Short description of the writing process: Beginner’s guide

You will start to create images for the reader, images that will help you penetrate their mind, creating that “state of well-being” that they have been waiting for all day long.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. – Anne Lamott

The above quote is quite true, the beginning is absolutely terrible. The first line is the hardest, because you’ll try to impress your readers with a monumental phrase, which – absolutely – must remain imprinted in the reader’s mind and soul, forever.

Nonsense! The first line will always be, if not catastrophic, “at least” lamentable. You will change it – for sure – at least twice. Trust me! Then you have to finish the first page. You finally managed that? Congratulations! You have taken the first step toward immortality: you are about to become a writer.

How satisfied you’ll be when you go on to the second page: “Wow! I wrote the first one!” You will feel like those guys who go to the gym and after two bicep curls with a heavy dumbbell, they look around for approving glances: “Huh? Am I strong, or what?” From now on, however, it’s easier. You know how it is: it’s hard to make your first million, the rest will come by itself (well, maybe… I do not know… but that’s how the story goes). From now on the gaps will begin to fill: the characters outline, the plot, the features, the emotions begin to form…

You will start to create images for the reader, images that will help you penetrate their mind, creating that “state of well-being” that they have been waiting for all day long.

You don’t need to write down simple phrases, but true “verbal paintings”. OK, let me explain for the uninitiated. Let us assume that, in chapter three, I would have used a “flat” description: “Robert came into the room and saw a bed, a cupboard and a table full of fruits”.

Would this description awaken any emotion in you? I’m sure it wouldn’t. It would have been a description like in a “crime scene report”. Instead, you will find the passage in the book describes things quite differently:

“As soon as he went in, Robert noticed with amazement the huge canopied bed which dominated the entire room. He then saw the wardrobe, the table and chairs, all drenched in the sunlight coming through a wide window.

Clean, fresh air, scented with jasmine and mint could be felt through the room, inviting him to rest. On the table there stood a bowl of fresh fruit which delighted the senses: red apples from the Kingdom of Clouds, big and juicy grapes hand-picked from the hills of Akros, oranges ripened by the warm sun in the Kingdom of Water and all sort of other kinds of fruit that Robert had never seen before.”

Something else, right? Have I transposed you into the room, next to Robert? Already drooling, thinking about the grapes from Akros? Images, images, images… use the details, create the feeling of being there, into the story, sitting at the table with the hero, fighting shoulder to shoulder, suffering with him, laughing together…

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. – E.L. Doctorow

At one point, it might happen that an ethical issue arises: can I use elements from other books? I admit, I had the same problem, somewhere around page twenty. I found the answer in an article on Bloomsbury Publishing web page, “guilty” of publishing the Harry Potter series: “Renowned writers’ tips for novice writers.” A writer (I apologize, because I don’t remember her name) said that (I quote from memory) “it’s OK to use elements from other sources – books, movies – as long as you create your own story” because “after all the books written throughout history it is very difficult to conceive something new.” She was right. I thought that all the stories (ancient or modern) have dragons, elves, wizards, animals that can talk, heroes who can handle fire or water, magic realms or giants, just as in detective stories, you can find thieves, criminals, cops, detectives…

Having solved this problem, I found myself before another challenge: finding suitable names for places and characters. Whenever I thought of a fancy name I was checking the internet to see if someone else has used that name before. You’ll be amazed: every word YOU “invent” is already out there on the World Wide Web. Because another madman already thought of it, or because it means something in another language, or because they are actual places or persons, about whose existence you had no clue before. Believe me, after a while you will abandon the research and you’ll try to create strange names, without checking anymore, hoping that nobody has ever thought about them.

When – finally – you’ll get rid of all these anxieties, the story will start to flow and you will end up on page one hundred (how happy I was then!), then two hundred, three hundred… depends only on the imagination that you have and the talent to “split hairs in four”.

Finally you will lay out the last word of the book, as the artist puts his last stroke on the canvas. You will smile and you’ll feel a huge satisfaction. It’s that unique moment, when you reach the Everest of self-gratification and you find it worthwhile, because – isn’t it? – all good things have an end.

Even if you don’t succeed publishing your work, my advice is not to give up writing, because:

You fail only if you stop writing. – Ray Bradbury

Contributed as Guest post by Author I.B. George.

How do I start my story?

Getting all the Ideas Down . I still use the jam writing technique at the start of every story.

How do I start my story?  This is a question that many authors face, as they stare at the blank page.  I am going to share my method of starting to write that really works for me.  The method is called jam writing, or writing for ten minutes without stopping to edit or worry about flow.  I was taught this form of writing in high school, where I practiced jam writing daily by keeping a journal.  Back then, I would write about something that was bothering me, or about an event that I wanted to remember.  It was a rewarding process, that resulted in me being able to clear my mind and work through my feelings.

 Now as the journaling has evolved into story writing, I still use the jam writing technique at the start of every story.  Getting all my ideas down on the page is the first step in my writing process.  For me, the continuous flow of writing gives me more ideas.  There has been times that I have wrote that I don’t have enough ideas for a story, or the story idea doesn’t work.  Usually, after writing these statements one or two times, I will have an idea come to me.  The one idea is all I need to give me confidence in my idea, and then more ideas come to me as I continue to write.   From that written page of ideas, I can then organize them and build my outline.   

I hope the jam writing technique can help writers overcome the fear of where to start in the writing process.  It has helped me tremendously, and I encourage other authors to try it.  

The Key to Good Writing is Research

We must first differentiate between “theological narrative” and “expository writing” in the New Testament.

Albert Einstein once said: “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” Good writing is therefore a reflection of good exegesis (i.e., “interpretation”). I’m not referring to stylistic considerations or word choices, but to clear, in-depth, informed writing, which presupposes a basic understanding of the subject. Take my book for example, “The Little Book of Revelation: The First Coming of Jesus at the End of Days.” It’s a biblical study of the sequence of end-time events. The book’s central argument is that the story of Jesus has yet to happen.

But in order to understand the merit of this argument, we must first differentiate between “theological narrative” and “expository writing” in the New Testament. In other words, we must engage ourselves in inquiry and research. In narrative writing, the author’s main purpose is to tell a story using characters and dialogue. In the New Testament, the gospels employ this literary technique in an attempt to portray Jesus as the messianic fulfillment of the Jewish prophecies. That is to say, the gospel “story” now becomes the fulfillment of the earlier messianic promises of Jewish Scripture. The symbolic genealogy of Christ that’s inserted in the gospel texts is to ensure that this connection is established. But in order to do so, the gospel writers actually borrow a great deal of thematic material from Hebrew Scripture and tell a story which is wrapped in theological language. That’s why we do not encounter these “theological” themes in any of the epistles. For instance, the epistolary authors never once mention the Nativity of Jesus, the Virgin birth, the Flight into Egypt, the Star of Bethlehem, the Magi, or even the city of Bethlehem as Jesus’ birth place. Therefore, we must come to realize that the gospels appear to be “theological narratives,” not necessarily historical accounts, especially since the gospel authors were not eyewitnesses of these events, given that they composed their texts sometime around 70-100 A.D. And like any good story, they are filled with drama, conflict, and intrigue.

On the other hand, the epistles (or “letters” of the New Testament) use “expository writing.” Expository writing’s main purpose is to explain. It is a subject-oriented writing style, in which authors focus on a given topic or subject without narrative embellishment or story-telling. The epistolary authors, for example, furnish the reader with relevant spiritual facts and principles (i.e., “teachings”) that do not include dialogue or characters. So then, if we are to understand the correct timeline of Christ’s one and only visitation, we must first differentiate between “theological narrative” and “expository writing” in the New Testament. Why? The answer is that the authors of the epistles seemingly contradict the gospels since they allude to Christ’s revelation as occurring “once at the consummation of the ages” (Heb.9:26), or in the “last days” (Heb. 1:1-2), so that the correct timing of Christ’s first coming suddenly becomes an open question! But if we realize that there is a clear line of demarcation between theological narrative (i.e., gospels) and expository writing (i.e., epistles), the hermeneutical problem ceases to exist and the text resolves itself into a meaningful and “inspired” manuscript.

In the final analysis, the fact that Jesus is not mentioned anywhere outside the New Testament for approximately 65 years after his alleged death should certainly raise some red flags about his existence. It means that Jesus is missing from the historical record until the late first century A.D. And the earliest New Testament texts do not mention anything about a historical Jesus, as we find in later textual transformations (i.e., “literary expansions”).

And yet, despite the lack of historical evidence, the story of Christ may still be relevant. In fact, a close study of the New Testament reveals that Jesus was never meant to come in Antiquity, but rather at the end of the world (cf. Luke 17:30; 2 Thess 2:1-3; Heb 1:1-2; 9:26; 1 Pet 1:5, 20; Rev 12:1-5).

Apparently, the historical Jesus is based more on mistaken assumptions about the evangelists’ literary intentions than careful interpretation of their writings. I’m arguing that the traditional Christian understanding of the theology of the gospel writings is fundamentally incorrect. We have confused apocalyptic literature with history, and turned prophecy into biography. It’s not just the evangelists’ theological problem in finding the literary means to get Jesus to Bethlehem so as to fulfill Micah’s prophecy (e.g., Ch. 5 verse 2), it’s ours as well since our “theological needs here create biographical ‘facts’ ” (W.D. Davies, and E.P. Sanders).

Even so, the gospels are still valid as they give us a theological outline of Christ’s life using stories that are filtered down from the Old Testament. In conclusion, the gospels appear to be apocalyptic stories that are handed down to posterity until the time of their fulfillment. On the other hand, the expository writings of the epistles give us a very different picture of Christ’s one and only visitation:

“But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26).

I used this example to demonstrate the value of research in good writing.

To Oneself – the Author, we talk: Transitioning the writing

An author must understand their audience well and move them through the province of such style that eliminates a choice of right or wrong.

“To be or not to be”(William Shakespeare play Hamlet Act 111, Scene 1), such is the soliloquy we use as our opening phrase; to place meaning on the word emphasis: To Be an Author, how it welcomes us to the literary stage.

How our ‘conscience does make cowards’ of us all, for the life of a writer subjects us to such criticism that becomes our driving force, to move the reader towards a cliff edge moment full of passions that ignite, adventures that abound or suspense that leaves a reverberation – the shockwaves of sound. The allegiance that speaks of a legacy to write, how we carefully construct our words, how we labour over the language to ensure it moves us beyond the current place in time.

As an artist who so wants to create, we put ourselves into a position of vulnerability, the accountability and ownership of our words, the message we are trying to release into a world, a choice of medium that wants to educate, to show through our prose such emotion that will distort the perceptions and create an alternative view.

Gary Zukav’s The Seat of the Soul, says it best:

Every action, thought, and feeling is motivated by an intention, and that intention is cause that exists as one with an effect. If we participate in the cause, it is not possible for us not to participate in the effect. In this most profound way, we are held responsible for our every action, thought, and feeling which is to say, for our every intention…. It is therefore, wise for us to become aware of the many intentions that inform our experience, to sort out which intentions produce which effects, and to choose our intentions according to the effects that we desire to produce.

It is here at the transition station from writer to Author, we are pulled up, do we continue our ticket to ride or allow self doubt to position us on a platform that grounds to a halt. The fear that we have invited the prose police into our private world of alliteration, how we have released our very intimate thoughts into a public forum of hungry grammatical bullies that will pull us to pieces word for word, and of a plethora of social search engines that will weave their own web of deceit. The cyberstalkers, haters & hackers who will take great pleasure in walking through your mind with dirty feet.

Our inner voice, that tells us we have a desire to teach others through the medium that speaks of words, that structures sentences and or places lines of rhyme on a page, how this enemy of mind, requires skilful workmanship to turn it into a masterful tool from which we are then capable of critiquing the work as if a Teacher back at school. Edit, proofread, dump, remove adverbs, implement nouns, convey the information, tell your story; bring back the words lost to now be found.

As an author we take the writing to a whole new level that leaves its readers with amazing pieces that capture a definitive image in the mind, lines on the page that have become an intricate part of the machinery that will analyse and critique, process and evaluate to stir a reaction, and bring about a new frequency that will unveil to the reader – the writers voice.

An author must understand their audience well and move them through the province of such style that eliminates a choice of right or wrong, instead bringing in a contextualised language that activates interest and disrupts thought.

An author understands that it is their raw material from which the book is crafted but even more so that to truly master writing is to place literature into a publication that will endure and have the potential to effect change.

The exercise of developing oneself through writing, recognises the prime examples that are chosen as the selected passages; that give way to a great philosophy of which is derived from the experiences of life. The writing is the well versed craft that becomes the result of painstaking, thoughtful application to piece together prose and as an Author make a book of Art.

A Promise and purpose that speaks of your intent will always move a writer into a world of Authors that demands we pack a powerful punch.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Anita Wilson.

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Help Crush Your Fear of Writing with These Two Things

If the fear of writing is getting you down, it’s time for some basic preparations that will crush this nasty nemesis and fortress your efforts.

If the fear of writing is getting you down, it’s time for some basic preparations that will crush this nasty nemesis and fortress your efforts.

How do you build your zone of protection?

You create these two habits that are consistently suggested by successful writers:

  1. write daily for at least 15 minutes;
  2. set up a space where you can think well enough to write.

Have you set aside time to write each day?

Or do you find something else to do instead?

If you do, you’re in good company. Author Zoe Fairbairns, in her book, Write Short Stories- and get them published, suggests it’s a condition of writers to come up with reasons for why they can’t find time to write.

Mostly, they stall out of fear, and the reasons are many.

How about a place?

Do you worry so much about where other people write that it makes you think your choice is wrong? You’re not alone.

As for me making excuses—guilty. I have many, and these are just a few.

  • I’ve got to check my email.
  • I’ve got to finish editing the 3rd section in this book.
  • Gosh, the laundry is piling up. Time to start a load.
  • Where does the time go? I still have to water my plants.
  • Isn’t that seminar today?

What pushes these excuses? Who is the little imp behind the curtain that keeps me from jumping in and just doing it?

Me.

  • My fear of what others think—that I won’t write well enough—embarrassing myself
  • Self-doubt—who am I to think I’m a writer—that a write well—that anyone will want to read what I write
  • Fear of myself—I don’t know if I can share that—this is too hard to talk about
  • Fear of working hard and not producing a story interesting enough to read

My plight is ironic because I’ve always jumped into things I’m interested in doing and learned them along the way. So why is it so hard for me to do this with writing?

Fear.

My fear.

It’s me playing mind games with myself.

And fear is the one thing that will disrupt your effort, too, unless you decide to just go for it, like I finally did, and make writing a part of your life.

Setting a time and place to write each day where you feel safe from outside pressure provides a stronghold against criticism and self-doubt.

Setting Your Daily Writing Time

I’m better at being deliberate or intentional about my writing time. For me, it becomes a meditation, and it calms me. I think of it as exercise for my mind.

What my daily calisthenics do for my body, writing does for my thinking, and I feel healthier when I’ve made both a part of my daily routine. I also feel more confident I can conquer my fears.

I know the word routine suggests boredom, and nothing kills creativity more than boredom. Yet, writing every day, though repetitive, enables the physical function and mental clarity you need to beat back the beast of fear and reach a level of thought where you inspire yourself and produce something beautiful enough to inspire others.

Before you set a time to write, answer these questions:

  1. Why do you want to write?
  2. Do you enjoy doing it? What do you like about it?
  3. Is there something you don’t like about it?
  4. What gets in the way of you starting?

Some writers don’t like the act of writing but love communicating stories. Others don’t want to be stuck to the confines of a schedule. Does either description fit how you feel? If so, think about why.

Then do these things activities:

  1. Brainstorm a list of obstacles that get in the way of you becoming the kind of writer you want to be.
  2. Identify which ones you’ve put on yourself and which ones you have no control over. Then cross off those you can’t change.
  3. Circle the top five obstacles on your list with fear at their core.
  4. Notice which ones influence you most, and number them from 1 to 5 with 1 as the most influential 5 as the least influential.
  5. Start with your #1 strongest fear, and write three ways you’re going to face it, and then go for it.

Reflect on your progress:

  1. Face one fear a week, and reflect on how you feel about its hold on you at the end of each week.
  2. When the five weeks are up, ask yourself if these fears are gone, or if their hold has been significantly weakened.
  3. Write about what worked for you, what didn’t and why, rethink new strategies to try if you think you need to, or just move on.

Chances are you will have better control of your fears after you have finished these activities than when you first started. You may also have found your best time to write.

Choosing Your Perfect Writing Space

Push your fears away by adding one more thing to your writing routine—a place where you feel comfortable. To get ideas for how to do it, you can read about it and ask other writers how they do it.

  • Make sure you notice as you learn how writers tailor their spaces to fit their individual personalities. That’s the kind of writing space you want for yourself.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a favorite place to write?
  • If you do, look around it. Does it still fit your style? If not, go ahead and change it.

My writing room is in my living room. It’s open and airy, and I’m surrounded by art my mother painted, pictures of family, and all of the things I deeply love. And it’s quiet, so I can think.

I tried using my computer room as a writing space, but it didn’t work for me. The confines of the space nurtured my fears more than my creative spirit. I felt cramped, and by default, so did my mind.

The key for you is to find a space that is quiet and free from distractions, and one that inspires you to write. Then, combine it with a time that works for you.

Most fears of writing face annihilation in this context.

Happy Writing!

This post is contributed as Guest post by Sheri Rose.

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