Guest Post: How exactly does an author write? by V.E. Bystry
If you are reading this, chances are you consider yourself one of three different kinds of people. One, a writer. Two, an aspiring writer. Or three, someone who enjoys learning about the writing process, perhaps you are interested in how your favorite author goes about their work.
For one, how exactly does an author write? Do they just wake up, slam a cup of coffee and start pounding away on the keyboard or commence scribbling in their notebook? I don’t know about all of you, but that doesn’t describe me at all. Coffee isn’t exactly the most tasty beverage in the world in my opinion, but to each his own.
Writing is a myriad of different things combined into one. First, you must be able to lose yourself in the flow of the words. If you’re thinking too hard about what you are going to type or jot down next, you most likely need to take break. Does this mean that you can’t brainstorm and plot out a basic outline for your novel? Of course not, and it doesn’t really matter anyway, at least in my experience. I do write down an extremely watered down version of the book, listing the chapters and describing the major events that should take place at that time. Notice I said should. More often than not, the characters take off on their own, saying what they want to say, and acting the way they want to as well. The outline that I took so much pleasure in forming gets thrown out the window. New plot developments that I hadn’t planned for start to take shape, enriching the story. I love it when this happens, and if this happens to you, embrace it. You may ask yourself “What the hell is going on here? Why is my protagonist doing this?” Trust me, let it go and follow your character down the path that they have chosen. You will be thankful for it later on.
When is the best time to write? The two most popular times of day from the many authors I have talked to, has been either early morning or in the evening. I suppose it depends on your particular lifestyle. For me, the evening works better. This is because I have two children, age three and under, who love to be loud and crazy and play all day. Entertaining them and teaching them the alphabet and how to count while writing a novel isn’t exactly the best advice I would give. That is definitely too much to handle all at once. So, after I get them all tired out, dress them in their PJs, and tuck them into bed, it’s mommy and daddy time. For me, this is the perfect time to write, and I try to do some every night. The wife will probably want to spend some precious alone time together, which will lead me to my next point.
Do you have someone that supports you wholeheartedly in your endeavor to follow your dreams and become an author? If you have a significant other, this is crucial to your experience. They must be there to provide the critique, give and honest opinion about your work. That is also a key factor. Be sure that they understand that you don’t want them to just tell you that your work is absolutely breathtaking. They need to be honest, and in order to help them with that, ask them questions. Was the way this character acted seem real to you? Would an event like this happening really have this kind of effect on the people it touched? Keep them involved in your projects, though at a nice, regular interval. Either wait until the work is complete, or ask them to look it over every 10,000 words or so. Don’t finish a page and say “Hey, honey! I just finished something else for you to read!” they will become irritated and will most likely not give you an honest opinion, or eventually, not even read it at all.
A phrase I often heard growing up was “Write what you know.” To that, I say nay nay. If that could even be possible, how can all these amazing writers publish fantasy, horror, science fiction, or supernatural works? I’m pretty sure Stephen King has never traveled to other dimensions, J. K. Rowling has probably never killed someone by shouting “Avada Kedavra!” while pointing a wand, and Michael Chrichton has never assembled a real, live dinosaur. The phrase itself has a slight truth to it, however, in that you should write what you know about people. Inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time. You pass countless stories and scenarios that you could implement in your work every day. That’s right, the dude you ride in the elevator with up to your floor has something to say. The woman you pass in the office everyday has a story. The colleagues chatting at the water cooler or in the break room are telling a story. All you have to do is listen. Observing the way people use their hands while they talk, how they speak, other body gestures as they interact with others, can help you invaluably in your writing. Being able to draw on these experiences will enable you to envision your story better, and write it down descriptively.
Life experiences can only take you so far, unfortunately, but the next point I’m going to make shouldn’t upset too many of you. If you want to write, you have to read. Crazy idea, right? How else are you supposed to learn how to put words down on paper if you haven’t seen it done exceptionally? I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I would say a good 95% of you that read this blog post do read. It was actually what gave you the drive to become a writer yourself probably. If you already read a lot, I only have one other thing to bring up to you. Broaden your horizons with the genres you pick. I mostly read Stephen King novels throughout my high school career, but towards the end, I picked up some John Grisham, R. A. Salvatore, Brian Jacques, and J. K. Rowling. A couple years after that, I made the mistake of picking up 50 Shades of Gray, just to broaden my horizon even further. The only thing I learned from that novel was how not to write, which I guess is a plus.
What kind of atmosphere does a writer require when they are going to town on their story? Again, just like the time of day thought, this depends on your preference. I’ve met people who can’t do anything unless it is absolutely silent, can’t do anything unless the television is on providing background noise, or loud music is blasting out and displacing the silence to the abyss. Find what works for you, and stick with it. Thankfully, I can write pretty much at any time unless I’m directly being talked to. I enjoy listening to music while I write, mostly metal or hard rock. It really gets me pumped up and it is a great muse for action scenes.
The last question I have is, what method of writing do you prefer? Do you enjoy writing the whole thing down on paper with a pen? Or do you type it all in a word processor and call it a day? I wrote the first half of my debut novel, SPIAR, in Steno Pads. I was underway, hadn’t brought a laptop computer, and it was convenient at the time. Now, getting back home and transposing the entire thing was not something I want to experience again, and so I try to limit my long hand writing. It is great for finding errors and changing things as you go along, but that is also something you can do while typing or easily change words afterward.
In closing, I would like to hear what all of you have to say. When do you like to write? Do you listen to music as you tell your tale? Are you observing the environment around you at all times, absorbing all the information you can? Are you reading as much as you should? Is there someone who has your back, pushing you to follow your dream? Please, sound off in a comment, hit me up on facebook, twitter, or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from all of you!
Easy days and blissful nights,