Thursday, September 25, 2014

How do YOU Write? Part 3

To outline or not to outline?

Let's look at two authors, one who finds devising an outline for his novels before writing useful, and one with a more haphazard and organic way of forming a story.

A.J. Jacobs is the author of such nonfiction as The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. He turns his life into immersion experiments and then writes about his experiences and conclusions. Nonfiction likely lends itself better to the outline approach of writing, but still there are fiction writers who do the same.

In a 2103 interview with The Daily Beast, Jacobs had this to say about how he goes about his writing:

What’s your morning routine like?

My kids wake me up. I have coffee (overall a healthy beverage, by the way; delays Alzheimer’s and lowers risk of certain cancers). I make my kids breakfast, take them to school, then come home and try to write. I fail at that until I force myself to turn off my Internet access so I can get a little shelter from the information storm.

Describe your writing routine.

I am a big fan of outlining. I write an outline. Then a slightly more detailed outline. Then another with even more detail. Sentences form, punctuation is added, and eventually it all turns into a book.

Do you have any unusual rituals associated with the writing process?

I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke to keep me wired. But when writing a book about health, it’s hard to justify three Diet Cokes a day, so I had to quit. I still miss it.

Is there anything distinctive or unusual about your work space?

I write while walking on a treadmill. I’m doing it right now. I started this practice when I was working on Drop Dead Healthy, and read all these studies about the dangers of the sedentary life. Sitting is alarmingly bad for you. One doctor told me that “sitting is the new smoking.” So I bought a treadmill and put my computer on top of it. It took me about 1,200 miles to write my book. I kind of love it—it keeps me awake, for one thing.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Force yourself to generate dozens of ideas. A lot of those ideas will be terrible. Most of them, in fact. But there will be some sparkling gems in there too. Try to set aside 20 minutes a day just for brainstorming.

On the other end of the spectrum are authors like Khaled Hosseini, who wrote The Kite Runner and other novels

Describe your morning routine.

I get up and work out. Get home in time to get the kids off to school (on my days—my wife and I trade off), eat, read the paper, front page first, check all news on Afghanistan. Flip to sports page, check for any San Francisco 49ers news. Then I write, typically from about 8:30 to 2 p.m., at which time I go to pick up my kids from school.

What is a distinctive habit or affectation of yours?

I can’t watch TV without eating peanuts. Can’t be done.

How do you conceive of a book?

I don’t outline at all, I don’t find it useful, and I don’t like the way it boxes me in. I like the element of surprise and spontaneity, of letting the story find its own way. For this reason, I find that writing a first draft is very difficult and laborious. It is also often quite disappointing. It hardly ever turns out to be what I thought it was, and it usually falls quite short of the ideal I held in my mind when I began writing it. I love to rewrite, however. A first draft is really just a sketch on which I add layer and dimension and shade and nuance and color. Writing for me is largely about rewriting. It is during this process that I discover hidden meanings, connections, and possibilities that I missed the first time around. In rewriting, I hope to see the story getting closer to what my original hopes for it were.

Do you have any unusual rituals in your writing process?

I write while my kids are at school and the house is quiet. I sequester myself in my office with mug of coffee and computer. I can't listen to music when I write, though I have tried. I pace a lot. Keep the shades drawn. I take brief breaks from writing, 2-3 minutes, by strumming badly on a guitar. I try to get 2–3 pages in per day. I write until about 2 p.m. when I go to get my kids, then I switch to Dad mode.

What do you need to have produced/completed in order to feel that you’ve had a productive writing day?

At least three good sentences. And an idea of what I will write the next day. Cannot go in blank the next day, the seed has to be planted today.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I have met so many people who say they've got a book in them, but they've never written a word. To be a writer—this may seem trite, I realize—you have to actually write. You have to write every day, and you have to write whether you feel like it or not. Perhaps most importantly, write for an audience of one—yourself. Write the story you need to tell and want to read. It’s impossible to know what others want so don’t waste time trying to guess. Just write about the things that get under your skin and keep you up at night. You also have to read a lot—and pay attention. Read the kinds of things you want to write, read the kinds of things you would never write. Learn something from every writer you read.

Personally, I am a fan of outlining. I start with a general outline for the book, and as I write and other bits and pieces of the story come to me and I see the way things are supposed to go, I add in more and more detail to the original outline.

I would be very curious to learn how you other writers out there feel about the topic. Outlines - yay or nay?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How do YOU write? Part 2

Do you write after the family is in bed at night, or get up with the dawn while the world is still and quiet? Do you need to isolate yourself somewhere without things to distract you from the work? Or does your best work come when you are surrounded by the subjects of life, muses from the everyday world to inspire your writing?

In a 2013 interview withe The Daily Beast, Maya Angelou had this to say about how she did her writing:

I’ve read of some eccentric writing habits of yours, involving hotel rooms without pictures on the walls, sherry, and headgear. How did you first come upon that cocktail for writing success, and has the routine evolved over your career?

And headgear! Ha! It was head ties, not headgear! Well, I was married a few times, and one of my husbands was jealous of me writing. When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess. When my husband would come into the room, he’d accuse me, and say, “You’ve been writing!” As if it was a bad thing. He could tell because of my hair, so I learned to hide my hair with a turban of some sort. I do still keep a hotel room in my hometown, and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.

Anything else in the hotel room?

Usually a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles. Something to occupy my little mind. I think my grandmother taught me that. She didn’t mean to, but she used to talk about her “little mind.” So when I was young, from the time I was about 3 until 13, I decided that there was a Big Mind and a Little Mind. And the Big Mind would allow you to consider deep thoughts, but the Little Mind would occupy you, so you could not be distracted. It would work crossword puzzles or play Solitaire, while the Big Mind would delve deep into the subjects I wanted to write about. So I keep the room. I have all the paintings and any decoration taken out of the room. I ask the management and house-keeping not to enter the room, just in case I’ve thrown a piece of paper on the floor, I don’t want it discarded. About every two months I get a note slipped under the door: “Dear Ms. Angelou, please let us change the linen. We think it may be moldy!” But I’ve never slept there, I’m usually out of there by 2. And then I go home and I read what I’ve written that morning, and I try to edit then. Clean it up. And that’s how I write books!

Do you still drink sherry when you write?

Not so much anymore. I stopped about two years ago.

(And this last bit, because I kind of love it)

What would you like carved onto your tombstone?

[Laughs] “I did my best, I hope you do the same.”

See the original article here:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How do YOU write? Part 1

When you write, how do you do it?

Do you have your own office in the house, brimming with notebooks and papers and sundries, steaming mug of coffee on the desk next to you as you type away? Or is the coffee replaced with a chilled glass of wine?

Do you curl up in a chair by the fireplace, laptop open before you?

Do you set word count goals for each week? Each day? Do you outline your story first?

Since learning about the world of self-publishing, I have made a point of reading dozens of novels by indie authors, in addition to a few big name books that had been on my to-read list for some time. So far one my very favorite experiences in this endeavor has been with The Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K Host. The story of how these books came to be written is a fun and intriguing one.

Host explains it like this:

"Touchstone started off as a fiction blog. My initial concept was simply to write every day of a person's life, no matter how boring that day was - to not skip the things that writers usually elide or compact for the sake of easy reading.

There was no planning whatsoever to start off with, just a girl, and stepping her through a gate and every day I discovered what happened next. This is pretty much how I usually write, for the first chapter or so of my books - I rarely have an ending in mind when I start.

But naturally I think about what could be coming as I write, and usually by chapter three or so I have some idea of some of the major events we're heading for. Often the explanation for all the things going on don't come along until later, though.

With Touchstone particularly, a great deal of what happened revolved around me thinking of something interesting, writing about it, and then when I bored of that, thinking up a new spanner to throw in the works. I didn't know what a Touchstone was actually _for_, for instance, until Lira showed up."

I remember reading that her fiction blog had only one subscriber who stuck with it for the entire year, but she kept writing, because each and every day, that one person showed up to read. I owe that person my gratitude, because that story (with some tweaking to accommodate novel format) has since been published as the poignant, fun and alluring Touchstone trilogy. 

Andrea K Host's website can be found here

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kindle Unlimited

The Sentient is once again available through Kindle Unlimited. If you have enrolled through Amazon to pay $9.99 a month for unlimited access to over 700,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks (and keep up to ten on your devices at a time), my book is available to you without any further payment. Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

More make believe casting

So I did a little searching and picked actors for the other main roles in The Sentient. You know, when I pretend it has become a major motion picture and I get to choose the cast? I'll repeat a few I have already featured in this blog, in order to have all of the characters together in one post.

So, without further ado...

In the role of Anna Cassidy:

Anne Hathaway

As Jameson Dorn:

Joseph Morgan

Acting as Victor Dorn:

Michael Fassbender
Playing Cassandra Dorn:

Deborah Ann Woll

Starring as Nathaniel Dorn:

Anthony Hopkins
As Reza Hakim:

Kit Harington

In the role of Zahira Dorn:

Aishwarya Rai
Acting as Evelyn Dorn:

Chloe Grace Moretz (I'm not familiar with too many tween/teen actors these days, but give this young lady black hair and she at least looks like she could pull off the part)

Playing Julian Dorn:

Emjay Anthony

And, lastly, the character of Genvieve Valois. Her part in Book I of The Sentient Prophecy is fairly minor, but you will be seeing more of her in The Prophecy

Scarlett Johansson looks very similar to how I picture Genevieve, and she is the right age for the part, but...

Marion Cotillard might be a better choice, as she is French

Friday, September 12, 2014

So much to learn, so little time!

Little by little I am learning more about the self-publishing industry, and how to navigate it as an indie author. Today, I started experimenting a bit with some visual content apps. I know I've only just scraped the tip of the iceberg, but I'm excited to learn more. Today's accomplishments may be fairly minor, but they have brought a smile to my face nonetheless.

And now, back to writing!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Casting for The Prophecy

A while back I posted pictures of actors, having fun with the idea of who I would cast as characters from The Sentient in a film adaptation (Hey, it could happen!) I also shared the link to my Pinterest account with these and other photos to show some of what I had in mind when writing.

Well I finally cast Anna Cassidy with the wonderful Anne Hathaway. I'm now thinking of actors for other characters with bigger roles in the sequel in progress, The Prophecy. Take a look, and let me know who YOU would cast!

Anne Hathaway as Anna Cassidy

Scarlett Johansson looks similar to how I picture the character of Genevieve Valois. However, it might be nice to go with a French actress for this role, and I am sadly lacking in familiarity with French actresses. One of the few I do know is Marion Cotillard, and I kind of love her. But ScarJo is the right age. Hmm, decisions, decisions...

Scarlett Johansson as Genevieve?

Or Marion Cotillard as Genevieve?