Monday, October 25, 2010

Writing in the Nooks and Crannies of Life

I’m weird. I’ve come to accept it. My brain works in a very different way – which is a plus for the daily chaos of my life. I think we each learn ways to fit our own writing into the style of our lives. So today – I’m going to talk a little about my way. Julia helped inspire this post, along with the Seekerville ladies. Julia’s question about how I create stories made me wonder how many other people out there are weird like me…and not afraid to admit it :-)

For one thing: I don’t write books in order. I just work around inside the story until it’s all together.

For another: I write more than one manuscript at a time. I usually have two going simultaneously and usually in different genre

Oh, and that would lead to weirdness #3: I write in all types of genre.

Weirdness #4 - I talk to my characters, interview them, write journals from their perspective, and act out scenes - sometimes purchasing props if financially possible. How are you going to be able to describe the feel of a dagger in your hand if you dont' experience it, right? (My excuse and I'm sticking with it)

So how do all these random acts of madness fit together to make a story?

As many of you may know, my days are pretty packed. I’m a pastor’s wife, mom of five, and full-time university instructor/speech-language pathologist. I run at high speeds (usually) from the time my feet hit the floor between 5:45-6am until about 9pm (add another 30 minutes if I walk on the treadmill). Then, if I don’t have grading or lecture preparation to do, I can write. (again, this is assuming that no one has a late project due the next day, or costume to create, or homework to finish…you get the point).

I think, my brain is like a massive filing cabinet. Most of the drawers are a mess, with schedules and kids’ homework all smashed together, but one drawer is in nice order. My writing drawer. My novels are filed away perfectly separated, maybe even color coded :-).

To be perfectly honest, of the five books on my computer right now, two are complete and three are in progress. BUT I have at least 10 more in my head that I can give you a quick synopsis about if you asked me. They’re there – in my files, with character names and plots already in place. I just haven’t gotten around to writing them yet. (Of course, I had a friend tell me once that he thought my mind was more like the storage room in the back of the general store. I know the supplies are back there, but I might get lost trying to find them) Funny guy. HA! (eye roll)

For me, the creation stage happens wherever I am. I don’t have time to sit down for long stretches and outline. Outlining happens in my head throughout the day so that when I have time to write…I’m READY. But I make wise use of stoplights, carpool line, and lunch breaks. Here are a few of my notebooks I keep with me. They are color coded per story. I usually carry two of the four notebooks with me, depending on the novels of my focus at the moment.

As you can see, inside there are different handwritten notes pertaining to the certain story. Unless my 3 year old daughter gets a hold of the notebook, like in the top right corner (note the pink drawings :-)

When I have an opportunity to sit down and plan – Sometimes I’ll write out a sketchy 12 act structure, but that usually doesn’t happen until I’ve written a few chapters first. I usually write out the characters internal/external wants.

Then, I try to pull up OneNote and take a look at (or create) my story folder. As you can see, I have a character page, a setting page, research pages, and a dialogue page. The dialogue page is my one ‘table’ I use. It’s where I place pieces of dialogue that I get out of chronological order, so I can find it later.

I know that some people have a wonderfully thought out method to their writing-madness. As I develop as a writer there are certain skills I'm honing, but the only thing that is 'expecting the unexpected.'

So –in summary

1. I get an idea (it can come from anywhere. Sometimes an intriguing character, sometimes an amazing plot, and sometimes just a question stirring in my head)

2. Throughout the next few days/weeks, I’ll let the idea stew while I’m at work, driving from clinic to clinic, sitting in carpool line

3. I start writing a chapter or two

4. Go to OneNote and start creating a folder

5. Continue writing in whatever place of the book I need to – in one of my wips, I am chronologically on chapter 3, but already have the final chapter written. I also find jumping back and forth between wips keeps me actively engaged in both, instead of getting disinterested in the story.

Writing happens – but I have to MAKE it happen. It’s not easy, and I don’t always work it out well. It has to fit into my lifestyle, the nooks and the crannies of it. That’s all I have, but God’s given these moments to use this talent for His glory. And I LOVE to watch how his talents unfold, even in the smallest of opportunities.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Pepper, this was such a great glimpse into your writing life. I didn't know you had spirals and did alot of plotting/writing in long hand! Very interesting. And don't you just love OneNote! Such a visual tool that gets me so excited to write!

Renee Ann said...

I use notebooks all the time! Sometimes I have to find one with a special cover for a very special project . . . Nooks and crannies is a good way to describe the time a lot of us find to write. I know it is for me. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have the freedom to sit before the computer all day. But, obviously, God has a different plan for some of us!

My day isn't as busy as yours, Pepper! Blessings on your busy family!

Rebecca Bradley said...

Do you know, when I first saw the photograph of the four open notebooks I did notice the drawings and thought you had just been trying to visualise a setting!! :)

I'm new to trying to write seriously. I have several notebooks, but don't seem particularly organised with them. I have one at the side of the bed, one in my handbag, one on the computer table and I'm sure I have another hiding somewhere. I just find that way, no matter where I am when an idea comes to me, I can scribble it down before I forget.

I'm also multi tasking when it comes to writing. I'm attempting a novel as well as trying to get some practice in writing skills, with short stories and am currently awaiting my first rejection letter :)

I work full time, have two kids and I'm also studying with the Open University, though I have a few months free at the minute between courses so I'm making the most of it.

Loved this post. It shows me that everyone has their way of working and we need to do what is easiest for us. Thank you

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Love this! I so get the colored notebook thing. I go to TJ Maxx and pick out a special spiral notebook for each novel (the pic. on the front usually has to conjure the same feeling as the novel--I'm a nerd). I love your weirdness #4. Such a tribute to your characters!
~ Wendy

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, Pepper, you and I are on the polar opposites of novel writing! How fun that we end up with the same result! :)

The one thing I do the same is have about 10 other story ideas ready to be written. Now to find the

Julia M. Reffner said...

Pepper, Thanks for sharing. Those with less energy are in awe of you. How much caffeine do you drink??

Yes, yes, I agree with the 10 other story ideas. Written in a notebook, but those are not organized at all yet.

I, too, love your #4. I'm sure that helps so much with your character development. I think you were the one who told me to journal my anti-hero a few months ago. I think he is more realistic as a result.

We just bought Office 2010 and I still have to sit down and play with OneNote. It looks like so much fun!!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Pepper, that's so interesting! I love that we all have different processes :)

I used to plan and write this way. With more than one story going at once and notes scattered in their own individual notebooks. And I'd do a great deal of plotting and planning in my head, preparing for when I had the chance to write the next scene. But, like you, I always had several story ideas in my head (still do) and I'd want to start another and another. And...usually I'd never end up finishing one of them.

So I turned into a plotter and told myself it's one story at a time. And even though I still have more than one idea going at one point, I am able to plan and write my stories faster so I can get to that next one without having to wait so long. They usually end up more polished that way and I feel like I've really done my best with the story.

Casey said...

How in the world do you DO THAT?? What an amazing glimpse and so very dedicated, no wonder you are such a wonder to be around. You just never stop do you? :)

Pepper said...

Hey guys, Lunch break for me and a moment to check in on the Alley.
Wow, great comments so far. I am a work in progress, like many of you guys. Always evolving in my writing process to find out what works well, better, or not at all.
For now, this fits my brain, creativity, and schedule - but I ALWAYS want to find ways to improve.
YOU introduced me to OneNote. Now I'm addicted.
Renee Ann, Yep - I'm a notebook person. Maybe if I can invest in a smaller, more portable means of notetaking, I will - but the old-fashioned way works for now. Easy to whip it out at a stoplight. Seriously!! SOMETIMES, depending on how long carpool line is, I'll pull out my laptop ;-)

Jane - I have been known to draw in my notebooks too, but not with as much flare as my daughter ;-)

Pepper said...

I've started looking at notebooks with a certain inspiration 'feel' too. Isn't that fun.
The price does play a big factor in it though too :-)

Pepper said...

I'm thinking a little more of your and Cindy's planning might make me a quicker and more effecient writer. My problem...(and I'll attribute this to my wandering brain syndrome) is that if I spend too much time planning or plotting, I lose interest in the story OR I won't write it.
Not good for me, so far. But that might change eventually. :-)

Pepper said...

I love it that we all have stories going off in our heads at all times. Isn't that fun!
And the weirdest part is...I don't get stories confused! EVER!
You guys?

Pepper said...

Julia & Case...
You've just gotten a glimpse of my brain through this blog. ARe you dizzy yet? ;-)
I have one caffienated soda a day.
Otherwise, I'm a tea girl.
And I LOVE chocolate milk :-)

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Way cool!
I feel extra inspired.
This last Sunday, while visiting my church in Michigan I saw two girls about 9ish walking and talking like 9-year-old girls do. The last time I saw them they were 5. What a difference, I mused...then POOF, an idea came. As my family drove around visiting the rest of the day and flying back home, the idea jelled--I even snatched a title prospect in that time.
Wowsers! The day continued to putter through, but not the ideas for this new tween book--they burst in my head and now need to splash into a notebook to organize.
So nice to see someone with a like writing spirit...

Angie Dicken said...

WOW, Pepper! You're amazing!! I feel overwhelmed when the kids have extra homework! HA! I never thought about interviewing my characters...great idea!!

Pepper said...

Look who's back from Hawaii!!!
Hidee, Angie - did you have a great time?

Jolene Perry said...

That is EXACTLY like me. Exactly. I love and hate the point where I realize that all the bits are going to have to be chronologically put together (because sometimes that changes) but when that part is over I know it'll be smooth sailing through the finish.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pepper,
Thanks for the glimpse inside. I had to laugh. I read weirdness #1 and thought -- I do that!
Then #2-- A definite ditto. #3? Yup. By now I'm thinking--great minds think alike. But I didn't know I was weird! And yes--it continued to 4, and then the notebooks. In addition to character, setting and plot notes, I draw family trees and sketch settings in them. I also buy props. Even posters or photos of settings to inspire. And I often browse real estate sales sites and find photos of my MC's home. What a fun "job" we have.
Mary Kay

Pepper said...

Jolene - SO nice to have a kindred-mind.
a kindred-disorganized-mind ;-)
I am not alone!

Pepper said...

Oh Mary Kay -
We share all the same writing weirdness!!
I feel so much better.
And it's the BEST kind of weirdness, just so you know :-)

MaDonna Maurer said...

Great post! I also create a journal for my MC's. And my daughter also tends to get a hold of it to make her own scribble stories. I've not thought about acting out scenes with props....but I like it. =)

Pepper said...

Maybe our daughters are writers in the making? :-)
And you should see your kids' faces when they find you acting out a scene for the first time. HA! It happens so often around my house, they ignore me now...or get involved :-)