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Category Archives: Freefall Writing

Getting Started Writing That Book

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

A friend wants to write a book and is having trouble getting started. She has done the necessary research and her mind is overflowing with ideas. But actually sitting down at the computer and writing it is presenting a problem. I know that feeling of having too many ideas brewing and circulating in the mind – even AFTER I have begun writing my books .

Both my friend and I have journalist backgrounds and I wonder if that has something to do with it. Journalists are known for collecting way too much information and many procrastinate about actually starting. But journalists often do an outline first to narrow down what exactly the want to include in their story. When I wrote newspaper and magazine articles, that’s what I did. I also had one peculiarity. I had to get at least a good draft of the story lead before I could write further. And I’ve mentioned this before, for one story I had four possible beginnings and not until I phoned another journalist and read out the four beginnings and she chose one, could I proceed further.

Some of these journalist habits can be transferred to books – fiction and non-fiction. In particular, do an outline. Some writers seem to be afraid to do an outline but if you remember that it is not sealed in granite and changes are possible as you actually write the book (and that is so usual with fiction), it can free you to do an outline.

Or if you don’t want to actually do an outline, do a list of the most important ideas and information you have. Often just getting it down, frees the chaos in your mind and also gives you some reference points.

I still try to get a good beginning draft, but try to keep in mind that it will probably change. Just yesterday, while doing more rewriting of my next Beyond novel, I changed the beginning somewhat – more the presentation than actual content. And yes, it came from an idea percolating in my head (plus a previous comment from the editor at my publisher’s about how I was handling a certain aspect of the novel, which included the beginning). In my case, the focus was coming up with something different in presentation and format from Beyond Blood.

If you still can’t get started and freeze in front of the computer, maybe try some freefall writing to unlock your creativity. Think of an emotion you are feeling now, or something bothering you in your life and just start writing about it for 15 to 20 minutes. Stop only to breathe (although you probably won’t even notice that you are still breathing). Go where the emotion you are feeling leads you. Go where the words lead you. You might go off on a tangent you hadn’t anticipated.

And you might just get writing something you can use in your book.

At any rate, your creativity will  be unleashed and your self-confidence will get a boost.

I also suggest reading Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way for her ideas on getting going with your writing. Because the other thing is you have to set out some regular writing time and days and stick to it. Treat it like  your job and the payoff isn’t necessarily in money, at this point, but a book manuscript that you are finally starting to write.

Cheers.

Sharon

And the usual, click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top for more info about my books and go to the Gigs and Blog Tours Page for more information on my upcoming author events.

 

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Writers’ group looks at Writer’s Block

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

– Kurt Vonnegut

You might not want to be arrested and charged by police but there are many options if you have a dose of writer’s block. Last evening, in a round circle discussion, members of my East End Writers’ Group came up with some novel ideas for well writer’s block when writing a novel – or writing anything.

Here are our words of wisdom, in no particular order:

Take a writing course, especially one taught by Brian Henry – you will get inspired and Brian gets you to actually write in his workshops, even during lunch.

Put the blocked novel, short story aside and write something different. Maybe your brain is bored with the same old story and needs something new, at least temporarily. But do come back to the original.

Have a roster of several writing projects on the go – to some extent; don’t over tax yourself – so you can move from one to the other when stuck.

Start reading. You would be surprised how reading another novel, short story, newspaper article written by someone else can inspire you to write. Don’t analyze the story’s style, just go with the flow of writing and let your subconscious absorb the writer’s style. You don’t want to copy it, but it will jar your inner creativity.

Freefall write – write anything that comes to mind and keep writing for at least 20 minutes. You can also use a word, a sentence from a book, a sound, something visual to get you going. Or if you are angry, worried, or fearful about something, write about that. Go where the fear takes you.

Do something completely different – preferably something physical – walk the dog or just go for a walk on your own, do some gardening (season permitting). Getting your body moving can help wake up your brain – often with a possible solution to your block.

One group member writes in different languages, so when blocked he switched languages. He also juggles several writing projects at a time.

And don’t forget to join a writing critique group. Even if you don’t always bring something to read for feedback, just listening to someone read their writing excerpt and listening to and taking part in the discussion, can be inspiring.

Let’s banish writer’s block where it belongs – buried in the snow.

Here are a couple of books to help you do just that with writer’s block.

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

Unlock Writer’s Block – Paul Lima

Cheers.

Sharon

If you click on the book at the top, it will take you to my books,bio, etc on my publisher’s page. To check out the East End Writers’ Group go here.

 

 

 

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Writing fiction as a diversion from problems

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

Writing is a struggle against silence.

– Carlos Fuentes
Many writers freeze up when overloaded with problems or buried in deep depression. You don’t have to and I’m living proof.

When I was depressed for a number of years, writing was my main hold on life. The depression started as post-partum blues in the late 1970s and escalated to full-blown depression.

Disclaimer here: the psychiatrist diagnosed it as reactionary depression and some high anxiety. In other words outside events caused me to feel depressed. So, perhaps the type of depression had something to do with my ability to keep on writing. I also had a regular freelance writing gig, doing a weekly column and feature articles for one of the local newspapers. And I had a son to raise. Those were the two responsibilities that I focused on.

Not to say I didn’t fall off the wagon. But that’s another story.

I haven’t been depressed for years but I still have the high anxiety – a regular fallout from outside events. Instead of depression, I get angry. But anger makes me get going and accomplishing things. Including writing, particularly fiction.

So, how can you use your fiction writing as at least a distraction from your problems and/or your depression? Let me illustrate the ways.

1. Instead of writer’s block when you turn on your computer, write. Start by writing where the fear, where the anger is and where it leads you. This is called freefall writing. That will open up your creative juices to get to No. 2. Or you may be able to skip No. 1.

2. Start a new short story or novel chapter – or work on one already started. Force yourself to start writing. It may take a few go’s, but once you get into it, you become absorbed in what you are writing. Your characters and their concerns will fill your mind and you will connect to them so much that your problems will go behind the back burner of your mind.
3. If you want to do something about the problem, for example if someone is causing you grief and you are stymied about a solution, then write a short story loosely based on the problem. Or do as I did in one of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point – put the infuriating person in your life into your story. And don’t make them a nice person. This particular relative had been giving me grief about something I had put in the original version of my memoir. I was so upset I wasn’t going to let her off the hook. So I used her essence, i.e., her age and appearance for one of the characters in that short story (“Gone Missing,” if you really want to know). I even had the character working in the same type of “industry” but in another capacity. And here is the crème de la crème – that character was one of the suspects who turned out to be very bad. I often mention this in my talks and readings from Beyond the Tripping Point, with the added comment, “You don’t want to tick me off.”

4. Keep a journal. Yes, I know journaling about your problems on a daily basis is nothing new. But how about doing a twist on that. Use the fiction writing angle. One way is to write the daily postings from the point of view of one of the characters in your short stories or novel. Get inside your character’s head. How would this character see and handle the problem and/or problem person? Or better still, skip your goody-two-shoes character and use a nasty one. How would your nasty character see the problem and handle it?
Using the above, you might find a possible solution to your problem. Or you might get more insight into your characters and write more fiction. At the very least, you have found a creative way, an all encompassing way, to distract you for some time from the misery in your life.
And that’s not just good for your writing; it is also good for your health.
You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at http://www.amazon.com.

More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html And keep checking http://samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondBlood.html for the latest news on the release of my first mystery novel Beyond Blood, also published by Blue Denim Press http://www.bluedenimpress.com More info on the Beyond Blood page as we get closer to the date.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Fiction Characters Interviewing Fiction Characters – Part 45

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

All fiction is about people, unless it’s about rabbits pretending to be people. It’s all essentially characters in action, which means characters moving through time and changes taking place, and that’s what we call “the plot.”

– Margaret Atwood

The missing Bast has suddenly appeared at the dining room table with Robbie Stuart and the ghosts of Roger Stuart and Susan Stuart. Bast looks pale.

Dana, staring at the dining room table: Bast, are you okay? How did you get here?

Swan: Yeah, how? Did Robbie make you materialize somehow?

Fielding: Shut up Swan. You’re in no position to ask questions. Bast, answer your sister’s questions.

Dana, slightly agitated: Wait a minute. I need to ask Mr. Swan a question first. Who is sitting at the table with Bast?

Swan: Why Robbie Stuart of course.

Dana: Nobody else?

Swan: Who else would there be? The rest of us are over here. That’s why I want to know…

Fielding: I said shut up, Swan. Now, Mr. Overture, please answer your sister’s questions.

Bast: I’m fine, a little tired and weak. I had help getting here from Susan and Roger.
Swan: Wait a minute. You’re telling us that a couple of dead people helped you?

Bast: Yes. Susan and Roger are sitting right with me here. I gather you can’t see their spirits.

Susan’s Spirit: Bast, you’re right. Both Dad and I working together managed to keep you out of harm’s way temporarily and bring you back safely here. Sorry, Dana and you three cops, but we couldn’t say anything until you had Swan under control for Bast’s safety.

Dana: But you are really back, Bast?

Bast: Yes.

Fielding: Now, Mr. Overture, you have some explaining to do.

Bast: What Susan, Roger and Robbie said is true. Robbie has a memoir accepted for publication and I was to do another newspaper article on it with a sort of update. What you don’t know is Robbie also wanted me to write the Forward to the book. Both these, particularly the newspaper article, would give details of Swan’s shenanigans in the past and current. And he didn’t want that happening, so he took measures. Susan and Roger helped me. (He turns to them). Thank you. But you know me, Dana, the old crime reporter, I have to find out what is going on, so sorry, I had to disappear from Susan’s protection to find out and I couldn’t tell you for safety’s sake. Swan caught up with me and tried to use David’s and Aunt Doris’ safety as a lever. You know the rest.

Dana: So, you will be writing the story?

Bast: Oh yes, but maybe it will be delayed for a bit until Hutchinson or Fielding take Swan into custody.

Hutchinson (standing up): Get up Swan. I am arresting you for kidnapping, pointing a firearm, blackmail, uttering threats. And there will be more added later. You have the right to a lawyer…”

After Hutchinson finishes his spiel, Dana stands up and walks over to the table: Thank you Susan and Roger and Robbie, too.

Susan and Roger: You are welcome.

Susan: Now that we see justice is being done, we will leave you. But I will be keeping an eye on you Dana and Bast and your family. If you need me, just touch the painting in the library boardroom and I will appear.

Roger: Yes, it feels good to finally come clean with the full story. Now, as Susan said we must leave.

Susan’s and Roger’s spirits disappear. Dana sits down beside Bast.

Swan: What just happened? Are you all nuts? I see just Bast, Dana and Robbie at the table.

Hutchinson: Shut up, Mr. Swan.

Robbie looks up finally and glares at Swan: My sister and Dad didn’t keep you in the spirit loop because you are bad. And I’m glad I wrote the memoir to set the record straight.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Dana, Bast and the others will take a rest for a bit. But they will be back with more original stories based on the stories and characters in Beyond the Tripping Point.

Next week’s blog will talk about fiction writing – short story versus novel, particularly when both use the same series characters. So, in a way, Dana and Bast will be back to illustrate some ideas here. Watch for upcoming posts with guest bloggers. Stay tuned. Meantime…

Sharon A. Crawford’s prequel novel Beyond Blood, featuring the fraternal twins will be published fall 2014 by Blue Denim Press. Stay tuned.

Meantime, you can read more about the characters and their stories in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at http://www.amazon.com. The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book go to http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/beyond-the-tripping-point or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy. Spread the word.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html

 

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Keeping track of everything in your story

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

If you start to revise before you’ve reached the end, you’re likely to begin dawdling with the revisions and putting off the difficult task of writing.

–          Pearl S. Buck

Currently I’m rewriting the prequel novel to four linked short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. I’m expanding and complicating the plot and telling the story from four points of view. The original novel had only one POV – the first person singular – Dana. Yes it is the fraternal twins again and my own head has been going back and forth from the points of view of Dana, her twin Bast, her son David, and a suspect who isn’t named. I am following the rules of one character’s POV per scene or chapter.

However, all this to-ing and fro-ing makes it more difficult to keep track of timelines, who is doing what and the biggie – consistency in story line, in character’s actions, etc. To lower the muddle factor, I started a new file called “Follow-up List.” Every time something occurs that requires checking/changing for consistency, timeline – even research, it goes on the list. Right now timeline, consistency and keeping all the police constables sorted out are the big factors.

Why am I doing this? Besides the obvious, if you constantly stop writing to do research or sort out characters and timeline, you lose your creative flow. Mind you, I am going back for a few things if they are interfering with moving the plot along from where I am working. But the research can wait – some of it is just re-checking facts I’m not sure I got right. Or some detail such as a name change, can be fixed by using the Find and Replace Word features – preferably at the end of your writing session.

Another action I take (and I’ve mentioned it in an earlier post) is refusing to stall over a word that doesn’t seem quite right or is repetitious. Stopping to look it up in the Thesaurus, even if online, also breaks the creative flow. For example, as I wrote this blog post, I spelled Thesaurus incorrectly but did not correct it immediately. Here Word underlined it in red so I could go back and change it. For repetitious words or words not quite right, you just need to put (word) or (repetition) in brackets after the offending word and return to it later in your rewrite or in my case, another rewrite to fine-tune the rewrite I’m doing now. One final suggestion – format your manuscript before you start writing. Or if your situation is similar to mine – a rewrite of a novel originally written 10 or 11 years ago, where the formatting was different, you can leave it until you are finished. Stopping to fix paragraph formatting stops the creative flow.

And how is my massive rewrite going? Nearly finished the first big rewrite. If all goes well I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the day tomorrow. Afterwards, I want to let it sit for a few days and then go through my follow-up list and well, follow it.

Meantime, I’m doing plenty of PR for my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point. Tonight I’m doing a sort of performance reading of a short story excerpt as part of the Periodical Writers Association of Canada’s Talent Night. Sometime between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. I’ll be onstage at the Free Times Cafe in downtown Toronto. If you are in the Toronto area perhaps you can drop in. Check out http://www.freetimescafe.com/ for more information, including location, or go to my website http://www.samcraw.com under Beyond the Tripping Point where I’m posting upcoming readings, etc. as I get them. All my links are either on this book page or at the top of my website home page you will find the usual social media icons.

And if you click on the book icon at the top of this post, when you get to amazon.com, please read my bio and click on the Like Icon. Thanks.

Keep the creative flow going.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Staring at the blank page

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

– Gene Fowler

Suppose for a minute you are sitting at your computer or with a piece of paper in front of you. You want to write something but all that stares back at you is the blank screen or page. You haven’t a clue what to write and that blankety-blank glaring into your eyes isn’t any help.

What do you do? Don’t give up. There are a number of ways to get over the hump of writer’s block.

  1. This is one of my favourites and one I use when writing nonfiction articles.  My late journalism instructor, Paul Nowak used to drum it into us about starting our stories with a good lead – one that will hook the reader. That got me into the habit of not going beyond writing the article’s beginning until I got the lead right – at least the gist of it – the wording might be changed slightly in the rewrite. Fiction – short story and novel – needs a good beginning to lure in the reader. Try focusing on writing a good lead.
  2. What if you are swimming around among several leads? This happened to me once with a story I was writing. I can’t remember the story itself but I do remember I had four leads written to express two ideas. Do you think I could decide which one was best? No. I phoned a writing friend and read all four out to her. She chose the best one to her ears. That’s the one I went with.
  3. If sticking with the lead isn’t your forte for the first draft and/or you can’t even get going at a first draft, try freefall writing. I mentioned this in a previous post with Brian Henry’s workshops. So, in a variation of that exercise, pick a word or phrase that has been lurking in your head (come on; you really don’t have a blank mind; only the screen or page is blank). Put the phrase on your paper or computer screen and keep on writing. Write whatever comes into your mind and go with whatever feeling is there – anger, sadness, joy. Don’t be afraid to go with the deep dark feelings. Unleash them and you will unleash your writer’s block.
  4. If none of the above seems to work, then try temporary avoidance but make sure you do something that relaxes your mind. Go into your garden and pull weeds or deadhead the dead flowers; sit out in your garden; do some Yoga; meditate, or go for a walk. Guaranteed, something will pop into your head, something you can write about. And you may be scurrying to get back to your pen and paper or your computer. This latter also works when you are mid-story or rewriting a story and for the life of you can’t figure out where it is going. I’ve done that many times with some of the situations my female private eye, Dana, gets into. In “Saving Grace,” I knew the beginning and knew the end but got into several tizzies in between, especially sorting the whys and wherefores of all the cars showing up in the story (You’ll have to read the story in the book to find out. I’m not telling).

Dana also has to deal with eccentric Great Aunt Doris in two of the linked stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. But that’s something for next week’s post – creating eccentric characters and making them work in your story without coming across as  too eccentric.

Meantime check out my publisher’s page http://www.bluedenimpress.com.The cover of my book and some more info is now posted there. Or click under My Publisher – Blue Denim Press from the links to the right. When I figure out how to get the book cover icon on this blog, I’ll do so.Hey, I’m a writer, not a designer.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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What comes first? Character or Plot?

When your short story or novel idea first comes to light in your mind, what started it? A character? Plot? Or a combination of the two? Or something else?

I’ve had all four occur. The origin of my four linked stories in Beyond the Tripping Point – “Gone Missing,” “Saving Grace,” “Digging Up the Dirt” and “Road Raging” was definitely the female private investigator Dana Bowman. Her initial name was “Sheila” but I soon changed that because it was close to my first name, “Sharon.” Dana popped into my head before all these short stories, for a novel (now in a rewrite; it’s a prequel to these short stories). When that happens you have to find your plot. I like to take something that is going on in the world and use that as part of the plot. These stories occur in 1999 (the novel is set in 1998) so it has to be something pertinent to then. For example, there were no Blackberrys, iPhones, or Facebook, but there was the Internet (albeit mostly dial-up) and cell phones. The idea is to connect the “world situation” to the character and develop your plot. And bring in more characters.

If the plot idea occurs first, like it did in my story “No Breaks,” you need to develop the right characters to work your plot. The situation here is what would happen if you are driving along the highway and your brakes fail? And no “breaks” in the title isn’t a misnomer – it has to do with the main character I developed.

As you can see, plot and character are closely connected – the character and his or her traits drive the plot, but the plot also drives the character. What if the character and plot surface at the same time? Then you are truly blessed. However, if you are busy doing something else then, make sure you write the idea down (pen and paper, iPad, etc.) so the plot and character don’t disappear into the nether areas of your mind.

The “something else” is an extension of plot and character coming at you simultaneously. The difference here is you are actually sitting down to write – on paper or at your computer. It is called freefall writing where you start with a word, a phrase, a sentence, a vision, an emotion, a situation (or the start of one) and just sit and write whatever flows from your brain to your hands. You do not stop writing to make changes. This always happens to me when I attend a Brian Henry writing workshop (see http://quick-brown-fox-canada.blogspot.ca/). Brian gives us a few words, a situation, and gets us writing – then and in our lunch hour. In the afternoon we critique each other’s work. From there we take our story home, finish writing it and revise it. Some of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point – “For the Love of Wills,” “The Body in the Trunk,” and “Missing in Action” started this way, although I suspect something to do with each was hidden in my brain somewhere. Try it; you might be surprised at the results.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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