I LEARNED THREE RULES of writing when I was a beginning writer.
Rule #1:Writing takes discipline. It’s a job, not a hobby. To be an author, you need to dedicate X number of hours per day to your craft.
Rule #2:You don’t need to be inspired to write. If you stare at your blank screen (or page) long enough, the words will come.
Rule #3:Organized writers produce the best results. You need to prepare your story before you begin. Outline, categorize, arrange your thoughts and ideas first. That way you’ll always know what comes next.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
When I began my first book, many years ago, I didn’t know about those rules. My muse commanded me to write and I put down whatever popped into my head. There was no organization. I had no idea what would happen next. I only wrote when I had something to write. As time passed, each new idea began with love scenes. They were the most exciting, the most exhilarating, the most fun to write. Afterwards, I pieced together the rest of the story. Through it all I relied on my muse to guide me.
Eight years later I joined my first critique group and discovered a new world of writing regulations. Grammar dos and don’ts. Point of view preferences. The right way to use dialogue tags. After putting all the new pointers in place, I realized there was something else amiss. Something big. I was missing that wonderful tension that moves stories along. Oh, there were events and complications but the characters lacked motivation and depth. There wasn’t enough conflict.
A class on plotting introduced me to the GMC chart—Goal, Motivation, and Conflict—and I learned how to create tension, how to pit characters against each other, how to force them to choose the lesser of two evils. It was glorious! Finally, the story had more than just juicy love scenes, it had flawed characters people cared about, imperfect choices, and stubborn emotions. And yet, the story was taking forever to write.
FINDING WORDS WHILE FINDING MYSELF
My favorite authors published book after book, year after year. How did they do that? Why couldn’t I write that fast? The answer was obvious. I’d forgotten the three rules. I needed to plant my butt in my chair and treat writing like a job. So, I sat at my computer and looked at a blank screen. And stared. And stared. Nothing came. I read email. Still nothing. I ate lunch. Not a word. In desperation, I left the house, slamming the door on my way out, and went for a walk.
I was frustrated and angry. I hate wasting time. I hate being unproductive. I’d much rather read a book or watch a movie than stare at a blank screen. But I was trying to follow the rules. While I walked I muttered, and grimaced, and growled. After climbing the long hill and making my way down, I turned on the main road and ambled along. The sun warmed my back, birds chirped, a light breeze stirred the leaves on the trees. A beautiful day. I breathed deeply and smiled. My mood lifted, and I decided to enjoy being outside.
On the way back home, I stopped to examine a leaf on the ground and thought of my heroine standing beneath an oak tree, her breath in frosty puffs, a woolen cloak wrapped around her as she shivered in the cold. And just like that the scene poured in, complete with other characters and dialogue.
The truth is there are as many ways to write a story. There are plotters—those who organize, schedule, arrange, and have everything figured out before they start. There are pantsers—those who write by the seat of their pants, which means anything goes. Both ways work. I used to be a pantser and then I tried plotting. The trick is to find which works best for you.
IT’S A PERSONAL JOURNEY
Nanette Littlestone is an award-winning author, editor, publisher, and CEO of Words of Passion. She never knew she wanted to be a writer until she was over forty. But once she began, the ideas didn’t stop. She loves to explore relationships and is unceasingly curious about why people do what they do. The themes of her stories focus on love (what we always strive for) and forgiveness (what we always need).
Writing is a discipline. I strongly agree with that. You have to be dedicated. You have to persevere. Stories don’t write themselves. But I refuse to stare at a blank screen. If I’m not inspired to write, then I don’t write. And, yes, that means it takes me a long time to finish a story. But that’s my process. It may not be yours. Writing is a personal journey. A journey that starts and stops with you. You are the one who selects the path of your characters and how that path unfolds. Let your heart guide you in finding the way that story wants to be shared.
About the Author
Nanette Littlestone is an award-winning author, editor, publisher, and CEO of Words of Passion. She never knew she wanted to be a writer until she was over forty. But once she began, the ideas didn’t stop. She loves to explore relationships and is unceasingly curious about why people do what they do. The themes of her stories focus on love (what we always strive for) and forgiveness (what we always need). Her books include F.A.I.T.H. – Finding Answers in the Heart, Volumes I and II, the historical novel The Sacred Flame, and the contemporary sequel Bella Toscana. And a new book is in the works, a YA fantasy about healing the heart of the planet. In her spare time, she works with the Conscious Life Journal as Editor in Chief, managing authors and articles for this magazine that helps people journey into higher conscious awareness through the five stages of Mind, Body, Spirit, Integration, and Balance. www.wordsofpassion.com