The Mind of a Writer: A Dangerous Thing
July 26, 2012
The mind of a writer is a dangerous thing. It is filled with humor or horror, mystery or romance, suspense or terror, the present or the past, truth or fiction, fantasy or odd moments that go bump in the night. Strange things live in the mind of an author. Writers may appear to be normal, and they are. But deep inside their brain, the ingredients are always at work weaving another twisted web. Here are the ways that Debra Chapoton and Pattie Ball write their novels. They know that ideas often take root and begin growing even before a writer realizes it.
Debra Chapoton, author of Edge of Escape: Recently a friend of mine asked me how my books were doing. We chatted a bit and then she said she wanted to write a book, too. A moment later she revised that statement and said what she really wanted was to be able to say that she had written a book. In that brief exchange she hit on two key elements: 1) desire to write and 2) editing.
1) Desire to write: My desire to write comes from my need to be creative and my propensity for having fun. For me, writing is playing. And I love to play with words. I am partial to nuance, tone, and connotations. I adore codes, subtleties, and details. I’m keen on inserting unexpected adjectives, choosing synonyms, and singling out idioms. Fun for me is rearranging, shaping, and molding the flow of words. I want to stab a scene with impassioned terms. Squeeze out a reader’s tears with shades of emotion. And break the rules on fragments.
2) Editing: Writing a novel is a monstrous task, but I start with a single idea. Less daunting then. I invent some characters, give them a problem, watch them work it out. Word by word I write. Stop. Pick a synonym, revise. Sentence by sentence I plod on. Stop. Edit, change, reread. Paragraph by paragraph I build. Smile, get excited, rewrite. A chapter happens. I fix it.
Three months, or four, or six, and poof! I have written a book. (Working on number sixteen now.)
It doesn’t work this way for everyone. Just today I was reading the advice of an accomplished author who warned to never, ever edit as you go. (Oops.) He recommended that an author get that rough draft done fast and not waste time rewriting scenes that might later be deleted. I see his point. Good point. But that’s not me. Besides, deleted scenes make interesting blog posts later on.
So, that’s how I write, but why do I write? I write because it allows me to be creative, expressive, innovative, and artistic with words. I write because it’s fun. I don’t know for sure what the characters are going to do on the next page and I have to write in order to find out. Writing keeps me on the edge of my seat.
Pattie Ball, writing as Ann Everett, author of Laid Out And Candle Lit: I’ve only been seriously writing for about six or seven years. Before that, I piddled with cutesy, silly, poems I composed for different occasions. I wrote them because I was cheap and didn’t want to buy a card and plus I always thought people enjoyed originality vs. Hallmark. I wish I’d kept copies of those thirty something years of cheesy greetings, because now I’d have book of Really Cheesy Poetry!
Since I’m a relatively new writer, my creative process is still evolving. My short stories mostly come from something I see or hear. I read somewhere men and women hear differently. Men tend to be able to hear only what they’re concentrating on, like sports, where women hear everything going on around them. I believe that’s true. I’m a big eavesdropper and get lots of ideas for scenes from listening in on other people’s conversations. I think we observe things differently as well.
I focused on the back of his Jeep. I smiled, realizing I could tell a lot about him just from reading the five bumper stickers plastered across his tailgate. Texas needs Perry for Governor. Hidden Hills Club member. NRA member. Texas Tech Alumni Association. Sunset Baptist Church. He was a Red Raider, gun-toting, Christian, Republican, golfer…
That’s an example of a scene from my short story “Don’t Trick My Cherry” . . . and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. The title came from the way my five-year-old granddaughter, Clara, complained about Sonic leaving the cherry out of her cherry-limeade! But, it got your attention, didn’t it? There really was a car in front of me at McDonalds’ with those stickers and I thought, gee, I could write something about him, then my daughter told me the Clara story, so I meshed the two together and got a humorous short story out of it.
Humor is the glue that holds all my writing together. I was somewhat of a class clown and voted most witty a couple of times in high school. I was also voted into the National Honor Society because teachers liked me. With only a “B” average, I wasn’t an academic genius! However, I learned early on, if you could make people laugh, you could make friends. So, I write humorous, romance, mysteries, concentrating mostly on humor, adding a little romance and a light mystery.
My process for my first novel, LAID OUT AND CANDLE LIT, was completely different from my second, YOU’RE BUSTING MY NUPTIALS (due for release next month). With LAID OUT, I sat down and started to write with no idea of where the story was going. As a result, I ended up doing a ton of major re-writing over a period of three years before publication.
The inspiration for Laid Out And Candle Lit, came when I was in the cemetery looking for my final resting place. Not much humor in that…huh! Daddy was with me and as we looked at the headstones, he repeated stories about some of the residents and most of them were funny. A spark of an idea happened and when I thought more about it, I decided it would be humorous to find a dead (unburied) body in the cemetery.
At first, I was only going to write a short story, but before I knew it, I’d written almost 25,000 words and wasn’t finished. I was really kinda stumped. Too much for a short story, not enough for a novel, and no clue of where I was going or how I was going to end it!!
At that point, it became a challenge. Now, the funny part of this is, I’m not competitive at all. I hate games, all types. Wouldn’t play a video game if my life depended on it. I never cared for sports, didn’t enter contests, and never accepted a double-dog dare. If I can’t master something quickly, I give up and move on. My philosophy has always been, there are plenty of things I’m good at, so why waste my time on things I’m not?
For me, writing wasn’t a game.