Leave yourself a trail of bread crumbs

LCW Allingham

One of the tools I love to use is leaving clues for my characters (and myself). I have no idea where these clues will lead. I just put them in there as they come up and hope they’ll turn into something.

We’ve established I’m more of a “fly be the seat of your pants” writer than a carefully plotted and outlined writer. I do outline, but it’s usually more as I go along and after I’ve established the tone of the story, but these clues come up as I’m writing and I leave them there to flutter in the wind.

Why do i do this?

Well, I like revelations in my stories. I like  mysteries. I like big flapping loose ends that end up tying the whole story together in a surprising way. And the most effective way to do this is to surprise myself.

In my most recent work…

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Forcing words

I have been pretty quiet the last month. Aside from the blog, I haven’t been posting much on twitter or writing much on my novels. After the flood of inspired writing that took me to the end of “Patroness”, the waters slowed to a trickle and then stopped altogether.

In that past I have raged against this drought. I have cursed at the blinking cursor on the blank page. I have pushed and pushed to get a few words out that I know would ultimately be deleted.

Many writers find that if they keep pushing, they can get back into the sweet spot. Sometimes this has worked for me, but it seems there needs to at least be a little stream to splash around in on my way to the river. Right now there is nothing.

And that is okay.

Everyone has their own process, and mine is to write with furious motivation until the well is dry. But that doesn’t mean the work stops.

When the well runs dry, my job changes to doing what I can to replenish it. I read. Reading is something I have to schedule now that I am a mom. It doesn’t come as easily as it did before, but it is vital to my work.

I also pick away at edits. When I don’t have anything to give my own work, I still can critique other people’s work and I find the process to be extremely helpful in zeroing in on my own writing flaws.

So, I would like to apologize for not posting recently. But forcing words onto a page has proven to be an exercise in frustration. I hope that now that I am absorbing the work of other authors, my own words will start to flow more easily. Until then, there are always reblogs.

Change the way you look at pursuing a career in writing

Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe while you pursue publication of your novel you completely own it. Maybe the time and energy and hard work you put in without getting paid is something your friends and relatives and acquaintances completely accept as what must be done to reach your goal career. (if the last one is true, wow, good for you).

But while I admit I have support from many people in my life, the most important people in my life, I would say the majority of people who know what I do to attain my goal see me as a dreamer.

And while we, as a society, admire dreamers once they have achieved, on the path to their dream we collectively roll our eyes and nod slowly and tell them not to quit their day jobs for their little hobbies.

So, as writers, pursuing an actual job writing books, many of us tend to me a little more humble about our work. After all, we’ve yet to get the advances, the royalty checks, the writing engagements, the book on the shelf at the book store. What do we have to show for the hours we’ve put in, the years?

Would you ask someone who was going back to school to pursue an engineering degree why they were wasting their time chasing their dreams?

Knowledge. Refinement of our craft. Connections. Industry understanding. We writers collect all these necessary things as we pursue writing as a job, and most of us don’t wrack up 50 grand in debt doing it.

Writing books, editing books, participating crit groups, hiring editors, going to writing conference, submitting for publication, these are part of a real world classroom that is no less worthy than a college tuition for a “practical” job.

Publishing a novel, establishing a career takes time and work and energy. It doesn’t happen overnight any more than becoming a doctor does. You have to put in the work, and you have to acknowledge that, in doing so, you are preparing yourself for the career you want.

For some reason, many people think it’s a matter of writing a book, getting it published. They think the writing part is the hard part, and if you can get it done, that first book should sell if it’s worth anything and you will be on your way.

You know that’s not true. I know that’s not true. There is no reason to be humble about having to strive toward what you want.