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 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.
The 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). See how I got those plugs in!! 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 three years before publication.
The inspiration for LOACL, 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.
Writing is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to conquer and get better at. Perhaps because it’s so personal. My words, from my noggin’, telling a story only I can tell.
In my quest to improve, my process is now different. It’s much more structured. First, I make a list of all the jokes/gags I want to include in the story. Like I said, humor is my number one priority, so I like to get those down first. It can be an actual prank/event or simply some funny dialogue.
Next, since I’m writing a series, I add bios for all my new players, their physical descriptions, quirks, background, and anything else I think important about them. I’m always surprised when I forget the color of Bubba’s eyes or how I described Ridge’s physique and without those notes, I’d make mistakes.
For my main recurring characters, I cast them. I choose actors, cut their pictures out, glue them in the notebook, and think of them when I write their scenes.
Then I loosely outline the book. I say loosely, because I change and adjust as I go along. If you’re a writer, you know sometimes the characters take you to a whole different place than where you thought you were headed! One major lesson I learned from the first book was to introduce LOTS of secondary characters. They don’t have to play major roles, but if you’re going to have a bad guy, you need several to choose from. I don’t usually decide who the culprit will be until close to the end of the story and generally go back and forth between a couple of characters before the final decision.
After all this, I begin to write. As I do, I post my work, one chapter at a time, on a writing website for critique. This is the number one thing I suggest for writers. Join a critique site. There are many to choose from. I use TheNextBigWriter.com, but there’s also FanStory, CritiqueCircle and others.
Normally with first chapters, you may get as many as 40 readers! Yep, that’s 40 people, from a cross-section of the U.S and other countries, all ages, both genders, and all walks of life. Some will be great with grammar and punctuation; others excel at logic, pace, factual content, etc. Bottom line is they will let you know if what you’ve written is working or not.
After the first chapter, you’re readers fall off, but I was fortunate to have 16 people read both novels from beginning to end and offer invaluable insight!
My readers were about 50/50 split between men and women. They were from Washington, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, New York, England, Germany, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Virginia, Texas, Missouri, New Mexico, and more. They ranged in age from 26 to retirees. They were school teachers, surgeons, business men, students, two ex-cons, a dog trainer, retired military, just to name a few.
I find strangers are more brutally honest with you…always in a nice way, about if what you’ve written stinks or not!! And believe me, I’ve written some really smelly stuff!
I don’t have a set writing schedule. I write best early in the morning, because I’m an early riser. I don’t write every day, simply because my schedule doesn’t permit it. I write in total silence. I listen to music for motivation, but don’t play it when I’m writing.
Now, give me a rap-beat…
I need an approach, a new way to process
My plot points are lacking and my hooks are a mess
They say find your voice, write what you know,
Active, passive, make it flow
POV’s need to be in check
Show don’t tell, is a pain in my neck
My characters need to hear, see, smell, taste and touch
I gotta watch my tags, not use “he said, she said”, too much
There’s gotta be conflict, both internal and external
I should forget this book and just keep a journal
It needs lots of emotion, pace should be just right
With the way this is going, I’ll be up all night!
Grammar matters, avoid the info dump,
I’ll skip to the love scene, that’ll make my blood pump
My word count is low; I’ve got holes in my plot
I may as well face it, I’ve got writers block!
See, this could have been an entry in my Really Cheesy Poetry Book!