From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’? What does it look like?

Recently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?  I asked other authors to answer that question in my monthly author interviews.  Having also completed 16 novels  I’d like to add my two cents:

I sometimes used my play script (by the same name) as my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well. It took me a year and four months to write and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do,authors, writers, publishers, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days… although I preach that you should write something every day.  But if you hit a dry spell, you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper (computer). I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book and then they published.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations or building a cabin in the 1920’s).   I had 8 pages of a new play about Winston Churchill written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.  .  This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

Book 1 in series

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is for me and how it works.

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Do You Doubt Yourself…your writing?

  famous authors, writers,    I ran across a description of one of my enemies….DOUBT!  And it got me to thinking. Author, Jacqueline Winspear wrote: “Doubt. Was it an emotion? A sense? Or was it just a short stubby word to describe a response that could diminish a person in a finger snap?”

I wrote earlier about my being in good company.  Regardless if we writers are obscure or famous, we all doubt ourselves and our work.  What if Henry Charles Bukowski, or Ernest Hemingway, or John Steinbeck had let DOUBT win?  Put away their pen, dumped their scribbles into a shoe box and made a trip to the attic, got a day job and never wrote another word?   It doesn’t bear thinking about.

famous authors, writers, famous quotesJ. Michael Straczynski:  “When in ‘doubt’, blow something up.”

 

 

F.Scott Fitzgerald:   “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

Image result for f. scott fitzgerald

 

 

 

famous authors, famous quotesE.M. Forster:  “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

 

 

Tapani Bagge:  “Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  auithors, famous quotes, writersAnd later on you can use it in some story.”

 

 
Maya Angelou:  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

authors, famous quotes, writersElinor Lipman:  “Critics have been described as people who go into the street after battle and shoot the wounded.”

 

writers, authors, famous quotes

 

Leo Rosten:  “The only reason for being a professional writer is that  you just can’t help it.”

 

Let’s see …..when were my worst moments?  DOUBT clawing at me, whispering in my ear, crawling up my spine.  Telling me that I’ll never make it, I’ll never finish a whole novel, that I don’t know the first thing about writing poetry.  Writing play scripts was relatively easy for me. After all I had been in theatre reading scripts for over thirty years.  And the stories simply fell out of the sky and into my brain when writing a script.

But other genre? 

When I could no longer resist the urgency of writing about the women who wait outside prison walls, I researched the length of the average novel; number of pages and words.  Yikes!  Over 300 pages and 70,000 words.  DOUBT was screaming in my ear: ‘you’ll never be able to write that many pages.’  ‘you’re a playwright; not a novelist’, ‘who do you think you’re kidding?’  But I had a true story (several of them, in fact) and all I needed to do was flesh those stories out.  Write one page at a time…or even one word.
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Book Review ~ The Physics of Relationships

 

2 out of 5 stars  ~~  Book Review

Even though this narration was supposed to be from the Mom, the author’s masculine voice frequently leaked through.    I can’t quite put my finger on the whys or hows but there is a definite masculinity to her/his ‘dry’, analytical tone. And  I never discovered her name.  

The narrator is the Mom figure in the story. Unfortunately, she is just that. A talking head. Her deeper feelings aren’t explored. The narrator talks at the reader with conclusions rather than a true exploration.  Is Chas guilty of ‘man-splaining’?  

Early on the family unit fell into being a clique.  Two husbands, one divorce, 1 male child, 1 female child, 1 best friend. 

Speaking of the BFF. Amy  moves in with Mom for awhile. She also is having troubles in her marriage.   They end up sharing the same bedroom and bed and eventually Amy makes tentative sexual ovatures to her good friend.  (This is an 8  on the ‘ick’ scale.) First of all, middle-aged BFFs would not share a bed. Except at a hotel, on holiday, and there was only one room/1 bed available and they were desperate for lodging.  (Guilty!)
Why do most men think that if two women are very close friends, they must have lesbian tendencies just under the surface of the friendship? 

This might have been a better book if the author had written in his own voice (as narrator) and told the story from the three men’s point of view. Greg, Lawrence, and Phil.
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Book Review – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s latest book

 

5 out of 5 stars

One of the most delightful things about this author is the reader NEVER  knows where she is going with her story-line.  And A Different Kind of  Gone is no exception.  
Catherine Ryan Hyde starts us off with a  search and rescue for a missing girl.  And ends us…..well…….I’m not known for my ‘spoiler alerts’, am I?
This was my favorite.” Wait! I say that every time I set one of her books down, finished.   Until the next one comes out (grin).

I can’t  give my readers  even a short synopsis because no matter what  I write, it would give something away.  But the story has everything!  Norma, Jill and Wanda are incredibly brave. The horses and dogs (two of my favorite things) swirl through the story and add such color and flavor. 

I recommend all books by Catherine Ryan Hyde but my top three favorites are this one and Allie and Bea and  Have You Seen Luis Velez?           

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News Flash! Writer Goes to Prison

From stage play to novel was an incredible journey for me as a playwright turned novelist. In playwriting, you must tell your story in 100 pages or less, definitely in less than two hours and everything you want to relate to the audience must be conveyed through the dialogue.  In the theatre world, there’s a term: “method acting” which means you get as close to your character as you can.  If the character you are going to portray is a prostitute, you follow and talk to whores. (been there, done that. Honolulu, 1992 ) If your character is a woman who’s husband has been in prison for the past 13 years, you get inside her head or better yet visit him in prison.

I’m a ‘method’ writer, (every chance I get.)

In 1999 I had reason to visit a men’s DOC facility. (prison).  I was visiting a confessed murderer as research for one of my earlier scripts.  My writing has taken me to some unexpected places to say the least.  On a Sunday morning I found myself sitting in the reception area with three dozen other women.  Wives, sisters, mothers, daughters of convicted felons.  As I waited, I wondered how long they had been coming to visit; how long would a woman wait for her man behind bars; and what a terrible impact this must have on the children, visiting their fathers in this place.  Sitting there I was suddenly compelled to write their stories.  I tried to interview as many women as I could and this was no easy task.

Their closed society is cloaked in guilt and shame. But they finally let me in and I discovered, for the most part, incredibly brave and strong women.  They would tell their friends and neighbors, “my husband travels with his work” to explain the man’s absence.  Always appearing cheerful and strong while visiting their men, the women I spoke with, had a pull off down the highway where they would congregate (after leaving the prison) where they could cry, scream, and moan and be comforted.  Where they could share, with other women who understood, what their lives were really like outside the walls.  Away from the eyes of their men and the prison officials.

For someone who was so comfortable writing in the genre of ‘scripts’ this was a scary prospect. Yikes! I thought, a novel was at the very least 70,000 words and over 300 pages long. What could I possibly have to say?  One year and four months later I had a 335 page novel in my hands. Evidently my characters had plenty to say!  At times I was surprised and delighted with my women and their stories. At other times appalled. As many writers will tell you, at some point, the characters sort’a….no…they definitely take over and you become simply the typist.

I am hoping that my readers enjoy this journey and find some empathy for those women doing hard time outside the walls.
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Writer Is Hacked (8>((

Well, as is everyone’s nightmare that owns a website (or even a computer) ,
I GOT HACKED!!
THEY DESTROYED MY WEBSITE!!  #@@%%$$!!

It’s taken me weeks to get rid of the Malware. Mostly because I didn’t know where to start.  

Then it took us weeks to redesign (and fix the destroyed pages) my website.  That was mostly because my website is heavy on viable content, so we wanted to try to recover as much of it as possible.  Mission accomplished!!

Here’s the good news!  And ain’t it grand that in this life there’s always some good news if you look hard enough?
My website’s appearance got a fresh face lift.  I’m so pleased with the more modern, fresh, look with lots of white space.  
I hope my subscribers and new visitors enjoy it!

So, dear subscribers, visitors and fans, WE ARE BACK!!   I hope in the weeks to come we will offer you book reviews, author interviews, and tips about writing, editing, and storytelling.  
Love, Trish

A Good Writer is a Good Observer

A good writer is always observing and watching other people and their interpersonal relationships with others. Relationships are complex and rarely resemble yours. And of course…listening.  Everyone speaks differently, with a different word choice and a varied cadence to their speech.  This can translate to your writing and add another layer of ‘flavor’ to your dialogue.  

I also recommend watching movies or series to learn dialogue writing.  But, not just the ‘bad’ movies, poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted.  Watch the good ones too…ones you liked. 

I recently was binge-watching an older series, “Six Feet Under“.  One which I had loved when it was new and couldn’t wait for each episode to air.  I began watching for the simple pleasure of re-watching it.  But three or four episodes in, I began to critique it.  Especially the character of Ruth; the mother of the Fisher family.  She had a hot temper and I am certain that was ‘written’ in for the character.  However, the actor, (Frances Conroy) went from 0 to 10 when the script called for  temper.  There was no layering.  At first I blamed the writing…then the director.  My final analysis was that the

 writing (without seeing the script) was hardly at fault. Or maybe a little bit not having enough blocking written in. Don’t forget, emotion can be written as part of the blocking. 

Then I laid some blame at the director’s feet for not noticing that his actor had only two levels; calm and yelling. And the yelling came out of the blue and was all the same.  Why didn’t the director catch this?  Well, he did have a huge cast to direct and watch over. So mostly the responsibility lay with the lazy actor. An actor who wants to get as much as possible out of a part would look for those layers, subtle though they may be. Ed O’Ross (Nikolai, the fiery Russian florist) was excellent at layering his character’s emotions.  

No script or production is perfect. You can watch ANYTHING and learn from it.  Same with reading. I’ll give you an example; when I noticed a couple of authors using the same word or phase over and over in their work of fiction, I realized I might suffer from the same curse. My nemeses is the word ‘just‘.  My guard dog is the feature (in any word processing platform) ‘find’ or ‘replace’ and I use it to root out the 300 times I used ‘just’. (hahaha)

If you’re a screen writer, visuals are more important than diaglogue.  Your blocking can include the silent dialogue. Write in the non-verbal speech of an actor.  In ‘Six Feet Under‘, actor, Lauren Ambrose (Claire) and Jeremy Sisto (Billy) were superb with their non-verbal dialogue, using facial and eye expressions and body language. This credit I give to the director and the excellent actors.  

When writing stage plays the playwright should keep ‘action’ simple. Write some emotional blocking in but always remember the director is going to have their own thoughts about how the scene should go.  Be careful not to do the director’s job for them.  It won’t be appreciated.  

If you are a screenwriter or writing fiction you probably think you have no interest in theatre.  One of your best sourses to learn about writing dialogue is the theatre.  Live stage plays are the Mecca of good or bad dialogue.  Go there, observe and learn! 

Another link on the subject of over-usage of words.
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I am the daughter, sister, wife and mother of a Veteran!

         Members of the military impacted my life in many ways. My life  was certainly changed by members of my family serving in the armed forces.  So what better time than on this Veteran’s Day to honor them….those who keep us SAFE and FREE!  And to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and their country.

                                                    ****

Gerald Guyer (cousin)   US Marines**WWI – gave his life in Normandy, France ** Son of Gladys; nephew of Violet, my mother.

W. Jay Woods

William Jay Woods (father)  US Navy ** WWII –   South Pacific – PTSD.  He met my mother in San Francisco, where she owned a bar and grill.  He returned from war  an alcoholic, experienced rages and had a parrot named Butch.

John Cable, ‘Dad’

Johnny Cable (step-father)  US Army/Infantry ** WWII Southern Pacific. Lost an eye, suffered from jungle rot and PTSD.  At five years of age I remember not being able to run in and jump on the bed in the mornings to ‘wake up Daddy’.  He would awaken ready to fight the ‘Japs’ and in those first few seconds he was back in the jungle.   He was a wonderful father but the horrors of the South Pacific battles were never far from the surface. He later served on a ship in the Korean War as a meat cutter.  He was instrumental in serving the troops a HOT Thanksgiving dinner on the beach that year.

family histories, family secrets, story telling, writers
my mother, Violet

Violet Guyer (mother) US Armed Forces ** Wife, sister, and mother of members in the military. My mother, who I write about, was auntie to Gerald.  She married Jay (active Navy) and Johnny (active Army) and was a military wife for two decades. She was mother to Jack (US Air Force) and Doris, (US Marines).

Brother Jack


Jack Borden (brother)  US Air Force
** Loaded B52 bombers – hot spots around the world – 20+ years of service.  My brother would come home from far away places like Germany, Iceland, Africa, Panama and because he  didn’t have a hometown girl, he would take me, his teenage sister, ballroom dancing.

 

                            Doris Borden (sister) Joined the US Marines, Reserve and was upgraded to active duty when the Korean War broke out.

 

Jack Henderson, US Air force

Jack Henderson.  (first husband) US Air Force * While in the military, he was on a ship in the Pacific
and witnessed one of the first A-Bomb test explosions off Enewetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  

Robert.Berry
Robert Berry, Navy Seal

Robert Berry (second husband)   US Navy Seals, US Coast Guard ** 20+ years of service.  Robert was a Navy Seal, underwater demolition during the Viet Nam years.  He later served as a warrant officer aboard an icebreaker and was certified to scuba dive under the Arctic ice.

 

john.Viet.Nam
John Sugarek, Viet Nam

John Sugarek (husband)  US Marines ** Viet Nam –   John was my husband for 30 years. He was kind-hearted and funny and everyone loved him.  I witnessed two of his  flashbacks from battle in Viet Nam (twenty years later)  and he suffered, untreated, from PTSD. Partially due to the PTSD (I believe) he died at his own hand in 2006.  His fellow wounded warriors celebrate him at the Whiskey Battery Reunion, once a year.marines

 

We are all grateful to our military for their unswerving bravery, service, and loyalty and we honor those who have come home, battered but alive.

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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    
                                                                                   
                                        

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Interview with author, Donna Everhart (conclusion)

 

DE.  I was going through chemo again in 2019. My hair had grown back in, [at least I had hair at the moment]. but I was about to lose it for a second time – and within two months of this photo, I had none.  I just got home from receiving a heavy dose of chemo at the hospital. 

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

DE. I’m always working on a new book, and my next novel, When the Jessamine Grows, releases January 23, 2024. It’s a different story from my others because I’ve stepped back further in time to the Civil War era. This is a morally complex story about the McBride family, subsistence farmers whose principles are brought to the foreground after their eldest son runs off to join the Confederacy after being influenced by his staunch Confederate grandfather. The father, Ennis, goes after his son, leaving his wife, Joetta, (my main character) to look after their younger son, and the farm. What follows is a harrowing time for her, and the rest of the family as she is bound to stand by their beliefs, and by doing so, becomes a pariah in the community.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DE. In 2008, when the company where I’d been working for twenty-five years went bankrupt. I’ve often wondered if they hadn’t, whether or not I would’ve started. It was the shove I guess I needed, because I’d thought I would retire from there. I’m so happy they folded. (haha)

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DE. No – at least I hope not. (You do have wonder about all that paper, and the trees, and the pulp industry) But, I think this was already sort of proven when there was those few years when it seemed e-books might surpass sales of paper books. I haven’t looked it up lately to see if e-books are overtaking sales, but I think we’d hear it from the industry if that were to happen. Speaking from my own personal experience, paper book sales for my work is always higher than e-books.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DE. Speaking personally, what makes a writer great for me is when I look forward to getting back to the book, when they teach me something I didn’t know, or when they write about a concept, or topic that’s never been written about before. It’s when their way with words makes me re-read their sentences. Some writers hit all of these marks, some hit maybe one or two, but some aspect of these things, or all, are what I think make for a really brilliant writer.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

DE. It looks . . . never-ending. It looks impossible. It looks like a fever dream. Chaotic. Messy. Dumb. I’m usually at a loss at the start. There are days/weeks of staring at nothing. Days/weeks of thinking, thinking, thinking. Trying to write, tossing it out, trying something else. It’s endless discussions with other writer friends. Eventually, a foundation, an inkling of THE idea comes. Then, it’s brick by brick through the first sentences, to the first paragraphs, and first pages. It’s getting through those 1,000 words a day goals. It’s self-editing, killing words, and birthing better ideas. Then comes the moment of angst when someone else reads it. Then the agent reads, and then the editor. There’s praying involved during the “others are reading it” phase. Lots of it. Then comes the polishing, (copy edits) honing, (first pass pages) and then, voila. Book!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

A. I’m a Stage IV cancer survivor, and at one time, I was a single mother, and all along, I’ve been known to be stubborn (hard-headed???) so, this is something I draw on when writing my stories. I gravitate toward writing about characters with fortitude, and mental strength. Physical strength is important, too, but, writing about characters overcoming the odds because of their convictions – whatever those might be – is compelling. I love writing about people who were doing just fine until something comes along and knocks their world topsy-turvy, and now they have to figure out how to straighten it up. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there, and it’s rewarding to overcome obstacles.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

 

DE. Well. Downtime for me is getting away from my computer. I used to run, but since I can’t do that anymore due to all the radiation I’ve had, I like to walk

 (sometimes with weights) or go on a long bike ride. I also love to go to the movies, or watch a movie on TV, or a good series. We got caught up in Yellowstone, but then it started getting over the top. We gravitated toward the origin stories (1883 and 1923) and enjoyed those more. I love to go to the Blue Ridge mountains, and to sometimes take day trips – like I just took my grandkids to the zoo this past week.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

DE. I did write this one book . . . that will likely never the see the light of day. It My agent said it was a “hard crime” novel.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

DE. What you worry about at night is nothing in the morning.

Did you miss the rest of this INTERVIEW?

DonnaEverhart.com.
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Interview with Author, Donna Everhart (part 2)

Donna & her grandkids

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DE. You’re “looking” at a procrastinator. I’ll come to my desk every day and have a word goal in mind (usually 1,000 words) and oftentimes do everything but start working toward that goal. What follows is GUILT as time ticks by. By the end of the day, if I haven’t made the word count because of lost time on something unrelated to my writing goal, there’s the inevitable slump in mood. My best days are when I make a concerted effort to get the word count in. Even if I don’t, and get, say, 500 words, I’m happier for it because I know the effort was honestly made. It takes discipline to not get onto social media or think of the other million ways to avoid doing what needs to be done to accomplish the end result – i.e., a finished book. What I’ve found works best, write first; everything else comes after – even laundry.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DE.  Usually through an idea for a story. Sometimes a name comes to mind first, and I start to think about who this person would be, and what is it they want, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at, and if they have any enemies. It’s kind of all over the place. A messy, messy process.  

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Donna with hubby

DE. Reading stories that made a big impact on me were the main influence or motivator. The enjoyment I got from books where I wouldn’t stop reading for a long time, and when I finally took a break, I’d look around in a daze. I’d become so invested in that world, I think I was surprised I wasn’t “there,” instead of sitting on a couch in my living room. That kind of story made me want to create something similar. The idea of affecting a person’s mood, thought process, and emotions resonated for whatever reason.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DE. It’s actually been both. It’s never always this, or that. For example, in my debut, The Education of Dixie Dupree, it was the character of Dixie. In The Road to Bittersweet, it was the situation – the 1940 flood in western North Carolina. It just depends. When I begin to search for a story, I’m often lookin g for a situation, but out of nowhere, a name will come to mind – and then I’m thinking, who is this? (I have to have a name before I can develop a character)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DE. Absolutely. When I’m really in that zone, hours can go by and I’ll sort of come out of it and realize, oh, wait. I haven’t eaten. I’m often shocked half the day is gone. It’s kind of scary sometimes!  

Donna with her granddaughter

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

Donna with daughter

DE. I love, love, love reading stories set in the South where I’m from, and so I guess it makes sense I’d want to write about my culture and the region I love. Aside from the classics out there for Southern literature, like Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, etc., it was reading the more contemporary writers like Kaye Gibbons (Ellen Foster) and Dorothy Allison, (Bastard Out Of Carolina) that jumpstarted my urge to pursue it. After I read their books and I was on the hunt for more stories like theirs. This was around 1987, or so, and as I began to discover these Southern stories which really resonated with me, I knew if I ever wrote anything, it would be something like this.

Did you miss the start of this interview?
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