Tag Archives: writing process

Writing Ain’t Just Writing Anymore

I’ve been asked many times, “when do you have time to write?”

I appreciate that question because it means that the person asking acknowledges that writing is a long-term process that requires a block of time to accomplish.

But this post is not for those people. This post is for the non-writers. For those who enjoy reading a good book, but don’t exactly know what goes into creating that book. For those who might wonder, “what do you do all day?”

This post is about a day in the life of a full-time writer.

I don’t know much about accounting. I don’t know much about being a stock broker. I don’t know much outside of the areas in which I’ve been educated.  That being said, I don’t think the majority of people know much about what a writer does.

It seems simple–writers write. Yeah, if only.

Writing as a career (that is, actively pursuing and publishing multiple novels as I am), is a full time job.

The vast majority of writers already have a full time job doing something else, so writing is a full time job that has to be fit into another full time job.

In my case, I am a full time wife and mother, and I have to fit my writing career into that. That is much easier said than done.

I have responsibilities to my family, to my church, to my community, to my friends, and to myself (gotta keep healthy!). I have a full-time life. And I had one well before I decided to pursue writing. So making time for writing has become the challenge that I overcome on a regular basis.

In my life I’ve found time to write in the afternoons when my boys are either napping or having “quiet time.” I normally can carve out a couple of hours on a good day, and zero hours on a bad day. Occasionally, if I have the energy, I’ll write at night after my boys are in bed. But seeing as how my alarm goes off very early in the morning, this is a rarity. Sometimes, on occasion, I’m able to carve out time on a day when someone has offered to help me with childcare. On those special days, I can devote more hours to my passion. My husband is very supportive of my writing, but even with his help, I don’t often have time to write everyday.

Crafting a story isn’t all that easy.

It’s often said to me, “I could never do that. I don’t have any ideas for a story.”

Well, that’s part of my passion. I have a very, very, very, very, very long list of ideas. I’m constantly coming up with new ones.

But committing those ideas to paper is a process.

A good writer researches their story to make sure details are accurate.

For my current WIP (work-in-progress as it’s known in the writer-world) I’ve been researching Cambodia, even though Cambodia is only a very small portion of the book. For historicals, I have to delve into my history knowledge and make sure that my details and events are accurate. Just the research portion of the creative process can take a l-o-n-g time.

Another step in the process is plotting.

In the world of plotting there are two groups: the Plotters and the Pantsters. I am a Pantster.

I’m not a good plotter. I’m just not. I can’t sit down and create an outline of my story in detail before I’ve written it, but I do have a general idea of where the story is going, and what scenes I want to include (flying by the seat of my pants). So, I do make a list just to keep myself on topic. Some writers are very detailed plotters and have an outline that almost looks like a completed novel. God bless ’em.

And then there’s the actual writing.

Some days, when time permits, I can hack out several thousand words. This is a very, very good day. Other days, either time is an issue or I’m still thinking through elements of the story and I might stare at the blinking cursor for a while and be happy to produce a couple hundred words.

And when my manuscript is done, a first draft complete, then comes the editing process.

This involves hours of carefully combing through the story and editing the big elements–plot, conflict, character motivation, etc, and the little details like tags, beats, word choice, spelling, and all the nitty-gritty details. This is a long, continuous process. Every time I read my stories I can find something to edit. I’m an obsessive editor, so I actually enjoy the editing process more than the first-draft writing process. The more I learn about writing and story crafting, the more I want to edit. Once the backbone of the story is there, it’s the details that I like to tweak.

When I feel like the story is fit for human consumption, I have some readers get involved. 

Beta readers–those who normally like books in my genre and will read it and give feedback. My critique partner, my agent, and writer friends who will read with a critical eye and help me fix any gaps, holes, or problems. And my mom. Because she loves my work but will always give me her honest opinion.

And when I’ve gotten feedback from those people, it’s more editing.

Then it’s time to send it off to publishers via my agent. To do this an author must create what’s known as a packet that includes not only a short blurb about the book, but a 3-5 page synopsis (that is a bad word in the writing community. Do you know how hard it is to crunch an entire book into 3 pages??), market comparisons, marketing strategies and all sorts of other things.

And some of those publishers, believe it or not, want you to do more editing before they’ll even consider publishing your book.

And the publication process is a whole ‘nother animal that many other writers have been wonderful about sharing. Suffice it to say, it’s editing on steroids. And book promotion. Massive work on book promotion. And marketing. And a whole host of other things that can be, even to the seasoned writer, overwhelming at times.  

So, I’ve finished a story. What now? Start another one? 

Sure, but in between ALL of the steps in this process, there’s the important goal of creating a reader fan-base or following.

How does an author do this? Via the web of course. Hence the blog, Facebook and Twitter followings that are very important.

It is the goal of any author to connect with their readership. And believe it or not, publishers actually consider how many followers an author has on various social media networks when they are looking at their work for publication. 

I’m not just blogging for the fun of it. It’s part of my job–part of my career as a writer.
I’m not just on Twitter for fun (yes, honey, I actually am cultivating my career although you think I spend entirely too much time on Twitter!).
I’m not posting things on Facebook just for the heck of it.

This is all part of the bigger picture–my career as a writer. 

We writers of the world would really appreciate your support in the following ways:

Follow us on Twitter. Like or Friend us on Facebook. Follow our blogs and share our posts with your friends–and please please PLEASE leave comments on our posts.

The point of blogging is to instigate conversation, so we want to hear from you. Please don’t be shy. Please contribute your opinion. It’s what we want–it’s what we need. It’s how you can help support us.

Oh, and read our books, of course. 🙂 And if you read a good book, pass the word along to as many of your friends as possible so that you are promoting that author. This is the best thing you can do for any writer.

**And I haven’t even mentioned the process of a writer finding an agent. Blessedly, I already have an agent, so that is not a process I have to undertake anymore. Praise the Lord! But it is a major step for many writers still.

Also, we find time to support our fellow authors by following & commenting on their social media contributions and by reading and talking up their published works.

The moral of the story is that writing isn’t just writing. It’s a full time job.

Thanks for your help and support. You guys are the best!

Share with me: What part of a writer’s life most surprises you?  Writer-friends– what part of your career as a writer do you find most challenging; most enjoyable?


Filed under Writing

Face Value

Anyone a fan of the now-canceled show Lie to Me? The lead character was an expert at reading body language and could tell just from a tick or slight muscle movement if a person was not telling the whole truth. I loved that show. Fascinating. Maybe it’s because I like to think that I’m pretty good at reading people, most of the time.

A thousand words–that’s how much, roughly, can be used to describe the emotion behind one good expression. Like a picture, expressions convey so much more than “face value.”

If you are a functioning member of society, then you know that body language often does more communicating than words ever could.

And it’s those expressions, along with body language, that draw me into the story of a character on TV or in a movie, and even in a book; that make me feel what they are feeling, that make me yearn to comfort them, to help, to laugh, to seek revenge, to form friendships, to empathize with, and even to love.

I fall in love–quite literally–with a good facial expression. Anger. Adoration. Hatred. Envy. Sarcasm. Agony. 

Why do you think that romance authors often write about “long, gazing, lingering looks” between characters?  To use facial expressions, most of the time the eyes (windows to the soul, you know) to convey emotion, and sometimes even dialog without using words.

It’s tricky. It’s like magic. If done well, you don’t even realize that you are getting understanding from an expression and nothing more.

My personal preference is to cut out those long glances that are so cliche and try to replace them with a little more–to give the reader something deeper than just “a look.” 

My wonderful critique partner once pointed out to me that in a story of mine that she’d read, not only was I describing expression, but the emotions behind them, too. I wasn’t trusting my reader to be able to figure out how the character was feeling based on body language. So, it’s something I’ve been working on–conveying unspoken emotion. Replacing the thousand written words with the description of body language.

To do that, I call on some of my favorite emotional/romantic moments from TV and movies.

I love, love, love when a good expression delivers emotion so powerfully that it gets my heart racing or makes me swoon.

That’s one of the reasons I love Ian Somerhalder as Damon on Vampire Diaries. His expressions, specifically when Damon is angst-ridden or struggling between his love for Elena and his need to be the vampire that he is, are amazing, and covey exactly what you think and assume his character is feeling. In those emotional moments, I don’t need dialog.

As stupid as it may sound, there have been three times during three different episodes when I just wanted to jump into the TV and become a part of that world–and it was all because of an expression on his face.

Another example of perfection in expression comes from one of my favorite movies, Becoming Jane. Below is the scene when Tom LeFroy (James McAvoy) asks Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) to run away with him. But before that, when both are struggling against the emotions they feel for one another, McAvoy’s expression conveying his inner turmoil is PERFECT in the moment just before he defies all he knows and steals a kiss from the woman that he loves. *dreamy sigh* The rest of the scene is good, too, but that moment, to me, is perfection.

Inspiration of the Week
: I’m working on a story right now where our hero is not one to openly convey what he’s feeling. He’s closed off from the idea of being emotional and wordy and doesn’t like people who are (specifically women). However, he’s still the hero. Here’s a song that has definitely been inspirational to me in writing this character so far.

Kris Allen–Written All Over My Face

Share with me: Can you think of a movie or TV moment when a character gave such a good expression that you fell more in love with the character or the story?  What about a book moment when the faces were so accurately described that you could envision that expression precisely?


Filed under Writing

Writing 101 — The Map

I recently finished reading How to Write and Sell a Christian Novel by one of my favorite novelists, Gilbert Morris.

The book was fantastic–chock full of tips, strategies, lessons, and encouragements all wrapped around the idea that writing is a gift from God that should be used for His glory.

I love that. It’s really the basis of what sets a mass market writer apart from an inspirational market writer. Who’s getting the glory?

“…it’s our privilege and our duty as Christian writers of fiction to write powerful stories which set forth a more excellent way.”–Gilbert Morris

One of the tools that Morris employs in plotting involves dividing your plot into sections, each section into episodes (each episode basically becomes a chapter heading) and then writing a summary for each episode, dividing it into scenes, etc. 

Wow–that seems like a TON of work and yet nothing has been written in the actual manuscript.

I’ve never been any good at making myself outline. I did it in high school when it was required of me, but when I was in college and the professors wanted my thesis sans outline, the paper somehow laid itself out in my brain without my need to outline in detail. I might’ve jotted a couple of notes, but nothing like a detailed outline with headings and sub-headings and what-not.

I just didn’t need it.

And so far, I haven’t been very good at making any sort of overly-detailed plan for any of my manuscripts before I actually start writing. I jot notes, but I’ve never mapped out a highly detailed story–it’s always just sort of flowed and somehow come together.

But I’m a big fan of maps. The social studies teacher in me could stare at a map for hours, noting the distance between locations, topography, geography, the names and details–and I’m good at judging distance, location, and reading a map to get me where I need to go.

So why not map out my story in detail before I begin?

For some of you this might be a real “duh” moment, but for me, it’s the opportunity to try something new–to make me better.

The one thing I’ve really learned about writing is that a good writer is in a constant state of learning–always changing and evolving and adapting to become a better writer.

So I will go back to my days of being a good student and try Dr. Morris’ method of mapping. After all, like I said, I love maps.

And I’m excited to try something new. I have a hunch that I’m going to find all of this pre-writing as inspiring as the writing itself, if not more so.

Share with me: Are you an outliner? Do you know every detail of your story before you begin, or does a plot or a character sometimes surprise you as you write? Have you ever tried a new method that has become a staple in your process? What was it and how has it changed you as a writer?


Filed under Writing