I have been writing romance for a while and have had some stories published. I enjoy writing and when the Muse is on my shoulder things can become exciting. This creative process is the part of writing I love.
There are procedures and ways of working that can help a new writer, and it’s some of these, I wish I’d known more about when I first listened to my Muse’s call. I hope new writers will find the answers I discovered helpful enough to save them a few hours of angst, and that more experienced writers might smile as they recognize some of the situations I’ve found myself floundering in.
Okay? Here goes.
Begin at the beginning: that is if you know where the beginning of your story actually is. When I first started writing, I treasured every word I poured onto the page, yes, I’m certain some will smile here. I rapidly realized my mistake. In my earliest efforts, I had at least a chapter I could toss away at the beginning of everything I attempted. Back-story, I was a virtuoso. I couldn’t seem to help myself. I wrote descriptions that might have put the vicar to sleep, they rambled from brain to page, all lovingly created, and later, savagely trashed.
I have learned to wield a harsh knife over my stories, with the encouragement of my critique partners. Yes, I wish I’d known and understood when I began writing, how immediacy grabs a reader far better than the family history of the character. An event taking place on the page, unfolding fast, draws a reader into the story and there’s no need to wait to let them have that. I really discovered this in my story A Matter of Some Scandal.
Mechanisms to get readers to love or loathe your characters? I used to read submissions by others to critique groups and long for my writing to have the depth and power to pull readers deeply into the story. Deep point of view challenged me in every aspect and I proved a slow learner. I am still working on this element of my writing. One of the things I enjoyed most in writing my latest story, Your Heart My Soul, was the sense I’d hit a depth of point of view I’d worked toward for some time. The method of deep point of view is, I believe, the best way of capturing a reader’s heart and is something I will continue to develop in my writing.
In my earliest attempts at a full novel, I tried plotting out characters, but it didn’t work for me. Once I’d written pages of notes, I’d try to use the character in the story and bang, they’d do something different from my expectations. Those of you who have experienced characters who do this can laugh here I’m sure. I gave up plotting when this situation repeated itself several times. I discovered I’m a pantster writer and have stuck to that method of working since. However, I know several writers who plot meticulously before they begin a new story, each to their own way. I add my details and depth once the bones of the story are in place.
Layering helps me build character, mannerisms, their likes and dislikes, information about them added slowly, like the natural process when you discover a new friend, not everything in a chunk too big to chew. I tried to implement this technique in my story Fiona’s Wish where the character’s relationship developed and deepened over a period of days.
The name game: the right names can make or break a character. When I began writing one of my critique partners, who was probably desperate to find something positive to say about my writing, told me I picked good names for characters. At the time, I was thrilled, and have to say my habit of wandering around churchyards helped with this. I often use real names or parts of them, ones I’ve seen on old gravestones. I think that’s why the names work, especially for historical stories. I like invented names too. One thing I’ve learned is to check on names and titles for stories. Sometimes I’ve renamed stories when I’ve done a net search and discovered other authors have already used the super title I’d just thought of.
Less is more: a cliché, but it proves true in writing. The right word at the right time can be worth ten others. The hard part is finding the right word. I love words, I always have, but often the choice of a doubtful word has meant I’ve had to rewrite in edits. I’m working on word choice still, along with finding the silences on the page that help to tell the story. This is true in dialogue where naturally emotional situations lead to silence between characters as well as words. I experimented and worked on this in my story Timeless in an effort to improve the authenticity of my dialogue.
Of course, there is much more. There are things I have sometimes pondered about late in the night. Some of them form the Daisy Banks ‘I wish’ list. Below is a part of the list.
I had a ready set of marketing skills. Not all authors are natural marketing pros, but they need those skills. I’m still learning about marketing, but it takes time and, well, I’ll whisper here in case there is an editor listening: most of the time I’d rather be writing.
I’d not let my British reticence silence me at times. I am English and sadly we’re brought up to believe it’s bad form to say, ‘hey, look over here; this is all my stuff,’ I’m afraid this is not a helpful characteristic for promoting work.
I’d met some of my critique partners earlier.
This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, and I’m certain there are things on it many authors have experienced.
Ideas that might help new writers.
If you have recently begun writing, you’ve probably searched the web, as I did, for information on point of view, or characterization, or how to write a submission letter, and you will have found a plethora of articles, stuff on websites meant to help you.
However, there are times when instead of helping a writer, articles like these simply reinforce your fears or worries. I know some help sites terrified me. Therefore, with these three parts of writing that may worry people in mind, here are my suggestions to try to help.
If you are stuck on point of view issues and you find you keep head hopping, write a love scene, it could be sexy or simply intimate. The important thing is, in a love scene, you need to know who is driving the experience. I found the challenge of this exercise helped me understand point of view far better.
If characterization is your main challenge, record a conversation, not on camera, write it down, and add descriptions where you can. How do the people look? Move? Speak? Can you show the reader their relationship when they are speaking, without having to say it? I found doing this helped me a lot.
Lastly, for a submission letter, read the publishers guidelines and follow them. Be clear, precise and sensible. Know your story like your lasting lover, inside and out, understand the motivation of your characters and be able to explain it in your synopsis. Have a key line phrase to entice. Do be as professional as you can. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, but have faith in yourself and your story.
I am in the process of extending my website and developing a blog space of my own. In the next few months, I will be adding information on things I have found useful in my ongoing learning in my journey as an author.
One last thought, every writer experiences rejection. More than one publisher rejected both Stephen King and J K Rowling. Rejection hurts; some rejections hurt a bit, some hurt a lot. If you write and submit for publication, be prepared for rejected at some point. Should this make you give up?
Write and keep writing. Continue trying, submit your work to other publishers, no one has the right or power to silence your story, but do not blunder along in ignorance. Use every method you can to try to improve your writing so you give readers the best you can at that time.
Many thanks for the offer of a blog spot, Rhonda. I’ve enjoyed being here.
Daisy Banks is author of
Your Heart My Soul. Published by Liquid Silver Books
Timeless. Published by Lyrical Press
Fiona’s Wish. (2012 CAPA Nominee) Published by Lyrical Press
A Matter of Some Scandal. Published by Lyrical Press
Witch’s Mark. Published by NCP
Gareth raced back from the café, squashing the lid on a massive take-out cup of heavily sweetened coffee for Libby. He found her right where he’d left her after she fell from the counter: on the floor, in the arc of brilliant sunlight, halfway out in the small lobby halfway in the shop. The sun highlighted her dark hair with fire-bright chestnut sparks. He struggled to accept both what appeared to have happened and that he’d called her back safe and whole. He’d never dealt with anything as forceful as the entity in this shop.
Poor, sweet angel. She looked shell-shocked, stared up to him with eyes almost all black pupils still, her face so pale, he worried she might faint.
Though the boards were dirty and uncomfortable, he knelt beside her, and offered her the cup. “Here, sip this.”
She took a tiny mouthful, swallowed, and again. “What happened?”
Her voice wavered, and his uncertainty that the words were truly her own grew.
“A brief kind of spiritual possession. For a short time, the voice of another person spoke through you.”
“Don’t panic, I’m fairly certain she’s gone now.”
Libby clutched his hand. Her nails dug deep into his flesh, and her fingers trembled. “Are you sure? Please say she can’t come and go as she wishes. She can’t, can she?”
“Relax, calm down. No, I believe she can’t. Though I have to warn you she’s very powerful, and you, well you have to be a gifted receptive to receive such a visitation.” He slid his palm over her smooth hair, stroked along, and caressed her shoulder. She needed reassurance, and to his mind, touch offered her the best he could give her at present. “I’ve not known anyone else this has happened to. All this is new to me.”
She opened her eyes so wide the whites shone all the way round. “It won’t happen again?”
He shook his head. “Not if I can help it. I’ll have to research about this kind of spiritual interaction. The power of this level of connection is unusual. Such things happen, but they are extraordinary.” Deliberate in his effort to calm her, he avoided use of the word possession again. Libby appeared terrified by the idea, and at present, he couldn’t blame her, but he must try to make her understand what was happening. “I’m afraid you will have to face the fact we might need to talk with the entity again,” he warned. “Though not today, I’m fairly certain. We’ve done enough in the shop for now, and you’re coming back to my apartment.”
Daisy Banks is from the Black Country, the heartlands of the Midlands in the UK. She is proud to count as her ancestors the people who lived in the narrow, blue-brick paved streets, those who delved for coal or bent the metal to their will. Daisy is married and spends her time writing now her two boys are adults. She loves traditional romantic songs and ballads. She is interested in art, antiques and architecture, enjoys travel, and occasionally cooks a meal that doesn’t stick to the pan.