Friday, January 6, 2012

Tis a Writer's Life for me!

Happy New Year, everyone!  2012 is ripe with promise! (prophesies of Myan doom, not withstanding!)  My dear friends and blog followers, you have become so special to me over the years. I pray that with hard work and prayer, all your resolutions and dreams will come true this year!

This week I began the task of what I call the polishing phase of writing.  I've completed my first draft of Forsaken Dreams (All 65,000 words of it that needs to be 100,000 words! Yikes!)  and now I start way back in Chapter 1 and go through line by line, adding a little spit here, rubbing off a stain there, until it is almost as shiny as I can get it!

For a writer who's a plotter, this may be a foreign concept. Once they've written their book, aside from a read-over, they are done. Not me! This is where the real fun begins. Where the scenes come to life, where the characters really take on individual personalities, where I actually feel the ups and downs and extremes of every emotion. (Anyone got a hanky?) 

Yes, I do cry sometimes at my own writing. I'm that sappy. Then again, I cry at Hallmark commercials too, so what do I know?

This can be the most fun part of writing a novel and it can be the most difficult.  Spread out on my desk as you can see in this picture, I have many things to help me keep track of all the details.  To the right of my monitor, are my character pictures. I have a picture for nearly everyone in the story. This helps me visualize them while I'm writing.  Also on the right, you'll see my stack of Research books all ready for me should I need to look up something I don't remember. In front of them on the desk are very important index cards!!  There is one for each of the main characters (There are 6 in this book)  On each card I list important info such as:
  • Hair and eye color
  • Physical description
  • Quirks such as, walks with a limp or very antisocial, or grinds teeth together when doesn't get his way
  • Favorite expressions or sayings:  Fiddle sticks, Oh Bosh! 
  • Personality: Are they a free spirit, independent, insecure, fearful, courageous, humorous, depressing, spooky, devoted
  • Struggles and problems: Abandonment issues, bitter, angry, don't trust easily..
  • Family and other connections
That way, if I forget a detail (And I always do with so many characters), I can just glance at the card!

On the left side of my desk beside my coffee cup are my in-depth character sheets which go into much greater detail and give background for each character and secondary character. 

Then on my computer I have other documents I bring up while I'm writing
  • A Chapter by Chapter summary of the story (I usually have about a paragraph for each chapter)  These I already put together when I wrote the first draft.  They also include the date of each scene so I can keep track of where I am in time.
  • A To-Remember document which lists things I need to keep track of. Like how long someone was married. What year did their brother die? What battle they fought in. When did his father abandon him?  (I mean who can keep track of all of this for over 20 characters???) 
  • An Add-in Document which lists all the ideas I came up with when I was doing dishes, taking a walk, running errands and taking a bath that I want to add into the main story.
Now, I'm ready to go!! I did five chapters this week, which is a good pace for me!  I'm adding things like:

Character descriptions
Dialogue tags
Sounds, Smells
Scene descriptions
Polishing up sentences
Filling in historic details I didn't know at the time

Getting rid of things that don't work or don't sound right. It's hard work but I finally see the story and characters coming to life!


  1. (First-hows that four letter word going?) Has to do with food...

    I think I'm a heavy plotter because I start out a chapter by chapter plan for all plot points. But my first draft is dreck because it is nearly all dialogye and telling. The real work still comes with layering and improving edit by edit. I don't feel I know the characters until the second or third go around.

    Even with plotting I never fail to be surprised by my character's thoughts and plans which makes it exciting. I really love the whole process.

  2. I find myself to be a plantser. I half plot, have pants, so, its good to see that we wright a lot alike! I write my main book, then pretty it up, same as you! Good to see I'm not alone! *happy sigh*.
    I love all your 'extra' stuff while writing, I don't do that, and I tend to be a mess. You've given me inspiration!

  3. Debra.. After a week of dieting.. I'm starting to HATE that four letter word. LOL. But I did lose a pound. How about you?
    So, you're a plotter? I have many friends who are author who writes her story once and it's done! Sounds like you are a little bit more like me. :-)

    Ashley, glad to know there are others out there like me! My desk is pretty messy! Not sure how inspirational it is. LOL

  4. In the story I just finished, I had a terrible time finding a photo of anyone who 'looked' like my heroine until after countless edits and rewrites. When I did, her personality really jumped from that photo. It's amazing.

    Marylu, I got on the scale. Worse than I thought. Thank God for cabbage, greenbeans, lettuce and grapefruit.

  5. Fri Jan 6th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    So glad you're at the 'fun part' of your writing .... keep on, keepin on ! I'd truly say your desk is very organized ... you know where everything is, and, where everything goes ! That's half the battle !
    God Bless you as you continue on writing ... for Him !
    Happy, healthy and blessed 2012 to "all".
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  6. Debra, it truly is amazing how having a photograph of your character really brings that person to life! I'm a very visual person so it's extra helpful to me. Oooh.. sorry about your scale. Keep going!!!

    Morning Brenda, it's always a pleasure to hear from you!!! Have a blessed weekend!

  7. Looks like you have everything going smoothly, MaryLu. Stay organized (for the most part) and you will stay on track. It is so generous of you to take time out of your schedule to show everyone the step by step process of writing. Have a great weekend!

  8. This seems like both an interesting and fun part of the writing process. Thanks for sharing with us! :D

  9. Thanks for sharing your process with us, MaryLu. I may just use some of those tips myself to help organize my brain a bit. All those characters, actions, locations, he-saids and she-saids ... are a muddle in my head right now, and I've been afraid to tackle my first draft and go after some of these things! :)
    On a different note, I have to confess that I've never read one of your books yet, and I just found out that my hubby has ordered a few of them for me (a Christmas gift that didn't come at Christmas!)and I CAN'T WAIT to get them! Your words on your blog are a blessing and an encouragement. Thank you so much!

  10. Organized, moi? LOL. I do try to be but don't look in my cubboards and closets! Thanks Debbie and Heather!

    Caroline, it can be very difficult to keep all the characers, their individual personalities and stories straight while you're trying to remember the big picture along with all the writing rules! A person could go crazy. LOL You need to find the system that works best for you. Everyone is different.
    Ah.. how sweet of your hubby! Hope you enjoy the books!
    Have a great weekend, everyone!

  11. I love how you keep track of everything, with the cue cards and pictures infront of you and everything! Such a good idea. I'm like one of the most disorganized person ever and it's so hard for me to keep track of everything going on in a novel! This has given me some great idea's! You might think your desk is a mess, but it looks like you do a pretty good job keeping track of everything to me! God bless, and have a great weekend!

  12. Thanks Emily! Glad my messy desk gave you some inspiration! Have a great weekend too!

  13. I just took a closer look at your desk and noticed the tiny ship. It is so cute. Is your mouse pad a tray, or just in a tray? And is that your taser? LOL

  14. LOL, Debbie, yes that tiny ship actually opens up to a secret compartment inside! Its cool. And my mouse pad is the same one I sent the crew. No tray involved. And yes!! Great eyes. That is, indeed, a taser. I keep it close because I'm usually home alone and my hubby won't let me have a gun. LOL. I also take it on my walks. I do have a sword, however, but it's pretty heavy. :-) The picture is on my beautiful daughter and the one beside it is of my son getting baptized when he was a baby. On the wall above my character pictures is a picture of Jesus taling to a prodigal. It reminds me that the Lord is taking care of my kids!

  15. I love finding out about your whole process! It's fascinating stuff :)
    I have a question - what are dialogue tags?

    And I just noticed that on your computer screen in the picture IS the picture... How did you do that? Lol.

  16. Thanks, Sarah! Dialogue tags are things that go after someone speaks to identify the speaker. They are more than just "he said, she said" but also any actions, facial expressions the speaking character does.

    LOL. the picture on my computer is a prior picture I took of my desk area but didn't like it so I was taking another one! :-) Nothing tricky involved.

  17. Oh okay. That's actually something that affects my opinion of a book. I don't like when they overuse "he said". You do very well with coming up with unique ways to say it! Good job, and good luck in continuing to do that. I know it must be hard!

    And wow! I barely see a difference in the pictures. Lol.

  18. It's amazing how much stuff a person can have in such a small space. It's your life, right in front of you. :)
    I figured that was your daughter (very pretty young lady)but I didn't know that was your son. A very precious shot. The day you gave him back to the Lord! Thanks for sharing with us. :)

  19. Wow this is great!! I love your idea of index cards for each character. Now why didn't I think of that? :) Ha!

    Congrats on getting the first draft of your story written. 65k. That's great. :) I'm at 85k on my first draft and it probably won't reach the end until about 120k. I think I'll be deleting a lot of scenes, but I'm looking forward to going back and cleaning it all up.

    So much fun. Thank you for sharing your tips!!

  20. I just loooove your desk! It looks like a bunch of creative juices mixing together in the form of paper.

  21. MaryLu, loved this post, ye matie!
    I's wants to share a utube video of a woman reading a portion of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped"
    (she says pretend it is your old auntie reading...) She is quite entertaining :)
    Love your novels. I wrote down many notes as a new writer.
    Great seas and treasures be yours,
    Miriam (fb friend)

  22. Oh Sheri, so glad my ideas inspired you!! 120K! My goodness girl, that's quite some book!

    Thank you, Eszter.. my desk is usually a much more jumbled batch of creative juices. I actually tidied it up a bit for the picture. ;-)

    Miriam, aye, treasures be yers as well! Thanks for sharing the video.. I would have loved to have an old auntie like that! She's great!

  23. Too much work!
    This will not be my profession.
    I love the line about crying over your own work. Funny.