I was lucky enough this week to swap guest posts with indie mystery author Angela D’Onofrio, whose psychological suspense novel From the Desk of Buster Heywood has drawn raves for its realistic and nuanced characters. We’re each giving our personal slant to the theme of Resilience, and I think you’ll like what she’s “cooked” up for you!
Over to you, Angela!
Cooking Up a Method
As an upcoming guest post for my blog, my friend Ellen Seltz has written a fantastic piece about the merits of resilience as an alternative to the potentially overwhelming and draining concept of consistency. In the spirit of reciprocity, I thought I’d write a bit about both. But to write about writing, I’m also going to have to write a little bit about cooking. Bear with me.
When it comes to that all-important Writing Method, I’ve found that authors are as steadfast and as varied as some families are about recipes for fried chicken or shepherd’s pie: as far as they are concerned, there is One Best Way to do things, and it is what works for them, has always worked for them, and shall continue to do so. No deviations from the recipe are allowed. Heaven forbid you run out of index cards or sour cream and have to make do with sticky notes or plain yogurt. “It just ruins the whole thing,” they’d say. The work would fall apart.
But sometimes, the ability to improvise and adapt makes the recipe even better. Maybe that cup of yogurt makes that recipe even better. Maybe you find, as I did, that sticky notes work even better for an outline than index cards, because … well, hey. They stick to anything. Everything becomes your outline board! When I first began to seriously think about self-publishing, about putting out work on a regular, steady basis instead of just writing when the whim struck, I “knew” what all “professional writers” know: that You Have to Have a Method. So I set to work with a designated notebook for outlining, several books full of prompts and Sage Advice, a designated pen, a designated writing time, the works. I was Official. I was gonna Be An Author. By the end of my first novel, I’d learned that designated writing time is about the funniest joke you can tell to someone working a 40-hour job to pay the bills, most of that Sage Advice was for people who didn’t have to worry so much about said bills (somehow), and that sometimes you just up and lose your designated writing pen, forget your notebook, and end up scribbling on whatever you’ve got. Long story short, I learned resilience. I also learned what parts of that Official Method worked for me, and threw the rest out like vegetable scraps and trimmed-off fat. Then, back to the cutting board I went to start novel number two.
Novel number two was where I had my post-it-note revelation, among other things. The process became vastly different from that of the first novel, simply because it was so different. Over the course of writing that second book, I learned my most valuable lesson: let the process fit the novel. Trust your feelings … and more importantly, Trust The Book. That’s really the only rule I have for a writing method, now. I can write 1,665 words per day for NaNoWriMo when the season arrives, or I can go for a week without a word and then hammer out a 10k weekend. (Those are the days when my wonderful wife just magically makes food appear at my elbow and drags me out of my writing coma long enough to order me to eat it. They are glorious days, indeed.)
Novel number three is proving a very difficult animal: a little bit of book one with a little bit of book two, and I am learning how to mash both of my previous methods together into something that works. I’m still not quite there, even two-thirds through my plot, but I’m not worried. Why? You got it: I Trust The Book. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter what your Official Method is, whether it’s consistent or not. You must still sit down at that desk with the intent of creating something wonderful… and you’ve got to have the willpower to see it through. If you have that, and you trust in your ideas, then you’ll have something wonderful, indeed. As for cooking? You might still want to follow the recipe.
Angela D’Onofrio has been writing stories since she knew you could actually do that sort of thing with a pencil and paper. She’s been publishing them for considerably less time, but she still loves it just as much. Her latest novel, In The Cards, is due out on September 18th. You can catch her on Facebook (Aviario.CT), on Twitter @AngDonofrio, and on her website, www.angeladonofrio.com.