Do you need quiet to write? Do you have a playlist you listen to while writing? Do you have a special place? Is it isolated or in the thick of things? Is the TV blasting distracting news or great dialogue? Action or love scenes? What works best for you? I bet you have multiple answers depending on the scene and what stage you’re at in the book.
Chaos. In the midst of a family of seven, I’ve figured out how to write a first draft. Concepts and ideas fill my creative cup while I’m talking to my kids or friends, making dinner or folding clothes. The story is in my head at all times ready for a new twist or the next conflict.
I can even edit the first draft in chaos. But when it comes to making certain the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, I need solitude. Complete and utter focus. Grammar and punctuation checks are not what I’m talking about. What I need uninterrupted time to final edit for are these things…the essentials I hope to one day master in my first draft:
- are my characters behaving in character?
- do they have a goal, motivation, and conflict?
- am I staying in point of view?
- is the opening grabbing the reader?
- is the pace working?
- am I including hooks to the next scene?
- is there motivation, conflict, and a goal in each scene?
- is each sentence structured clearly?
- am I overusing adjectives, adverbs, names, dialogue tags, phrases,
- am I using redundancies–repeating words, sentence structure, or ideas unnecessarily?
Each of us has our own way or working through the writing process. We also have writing issues we repeat in each book. I check for those problems first, noting there are fewer in the second draft than there used to be. The more you write, the more cognizant you’ll become of your style, your voice. The pace of the story and the style eventually will become embedded in your work. The more you write, the sooner it will happen. Sooner or later, you’ll find your place to write, with or without chaos, with or without a playlist, with or without silence. What you’ll find is a way to focus on what the story needs instead of what you need. Numbers one through ten will fall into place like a marching band, marching in formation while they make music and designs. You’ll have your unique voice, your work will have a unique style that defines it, you’ll have a process of creating your work in a way that works for you.
I’ve tried several approaches. Some work with non-fiction, some with fiction. Some work with short stories but not with longer books. Some work with individual novels but not with series or serialized books. Different strokes for different folks pertains to bodies of work as well as temperaments. My memory isn’t what it was. I make notes now. Thank goodness for my iPhone. I keep it with me always…well, not in the shower…but it’s in the room–TMI?).
I dictate and write myself notes or just write down a word or phrase to jar my memory later when I have a chance to mull it over. We each have our own creative needs and style of getting from A to Z. Figure out your method and don’t be discouraged if you have to make tweaks or adjustments as you grow. I’m going to bare my soul. The second few edited paragraph segments from my first book, Hot Highland Fling, looked like this.
* * *
“Ah, Scotland,” Ailsa sighed into her cell phone. “The untamed highlands, the rugged moors, the burly men, and their kilts!” The cell phone coverage was good as she checked in with her senior editor. None of that, Can you hear me now? stuff, going on up here.
“Katie, why do you live in London with those conservative people when you could be here?”
“I know the only reason you took this assignment was to check out the native men. Besides, the magazine has a silly requirement that their senior editor reside near the publishing house, and if you must know, I prefer civilization to the wilds.”
* * *
I have to thank my first editor, Scarlet Senior Editor, Diana Carlile.at the Wild Rose Press for not only taking a chance on a newbie, but also for being an awesome editor. If I could I’d be rewording and editing it again. You have to know when enough is enough. (Most of us never learn that.)
The first red blob is cutting out a dialogue tag. Now there is narrative action instead of he said-she said.
The next change is a clarification of the first part of the sentence without going into too much unnecessary detail.
The next is a format situation. The editor clarified the idea with italics and punctuation.
Then I changed a word from one that I didn’t think fit as well.
The final edit in this section did a few things. This is the opening of the book. The heroine said several things that hint about the genre. The title of course is pretty suggestive. But Ailsa sighs. Then she sets the mood with her dialogue. “The untamed highlands, the rugged moors, the burly men, and their kilts!” A little excitement, a romantic lilt, sexy and fun. This sentence establishes a promise to the reader. You also get that sarcastic humor reinforced with her internal thought about the cell phone coverage. Can you hear me now? stuff…
We find out that Ailsa is questioning conservative reasoning. What’s she up to?
Ailsa’s editor confirms her motives. “I know the only reason you took this assignment was to check out the native men.” Ah! Ailsa has an ulterior motive. Do we want to read about it? Do we like her enough to be curious? We hardly know her at all. Is the subject something we’re interested in?
The book is short on plot–it’s very short anyway. But it does contain many sex scenes because this is a woman’s journey of sexual discovery, an awakening of sorts, and she has very little time to invest. Not everyone will be interested in a book of this length or genre, but no matter, there should be purpose to every words you choose to put on the page. I hope this helps you move from chaos to peace of mind.
Here is the blurb: Hot Highland Fling
Free lance writer, Ailsa Jackson is finished dating executives. She’s looking for hot sexual fantasies with a man who fits her needs… “All muscle, stamina and no commitment.” The assignment in the UK sounds perfect when she’s assigned to interview an American CEO who recently inherited lands and a title in Scotland.
She tosses her inhibitions aside for the first Highlander she encounters–prepared to research all the myths about brawny Highlanders and answer the age old, burning question: What does a Scotsman wear beneath his kilt?
Colin Fitzgerald knows it’s wrong to deceive Ailsa, but he can’t risk her discovering his true identity before he seduces her. Unfortunately, he is everything Ailsa hates. Yet if he can become the lover she adores, perhaps he can convince her they’re perfect for each other.
He has one night to prove he’s no stuffed shirt and three weeks to become everything she desires in a lusty lover. His adventurous lass is imaginative and willing. But can lust turn to love so quickly? And will they be ready for more than a Hot Highland Fling when their time together draws to an end?