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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, January 21 2017

Our topic for the January Round Robin Blog is: Everybody wants to write a book, but most do not. Writing is hard work. What got you started, and what helps you get through a complete story?

I think everyone has a story in them and we often hear people say they want to write a book, or they should write a book. But the truth is, writing really is hard work. At least, writing that is captivating, convincing and capable of drawing the reader in, and keeping them on the edge of their seat until the very last page. There are some who freely admit they can’t or don’t wish to write. Back in the day of correspondence that included picking up a pen and paper, I had friends who shrugged and said, "I’d never know what to say." But story telling is as old as mankind. Writing a book is story telling in print.

Part of this month’s question was what got me started. Well, back in my junior year of high school, I was fortunate to be assigned to Mr. Fred Keye’s English class. I didn’t think I was fortunate on that first day, though. He began the class by informing us that we would lose five points for every misspelled word. I cringed. I was the worlds worst speller and those were the days when anything below a 70 was failing. He threw us a lifeline by suggesting that he expected us to keep our dictionaries on our desks and referring to them when we didn’t know how to spell a word. Even during a test. That was the beginning of my fascination with vocabulary. You would be amazed at the wonderful things you can find in a dictionary.

Mr. Keye’s next challenge was to write 500 words on something you could smell. OMG? What 500 words? Was he kidding? The assignment seemed impossible. But as it turned out, it wasn’t. When I stopped gasping and put my mind to the task, I ended up with 500 words about the smell of sheets dried on a clothesline – something most kids today have no idea what they are missing. Climbing into a bed my mom had just made up fresh was something I loved. I got an A+ on that very first assignment and every word was correctly spelled because that was what had been demanded of me.

Learning to write well is a lot like that assignment. I had something to say and I’d been given the tools to do it well. Writing a book is very similar, just a whole lot more than one night’s assignment in high school English. When I embarked on my first novel, I didn’t have the tools I needed. It’s written in pencil on yellow lined paper in a file somewhere, but I have no inclination to ever revisit it because I know how much I’ve grown as a writer over the years. And one thing I’ve found along the way is writers are the most generous of people in sharing the things they’ve learned from folk who came before them. Paying it Forward is alive and well in the world of authors. There are dozens of daily or weekly blogs that have terrific posts on the nitty gritty of writing. You can find conferences all over the country that feature workshops on “how to.” There are also hundreds of craft books from the essential Elements of Style, to character development, plotting, dialog, and books focused on specific genres.

So, now it’s just a matter of finding the time and discipline to write the story that’s in your soul, and if you end up enjoying it, all the stories that your busy imagination can come up with. Some folk are what we call Plotters and others, like me, are Pantsers. The plotters create detailed outlines, story-boards, and fully developed synopses before they begin writing the actual book. Pantsers generally have a good idea where they are going, but the road map could be nothing more than an image in their mind, a stack of index cards with plot points and ideas, or a file, like I have, filled with snatches of dialog, scenes and important turning points. I also start with a very detailed biography of my main characters which means I know my hero, heroine, protagonist and antagonist so well that once I put them in a situation, I don’t have to wonder how they are going to react, although I admit they sometimes surprise me and say things I never imagined coming out of their mouths.

As for the “What helps me get through a complete story?” That depends. I’m traditionally published and when I’ve already sold the story, I have a deadline and that tends to keep me focused on finishing. But when I’ve created wonderful characters I love, but have put in jeopardy, I am impelled to finish because I want them to have a happy ever after. But the most important word here is DISCIPLINE. I have to want to finish, for whatever reason. Then I have to find the personal discipline to put aside the time, turn off all the distractions (including social media) close the door to my library and as the Nike people like to say,    Just Do It!

What to know what inspired other writers and how they get the job done? Hop on over to these sites and read their posts.
Margaret Fieland
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Marci Baun
Judith Copek
Rachael Kosinski
Diane Bator
A.J. Maguire
Rhobin Courtright

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:01 am   |  Permalink   |  12 Comments  |  Email
That's a cool story about your high school teacher. I might use that technique with my daughter. She'll most likely hate me, but, oh, well. LOL Discipline is the hardest part, especially with so many distractions and getting my muse to cooperate. I really enjoyed your thoughtful post.
Posted by Marci Baun on 01/21/2017 - 08:14 AM
Skye, interesting post. There's a lot to be said for just sitting down and *doing* it. That said, there's a lot of craft that goes into structuring and writing a complete, publishable novel. I wrote my first *before* I knew what I was doing, craft wise, and then I had to go back to learn enough to be able to revise it. But before that, I wasn't sufficiently motivated to learn.
Posted by Margaret L Fieland on 01/21/2017 - 08:30 AM
500 words on something you can smell? That sounds like a challenge I wanna go try right now, lol.
Posted by AJ Maguire on 01/21/2017 - 10:42 AM
Skye, as a person who currently is not nearly as good a speller as I used to be, it would be handy to have a class where the teacher demanded a dictionary at all times! Sort of a you'll-be-thankful-for-it-later scenario. :)
Posted by Rachael Kosinski on 01/21/2017 - 11:57 AM
It was great to find out how you got into writing, Skye. Like you I like having a deadline. It does help me focus! And discipline is also vital. Best wishes for your writing in 2017!
Posted by Helena Fairfax on 01/21/2017 - 01:28 PM
Sheets full of sunshine! I still hang mine out just to acquire that smell! Loved your information!
Posted by Rhobin on 01/21/2017 - 03:19 PM
I enjoyed your post and I agree, the bottom line is discipline. And I remember the smell of fresh sheets dried outdoors.
Posted by Beverley Bateman on 01/21/2017 - 06:02 PM
Skye, that is an entertaining post, thank you. I also had an inspiring English teacher, who made his classes FUN. He forced me to become the whip of the school debating team, despite the fact that I have quite a strong accent in those days. Our success then gave me a lot of self-confidence.
Posted by Bob Rich on 01/21/2017 - 06:51 PM
Whenever the spelling is weird and my daughter gets frustrated and can't figure it out, I'll joke and say, "Remember, it's English." She'll roll her eyes and grin. This prevents what could turn into a meltdown.
Posted by Marci on 01/21/2017 - 07:43 PM
The sweet smell of sun drying laundry. How I remember. And didn't 500 words seem like a lot at one time? What a lovely, post.
Posted by Heather Haven on 01/21/2017 - 07:49 PM
Skyewriter: This was a great post, thorough and thoughtful. I loved the example of the clothesline dried sheets. I remember that smell so well, and it calls up memories of my grandmother's clothes line. What a great teacher you had! They make all the difference,don't they?
Posted by Judith Copek on 01/22/2017 - 09:46 AM
You touched on so many things that I well remember. Laundry on the line (and the rush to get it off the line if a train approached - that was in the days of steam engines!), an inspiring teacher and a dictionary. I was given my first when I was 8 years old and have never been without one.
Posted by Victoria Chatham on 01/22/2017 - 01:53 PM

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