We have had many Father's Day experiences over the years, but none as unusual as this one. It was a birthday celebration, as well as honoring fathers, Carlos and Mike. Cassidy was missing (at flight school in the Carolinas), and we dined under the benign gaze of Pope John Paul in a room dedicated to Popes through the ages. Except there was a naked lady in a niche and two wooden wall hangings that seemed Viking-themed (featuring both boat & horned helmet). The food was superb, but . . .
(In case you haven't guessed, that's me on the right, the one in blue sweater (hand-crocheted).
I am not normally a fan of puns, but this one really tickled my funny bone - posted to Facebook this week.
A Facebook friend has been posting photos of the deer in her neighborhood. I thought this one particularly fine.
|Photo by Susan Coventry|
Below, a cloud formation posted by another FB friend from an anonymous source - originally titled in Spanish.
|Cat in the Sky|
Intro to Making Magic With Words
Way back in 2018, I began to compile a book of all my blogs on Writing & Editing, with miscellaneous comments on being an author thrown in for good measure. This finally became a 200,000+ words book, called Making Magic With Words. (An absolutely horrendous undertaking!) But the vast amount of information was finally organized by categories, and the index linked to each article by someone more technically gifted than I. (And yes, the links works. I just used the system to find the article I wanted. [Control+click on the desired article, et voilà!]
Below is the introduction to the Writing section of the book: "On Being a Writer." I hope you enjoy it.
August 22, 2015
ON BEING A WRITER
If you're a regular reader of Mosaic Moments, you're already familiar with my favorite comment: Each morning I get up and can hardly wait to find out what is going to happen in my book today.
Even though not every writer conjures a book "out of the mist" or "by the seat of his/her pants," I think the excitement must be the same. What a wonder it is to start from nothing but an idea, a simple spark that must be nurtured until it bursts into flame. For some that nurturing is gentle; for others, a wrench from the soul. For some it means taking that idea, thinking it through, playing with it, juggling it, outlining possibilities, agonizing over selecting just the right path—the most dramatic conflict, the most heart-pounding action, whether to play the romance hot or tone it down for those who prefer Plot over Sex.
For others, like me, it means creating intriguing characters—from vibrant, though sometimes flawed, heroes and heroines, well-fleshed-out secondary characters who add to the story, and a vague idea of the plot. After that, I let my characters tell me the details of what happens next. Believe me, it's exciting. Many mornings I get up with no idea of what's going to happen next. I sit down at the keyboard and my characters take over, dictating the story. Yes, certainly there are times when I thought it all out the night before—or perhaps before I get out of bed in the morning. Dialogue, action, it's all there. Except maybe eighty percent of the time, when I sit down to record my thoughts, I realize I skipped a vital scene that has to be written first. So, in spite of my best-laid plans, I still end of "winging it," grabbing the story out of thin air because it's suddenly obvious that the new scene has to come before the one I'd so carefully detailed in my head.
And then there are the times when nothing comes. For me, thank goodness, those times have been few and far between. My approach, I've discovered, is similar to Nora Roberts's. I just keep writing, no matter how meandering or perfectly awful it might seem. That's what editing is for, right? Let's face it, even when I think I'm doing well, it's amazing how many changes I make.
Which brings me to: Why on earth do writers put themselves through all this torture?
I am constantly amazed at the dedication I see in other authors. I have it easy. I don't have a full-time job, young children, family obligations more demanding than being a grandmother. I have belonged to four writers' groups here in Florida, and I am simply stunned by those who get up a 5:00 a.m. to write before the family gets up. Or those who snatch spare moments during the day. Or somehow stay up half the night to get words down on a page. I freely admit I couldn't do that. When I first tried to write in the days before word processing, my style soon demonstrated that I was one of those who was constantly finding new and better ways to express what I had initially written. And in those days that meant laboriously re-typing every page. Multiple times. Aargh!
Needless to say, only the advent of word processing allowed me to become a serious writer. (I owned one of the very first word processing machines, an IBM's Displaywriter, which had alternate keyboards for a variety of languages and pre-dated the first PCs by at least a year. It was considered infinitely smart at 250K!)
For almost a decade after that, however, I used word processing primarily to make money in a more mundane fashion than creative writing; for example, transcribing a series of taped lectures in French for the Yale French Department. (The Displaywriter was an expensive machine!). But after getting the children off to college, things changed. Since 1991 I have written around 35* books, 32 currently available online. And I have a couple more on the back burner just waiting for a bit of additional polish.
And no, I've really never suffered from burnout, perhaps because I'm constantly looking for something new to try. For me, the inner excitement never flags. I get tired, worn to the bone, but sitting down to write rejuvenates me. Constantly using my imagination keeps me young.
Yes, writing demands dedication and determination, but it's such a thrill to take the merest germ of an idea and spin it into gold. To grab an idea out of nowhere and somehow expand it into 400 pages that will, in turn, excite and inspire other people. I like to think the famous words Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote in 1839 are right: "The pen is mightier than the sword."
In the end, writers may not be able to save the world, but by organizing all those thoughts, ideas, and words tumbling around inside our heads, we save ourselves. And hopefully provide wisdom as well as entertainment for others.
So whether you started to write at age fifteen or fifty-five, hang in there. There's joy here. And satisfaction. And, if we're lucky, a bit of money. And if you always wanted to write but haven't yet taken the plunge, it's never too late. Word processing makes it easy. Hit the Delete key and our mistakes go away. And no teacher hanging over you to point out errors! Wow, how great is that?
Writing may be hard work, but it's also great fun. Inspiring. Joyous. Satisfying. A profession that is never obsolete, never goes out of fashion. So whether you have to outline every step ahead of time, or simply plunge into a new book with little but names to go on, writing can be one of the most satisfying occupations. I should add that although I address my blogs primarily to authors of fiction, much the same advice applies to non-fiction authors. Writing is a demanding business, an art form as unrelenting as creating a great painting, being controlled and practiced enough to belt out a high C, or twist the body into a triple salchow.
Writing is not easy. Writing requires devotion, constant practice, discipline, and intelligence. And, I suppose, like all art forms, it requires at least a soupçon of arrogance. If we don't believe in ourselves, who will?
But above all comes persistence. No one, from the anonymous 3-D sidewalk artist to the author who just hit the Best-seller list, ever did so without hanging in there, no matter what. Success rarely comes easy. For most of us, that means being slapped down time and time again before our first success. And in my case, it meant being slapped down by publishers shutting down the line of books I was writing four times. But . . .
You knew there was going to be a "but," right?
It's not just a case of my soldiering on and finding a new niche for myself. Recovering from adversity can also apply to creating a book. So you had a bad day? A bad chapter? The whole blasted book's a mistake! Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start from Word One. You can fix this. Take a deep breath. Think! Editing works. Revision works. Eliminating characters can work. Creating new ones in their place can work. New challenges for you, new challenges for your characters. You can do it, you really can. See . . . you didn't waste the last three months after all.
Whether you've written twenty books, just one, or your book is nothing more than a gleam in the eye, never forget that for all the work involved, writing is fun. It's inspiring. It's a reason to put a smile on your face as you crawl out of bed in the morning. Be grateful you have the "gift," no matter how rocky it may feel at times. And, let's admit it, no matter how rocky your life might be, you can always take refuge in the wonderful world of your mind. Even if your characters have a will of their own, they are yours. You created them. So let them soar. Your book will soar right along with them.
And your spirits as well.
*Grace note update: In 2019 that number is 42, with No. 43 in progress.
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* ~ *
This week, I'm touting one of my best-selling Regency Gothics. (As many of you know I prefer "interesting" ghosts to scary ghosts.)
The widowed Lady Marian Talbot is keeping a low profile as her exquisitely lovely sister, Vanessa, makes her come-out. Yet somehow it is Marian who attracts the attention of the most eligible bachelor London society has seen in a decade, a marquess who has spent the last dozen years in India. After a whirlwind courtship, Marian—now the Marchioness of Rushton—arrives at her new home, only to discover she is expected to solve the challenges of dealing with her husband's hostile brother and sister, his illegitimate young son, and a staff at war with itself. And, as if that weren't enough, Marian must also adjust to a panoply of ghosts, all supposedly benign, but that becomes doubtful as someone—or some thing—makes repeated attempts to kill both the marquess and his new bride.
Thanks for stopping by,Grace (Blair Bancroft)