Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Odd Quirks of Writers

By Donnell Ann Bell

"Don't explain why it works; explain how you use it."
- Steven Brust

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the writing process, e.g. superstitions and quirks, and I’ve come up with a theory. It might not be scientifically conclusive, but I suspect I’m not far off. Perhaps some curious sort will apply for a grant to determine the outcome. Meanwhile, I’m running with it. I’m convinced each writer’s process is as individual as fingerprints.  

I’m often amazed at writers who say, “My process is x, y, and z. Do it this way.” Often, people give in, only to say, “I tried that – didn’t work for me,” “I write in the mist,” “I outline,” “I’m character-driven,” “Your book won’t be any good if you don’t plot your novel from start to finish.” How many times have we heard statements like these? 

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. And, certainly, the caveman didn’t have a critique partner staring at his wall carving, demanding, “Really? The T-Rex ate him? What was his motivation?” 

Each writer has to find his own way.  Whether you write better in the morning, prefer to work late into the evening, write every day, or on the weekend, it’s your job to find your process, to find what effectively works for you.

In talking to people, I discovered some of their processes are actually quirks.

One author lights a candle, slathers lotion, and puts on music.

Another must have absolute silence.

One writer bakes cookies. (Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy and can’t give out his address.)

And, of course one wiseacre (Mike Befeler) said he can’t write until he turns on his computer.

As for quirks, I think I have one that’s unusual. If I create a character, I have to use him. Whether or not I use the manuscript, if I create a character that has done nothing wrong, save the plot fell apart, I leave him―or her― with the solemn promise he or she can try out for a future role. (Maybe I was a producer in a former life, who knows?)

I did that in my upcoming November release, BETRAYED. I wrote my character Nate Paxton for a role in an unpublished novel, Bad Timing, which took First Place in the Pikes Peak Writers Contest, by the way. I wasn’t enamored by the manuscript, but I was taken with Nate. He’s a vice cop and he’s a great character. So, I asked if he wanted the part in BETRAYED, and surprise, surprise, he did!  

Now the female protagonist in Bad Timing is all bent out of shape and claiming I’m playing favorites. Not to worry, as soon as I find the right storyline, she’s got the lead. 

One thing that is etched in stone, and probably evolved from the caveman, is that WRITERS WRITE. Good luck finding your process, your quirk(s), and creating those magical stories we all love to read.  

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is a two-time Golden Heart® finalist who previously worked for a weekly business newspaper and a parenting magazine. Her debut novel The Past Came Hunting became an Amazon bestseller, reaching as high as #6 on the paid overall list. Her second book, Deadly Recall, brought to you by Bell Bridge Books, reached #1 on Amazon. Learn more about Donnell