Welcome to my blog!

I'm a divorced mom with a teenage daughter and two pre-teen sons. Writing is my first love. When I'm not writing or working or playing taxi to the kids, I also toy with photography and baking.

So, basically, my camera rarely sees the light of day and my mixer stands in the corner in permanent time-out.

To see some samples of my writing, you can check out my website: www.csrickard.com

Monday, January 25, 2010

Everyone Writes Differently

I've been working on my novel for several years now. Most of that time was half-hearted effort as my job, house and kids took up so much of my time. As I mentioned in this post, for the first time I can remember, I now have time to myself. I wasted quite a bit of last year trying to figure out what to do with myself (don't laugh, it's not as easy as you'd think). However, towards the end of the year I started getting the hang of it. Most of my free weekends I now spend on my novel. I've had the time to actually look at and evaluate my writing process and I've discovered a few things.

I have tunnel vision when I write. What I mean is that I get so focused on the action of the scene from the characters POV, I have a difficult time backing out of that POV to create the visuals. For example, when I'm in my character's head and moving through a scene, I only see what they see. I write what the character is doing or saying, showing as much as I can remember to do, but the scenery remains barren.

Once I finish writing a scene, I then need to go back and go through it all again. This time, I don't write from the main character's viewpoint. Instead, I step back and describe the details of what's surrounding her. I've repeatedly tried to write both simultaneously and I simply can't do it. I know what's there, but it doesn't come out in words when I'm in 'character mode.' At least not yet. Perhaps, with practice, I'll be able to switch back and forth, but for now, I sink so deep in the character, that it simply isn't possible for me to go back and forth between the two.

Another thing I've discovered is that I'm pretty good with dialogue. It's definitely my strength. Speech is something that I've always had an ear for, as they say. I took French in high school and college and that language always came natural to me, if that makes any sense. I don't get the chance to speak it very often and have forgotten most of the grammar and vocabulary, but when I do converse with a native speaker, they almost always think I'm a native speaker or compliment me on my accent. Of course, if I have to say more than a few words, then it's obvious I'm not French! My point, however, is that I've always been able to listen to a native speaker of another language and duplicate very closely what they said. I've done this with many languages. I think whatever it is that let's me here small changes in intonation or accent is what allows me to write good dialogue.

It's nice to know there's at least one thing I don't have to work too hard at when I write!

There are also more than a few areas in which I'm weak. The big one is senses. I do okay when describing visual scenes, but I struggle when incorporating the other senses. Usually it's because I forget to do it. Regardless, this is one area that I've noticed the tunnel vision I described above, doesn't happen to that degree here. I do tend to focus just on the scenery and images, but when I remember to expand beyond sight I can write the other senses in that same frame of mind. It's just a matter of forcing my brain to make it a normal function of writing instead of an afterthought.

With these new insights, I've decided to try a different approach to writing this year. At least until I can determine whether or not it works better for me. As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, I completely re-wrote chapter two, about 17 pages, in a day. All of that writing was in what I'll call character mode. Tonight I'll go back through it and fill in the scenery and background images. I think taking a two pronged approach will work much better for me. It allows me to get the scene written without fighting myself every few paragraphs to write descriptions. Yesterday was the most I've ever written in a day, and I did staying completely in character mode. I felt better about it. The story unfolded easily. I actually had a few more details creep in that I hadn't thought about as I let my character take the reins of what she wanted to do.

If this works out like I hope it does, it shouldn't take 2 years to finish the book, which is what I'm estimating based on my old process. I'm certainly not going to rush it. I want the book to be the best that I can make it, but if I can do that and finish early...oh yeah!

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