How do authors think and work?

12 Week Creative Writing Class starts 02/10 at Gig Harbor YMCA


Let’s start by welcoming the people who are taking the YMCA Creative Writing class beginning on Saturday, February 10th.

It is your story. Your view of the world is just as legitimate as anyone else, even famous and well-regarded authors. With focus and hard work, you can get published. Here are some tips:

· Create a story world, a place where and when your story will take place.

· Create some characters, especially those who represent your strong feelings and emotions.

· Create a protagonist (a character who drives your story); also create a character that reflects your life (but you can make them better looking, with more money and fewer bad habits…see my protagonist Tony Mariani).

· Know yourself. Your stories will reflect your morality and place in the world. If you like, you can write down your philosophy of life.

· Think about conflict. All stories include conflict in different forms. Think about ways to get your characters in and out of trouble.

· Some ideas for stories include lost loves and how your life would be different if you chose a different life partner. What you fear. Your fears can be the basis for exploring your actions and usually make good stories. Death. How has the death of someone changed your life? Change. Life is about change. How has your life changed over time?

That should be enough food for thought. I can’t wait to get started with you and look forward to you becoming a published author.

The Unique Nature of Writing

There are thousands of published authors and nearly as many different writing styles. If you find a few authors and stories you like, you can use them for inspiration in your writing. Everyone has their favorites and it isn't necessarily related to the fame or reputation of the author. I love the short stories by J.D. Salinger, but hated "Catcher in the Rye" (mostly because he wasted this story as a novel when it could have been told in a short story length). Read it and see if you agree with me.There are some very famous authors that I don't like and some obscure ones that I do. You'll find this is true for you (do you remember lit class in college? enough said).

Not everyone will like your writing. Not everyone likes my writing. That doesn't matter at all. As long as you like your writing and can find someone to publish it, you're a success!

Organic Writing versus Structured Writing 

There are  two structural writing models. 

1) The Organic Writing model. An excellent book on this method is Steven James' "Story Trumps Structure".  Steven James, Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell and Dean Koontz write organically. I also write using the organic model.

2) The structured model used for novels and screenwriting, a process I find too constraining for my storytelling.  

I also write screenplays requiring a very structured process in order for them to be submitted to producers.  But this isn't a blog about screenwriting. I went down that rabbit hole for two years. Learned a lot.

No, this blog is about fiction writing and the rabbit holes that I joyfully follow as a practicing organic writer. 

I see stories in my head, like I am (present tense) watching a movie. I move my characters to their goal, but make sure it isn't too easy.  I am sometimes as surprised as my readers how my stories turn out. Some (most) characters have a mind of their own.

By the way, your sense of morality will come through your writing. If you are an evil person, that will be obvious. If you are a gentle person, that will shine through. In my stories, good (almost) always triumphs over evil. Con men are caught and prosecuted. Good finds luck on their side. And the power of God is delicately inserted when necessary.

So know yourself before you begin to write. Or pay the price when you submit your story for publication. 

But back to organic writing. I like to start with a theme or idea, then think about what characters would be fun to watch. Let's say my theme is "Justice". Do I want to show someone being treated unfairly and then getting the last laugh? Maybe I want to show a bully or a con man (woman) getting punished. The possibilities are many. Now, let's add a sub plot to the story: a romance or comedic element. Woody Allen made these famous. 

Writers using a more structured model spend lots of time BEFORE writing their story or novel. Character profiles, outlines, detailed notes and the use of writing software are all part of a structured writer's toolbox.  (note: I have to admit I did do some of this when writing my novel "The Da Vinci Diamond" and my murder mystery "The Sonoma Murder Mystery" but mostly because I needed to keep characters, plot and clues in the correct place for the reader.  Otherwise, I just sit down and write).

If your goal is to get published, you might try finding a print or electronic magazine that you like, read some stories and then write something like that. Knowing what a publisher will accept is helpful in saving time and finding your markets. But don't just copy another writer's style. Use stories you like for inspiration. Find your favorite authors and cherish their work, while realizing that you have your own voice and your stories will be uniquely yours.