Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Writers: Know Thyself

If only this would work!
Just as there are many ways to outline a novel or memoir, there are many ways to set up a writing routine.  Finding the time to write can be daunting.  Not many writers can afford—whether it’s time or money—to go away to write.  That is for the lucky few.  Most writers carry many pens…and lots of paper.  I know I do.  Writers are parents, teachers, caregivers, or executives.  Some writers are doctors, lawyers, chefs, or small business owners.  The fact is that most people have too much to do.  

            So what should writers do?  First and foremost, a writer needs to know thyself—intimately.  What works for you?  Do you like to get up early to write, before your regular day begins?  Or rather you could be like me and be awake anyway so you may as well get up to do something constructive.  One of my favorite writers, Mary Higgins Clark, who also has five children, would get up at about 4 a.m. to write before her children stirred in the morning.  Some writers come alive at night when the house is quiet and dark, the only illumination coming from their computer screens and faces.  Some writers are lucky and can tuck in what I call “writing chunks of time” throughout the day and thereby rack up the word count and storyline.     

            However you can find time to write is good and right for you.  Then try and make it a routine for yourself.  Like exercising.  In fact, when I’m exercising, I’m usually writing in my mind.  Sometimes, I work out scenes and passages in my stories or essays, so I always keep paper and pen nearby.  I use exercise tapes, or rather DVD’s now, an old habit from the days when my children were too little to leave alone to go to a gym, so I can pause the DVD to jot down ideas for my writing.  Walking or hiking outdoors is a good exercise to help me clear the mind of all my obligations and think about my writing.  Sometimes, I carry a small tape recorder.

The most important thing is not to get too discouraged if you miss a writing session.  Tomorrow’s a brand new opportunity to get back into the computer seat and start creating.  I’ve written about 13,000 words this first month of my Write Your Memoirin Six Months course and have many thousands more to write.  This is only the beginning.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Creating the Outline for Memoir

Supporting book structure with scaffolding
            The opinion is divided about whether or not to create an outline for a creative writing project.  Which side are you on and why?

The mentors of my “Write Your Memoir in 6 Months” course, Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., President of National Association of Memoir Writers, and Brooke Warner of Warner Coaching call the outline “scaffolding.” This makes sense to me, for just as scaffolding supports the workers as they construct a building, scaffolding can support writers as they complete a writing project. Especially with chapters and book-length material, an outline—or scaffold—can assist with organizing your thoughts and thereby your writing. It can also show a writer what material was covered already and where to go from there.

The trouble I had, prior to this memoir course, was organizing my material. Which memories to keep in, which to leave out. What to write first, what to write next. And, of course, what does it all mean. Outlining first gave me a chance to think about my memoir in its entirety.
There are many ways to write outlines.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Some writers want lots of notes and guidance [like me]; some writers are more skeletal in their needs.  Outlining allows some writers to write out whole scenes if the scenes come to the writer during the outlining process while other chapters can be simply memory prompts or ideas to be fleshed out later.  Outlines keep writers moving forward in their work.  But they are merely suggestions for the final product. 

Outlines or scaffolds do not need to be followed to the letter.  They are only starting points or “Dag-namit, where do I go from here?” type documents.  Outlines can be changed in part or completely as the story develops in the writer’s mind.
Yes, outlines take time to write.  It takes time for you to consider your memoir or novel as a whole, why you are writing it, and what you are trying to say through it.  After all, Family—The Ties that Bind…And Gag! probably wasn’t written in a day.  I wonder if Erma Bombeck used scaffolds to build her memoirs.