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What Writers Do

Let me tell you a little something about what writers do… and how they do it. Well, at least how I do it….

I get this question a lot – HOW do you write what you write? How do you do it? Well, that’s a very good question. The answer is not as simple – first of all, it’s not as easy as you think it might be.  Being a novelist takes a lot of attributes – a fairly advanced grasp of how your language works,  an excellent grasp of what you’re writing about, and the ability to put on paper what you’re trying to convey.  You’re telling a story; you need to paint a picture for the reader’s mind so clearly that they feel as if they are there.  They feel it, they see it, they smell it.

You want them to FEEL what you’re telling them; you want them to feel what your characters are going through. You must do this by using the correct sequence of words that clicks in a reader’s brain, so much so that they feel pain or happiness or sorrow or excitement.  If your characters is crying, you can only hope the reader is crying along with them. If they are, you’ve done your job.

You also want then to SEE what you’re telling them. You want them to see faces, features, the home or castle your characters live in, the sight of the food, the dirt in the great hall, or the fire spitting sparks into the air.

You want them to SMELL what you’re telling them. You want them to smell the dogs, the stables, the rose-scented soap, the dust and mold of an old drafty castle. Yes, you want them to smell it.

As a writer, you spend seven days a week, eighteen or twenty hours a day, putting words in such an order that you hope you’re writing something beautiful and genuine that readers will want to read. Sometimes it’s successful; sometimes it’s only so-so. It’s not an easy or cushy job; you’re not lounging at home tinkering on your computer. You are creating an entire world, sometimes several entire worlds, and you are doing it because you love to tell the stories that are  all bottled up in your head.  You’re writing to satisfy something deep in your soul that you can’t explain; all you know is that you have these wonderful tales inside of you that are begging to come out.  I dream about them, think about them, and write about them. It’s the hardest, best job I’ve ever had and I love every minute of it.  But don’t think for one minute that it’s easy; it’s not.  Every fiber of my being goes into every story that I write.  Every novel has a piece of me in it. Some novels are better than others, but all of them tell a tale that has come to fruition, like a seed that was planted and nurtured until it bloomed.

True story: once, I visited an Irish Fair and as a joke, a friend paid a fortune teller to do a tarot card reading on me. I didn’t believe in that kind of thing but thought what the heck.  So I sit in the tent with this tarot card reader and she does her voodoo to the cards and lays them out.  She looks at them, long and hard, and then looks me in the eye and asks, “what’s your connection to old England?”.  Rather surprised, I countered, “what do the cards tell you?” She looks at the cards and looks at me, “somebody is telling you something. What’s your connection to England?” I relented and told her I wrote Medieval romance.  She starts shaking her head, rather vehemently, and says, “these stories aren’t your own. These people tell you what to write about their lives and you write it. There are a whole lot of people telling you what to write.”  I’m surprised. “What people?” I asks. She says, “The people you’re writing about. They lived, they loved, and they want their story told. Did you really think you just created them?”  I’m rather dumbfounded at this point and she continues. “Do you feel like you’ve got so many stories in your head that you can’t possibly write them all?” I just nod my head. I’ve got outlines for 147 novels and including the 46 I’ve already written, and countless others that were written and lost, that’s well over 200 novels.  The tarot reader smiles and said, “don’t worry about it. They’ll tell you what to write; you just keep writing.”

And I have.