“How are you able to write so easily?”
“How are you able to write so easily?”
This is a question I’m asked frequently and by many people. The simple answer is: I’m not. I run up against all the same problems every writer encounters. The difference lies in the way I respond to issues that pop up in writing.
First, I begin with the end in mind. No, that’s not my saying. I stole it from my daughter’s elementary school’s Leader in Me program. However, it works for more than leadership purposes. By keeping in mind where I want to end up with a story, I’m able to develop the plot and character in keeping with my overall vision. That’s not to say my overall vision is never derailed—it is—but in general, it keeps me on track. With Dragon Kisses, I kept in mind that I wanted to show how two disparate cultures could learn to live together, and it kept my characters working toward that goal.
Second, I plan out my plot and character development. I learned this from Missy Martine. For every book, I plan out, chapter by chapter, what needs to happen to move the plot forward and the ways in which my characters need to act/react in order to develop them or their relationships with one another. This outline can be as detailed as I want, but I’ve learned to strive for a happy medium. Too much and I’m confined by what’s supposed to happen, and too little leaves me wondering what the heck I was thinking as I read my notes. There’s latitude with this as well. Some characters follow directions and develop exactly as planned. Other characters are more like my oldest daughter—they follow their own path no matter what anybody else wants.
I have to admire those kinds of personalities because they have courage for which I’m still searching. In Dragon Kisses 3, Evelyn definitely does not follow along with what I’d planned, and the last scene with her surprised me as much as it did my beta readers. Sometimes an author just needs to let a character write their own story. Other times you’ll need to rein them in because they’ll derail your story or bring it to a screeching halt.
Third, I’m not afraid to delete. I recently revised a story whose rights will revert to me in July 2015, and I found myself almost completely rewriting it. Deleting over 45K from a 70K novel was daunting. When I began, I didn’t know how much had to go, but to accommodate the changes, pretty much only the setting and the character’s names made the cut. Okay, not all the characters made the cut. I deleted two characters and expanded the role of someone mentioned in passing. To deal with it emotionally, I made a fresh document and pasted all the material I cut. I’ll never use it again, but that was a necessary compromise so that I could move the story forward. And it’s so much better than the original.
Lastly, when people see me writing, it’s because I’ve planned it all out ahead of time. I plan when I’m doing the dishes, showering, driving, pretending to listen at a staff meeting, or any other menial task for which I don’t have to be mentally present. By the time I sit down to write, my fingers fly across the keyboard because I’ve done all the prewriting before sitting down. Never sit in front of a screen unless you have a plan. Otherwise you’ll find yourself staring at a blank screen. And then you check Facebook or Twitter. And then the time you allotted to writing is gone and you’ve accomplished nothing. Yep, I’ve been there and done that.
So, how am I able to write so easily? I’m organized, focused, and driven. Find the method that works for you and nurture it. Play with it, tinker with it, and have fun exploring your process.
I’m Michele Zurlo, author of over 20 romance novels. During the day, I teach English, and in the evenings, romantic tales flow from my fingertips.
I’m not half as interesting as my characters. My childhood dreams tended to stretch no further than the next book in my to-be-read pile, and I aspired to be a librarian so I could read all day. I’m pretty impulsive when it comes to big decisions, especially when it’s something I’ve never done before. Writing is just one in a long line of impulsive decisions that turned out to showcase my great instincts. Find out more at www.michelezurloauthor.com or @MZurloAuthor.