There is a guest post today that I’m sure you will enjoy. Before we get to it though, let me give you some background. I started my writing journey late last year with no idea of how it would turn out. The goal was to write a novel, but getting to that goal has, at least for me, been as treacherous as walking through a minefield up hill in the rain and mud. Just when you think you’ve found some traction, down you go, sliding over some deadly mistakes. It’s been a process to say the least, but there are some good things that have come from it. For example, I’m learning to write the types of stories that I’ve always dreamed of doing. However, the thing I found most surprising on this little adventure was the writing community. They reached out with open arms and bid me welcome.
That is significant, so let me say it again. The writing community welcomed me. Me, someone that has absolutely no training or experience as a writer, just an unfulfilled dream floating around in his head. And I’m not the only one. I’ve met dozens of people along the way that have similar stories. Some of these folks have a natural talent for storytelling. I want to introduce you to one of those people.
Her name is Jo-Anne Teal (@JTvancouver on Twitter), and she runs a blog called Going For Coffee. You will love her Five Sentence Fiction stories, but more importantly, outside of your family you will never find a more supportive and encouraging person if you are a new writer. Her blog is a must read for those looking to prefect the craft of writing. She packs more punch into five sentences than some highly respected authors do in five pages. I’m not making this up. Seriously people, take note.
When KD kindly suggested that I might do a guest post on his blog and share my new writer process, I really believed it would take me ten minutes at the keyboard. I mean, how difficult is it to share details of something you do every day? Well, apparently not quite as easy-peasy as I thought. As I started this fourth draft, it dawned on me that the bouncing around, the stops and starts, actually reflect the approach I’ve taken to my writing and I believe it to be an approach that has served me well, so far.
For context, I’ll mention I began fiction writing just a short while ago – pretty darn late in life. When I admitted to myself that I wanted to write, I really wasn’t sure where to begin. I had kind encouragement from a dear colleague of mine @oddparticle (Kern Windwraith) who was already writing, and doing well on Twitter connecting with other writers. It was Kern who told me about writing challenges: there seemed to be one set for every day of the week. Using a prompt of either a visual or a word, these challenges provided an opportunity to try subject matter outside of my own milieu. I tried a few of them on various blogs, but the one that I’ve stuck with and that really has helped develop my writing skills is Five Sentence Fiction.
KD and I have had several discussions about the many reference materials and resources for new writers, available on the web. It is overwhelming to say the least. Every other tweet, every other blog post, gives a link to ideas/insights into character development, plotting, storylines, grammar. But, at some point, I decided I had to stop reading about writing and just start writing! So with the one essential adage of show don’t tell running through my head (thanks Chris James @GenesisFan8) and only two reference books (The Elements of Style by Strunk & White; Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight), I started.
My second concern was how I would develop a body of work quickly enough to give me ‘writer status’? By that I mean three things. I wanted to improve my fiction writing quickly. I also needed to discover my writing style and voice. Finally, I wanted readers to get some sense of who I am as a writer, what kinds of stories are important to me. Flash fiction was the answer.
The stops and starts that I referred to previously dovetail with the nature of flash fiction and writing prompt challenges. Develop a story about thunder, write a story about fairies, think up a story based on the word ‘delirious’, all with parameters such as only using five sentences, or less than three hundred words. Snap, snap, snap. There is a lot of moving back and forth, using first person then third person narrative, writing upbeat story then melancholic, using present tense or past. I do know some writers that use the challenges in such a way as to build a coherent story from one to the next. That doesn’t work for me, I like the variety.
If the challenge is a visual prompt, not surprisingly I’ll stare at it for a few minutes to see what ideas the photo evokes. I think about how the characters I enjoy writing about would fit with the theme of the photo. If the challenge is a word, I usually look up the dictionary definition. From the definition, I think of how that word might connect with the types of stories I like to tell. Then, I just start writing. For these short works I don’t outline.
Now that I have started two proper short stories (both will end up at about 5000 words) and a proper full length novel (that I assume will end up at about 100,000 words ), I do write something on one of them every day. I know how both start and how they finish, but the paths they will take are not completely plotted. I can, therefore, jump around in the writing and write scenes and ideas as they come to me, not in sequential order. This probably is not the most efficient way to write and certainly wouldn’t work if I was writing complex science fiction or historical setting.
I do realize that at some point, I will have to reign myself in and put all of the components together, perhaps discarding wonderful scenes I’ve written that don’t contribute to the story’s forward movement, but that is in the future. Right now, the joy for me is having the freedom to explore various approaches and try out different paths to the same end result.
So for the most part, that is my new writer process. I’m learning as I go along. I hope it has been of interest. I really appreciate KD for giving me the opportunity to share it with you.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Folks, please forgive me, because I’m about to sound like an old Baptist preacher urging those that need some guidance in their lives to come on down and join us. Now you have another perspective on the writing process. If you’ve thought about writing, perhaps you even have a few stories in your head right now, then it’s time to do something about it. There is work involved. Early mornings and long nights are in your future. And when you do find time to sleep, don’t be surprised if your characters talk to you in your dreams.
Jo-Anne, thanks for being gracious enough to give us an insight into your writing process. #WriteOnSister