Tuesday, November 20, 2012

As You Like It

Sometimes writing a blog entry is like starting a new book. There’s a blank screen in front of you and you have no idea of how you’re going to fill it. Of course, there are ideas – there are always ideas – but they are insubstantial and wispy, and none of them seem sturdy enough to hang a fair number of words on.

Can you tell I’m having trouble here?

Reminds me of my favorite writing quote – “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank screen until drops of blood appear upon your forehead.”

Whether it’s the start of something new or in the middle of a project, suddenly the words/ideas/inspirations simply dry up. So what do you do in a case like this? To tell the truth, I dunno. There’s no magic pill, unfortunately. (Think of the fortune to be made if someone should invent one!) All I can do is simply put down a word, then another, then another. Sometimes they aren’t even in sentence format, or even related to each other. Just words.

However, I am a believer that it’s like dropping pebbles into a well. Drop enough, and sooner or later you will fill up the well. Keep writing words and sometime an idea will surface. It’s easy to erase the ones that did not work once you find the ones that do.

The secret is, if there is indeed a secret involved, is to never give up. As Nora Roberts is reputed to have said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Write the book. You can fix garbage; you can’t fix a blank page.” Books aren’t written in an afternoon, and not all days are equal. Books are the result of the author’s tenacity. Keep at it, keep putting down words, and eventually you will have a book, and, once that book is written, you can refine and polish it at leisure.

To prove my point (obligatory commercial here), I point to my two latest releases – BEADED TO DEATH (Carina Press, Oct. 2012) and EXERCISE IS MURDER (FiveStar Gale/Cengage, Dec. 2012), both results of tenacity.

See? I started this with no idea of what I was going to say, but word by word I have a blog post that is probably far too long. Sometimes it just takes time to tap into our subconscious, and that is done word by word.

(In case you’re curious about the title of this post, it comes from a legend about William Shakespeare. He had just created a play but, occupied with other things, had not titled it. When pressed for a title right before opening night, he said dismissively, “Just call it as you like it,” meaning they should put whatever title they wanted on it. So the play has been known all these years.)

          Janis Susan May Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
          Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.
          Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.


Patricia Gligor said...

Great post! I guess that's one thing we writers have in common. Sometimes the words flow and sometimes they don't. Persistence is the key.
I especially enjoyed learning how "As You Like It" got its name.

Morgan Mandel said...

True. If you don't start something, you never have a chance of doing it!

Morgan Mandel

Lynn Cahoon said...

One word at a time. I love the pebbles in the well story. I tend to forget that when I'm looking at finishing a book. Just one word at a time...

Karen McCullough said...

At another conference I heard someone say, "Give yourself permission to write crap. You can fix it later," which is basically the same advice as Nora's. Those are words I live (and write) by. What does surprise me is that sometimes it isn't even crap.

Kaye George said...

I didn't know that about the Shakespeare play! I can hear him saying, "This little ole thing? Whatever." It's good to be forced to write--look what comes out.

Earl Staggs said...

Great thoughts, Susan. Thanks.

Kathleen Kaska said...

I used the 15-minute rule. Just write something for 15 minutes. What usually happens is 15 minutes turns into 30, and I'm off and running. I might not know in what direction I'm headed, but that can be a good thing.
Good blog, Susan.

Janis Patterson said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone! Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Janis,

I'm with you on this. Sometimes stream of consciousness writing is the best way to start a writing project, especially when we hit a wall and suffer writer's block. A writer is simply someone who writes. We don't wait for the brilliant idea to hit us. We're disciplined and work at it everyday. Wishing you success with your two new novels.

Jacqueline Seewald
DEATH LEGACY, THE TRUTH SLEUTH, Five Star/Gale, Thorndike Press

Janis Patterson said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jacqueline! Best of luck with your books, too.