Writes Well With Others
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
Everyone has an image of a writer, and for a lot of people it's similar to an old, wizened man, sitting at a desk by candlelight, writing with a pen on a worn, leathered book.. or a woman gazing thoughtfully out a window as she sits at a typewriter... or of a serious young man, a suitable five o'clock shadow painting his lower jaw while his thick black rimmed glasses reflect the busy people passing him by as he sits in a coffee shop, observing life and the world around him.
The truth of it can be so, so very far from this!
For me, it's scattered, chaotic; a complete mess. I write on my phone waiting in line, on my laptop at restaurants, in bed at night. Sometimes I write watching sports on tv, sometimes I write while my children giggle and screech in the background. I scribble random notes on tiny pages of paper and stuff them into pockets and purse, take voice notes through the recorder on my phone while driving, and have no less than forty separate documents in every novel's folder on my g-drive.
Some of that might make sense. In fact, I bet a lot of it does. But for a verbal processor like me, there's more to it. I have to TALK through my books. Out loud. With people.
I've called people at 2am saying "Wait! What if the character doesn't do that because of THIS?!" I've send frantic messages over text and facebook, asking for thoughts on a particular thread I'm writing. For this to be possible, I need a select group of amazing people known as alphas.
A lot of people know what Betas are. Beta readers read the story once you're finished a few drafts and give tips, ideas, and ask questions that help improve the story from the perspective of a reader. Alphas are the ones who read it as it comes out, the first draft - the one that's a million miles of nonsense and junk. First drafts are always terrible.
As a writer, I'm often referred to as a 'pantster' - one who flies by the seat of her pants. I have tried to write with outlines and ideas but every time I try and fit my story to something, it just... catapults itself elsewhere. My characters write themselves and tell their own stories. And so along the way I need people to keep me grounded and help me talk through what I've done so far and what the characters want to do next.
I love that I have people who trust me and are supportive of me to give me a sounding board. I love that these people are understanding of my process. The sad thing is, 80% of the time I'll present problem one, and they'll give the answer, "what about solution A?" By talking about it with them, something just clicks in my brain. I'll almost never go for solution A, but I'll say, oh - gosh, no, but SOLUTION B IS PERFECT! It's only through the suggestion of solution A that I can find solution B - and having people who can respect that I just need to hear someone say something for me to find my answer is so, so helpful.
When I wrote Camry's story, I had two amazing alphas. I have two again now, one new, one the same. These two people give a lot of themselves and I'm ever-so-grateful to have them on this journey with me.
Recently I was stuck - SO STUCK - on something in my new book. I had accidentally backed myself into a wall I didn't like - I'd found myself using a trope that was a major part of TBaBLoCH and I didn't want to force myself into being the writer who writes that story again. But the problem was, that trope was my big thing - the inciting incident that set the rest of the story in motion. That's... huge. A big change. And everything I did was just not working. I was trying to force a change into the story I'd written and it was causing me to lose track of myself.
I reached out to my alphas and a few writer friends. I talked to them about where I was going with the story so far, and what I wanted from the start. And through a long, slow, week long process of retracing my steps and rewinding the action, I found a way to fix my issue. The story is different now - totally different, but the foundation is stronger and I feel more in touch with my characters. I'm going through it now, implementing the changes and re-writing scenes I love. I was at one point, ready to toss the whole thing away because I felt lost and overwhelmed. It was through the confidence and support of alphas and writer friends that I made it through.
Writing is not always a solitary thing. It's often collaborative, and filled with the voices of those who impact a writer during the process. Any writer who cites their own genius must step back and reflect, because every story is built upon experiences and relationships we have experienced in our own lives. It's a beautiful thing, to see the way the world comes together, to help write a story. And I for one, am grateful for this process.