……is there a wrong way??
NO! There is no ‘wrong’ process when writing your story….but, as I and other authors (I’ve interviewed here on my blog) have stressed….be certain that you HAVE a process.
1. Write about what you know. If you are a beginner…and we all were at one time…write a story about something you know or have had first hand experience with.
2. If the idea of writing a novel (75,000+ words) is way too daunting, write a short story (3,000 words) or a series of short stories. Write a novella. (16-25,000 words). After writing three full length novels, I decided that my mystery series The World of Murder would be short novels. I didn’t run out of story, I just believe that there is a market for short novels (24–35,000 words).
3. If your subject is something that you know nothing or very little about the Internet is a powerful tool. Let me give you some examples: My aunt ran away to Alaska in the 1920’s to homestead. I knew her story but I knew very little about Alaska at the turn of the last century. What did Fairbanks look like then? It was little more than a trading post. How many acres did you get when you homesteaded? 80. What tribe of native Alaskans were in my story-area and what language did they speak? Were there hunting ‘tags’ or seasons for hunting in those days?
Another example are my murder mysteries that are heavy on police procedures and crime scene investigation. I know a lot but certainly don’t know everything. Between the Internet, local law enforcement and the Medical examiners, I have pretty much everything I need in the way of research. Book #4, The Angel of Murder is about the Catholic religion and confession. I am not a Catholic so I called my friend’s priest, Father Gabe, and he was incredibly kind and helpful. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP! I asked a private detective and a priest, BOTH STRANGERS, and they gave willingly of their time and knowledge.
4. What if my writing process is wrong? NO! There is no wrong process. Just be certain that you have a writing process. Whether it’s with meticulous outlines and story notes or just writing from your gut. My personal process is this: An idea forms and begins writing itself in my mind. I joke about ‘slamming my story down first’. It’s more than an outline (which I don’t use) and less than the finished product. I type 80 words a minute so when I say I slam it down, I mean I slam it down. I frequently write out of sequence. Sometimes the Epilogue is written before the end of the story. Sometimes the prologue is written after the first few chapters. That’s WEIRD’, you say? No, not really, the story such as it is at that point is feeding me. Right now, as I am writing Book #6, The Bridge of Murder, some chapters are un-numbered as I’m not certain where they fit, only that they are part of the story.
5. Have people you trust read your manuscript. They aren’t standing as close to it as you are. But, be certain that they can look at the work and give a constructive critique. When I say trust, I’m not talking about them stealing your work, I’m talking about trusting that they will be honest with you. I have two such people in my circle; one in particular. He is honest and wants the very best for me and out of me.
6. Poor Man’s Copyright: I’ve done this for years. When I have four or five pages of a manuscript completed, I make up a title page, date it and then mail it to myself. When you get it back in the mail, be certain you DON’T open it. Just tuck it away in a safe place. Courts (if it ever came to that) will honor the post marked and unopened envelope. Of course you have saved the date of the saved draft of the first time you worked on it in your computer.
7. Re-write, re-write, then re-write some more! Read your work over and over. You don’t have to read it from start to finish….that will make your eyes cross and make you want to give up. Read sections, edit, re-write, make it as good as you possibly can.
Want to learn more about developing rich and interesting characters? Want to try writing a little poetry or a Haiku? Want to learn more about that all important ‘first sentence’ of your story? Check out my Creative Writer’s Journals. There are six ‘how to’ sections and 275 pages of lined, blank pages for your writing.
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