My writing method

  For anyone wondering how I write, the answer is simple: haphazardly.

For years, I've just sat down with my pen and paper and started scribbling, not really caring whether it amounted to anything presentable. I wrote to entertain myself.

I'd say I was quite prolific. I wrote an entire story in one weekend, multiple times. But, they would take a LOT of work to ever become presentable. I tried outlining things, but never enjoyed it. I wrote so I could learn what happened to my characters. The story unfolded as I wrote.

With the constraints I have on my time (full time job, two children under the age of 3, two dogs, three cats, various hobbies, husband, etc) I can't just muddle around until the story reveals itself and I feel inspired to write. I need some sort of plan to get me to the point where my fans have something to read and quit hounding me for a few minutes. (Just teasing. I love to be hounded. It makes me feel like my stories are enjoyed.)

Here's a quick look at the method I've developed so far. (Yes, I know it's not the order recommended by most "how to write a novel" books.

  1. Idea
  2. Outlining
  3. Rough draft
  4. Character sketches
  5. Setting info
  6. Add details to rough draft
  7. Revise until I'm happy
  8. Proof
  9. First reader
  10. Edit
  11. Proof
  12. Shove that baby bird out of the nest and pray it flies (to the bestseller list)

I'll expand on each step in the future, explaining how it worked for Alaskan Healing, and other novels I'm currently working on.

How does your method differ from mine? I'm always looking for new ideas to adapt to my process.

 

 

Another relic from the Trunk O' Writing Junk

Here's another assignment from high school. What's with teachers thinking it's a good idea to write about childhood experiences? I suspect my teacher was trying to decide whether I was a smart ass or if she should have called Child Protective Services. Again, I posted it with all the mistakes that were in the copy I found in the Trunk O' Writing Junk. (I previously posted another "childhood memory" that I had to write about in high school.) A Weekend to Remember

"Everybody get into the damn car. Now!" Dad screamed angrily. It was stunning and totally unbelievable. We were on our way to Minneapolis to see Grandmother and Dad's temper was trying to run away before we even got out of the yard. I could tell that it was going to be a weekend that I'd never forget.

We were out of the driveway and approximately two minutes down the road before my brother started fighting with me. Two minutes was a new record for us, we usually started fighting as soon as we got into the car.

"You're on my side of the seat. Get away from me."

"No, you're smaller than me. My legs are all cramped up. I'm just going to stretch my legs out on your side. Okay?" My older brother replied. I could see his point, the back seat of a two-door Escort isn't exactly room, but why should I be nice to him? He always picked on me.

"No! Get away from me. My legs are cramped too. You don't see my feet on your side of the floor. Do you?"

"Of course not. Your legs are so short, they barely reach the floor on your own side," he insulted. I couldn't think of a quick reply so I decided that action was probably the best policy. As I was trying to physically remove his feet from my side of the floor, he slugged me in the arm and killed all the feeling to my right arm. Screaming and whining, I did my very best to get him into trouble. "Dad, he hit me."

"Well then you probably deserved it," my wonderful father retorted.

As Mom turned around in her seat she gave us a tired look. "Can you two please try to behave?"

Dad was still grumbling, but for once it was aimed at someone other than me. He asked if Mom had remembered a map so we could find Grandmother's new apartment.

My brother, the five year old know it all, replied in a nauseating sweet voice, "No. Did you?"

"I don't want to hear another sound out of either of you until we get to your Grandma's," he yelled as he turned around to glare at us. "And if I do hear another sound from your two mouths, I'm going to turn this car around and go straight home."

"Hey, pay attention to the road," screeched Mom. "Are you trying to kill us?"

"Who's driving this damn car? Me or you?" he screamed right back. "Can't you control those little brats of yours?"

"They're your kids too," she tried to share the blame of our existence.

"No, they aren't! I just disowned them. I don't know which animal shelter you found them at, but I wish to hell that you would have just left them there." After hearing that, I started to bawl. I was sure that they were going to take us to some animal shelter and trade us in for a pet donkey.

Mom tried to comfort me and explain that Dad was just joking, but it wasn't very convincing to my three-year-old mind. It might have convinced me if Dad hadn't been screaming at the top of his lungs, "You better shut up back there or I'll give you something to really cry about."

I glanced over at my brother and saw that he was making faces at the back of Dad's seat. As I watched, I tried to imagine what effect the snapping gum in my brother's mouth was having on Dad. I decided that his short temper was probably pretty close to snapping and that big vein in his forehead was about to pop.

"I'm sick of hearing you chew your cud like a stinking cow, boy. If you don't knock it off, I'm going to rip your leg off and beat you to death with the bloody stump. And there's not going to be a damn thing you can do about it."

After that last threat we decided it was probably best to shut up before he killed us. So we quickly zipped our lips and settled down.

"See, Dear, all you had to do was ask nicely," my mother pointed out in a rather helpful way.

It was a rather quiet weekend since Dad wouldn't talk to any of us and none of us wanted to visit Grandma anyway. There's one more reason that I'll never forget that weekend, it was the last time we ever took a family trip.

Cleaning house

If you've ever been to my house, you may have seen some antique steamer trunks in various places. (We actually only have two in use in this house, the others are in storage.) One of them is full of shoes and doubles as a bench in the entry way. The other day, I went through it and donated a bunch of shoes to Goodwill since the shoes no longer fit. The other trunk is hiding in the corner of the living room, behind the kids' toybox. In there are 15 years of accumulated scribbles. Notebooks, multiple revisions of various stories are in there. I'm not sure why I've kept them all this time, but I really like looking at my scribbled up pages.

Today, I reached my writing goal earlier than normal, so I decided it was time to start sorting that out.

So far, I've scanned four stories scribbled on notebook paper, one story that's 90 pages long (typed yet not saved in my backups), and a couple of pages of ideas I'd scribbled and never developed. My goal is to clean out the trunk, yet have everything I can't part with stored on CDs. That'll free up the Trunk O' Writing Junk" for other purposes.

What about you? Do you have boxes and boxes of paper that you can't bear to part with?

Something old...

This my husband's favorite piece of my writing. He read it when we were dating and still married me.   

I don’t get along very well with my grandmother. Some people find this odd, but I feel that I have very good reasons not to like her. I’ll let you be the judge.

On a bright, warm, summer day when I was seven, my grandmother was babysitting my brother and me. She’d been babysitting us for a week already because my mom and dad were on vacation.

My brother and I were playing outside. We ran around the house screaming and yelling, and as normal, we were fighting. Around noon, Grandmother called us in the house to eat lunch. I knew it was going to be something extremely gruesome. Probably something like broiled catfish heads with rotten, moldy spinach as a sided dish. Yuck! I didn’t want to eat whatever concoction she had cooked, so I just pushed around what I thought were eyeballs. Finally she said, “There are starving children in Africa that would appreciate this meal.”

“Yeah, well you can send them mine. I’m sure I won’t mind,” was my brilliant seven-year-old reply.

“You are an ungrateful little brat. You will eat this delicious catfish, the tender spinach and drink this ice tea flavored with chilled goat’s blood. Or you will sit in that chair for the next four weeks until your parents return,” the old bat replied.

I must admit, it was a rather uneventful four weeks sitting in that chair, staring at the poor bulging eyes in the little catfish head, as it turned green with age. Grandmother only let me leave the table to use the bathroom.

One day when I was in the bathroom, I took a drink of water. When Grandmother heard the water running, she broke down the door with one of my father’s axes. She then proceeded to lash my back fifty times with a stalk of rhubarb while screaming, “You’re not allowed to drink anything until you finish your tea and catfish.”

Since she had crushed my spine, I was no longer able to sit in the chair by my own power. She tied me upright in the chair with piano wire, rather tightly – I have scars on my arms where the wire cut through my skin. I thought it was great because my head drooped. I didn’t have to gaze at the pile of mold and maggots crawling on my plate anymore. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that Grandmother was the queen of problem solving.

“Ah ha. A simple hangman’s noose hung from the light fixture should hold her head at the proper angle,” I heard her mutter as she cooked my brother’s breakfast one morning. She was so excited by the thought, she ran out of the house and hopped into her Amish buggy pulled by her mule, Doreen.

They trotted down to the store to buy a standard length of baling twine. After they made their purchase, Doreen galloped home with Grandmother bouncing along behind in the Amish-mobile. When she arrived, she hung my head with great pride.

My poor younger brother starved to death because Grandmother was too busy torturing me to feed him. I would have starved too, but it turned out that I was quite the escape artist. I escaped every night and ate potato chips and drank pop while the wart-covered hag was asleep.

When I was nine, Grandmother came back for a visit. Gee. Why wasn’t I as excited as my parents about her impending arrival?

As Grandmother waddled up the sidewalk, I told my mother that I had died. It wouldn’t be proper for a dead person to eat at the table with an old, smelly woman. I thought it was a great solution. I was wrong.

Grandmother decided to cook me some graveyard stew. It would make me feel better, she said and trotted outside. I stood in the door and saw her crawling around in the back of her buggy, with her large rump sticking up in the air.

All of a sudden, I saw all sorts of things flying out. Roast pig tongue, I think. There were some cheese puffs floating through the air when I heard her exclaim, “Ahh. Yes. Just what I was looking for. My famous toenail collection. Now if only I could find that bag of toadstools and night crawlers.”

At this point, I was ready to regurgitate my latest meal. I ran back to the kitchen and begged my mother to kill me. “I’ll die if I have to eat that. Just kill me now, Mommy.”

“No. I want you to suffer first,” was her unkind reply.

Grandmother concocted her famous graveyard stew. I watched with great dread as she poured two cups of blood into a small saucepan. Then she dumped in half a cup of the toenail clippings.

“But, Grandma. There’s fuzzy stuff in there,” I tried to point out.

“Toe jam. It’s good for you,” she replied calmly. “Add six of those night crawlers and nine toadstools now.” She boiled it for ten minutes, tied me to the hooks my parents had installed on the floor for just this purpose and poured the bubbling vomit down my gullet.

Needless to say, I have learned to be away from home when Grandmother visits now. I broke my leg with a baseball bat one time so I’d be in the hospital when she was at my house. Another time I sawed three of my fingers off with an electric knife. Now, I just say that I have to work.

I wrote this in high school for an assignment in Creative Writing. We were supposed to write about a childhood experience. We never did anything fun or exciting when I was a child. If you're curious, I aced the assignment. I haven't edited anything (other than a name to protect the innocent), just pulled it out of the "Trunk O' Writing Junk."