An overview of the Writing Process: Planning

Writing is a process and getting yourself to the end of a piece involves a lot more than just actually thinking about what you want to say. Developing a system to get you from rough draft to finished product in a timely fashion is common sense.
The key is knowing what you want done and when you want it done. Call them deadlines or anything else you want, but they are necessary. The trick is to create hard deadlines for yourself. Avoid soft deadlines that are unfocused and unclear about what being “done” means.

Negotiating deadlines with yourself  is the same with the people you are writing for. Learning to hit deadlines that are realistic and move you forward is a skill that all working writers have. This is the way I do it, but it isn’t a rigid system.

You are free to take anything I’ve outlined here and incorporate it into your own process.

Planning

The first thing I do with any writing project is outline my expectations for this particular story and stick it right at the top of my page.

Some things I keep track of  in this upper portion of the page:

Goals- A simple statement of what I want to accomplish with this story. This is the part where you say what you are writing and when you want to complete it. I change this part at each due date until the project is completed.

Due date- I put the due date for a story prominently on the page. This isn’t necessarily a “done” date but the date your scheduled to revisit this project and revise the top section. Something is finished when I reach a due date and feel that I’ve completed everything that needs to be done.

Word Count- I usually keep a cumulative word count and the number I want to hit for each day at the top of a story.

Prospective audience- Thinking about this helps set the tone every time you sit down. It puts you into a mindset to write a magazine article or  piece of fiction because you are writing for somebody. The faster you can focus on what you are writing, the more useful your time will be. Sometimes a story is only meant for your eyes only and that’s ok. Projects like that are necessary, just keep in mind why you want to write this particular piece and let that guide you.

Finishing any project is a matter of  having a clear view of the end you want to achieve and mapping out a specific schedule for completion. Once you’ve worked out all of your expectations for a story, gear every single minute you work on a project toward hitting one of the goals you’ve stated above.
For example, I may have 15 minutes to work on a piece of fiction. In order to maximize my time I have a clear goal in mind to write at least 500 words in that span. After the time is up I see how many words I got through and added it to my overall word count.

The other part that people tend to avoid is measuring progress and adjusting expectations. At the end of each week I’ll look at the top section of every unfinished project and check my current progress against expectations I set the week before.

Review your work as often as you think is necessary. Some people go months or even an entire year before thinking about their goals again. Either way,  the important thing is to think  about your goals and find a way to make them focused and relevant.

Here are a few questions I consider each week along with some follow up questions:
Did I honestly fulfill my expectations for the week (Celebrate if you did) ?
– If no  then ask, why didn’t I meet expectations?
-Then, how can I adjust my goals to make them more realistic?

If yes then ask think about setting more ambitious goals or stay at this pace until next week’s review.

Next topic is rough drafts.

Sports writing and the art of fiction

Life has a way of telling you it’s time to slow down reassess your priorities and after getting back from a Thanksgiving visit to my sister in Portland my writing life took a backseat to a cold that’s dampered any real momentum gained from a relaxing vacation. Between full-time work and taking cold medecine, I’ve lost about two weeks worth of meaningful writing time, but it has turned into an opportunity to really examine my writing life.

I’m fortunate to have a job that coincides so well with the writing life and over the years there been no better writing teacher then cutting your teeth as a journalist. Aside from writing daily and getting into a rhythm of getting published every week, being a Sports reporter has taught me to be a professional writer.

The difference between between being a writer and a professional writer is that a pro writes for an audience. It’s a shift in mindset that is the difference between writing in your private journal and getting your name in print. The prose doesn’t just honor the self, but the audience that is going to read our work. A professional assesses the expectations that come with any writing situation and writes with the mindset of meeting the contract we make with the reader through every word, sentence and paragraph that is written.

I wonder why there aren’t a lot more fiction writers out there that love sports. Writing sports comports so well to what fiction authors do that it really isn’t that big of a leap to write in either genre. In sports there is built in drama with a clear conflict that is really easy to understand and covering events requires you to be observant and describe events in scenes. Sports reporting also puts you in writing situations that many fiction writers do not have to deal with.

After going to a writers group with a bunch of novelist, I found it amazing that many of my peers had been working on a single story for months and for some years. I wonder how someone could work on something for that long. Often on game nights I have an hour often 30 minutes to produce 1000 words of copy. There is no time to think about what you’re writing. It’s write, rewrite, edit and watch it go to press. This isn’t the business for perfectionists or falling in love with your ideas it’s about writing and writing some more.

Some of my best prose has come out of these frantic moments and often the writing requires  clever language, metaphor and subtle descriptions. Here’s a lede from a gamer I wrote this season and you’ll see that there are literary devices in here and even a bit of dialogue.

The opening round of Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs rested on the wind and a prayer on Thursday night.
Fortunately for the Benicia High School boys soccer team, the ball bounced in its favor on a blustery day at Drolette Stadium as the Panthers tied their game against Cordova 1-1 on a stoppage time goal by senior Dante Arias in the second half. They later won 4-2 on penalty kicks after 20 minutes of scoreless overtime.
“It was more based on luck,” Arias said of the tying goal. “You’re there and it just happens for you sometimes.”
Arias, Jared Thieme, Matt Judd and Zach Coan all converted their penalty shots for Benicia while the Lancers missed two of theirs.
The Panthers earned a second-round match up against Placer in Auburn on Tuesday thanks to the play of goal keeper Kenneth Butts, who didn’t allow a goal except for a penalty shot by the Lancers senior striker Anthony Sanchez in the 53rd minute. He also stopped two shots in penalty kicks to seal the Panthers’ win.
Clarity is the bottom line for any writer whether you are writing fiction, essays or a corporate newsletter and the skills I’ve learned from sports writing has carried over to every writing situation I’ve encountered. it’s about laying out a logical sequence of events for readers, stating things plainly enough to make sure nothing can be misconstrued and most important it teaches you to trust your writerly instincts.

Finding your voice as a writer

A writers voice is simple to define but elusive to find. The real great writers, the ones that have a lasting place in this business are the ones that capture it day-after-day, story-after-story and still leave you coming back for more.

Voice is a confluence of style, tone and diction that is unique to you. It’s why you can pick  a random passage from Old Man and the Sea not knowing who wrote it and know that you’re reading Ernest Hemmingway.

How you develop a voice is really not that hard, the problem is actually doing it requires a lot of work that many would-be authors aren’t willing to do. On a practical level it requires you write reams of pages and on an emotional level you have to be willing to plumb the depths of your soul time- after-time until you are comfortable with what’s there.

Some writers find the blank page very scary, but I embrace it and often take solace in it. Writing is a healthy emotional release that I’ve come to rely on in some of the darkest moments in my life. Often emotional moments in life are measured in tears or bursts of anger, but for me it’s measured in blank ink and word counts. Emotions are given form on the page in metaphors and similies and distilled into sentences and paragraphs until I can say that it is off my chest.

You find a voice in those moment you hold up that mirror  and figure out what’s deep inside. To find it consistently means “going there” over and over again until you can call upon it at will. When I write matters of grammar and mechanics are so far from my mind and really, writing produced in that fashion sounds mechanical and stilted. Not to say you should master those things, but it isn’t the most important thing when it comes to the act of writing something that is compelling.

The soul of a story is comes from the most obvious place— you.

No other person thinks and talks like you  and really, no other person can write like you either. The question is how much work are you willing to put in to figure out exactly who “you” are.

Good writing is born in a place of honesty and  good writers spend their lives being honest with themselves. That may be hard to believe, but it’s the reason why people take their writing so personally. People get their feelings hurt at workshops because getting critiqued is akin to making a judgement on them as a person.

This may sound weird, but you have every right to take it personal. That is you and if you put one iota of yourself into producing something then it will sting to hear somebody tear it down. It’s about being comfortable enough with who you are and the writing you’ve created to say “ok, I’m willing to improve my writing and willing to improve myself no matter how much it hurts.”

It takes a strong person to overcome that fear and write for an audience just once and it takes a person of character to do this over and over again.

Writing a novel synopsis

This is where you begin. At least for me, this where my idea became a became a novel. It’s the synopsis, the thing I send people when they ask me what this book is about. This took about a month to produce and about 80 pages of reference notes before I felt comfortable with doing any serious writing.

This will change after I’m done. When the plot is more fleshed out and the path from A to Z has all the other letters in filled in then the synopsis will be complete and a draft is finished. To me, it starts and ends with my synopsis. This is what the customer sees when he or picks up your book on the shelves wondering what this nicely illustrated book is about.

Goddess INC.

Money is everything.

In world where Capitalism allows faith to be brokered in the form of wealth, venture capitalists broker dreams and the spirits within them as easily as items on a budget. When multi-billionaire Alton Miller is shot to death in a spate of gang violence, it leaves a power void in more worlds than one.

Follow the benevolent fund managers Arvyn H. Singher and the mercurial Colton Hailey as they struggle with their friends death and deal with the complication of dealing with his son Rashard who has dark ambitions for his father’s powerful corporation and a legion of Shadows under his command.

Sarah Russell had no idea of any of this when she took the General Manager position with the Fort Worth Flyers football team. She was the first hire of Alton Miller when he bought the team from embattled real estate mogul Douglas Walden. His death throws her status on the team in doubt as Rashard takes over and clearly does not like her or her philosophy. On top of that she gets thrust into the middle of the power struggle between corporate billionaires and the spirits under their command as Rashard fights her for the hearts and minds of the Flyers fans and players in order to gain access to the valuable spirits locked within their dreams.

Tim Tebow’s popularity a dual question

People ask the wrong questions when it comes Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and his immense popularity. The one that makes sense to most football fans is whether he will be an NFL caliber quarterback or not. That’s something you measure and valuate with any types of numbers you want whether it’s wins or passer rating and really draw your own conclusions.

The other question is whether you agree with his lifestyle or not. To put it bluntly it’s “Are you Christian or not?” NFL players that tout their religion are nothing new and completely within their right to do, but Tebow is unique in the sense he’s quite open with it.

That makes a distraction that most NFL players would never want to deal with because it is an added layer of pressure in an already stressful profession. It takes a real person of character to be handle the scrutiny of mixing religion and your professional life.

Whether or not you relate the eye black with bible verses, missionary work in other countries, his belief in God…or not…will color your opinion of him. In other words, when you start tugging at what people think think is fundamentally right and wrong, you will always get people falling on two sides.

Whether or not 161 yards, two rushing touchdowns and a fourth quarter comeback are enough to convince you he is a NFL legend or not is a separate and more comfortable question for most sports fans.