Friday, November 20, 2009

"Drawing the Story"--November 20th, 2009

Help me write my first book!!!
One of the more significant questions posed to me is one I love answering more than any other type of question regarding this wondrous world of literature and publishing: How do I write? It is simple in just a few short words, but complex beyond the ability for people to see past their fears, insecurities and doubts. They say public speaking is (hu)mankinds biggest fear, even greater than the idea of death. But as I have worked to establish myself in this business with lectures, classes, articles and interviews, all in means to inspire countless others to tap into their creative soul, I have discovered just as many people afraid to put the pen to the paper and dare share their soul--be it in fiction or truth. This article will cover my approach to writing and hopefully help inspire, motivate and encourage you to get over that hump of doubt and spill forth your soul on paper, or as I like to say, begin "drawing stories...with words."

In a recent segment to "Drawing the Story" I discussed the battle between your creative soul and that of your inner editor. It is easy to get bogged down with rules and guidelines, formats and outlines for the "proper way to write." If you perform a simple search of the topic on Google you can find countless references from industry professionals, each with their own set of guidelines and rules on the topic. (Yeah, you can put me in that mix as well, if you wish). But I would recommend you abandon all formatting and instruction and challenge yourself instead to adhere to a simpler, easy to follow process for starting and finishing your first story (or book) project.

Here is a quick list of suggestions you can implement immediately to begin.

1. )  Forget the Rules:

I don't care what book you read or what blog you subscribe to or what interview you heard or what expert recommended you suggestion first and foremost is to simply ignore all the rules and WRITE!

2.) A Few Pages at a Time:

When I first set out to transition from that of short-story writer to novelist, I was afraid. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to remember what or who was doing what in the first few pages of the story, if I actually created something greater than 200 pages! But instead of focusing on the overwhelming possibility of actually creating something of such a grand scale, I instead focused on the little steps necessary to create the bigger picture. I made a goal to write five new pages of material per day until I reached a point where I felt the story was finished. Period.

If you write five pages per day, then in roughly 30 days you will have a 150 page (draft) manuscript. If you continue this process for 30 more days, then you will have a book length manuscript of some 300 pages--plus or minus. It's an easy goal to achieve because you don't have the overall pressure of writing a book length manuscript, but instead, have simple to achieve baby steps of minute accomplishments that when compiled together, help you achieve a greater prize!

3.)  Implement a Schedule and Routine:

You are not alone when you say, "I'm just too busy" or perhaps, "I can't seem to find the time to write." With children and work and all life's demands its easy to lose track of precious minutes and plop down in front of your television and lose yourself. But consider this before you throw in the towel before the fight even begins: Benjamin Franklin is known for proving a theory that states (in summation) anything you do for 21 days become a habit. With that said, anything you don't do for 21 days becomes a habit as well. So, write yourself a goal to create new pages of material (again, one page, two pages..up to five pages is ideal) everyday. It won't take long before the story takes over your mind and you will transition from working to write new material to an inner desire and need to create something new.

4.) Avoid the Editor!
It's very easy to sit in front of your laptop or desktop computer and start hammering away at the keyboard, but I would not recommend it when starting your first book or story project. If you are like me, then you have tendencies to be overly critical of everything you do. This characteristic has never been more true than it is for artists--of every type. So, how do you avoid being too critical, too early? Write on paper! This will help you avoid the need to feel discouraged and kill your creative flow everytime your word processing software points out a typo or grammatical mistake. We dont' want anything to hinder our ability to simply write, smoothly, creatively, with wit, power and might! Using a word processing application makes it too easy to halt your creativity because of forced habits to correct things when they are pointed out.

5.) Write and then Type:
Okay, so we've set out a goal to write 1, 2 or 5 new pages of material per day and we are working to implement a goal to write every day. So how do we transform that into a completed book manuscript if we stay away from the computer? It's easy and (trust me) it makes the book writing process much easier! Start by getting yourself a new journal. I write in those simple black & white composition books. What you are going to want to do next is break down the writing process into two parts--writing and typing.

When I wrote PROUD SOULS I was working a lot of hours and I had children who needed my attention as well. What I did was use my hour-long lunch break to write my 4~5 new pages freehand in my journal everyday. Then, each night I set aside private time for me--this may mean staying up late and burning the midnight oil after everyone else has fallen to sleep!--and during this time I began typing the material I wrote earlier that day. This process will help you more than you know and I will explain why.

For starters, by writing freehand you can make all the mistakes you want, be as creative and witty as you choose without the guilt of making a mistake. By only allowing yourself a maximum 5 pages of material per day, you release yourself of the burden that comes with trying to finish a book. By typing the material at night you thereby stir the creative wheels in your mind to better help formulate a means of continuing the story the next day. Then, use those ideas to write in your journal freehand and continue the process.

6.) Share the story:
After each day of accomplishment and new material, start sharing the story idea with others. Humans are creatures of habit and it won't take too long before your peers, family members and co-workers are expecting to hear news of your progress and growth in your storyline. Not only that, but when people get excited--feeding off your enthusiasm--they will help you develop ideas to better serve the story's girth. By the time you get in a routine the story will take on a life of its own and you can only hope to handle the whispers that will begin stirring in your soul, pressing you onward, cheering your courage and of course, pleading with you to introduce them to a world so hungry for something new and something real.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas for writing that first story. Share your progress with others here on this blog!

...supporting the independent arts...

~Bobby Ozuna
Literacy. Creativity. Learning.

Be sure to catch Bobby's LIVE broadcast each Monday on The Indie Author Show on Blog Talk Radio Network!


Kathlyn said...

Bobby, you make it sound so simple :: writing a book in six steps. The amazing thing is that it CAN really be that simple! The steps you have written out make it easy for someone who just birthed the idea of wanting to write to actually sit down and not feel lost and have that horrible feeling of, “Where do I begin?!?” Unfortunately, that feeling and those thoughts can lead a person to never begin their writing journey or stop short before giving themselves a chance.

I would like to think that I have successfully taken a few of those necessary baby steps you mention since the first time we met. By no means am I anywhere close to where I want to be and you and I both know it is because I have a tendency to over analyze what I am writing while I am writing. Incorporating the ‘writing on paper and type later’ concept is one that I (for whatever reason) find difficult, but when I can follow that step, I do find that one page leads to another to another to another very quickly. It is satisfying to see a full page of written word compared to half a page in ‘times new roman 12pt’ font.

Keeping these steps in mind now that I am months from my blank page is still extremely helpful and I have no doubt that they will continue to be as I perfect each step and become a stronger, more disciplined (yet open souled) writer.

It is a scary thing to share your soul and I think that is why your step #6 (share the story) is so helpful to anyone at any point of their writing journey. I personally have tried to allow people to read what I have written, but this is a monumental feat for me because when I write, I don’t know what I am writing at times and it just pours from my soul – truly sharing my soul with the page. I have forced myself to post more actual ‘words’ for others to see recently because I know I need to get past this in order to do what I want, which IS for other people to read what I write.

Simple yet complex. It is amazing how those tiny little words can encompass so many emotions. I know that anyone beginning their artist journey will find these rules helpful; I know that someone like me, who has taken those first baby steps, will still find them helpful and I have no doubt that even a skilled artist like yourself still needs, from time to time, to look at the steps again to overcome any block they may be experiencing.

Thank you for always being so open with your gifts and sharing ideas with others to help make our journey a little easier. I know I always write a chapter when I comment, but…..what do you expect? =)

Melissa M. Williams said...

I love that you said, "Throw out the rules!" I tell my students this all the time, while explaining that the story will never get written if you are a perfectionist. There are two different sides of your brain to use during the writing/editing process. I tell them to first write their story in with their creative brain and later go back to their editor brain to edit. It is actually, in that process you see the story come to life because all of the gaps get filled in and you start to understand your characters better. The rules we were taught in grammar school set a foundation, but the suffocating structure of those rules must be broken when writing for readers! You can start a sentence with the word, "AND" ... and I hope everyone tries it once in a while. :O) However, there is a fine line between poor writing and breaking rules, so we must understand the basics.

Also, I completely agree to the taking time away to write and create a habit. I do not believe in "Writer's Block." It's basically an accuse we use against ourselves to procrastinate and not write. If you feel blocked, then you are probably emotionally blocked and in need of a change of mindset, surroundings, people, etc. At that point, it may be time to get out of the house and start talking to your target audience to understand what people are reading, what they want, and what is SELLING!!!!!!!

Zulmara said...

Love this blog...have recently started prepping for my novel...and will be writing and sharing your 6 steps...they are very reinforcing...and rrsonate with me...

you are AWESOME!!!



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