Hey there travelers,
It is a chilly Wednesday evening where I’m at and I’m finally sitting down to get our Write Wednesday post up. We have guest author Eileen Maschger with us today talking abut about her writing process. Below you’ll find her post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
My name is Eileen Maschger. I am a full-time mother, a full-time college student, and a published author. I published my first book The Fourth Princess in 2018, and am on schedule to publish my second book The Forgotten Prince in 2021. My novels are written specifically for the “tween” years from late elementary through middle school. They are simple enough for kids enough to follow easily, but raise big enough questions to make them think about themselves and the world they live in.
When I think of authors I think of people who have a specific space in their home where they can unleash their creative juices, surrounded by all their favorite things that inspire them. I also imagine people who have the freedom to exist in this happy space all day and just create fantastical worlds that I will one day read and fangirl over. I am NOT this kind of author. My mornings are busy making sure children are dressed, lunches are ready, daily readings have been done, homework is accounted for, and dropped off at school on time and ready to learn. When I get home I have a free moment for breakfast, then dive headfirst into my college classes. When my children are at school, I am also at school. After lunch but before my children come home is my free time. When I do not have bills to pay or errands to run, I WRITE. I write for fun, I write to release stress, vent my anger, accomplish my dreams, and simply to escape from the monotony of the world at times. I am a walking testament that with small and steady steps you can accomplish great things. In my case, I managed not only to write a manuscript, but I also published it and wrote another one. I would like to share a few insights I have learned about finishing a manuscript in the hope of reaching out to the busy, aspiring, insecure, potential writer.
- If you have an idea, write it down.
One of my favorite books from my childhood was Dr. Seuss’s, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. For those of you who don’t know, it is a story about a young boy who walks home from school and is bored by what he sees. Instead of choosing to stay bored, his imagination kicks in. He begins to create a more exciting scene in his head to tell his father about when he gets home. To be a successful writer you need to have an imagination. Everyone has one, but just like any worthwhile skill people have, it takes work to grow it into something beautiful.
If you have an idea, instead of dismissing it as nonsense, write it down. Books come in all shapes and sizes. From the orderly and rigid, to the quizzical and outrageous. That’s what is so great about writing. Since there is such a broad spectrum of writing styles, there is bound to be a following of some kind who wants to read your stories.
After I have enough ideas written down I can plot out a decent storyline. Some are nuts and some are great. I know these are great ideas because they are the ones I get excited to explore. More ideas come easily, and I actually feel like I am having fun. If writing were not fun for me, I wouldn’t be an author. Before you know it you have an outline. A preverbal map to follow as you write your story. Keep in mind, the map tells you where you want to go in your story, but how you get there is completely negotiable.
- Write, write, and write.
A common bit of advice you will hear from fellow authors is to write what you know. I agree with them, but I would also add to write what you don’t know as well. Branch out of your comfort zone, and learn new things. If you are interested in something to the point that you want to write about it, then learn as much as you can about it. I find that the initial interest in things, that spark, can either be smothered or fanned into a blaze of creativity. I am usually armed with a notebook and pen should something intrigue me while I am out and about.
When I was working I wrote during my lunch break. I write while I am waiting at the doctor’s office, the DMV, the dentist, school activities, etc. Any time I am expected to wait, I am writing. This suggestion has several benefits. One great reason is receptionists are much nicer to you when you are not bothered after they tell you how long the wait is. There are days when I look forward to longer wait-times because I know that is more time I have to write. I may only get a page or two written, but it’s a page or two further than I was that morning. And one day, it will be a finished manuscript.
Have you ever just sat down in front of your computer screen with all the time in the world and absolutely nothing comes to mind to write about? Dr. Seuss, Theodore Geisel, also talked about the importance of giving yourself boundaries or limits. I have seen the wisdom in his advice when I sat down for a 60-minute lunch break. Every day I would have a goal of getting everything in my head written before it was time to go back to work. With the proper mindset and a distinct time limit, I went back to work with two chapters written and ideas for the next part.
- Write what comes to you.
There are some people out there that can start at the beginning of a story and write straight through to the end without skipping a beat. I cannot do that. I write whatever scene is playing out over and over in my head. It makes the writing flow easier, and it is a whole lot more fun to me than the pressure of coming up with something on the spot.
I take all these various parts to my manuscript and shuffle them around like puzzle pieces. Sometimes a part that I thought would fit perfectly near the end of the story belongs near the beginning. It is entirely up to you to see what the best fit is to tell your story. Then I start to fill in the gaps. I take another look at my outline and add to or change whatever I have to flesh out the story much better.
- Leave it alone.
Once all the plot holes have been filled, and you have a continuous story from beginning to end, leave it alone. Seriously, don’t even think about it for at least a month or so. Go on vacation, read a book, spend time with your friends, do anything but think about your manuscript. Often we get too close to our projects we don’t see the obvious problems that are right under our nose.
- Time to be ruthless
Once you have had enough time away from your manuscript, it is time to edit with a clear head. Before I do this I have two editors that look over my work for me first. One specifically looks for story structure and plot holes. The second nit pics all my grammar, point of view, and downright annoying things that can ruin even the best pages of writing. I trust both of them to be truthful with me without being menacing. They will tell me when something is terrible, but will also be the first to offer suggestions to help me make it better. If you know someone like this, ask them to read your manuscript for you. You will be surprised how effective a fresh set of eyes can be for your writing.
This edit is when I attack my work as viciously as an angry dog. I will cross out pages, rewrite chapters, add in new ones, re-write characters to be more interesting, and make it 100% better than it was before. This is when I fix the ridiculous parts add intriguing foreshadowing. My process is simple. The emotions I have are roughly the same ones my audience will have. If I still love the chapter, then it must be great. If I am bored, there’s a good chance my reader will be bored too. Fix it. Make it better. Make it Awesome!
- Let it sit again, then check it out one more time.
As with all good bread recipes, the rise is what makes the texture amazing. The same thing applies to writing. If you can set it aside for a while and still love it the next time you read it, you are ready to submit it to be published. If not, edit it again, and again, and again until the day you are ready.
And there you have it. My writing processes. Please remember this is the process that works for me. I write when I can, and I write what is in my head. I do not have time to stare at a computer screen waiting for inspiration. I go out and find it in my day to day life. And then, before I know it, I have a finished manuscript.
One of the hardest days in my life was the day I submitted my first manuscript to be published. It was like giving up a piece of me. Would they like it or would they hate it? Have I just wasted all of my time on this one project that may blow up in my face? Something my sister told me gave me the confidence that I needed to go for it. She said, “Even if this book turns out to be the worst, most horrible thing the world has ever seen… Someone thought it was good enough to be published. No matter what else may happen, I should be proud of that.” My list of fans is small, but I find comfort in knowing I have a list at all. Now I write for myself, my family, and for them. And if I made one person happy because of something I wrote, then I can confidently call myself a successful writer.
Wonderful advice here. A huge thank to Eileen sharing her writing process with us all.
I particularly liked the first one getting the ideas out and writing them down WRITE THEM DOWN. All of them. I have issues with drowning in story ideas and writing them down calms my mind and enables to me focus on one story. Ideas will always be useful later.
Some ideas won’t work for your current WIP but you never know when one of them will work for another.
What struck a cord with you and will help your writing today? Let me know in the comments. I love discussions.
– Adalyn Grayves