Find Your Best Time to Write
Each writer finds the best time to write. The key to getting your work done is consistency.
Two Steps to Your Ideal Flow
New writers are often confused about the best time to write and how much to write during each writing session.
Test different times of the day--early morning, morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening, late night, really early morning--to discover which time of day works with your writing flow.
Some authors get up early in the morning before family and/or work calls them to other activities. Another group of writers find late at night, often into the early morning, works best for them. I'm one of the night into next morning writers.
Once you discover your personal ideal time, enter it on your daily schedule and commit to that time as writing time. No excuses. Especially when you are starting out developing your writing routine, "one time" exceptions are easy to accept and interrupt your dedicated time.
After you have established your routine, you'll find it much easier to hold that writing time as precious and not allow any interruptions.
The best reward for finding your writing time and sticking to it is you will see results.
Reader Feeedback and the Story
The first draft of The Peach Widow is finished. Now for edits before publishng.
But along the way, when I took the next-to-the-last chapter to my Word Blenders writers group there was a hue and cry at the ending of the chapter.
Readers Get Invested in the Story
Readers love characters, even secondary characters like dogs. When the chapter ends with the fate of Pup in balance, members of the group said, "No! You can't let Pup die." And one member created a hashtag on the spot #SavePup.
During the week I received little prompts in messages that read #SavePup, because they knew I was working on the final chapter. The members of the group are very professional giving solid critiques on story structure, scene, chapter sequence, grammar and the like. I was surprised when they responded so strongly. Characters die in stories all the time.
I had notes for the final chapter sequences. I revised the notes in response to the unanimous response of the readers. I know that one of my beta readers would have the same response. I had to rethink the ending of the story and because of the ending the sequence of stories in the Argolicus Mysteries.
The new ending was nothing like the original ending.
Beta Reader Feedback
As a story writer, you may go along, whether pantser or planner, but beta readers will give you important feedback. When you receive the feedback you use your discernment and personal discretion to make changes they suggest. But when all the readers make the same comment, it's time to listen.
Once your story is published and out there, your general readers may or may not give you important feedback. But, if they don't like the way the story goes, they may never come back.
Finding beta readers is an important part of the writing process when you are ready for publication. Treasure those readers, be grateful for their feedback. If you don't agree with the feedback, be grateful because every reader is a clue to how your story is received.
Wander, Ramble, and Roam
Writers write. Sometimes I wander around in my head looking for a place where I can meet someone. A music loving friend, Dave Pipe, from Sussex, England, might call it a mental womble. I think about various places and visit them. I look around to see who is there. I meet them. Some people would call this a character exercise.
This free-form wander is not part of any current work in progress, it is simply writing "what I see." Essentially, the "visioning" is apropos of nothing.
When I went to Chico, California, in my head, here's what happened.
Chuck Maloney had that sandy-haired way of going everywhere in a rolling stride. I imagined him sleeping in his P.F. Flyers. But, I know better. I spent almost as many weekends at his house as I did at mine. He did not wear his shoes to bed the first time we camped out in his yard under the big black oak. He was eight. I had a month left of seven. We didn't talk much, just sort of did things together.
That month in age lead gave him the edge. As far as I was concerned, Chuck was a leader: introduced me to a million secrets.
I think it was the next summer we crested arrows. John Ringer, Chuck's next door neighbor, a mile down the road, had a hunting dad. Ever time I went in the high-ceilinged, dark-roomed house, I was mute in the presence of boar, goat, and buck heads mounted on the wall staring straight ahead into the void in the middle of the living room. John's dad was really a hunter. At nine, everyone's dad seemed possessed of unattainable skills.
Our fibreglass bows came after a lot of begging, pleading, and extra chores. Out of our allowance, we bought arrows from John's dad. He made his own. We stood rapt as he glued in fletching while he told hunting stories. We listened, but he was really talking to those shafts, encouraging them for the best kill ever. Well, every batch he made a few short ones just for us kids. He measured our draw and we got custom arrows. Of course, he didn't spend as much time on our fletching.
"Pretty soon," he said, "I'll teach you boys how to make your own bow. Show you how to mold fibreglass."
"Like on car bodies?" Chuck asked. His dad did a lot of body work at the garage.
"Yeah, kid. Sort of like cars but with more finesse."
We steeped ourselves in archery lore, read the history of the long bow and two versions of Robin Hood. We picked our paint colors for cresting, measured the spacing on the shaft. Not that we were in some competition. We just liked archery. But, we could walk right up to the target pinned up on that bale of straw out in Chuck's back yard and pull out our arrows instantly. Chuck's were painted blue and silver. Mine were red 1/16 inch, 1/4 inch space, green 1/16 inch, quarter-inch space, and then 1/16 inch yellow. I spent a lot of time painting those lines. They were never as neat as Chuck's. He had the knack, just like his dad: precision.
The Ringers moved to Grass Valley right before Christmas. We never did make those bows. Kind of lost interest after old man Ringer was gone.
Next year, as I remember, my dad taught us to tie flies. My dad took us fishing maybe ten times over at the Yuba. The rest of the time we fished local creeks, Chuck rolling along the creekside in his P. F. Fliers. I liked that early morning time, the privateness of the running water and the birds. Once, I caught a big daddy trout, I mean bigger than anything Chuck caught. Felt good. Mostly we spent those hot Chico afternoons tying flies. Fly tying is a way for boys to use color and design without losing face. I mean, in a country of plaid shirts and boots, boys just don't get mixed up with art. Men either, for that matter.
Freeing Your Writing from Requirements
This exercise is very freeing for getting into a character's head. Because it is not tied to a current work in progress, there's no need to think about how it moves the story forward, foreshadowing, or how the passage relates to the other characters. Also, it is freeing because you don't have to worry about covering all the character points--description, back story, strengths or weaknesses, and the like. Simply meet your character and listen to what he or she says, and see where it goes.
The Call to Battle Demons
I'm a bit tired of heroes who seemed conceived to illustrate the author's genius in coming up with exotic reasons why the hero has a character flaw or emotional challenge or disability that he/she must overcome. Life offers up challenges for all of us.
So, following my own guidelines, I thought about the shortcomings Argolicus carries with him throughout the stories.
Amon gestured toward the horses and the cart. “We bring the fish up from the market. In here,” he gestured to a large shed structure. The roof of the large shed structure covered various work areas. Some had tables and baskets, others had more baskets and stacks of urns, while the actual kitchen was in the center where numerous clay stoves held large cooking pots with utensils lined along the sides. In the nearest quarter, slaves pounded away in mortars. “We mash all the fish parts into a lumpy paste,” Ammon said gesturing toward the busy slaves. He led them among the work areas. “Then we take the mashed fish into the kitchen itself.” He led them forward to the center workspace of multiple fire stoves. “We cook in the early morning. We mix the mashed fish with salt and water and cook until the mixture is thick. This valley is like a natural bowl, we have our own water supply from the well over there.” He pointed to layered bricks covered with a board. “You notice, Your Sublimity, that the kitchen is quite clean and organized.”
What are your thoughts about protagonist flaws? Do you search for exotic diseases, revert to alcoholism, or look for integral pieces from the character's backstory? Or something else?
Leave a comment.
Playing with Writing
A writer who wants to write good stuff needs to read great stuff.
Ursula LeGuin says in her book Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. The book is a guide for writers. Each exercise is prefaced by examples from writers followed by a writing exercise following the premise of reading good stuff.
I've read many, many books about the craft of writing most of them filled with exercises that did not appeal to my imagination. I tried a few exercises and they felt...well...boring. I'd rather be writing my story.
On the other hand, improving my craft is important to me. That's why I read all those books and took a stab at the exercises. I resonated with this book. If you are a writer, I highly recommend approaching your craft through the exercises.
If you are a reader, you may like seeing the kind of work a writer does that never makes it into the story you read.
The first chapter is about the sound of words, sentences, syntax and calls for some playful use of phrasing and has two parts.
The first exercise: Being Gorgeous
Being GorgeousMoisture dripped from the leaves--ferns, vines, orchids, and the round leaves of the giant tree; filled the air and planted inaudible droplets on the skin--cheeks, forehead, arms, ankles--like an unseen jacket against the cool grey day. The flutterings, slitherings, jumping, and hopping among the leaves--flashes of blue, green, red and slow and fast movement crept, crawled and leaped sustained by air and water. In her lungs the air was soft; breathing a quiet rhythm, a secret music filled with the air around. Anna said, “You know that play The Steam Room? What if waiting for God was like this?”
When he entered, what was left was things. He walked to her dressing table and touched each jar one by one. He opened one--Spikenard and something, an evening under the stars. He opened another and sniffed--faint earth in red powder. He opened them each, one by one and mixed all the contents on the table top. There was the white robe ready for the Christening hanging from the wardrobe. Her writing desk was clean except for a piece of thin vellum and a pen. He bent to look at the vellum: a quick note unfinished. Dearest Mother, I miss you. I feel alone. I am afraid. You said it would be like fire and joy...
He turned to look at the bed. The stripped mattress was covered in fresh bleached linen. He bent over and looked under the bed to see: nothing but the sunlight through the window lighting a bright spot on the floor on the other side of the bed. Not one piece of swaddling cloth. Not one drop of blood. He put his hands on the bed and raised himself up off the tiled floor. He put his face to the mattress; nothing of her. Nothing of a child. Nothing of a blue baby. Nothing of Julia.
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middoe Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.