Category: On Writing

Total 7 Posts

Fall is in the Air

Maybe it’s because of the coming of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays, or my birth month, November, or maybe because it’s the change of foliage, but since I was a kid I’ve liked autumn best. Oh, I miss the summer sometimes. I enjoy going to the beach, time to travel, and more free time, but I prefer the cooler temps and the feel of autumn.  While I never liked raking leaves, I do enjoy walking through the nature trails under a canopy of golden, rust, and brown leaves. I enjoy the sight of pumpkins, mum, and baskets of squash at the countryside stands or nearby nurseries. Thoughts flick back to hay rides, pumpkin and apple picking with my family, and viewing a Harvest moon light the night sky. Speaking of harvest time, I remember going as a youth to a place called Delicious Orchards, a farm and grocery outlet in Colts Neck, New Jersey, a long time ago with my maternal grandmother who loved to buy tons of potatoes, fresh-baked pies, and other produce. Before we left, we bought hot apple cider and apple cider doughnuts.  The place still exists as do others like it. Although many towns and cities now have farmer’s market days, I think it’s wonderful to be able to go out into the countryside for fresh farm goods you can either pick yourself or buy right from the farmers.

For some reason too, this time of year inspires my writing as I think about the coming of Halloween and stories I heard years ago about ghosts. My Irish grandfather enjoyed spinning a yarn or two about the ghosts back in his native County Meath, and decades later I still remember them. With cooler days ahead, I find myself wanting to both write more of my own tales and to read. My muse beckons me to both, and come November as I’ve done in the past, I hope to once again submerge myself in the task of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. No easy feat, but it’s  one I have accomplished and successfully so as I completed two novels, A Kiss Out of Time and A Dance Out of Time, in two different years.

So, with fall in the air, my muse and I will enjoy a bit of the harvest, the colorful foliage, and tales to come.

To Write, Observe

 

Pay attention to your surroundings. It’s not always easy these days especially with the distractions of mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. As a writer, I often need to find those quiet moments and special places for writing, such as a library, a park, or my home office, but sometimes I need to write on the fly wherever I can. That’s why I began to bring along a small journal or notepad for jotting down ideas. It also helps to be aware of your surroundings because they can inspire ideas too.

Recently while enjoying a morning walk in a park in my hometown of Nutley, New Jersey, I forgot to notice those wonderful sounds like birds singing, the gurgle of the brooks, and the topple of the water over the falls in Kingsland Park. Shaking me out of my daydream was the sounds in a nearby treetop. I thought either squirrels on a mad chase or a raccoon shimmering down the trunk caused the sound, but to my astonishment a few feet ahead of me came a loud crash and a huge branch fell. My heart raced at the sight and the realization that I could have been struck by the branch. A fellow traveler in the wooded area noticed this too, and we both thanked the heavens that we’d been spared. It also woke me up to the necessity to pay more attention to my surrounding. Indeed it could be a matter of life or death!

The sights, the sounds, and the feelings of my surroundings have inspired me in my writing of settings for my books. Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, New Jersey are the settings for my two young adult books, A Dance Out of Time and A Kiss Out of Time. Although I haven’t been on the pioneer trail to Oregon, the setting for my western historical romance, Wildflowers, I have visited several western and mid-western states including Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Taking photographs, enjoying visits to local museums and art galleries, and writing in journals has helped me to capture my ideas about those surroundings.

I heard long ago that to be a writer means to be an observer. I believe that it’s true. It can also save your life!

 

To Plot or Not To Plot

To plot or not to plot? That is the question when I start a new story. Most times, I write a fast rough draft after I have a sketch of an outline.

When I wrote during National Novel Writing Month in November, or NaNoWriMo, I wrote as quickly and frequently as possible without revision because the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month. So, it’s more important to get the story down and save revision for later on.

I completed two novels, A Kiss Out of Time and A Dance Out of Time, both YA paranormal books by that method.They needed editing, and I went through them several times before they became publishable, but I enjoyed the free flow of ideas and quick writing it took to meet the NaNoWriMo deadlines.

However, my first romance novel, Wildflowers, a western historical set along the Oregon Trail, took several years and versions to complete before publication. I wrote the draft in a small notebook while commuting to my job as a copy writer in New York City. I did tons of research which I kept in a notebook, used index cards to write notes on characters, and created a timeline for events along the route the characters followed to get from Missouri to Oregon.  I typed the novel on my first personal computer, and it went through many revisions with critique partners before becoming published.

I’ve met writers who don’t start writing a draft until they’ve done extensive research and meticulous outlines.  I’ve also met writers who I identify with as “pantsers” and write the entire draft and then follow-up with research and revision.

I find myself doing a combination of the two with using  some kind of an outline or notebook  for ideas, a brief synopsis, and then writing as much as I can. I do research as needed.  I also keep a photo collection containing photos from magazines, postcards, and street maps to help visualize the story.  I enjoy using Pinterest and created a few boards to visualize settings, characters, food, and even music which might set the mood for a story.

To plot or not to plot? I think the answer is you need to plot, but you can approach it several ways from a few lines on a Post-It note to several detailed pages. Whatever works and gets you to write the story can determine the approach to plotting.