brain sit on all the thoughts and maybe when I go back, I’ll have an idea.

Maybe.

But let’s be honest. Beginnings are the spawn of the Devil. They are evil. I hate them. I think I know where the story starts, then I QUESTION EVERY THING! I think I know my main character, then they change as I write the story.

So evil beginning, we will meet again. After I finish the draft. After I think on what I learned from the story. After I let all the thoughts marinate in my brain.

Will I ever start the story in the right place? IS THERE EVEN A RIGHT PLACE?

Will I ever get all the information I need into a beginning on the first try?

Will I ever not hate beginnings?

Nope to all the questions.

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

Because that’s how the writing process goes. The manuscript grows and changes. It evolves. Then I can go back and make the beginning better, so it can set up the story the best way possible.

Maybe after one…or 75684948595 rewrites. Who knows?

I’m not going to fight it. I’m not going to sweat it. That’s how it is.

Beginnings will always be evil.