Writing rituals – you’re a writer but do you actually write?

During one of our Facebook (or it might have been Twitter) conversations, guest blogger and author Ditrie Sanchez said she’d like me to write about writing rituals. I’m hoping that she wasn’t meaning mine specifically because I’m ashamed to say (maybe I shouldn’t be) that I don’t have one.

I have a routine because my life is fairly structured (blogging twice a day, the day job, my writing groups on a Monday night, another on the first Tuesday of every month, another every other Thursday, dog, house, Red Cross volunteering and so on) but I don’t write enough. Some would say that it’s not surprising because I have so much going on but I want to be a writer… for a living – I’m escaping the day job shortly… so it should be my number one priority, shouldn’t it?

So I guess I have a writing-related ritual. The alarm goes off at 6.28am. I snooze it for 10 minutes (sometimes more than once) and get up. I wake up the computer (which is on all the time; it’s a Mac, it can handle it) while I make a cup of tea, let the dog in the garden and feed him. Then back to the computer in time for the 7am interview to go live (I’ve usually scheduled it the night before but not always, sometimes it’s there and then) when I then email the links to the interviewee and update the blog interviews and contributors pages. If it’s a working day I scurry around as most people do, giving the dog a quick walk round the block. If it’s a day off then we go to the park and I’m usually armed with some editing, a magazine or (once so far) my Kindle. Then the day is spent either at work’s computer or in front of mine, dealing with emails. Most of my free time is spent blog-related rather than writing, and whilst I don’t resent it one bit I do wonder where the time goes.

Every November for the past four years I’ve found time to write more than 50,000 words in a month (117,540 in 2009) for NaNoWriMo and in May 2011 I wrote a story a day (31) for StoryADay. Most recently I’ve been invited to join http://tuesdaytales1.blogspot.com (you can read one of my stories there already) and with my Monday night workshops, I’m gradually upping the pace, albeit a slow jog in comparison to the mad sprint that I should be doing. In other words, give me a deadline and I’ll write what you want, when you want. I’m a secretary, I can organise. Or at least I’m good at organising other people’s lives. I just need to start working on mine.

There’s a great list of weird and wonderful rituals at http://www.mastersdegree.net/blog/2011/20-acclaimed-authors-and-their-unique-writing-rituals which makes me feel very normal, almost dull by comparison: No.2 (CS Lewis) seems the most logical (if not bordering on obsession). I’ve tried no.5 (Wordsworth) but just get Shrek’s Puss’ eyes back at me. Being a morning person I can relate to no.8 (Toni Morrison) but I’ll definitely be giving no.17 (Demosthenes) a miss. Like curing writer’s block, whatever works for one author is certainly worth another considering. Ultimately, whatever gets your bum in the seat (whether it’s armed with a pen and paper or with a screen and keyboard) it’s what we’re after, and whether you’re writing for pleasure or to be sold if you don’t write, you may call yourself a writer but if no-one else sees it, they can’t.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with romantic suspense, mystery novelist, short story and writing guide author Chelle Cordero – the two hundred and sixty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest blog post: How to Write a Killer Character by multi-genre author Ditrie Sanchez

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today by Ditrie Sanchez:

‘How to write a killer character’ No, I’m not referring to psychopathic serial killers running on rampages through the jungle with machetes and baseball bats. I’m talking about the real deal: living, breathing characters.  For some reason, ‘How to Write a Breather Character’ didn’t have the same ring to it.

1.) Know how the brain works.  Read psychology books. Research articles online. Understanding how brains collect and disseminate information gives you a greater understanding of what it takes to build a realistic human being.

2.) You are not your character. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of creating autobiographical sketches. It can be thrilling to live vicariously through your characters. Resist the urge. Not only will it prevent your characters from all sounding the same, but it will also avoid that awkward moment when your mother-in-law asks why the main character shoved a bottle of mayo down her mother-in-law’s throat.

3.) Listen. Listen to how people around you talk. Go to someplace you’ve never been before and bring a little notepad. Jot down things you hear people say. Pick up the local lingo. Rinse, wash and repeat.

4.) Do your research. You need to know everything about your character’s world from their shoe size to their phobia of winking. Take in as much detail about their life, surroundings and dreams as you can. Write it all down. If you don’t know these things about your character, no one will.

5.) Talk to your characters. This is where writing can border on edge of insanity (refer to #1). However, this really works. If you want your character to be alive in your readers’ minds, they need to be alive in your own. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Don’t shove words in their mouths that they wouldn’t say. They find it very rude and get awfully offended; sometimes taking long, expensive cruises to Jamaica while you’re not looking. And that, my friends, is some precious writing time dreadfully wasted.

Morgen: Isn’t this great? Re. no 4, I sometimes give my writing group a table for them to fill in about a magazine picture I’ve given them. They have to list the person’s: full name, nickname, nationality, age, job, hair colour, height, weight, favourite music, favourite food, regular saying, relationship, children, siblings, religion, aspirations and perhaps the most fun, quirks. If you can answer all of these then you’re going to know your character pretty well. Thank you Ditrie! 🙂

Ditrie Sanchez is currently the Chief Networking Officer at Spectacle Publishing Media Group, LLC, which she cofounded. Traditionally unconventional: a Puerto Rican musician descended from several generations of visual artists, Ditrie Sanchez is a creative who calls historic Savannah home. She works in a variety of mediums, having had poems, short stories, comics, graphic designs and musical compositions published in sundry compilations such as “The Georgetown Area Magazine,” “The Inkwell” at Armstrong Atlantic State University and “The Aviator” at Full Sail University. She earned the Persse Composition award and the Presser Scholarship award for her musical efforts at Armstrong Atlantic State University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Piano Performance and Musical Composition. She recently completed her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Full Sail University.

Ditrie can also be contacted via Spectacle’s Facebook Fan Page and her Twitter profile.