Spotlight on Writing
Scheduling time to do some writing and be creative is hard, but totally worth it! Picture of some doodles in a book with a mess of creative equipment

For once, I have an abundance of things to talk about on this column now that we’ve finished slogging through chapter plans and character profiles.

You might have noticed on Ashley’s blog post last week that we’ve actually started writing again (Hurrah!).

I too definitely felt the nerves kick in as I opened the document to begin the first chapter of our new Ancient Greece book. I think it’s fairly normal with any project, to have that initial period of trying to get to know new characters and how they might interact in a brand-new setting. Though, it’s a challenge that I admit I’d sort of forgotten about, because (although we recently rewrote the series) we’d been acquainted with the characters from our teen fiction series for many years, so they were really old friends. With this book and these new characters, I’m meeting them fresh, and trying to work out where they fit in the new world that’s constantly growing in my head, so getting words onto the page feels odd right now. I’ve finished the first chapter—some of it I quite like, other bits feel forced. I just have to keep reminding myself that this is the start of a long path, and not to worry. Even if it’s not all that great, it will probably be edited a million times before it ever sees the light of day!

And concurrently, I’m editing my own novel, The Night I Lost My Mind. I actually gender flipped two characters, because I realized that the only minority character I had in the book was portrayed in a not-so-good-light, which really concerned me, especially when I discovered I had accidentally added to an overused trope with really negative connotations. Not going to lie, it’s been a lot of work changing it, but totally worth it because it’s added a whole depth and feel to the book, and seems to fit it well.

It was also quite enlightening to discover just how many mannerisms I (and I don’t think I’m alone in this, either) attribute to each gender. For example, I imagine girls giggling, and guys chuckling. Girls putting their hands on their waists, guys crossing their arms. Girls curling up on the sofa, and guys stretching out.

It’s weird, don’t you think? I mean, some of these preconceived notions are partly due to learned mannerisms from reading other people’s books, and many are from social expectations of how people behave in real life. But it’s made me a lot more aware of them, rather than simply taking it for granted. Who says a guy can’t giggle, after all? Giggle away, men. I won’t think less of you. I feel like this needs a hashtag or something, like, #realmengiggle. Let’s start a movement.

Personal Update

Scheduling. If you’re wondering how the heck I’m fitting all this in, that’s how. I was dreading my nursing course starting, because I knew that suddenly I was going to have a lot less time for writing. And, to be honest, I wasn’t being very productive anyway, because the last few weeks I’ve been idly floating from one thing to the next. So, I decided to get up at five a.m. every morning to get in several uninterrupted hours of creativity before starting my studies.

So far, I’m loving it. Not the getting up early, exactly, but once I’m out of bed and in my writing chair it’s amazing. I’ve opened up several hours more in my day and I feel like I can finally get things moving, without having to prioritize one project above another, which feels really good because they both deserve my attention.

And, I’m still somehow carving out time to continue playing the guitar, which is yet another source of inspiration for my writing. I have a huge range of music I listen to that feeds my muse, ranging from dark and edgy to bright and energetic, and encompassing pop, alternative, country, blues and even some jazz. Here’s one that I’ve been addicted to playing over the last couple of days; ‘Friends Don’t’ by Maddie and Tae.

P.S. This was recorded with my new Blue Yeti USB condenser mic—an early Christmas present from Dan. Although, note that any buzz you might hear is probably thanks to my inexpert fiddling on Garageband and user error of putting the gain up too high! I’m still getting a handle on the best settings for each situation.

~ Sarah