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As a writer, I’m always astounded how a comment will strike me in such a way that I’ll want to write about it. While I was trying to find my way to the Kapolei library, I couldn’t remember what street to turn on, and I ended up passing the entrance. I pulled over to the left lane, in front of the stop light, and my car ended up in a diagonal position with the rear still partially in the right lane. My eldest daughter, Daphne, voiced her displeasure with the car’s position—she’s extremely fussy over the most peculiar things. My youngest, Tiggy, then said to me, “Oh, let’s just go home and play Parcheesi.” Only she didn’t know how to play Parcheesi. She had recently gotten a game set and knew all the games…except for Parcheesi. Her comment made me laugh because she sounded serious and way older than her seven years.
I knew I had to use Tiggy’s phrase in my book, and when I returned home, I went online and studied the history of Parcheesi. When I learned about its roots in Ancient India, I had a flash of inspiration, and Pachisi is now in my work-in-progress, Sunrise. I really like how it fits into the story.
All of this clearly demonstrates how inspiration comes when least expected. Keep your ears open to the silliness in life, and you too may find a treasure buried within it.
Update: Tiggy learned to play Parcheesi and won the first game. A fitting reward!
The last two manuscripts I wrote were in first person, which was a new point of view for me to write in. They had their challenges that I may blog about at a later date. I chose omniscient point of view for my work-in-progress because I’m following several characters, and a single narrator seemed like the ideal choice to tie the individual story threads together. I initially planned Sunrise as a novella—something I could write and get out quickly—but being true to myself I had to go and complicate things. Having Unison as my guide, I didn’t worry too much as that started off as a screenplay with only two characters, and now it’s a full blown epic with a large cast and three more installments I’ve all ready outlined. Go figure. Anyway, by the time I finished the outline to Sunrise, I could see it was going to be another full length book. I’m currently at 147 pages and haven’t reached the mid-point yet that I suspect will fall somewhere between 160-200 pages. I’m currently forecasting a manuscript of roughly 400 pages—double-spaced—which makes Sunrise a pretty lean novel in comparison to my work to date.
When I chose the omniscient point of view, I asked myself: who’s doing the narrating? This was important as I wanted to maintain a consistent voice throughout the narrative. The easiest route would’ve been for me to pick a nameless narrator—which was my first choice. Then I had to go complicate things once again by making the narrator into another character. This didn’t affect my point of view choice because my character isn’t in the story. That’s all I’ll bring up this early in the stage of my writing. Suffice it to say, this voice is challenging me in that I don’t want to pull the reader out of the story. I’m finding there’s a delicate balance between action and the narration. Too much narration, and you pull the reader out of the story. The same goes with too little because when the narrator finally pops in after a long absence, the reader more than likely forgot he or she existed. That’s jarring as well. I love Kindle’s text to speech. When I hear the narration read to me, it’s easy to hear when it’s over the top.
OMNISCIENCE TAKES A LOT OF BRAVERY TO PULL OFF
Last week I wrote the denouement. After I’d finished, I realized it’s going to be difficult to pull off. My first instinct was to change to a distant third person, but that would’ve meant changing the ending that tied everything together, producing all the expected emotions. I cried my eyes out when I wrote it—and not because I was depressed. As I freaked out over what to do about the point of view, I realized I wasn’t in my calm space. Since writing has evolved into a spiritual exercise for me, it’s important I write as free from ego as possible. If I’m not plugged into the light within me, I take a break, and that’s what I did.
QUESTIONS I ASKED MYSELF POST FREAKOUT
- Is the ending really the best it can be? Oh Yessss!
Then we can move on to the next question...
- Why don’t I think I can do this? I’m afraid I’ll come off sounding too pretentious.
- Is it because I’m trying to pull off something trendy? Slock no!
- Am I good enough a writer to pull this off? I can finally say yes. And it took YEARS of bad writing and studying my craft for me to get to this point, and I STILL never view any of my work as finished. Most writers will attest to this one. Don’t feel bad if you find yourself answering no. Just ignore yourself, and continue writing and learning.
- Who the hell do I think I am to even attempt this? I could write a book on this topic alone!
WRITING IN THE RIGHT SPACE
Since the ending of Sunrise is the best it can be, I was forced to deal with the typical writer’s insecurity. At times like this, I’m grateful I’ve been on my spiritual path long enough to realize insecurities are driven by the ego. I meditated, calmed myself down and then scolded myself for whining like a baby. I then reminded myself that every good writer experiences moments of self-doubt and that writing is a challenge that never ends. I knew that if I expected to continue to evolve as a writer, I couldn’t give in to my fears. I had a crisis in everything I had written, and once I stepped away from my work, I came back stronger. Using my past successes as a guide, I’m now confident I can do this. My reward will be having a book I’ll be proud to have written. Anything less would be a compromise, and if I compromise that would not only leave me unsatisfied but leave the reader unsatisfied as well. They can pick up when a writer rushes through a story or takes the easy way out. I don’t want to be that type of writer. I want my readers to trust me and know I’ll deliver the best story I’m able.
For me, writing is a humbling experience. Each book brings with it new trials and seeing it through to the end is my reward. There aren’t any words that can effectively describe how it feels when I finish a book, but I call it my metaphoric climbing of Mt. Everest. The journey itself is such a thrill I’m currently journaling my writing of Sunrise and plan to release it as a free ebook.
OWN IT, THEN YOU CONTROL IT
So if you find yourself at a point in your manuscript where you want to shift gears because you don’t think you’re capable of executing your idea…don’t give in to your insecurities and fears. You’ll be selling yourself short and never realize the masterpiece you gave up. Think of this part of your writing journey as a way to hone in on your weaknesses as a writer. Ask yourself why you think you can’t do this. Oftentimes it has something to do with a technique you’ve yet to master. For me, it’s writing in the omniscient voice. Rather than give up and sacrifice my story, I’m immersing myself in this technique until it feels natural. I did the same when I wrote in first person. By the time I finished my first book, I became the character I was narrating—which was a surreal experience as the main character is a male! And then I did it again with my second book!
LEARNING FROM DONNA SUMMER
I planned on ending this blog with the last paragraph, but serendipity struck while driving my daughters to school. I tuned in to an old school radio station here in Oahu where the DJ was playing an interview clip of the late great Donna Summer—one of my main influences as a vocalist. Donna mentioned how she adjusted her voice to fit the music, so she wouldn’t have to turn down a song for not being in her style. I’m paraphrasing her here, but it explains why I always marveled over how Donna Summer could change the character of her voice, and it still sounded like her singing. From I Feel Love and Sunset People to McCarthur Park and Love in Control , you hear a perfect example of her proclamation.
What can we, as writers, take from Ms. Summer’s impeccable wisdom?
Never shy away from a style of writing because you think it’s not your style. Don’t lose out on an opportunity to expand your horizon as a writer. Adjust yourself to fit the style, but maintain your own unique voice. This is how I view my writing in the omniscient point of view. I have to play by its rules, but I don’t have to give up my voice to make it work.
This post is dedicated to Chippy, a new character in my novel, Sunrise.
While driving home from Mother’s Day dinner, a bird literally flew into my mind and perched there demanding I take notice. I instantly knew he was a gray parrot and that he had to do with my story. I also knew what character was going to be associated with him. Last night I included Chippy in my writing session, and he played a vital part in the chapter I worked on. I love when flashes of inspiration hit. It’s one of the biggest pleasures in storytelling.
I decided to blog about my current work in progress, Sunrise. Writing about the joy and pain involved during the writing process sounds like a lot of fun, and I wish I had done this with my first book, Unison, that is nearing the publication stage. Sunrise is my third planned release. I’m aiming for December 31 2012—depending on who’s interpretation of the Mayan calendar is correct.
I would like for this blog to inspire both new writers and pros alike. It’s sometimes nice to remember we’re not alone in our neuroticism…and you’ll see a lot of that aspect of me in future posts. What tempers this part of myself is that writing has evolved into a form of meditation for me. When I write, I connect to something that’s larger than myself and from there inspiration never ceases. Find this place yourself, and you’ll discover writer’s block is a myth. Once I found it—and learned to connect to it at will—the idea and plotting stage of a novel evolved into my favorite part of writing process.
The spiritual nature of my writing will more than likely be the undercurrent of future blogs as it’s what keeps me tethered to the craft of writing and storytelling. No matter how many times I sit down to write, the very place from where ideas come from never fails to both amaze me and humble me. In my next blog I’ll discuss what point of view I selected for Sunrise, why I selected it and the challenges that it’s giving me. This is one of the most important decisions to make when starting a novel as it’s the point of view that ties the whole story together.