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Friday, July 8, 2011

Guest Blog: Willa Edwards: Finding Your Own Writer's Path

As a published author you often get asked what advice you have for new writers. Everyone’s always looking for the magic secret that will unlock the gates for them into the author community. I definitely was.

First of all, I don’t really feel qualified to give that kind of advice. I’m still such a new author myself, with only three works published (my third Whatever You Want, Sir will be out with Whiskey Creek-Torrid on August 1st. I’m so new in my own writer’s path, it seems odd to me to give advice. But I do have a few suggestions, the most important being to follow your own writer’s path.

What does that mean?

We always talk about writing the story you want to write, and the characters you feel passionate about. Even if you think you’ll have trouble finding a market for it. That if you follow your heart it could lead you to the story of your dreams. But what we never talk about is writing like you want.

I’ve always wanted to be an author, since I was four years old (I’m still unsure how a four year old knew what an author was, but that’s a whole different story). I studied the famous writers through my early years, especially female authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen and the Brontes. I had this vision in my head of how a writer had to be. Bent over their desk, writing late into the night, obsessed with finding the right words or the perfect sentence.

While my vision of what a writer should be might be more true than false (it certainly feels that way sometimes, when I’m up past three in the morning banging away at edits due the next day to make sure every mistake is detected) it was more funny than anything else. But I also developed beliefs about how writers are suppose to write, which proved to be more destructive than even I knew.

I thought writers had to start with Chapter One and write until they typed out The End, chronologically. I thought authors had to know everything that was going to happen to their characters. That nothing could be changed after the fact. That they write every word perfectly, with the plot points perfect right away, the characters arriving full of life and complete from the first word. That edits were only for grammatical errors.

I’d always written the way I thought I was supposed to, and my room, computer, notebooks, napkins, etc… were lined with incomplete works. Lots of starts and stops, but very few finished products. I’d get a few scenes in, and not know what happens next I’d end up put it aside, before I figured out how to move on to the next scene I’d get distracted by a new idea. It took pulling teeth and a very long time to finish anything.

It wasn’t until I was twenty (I know it sounds young, but remember that means I’d been writing for sixteen years) that I decided to ignore these misconceptions of how a writer is supposed to write. I was starting to write romance, and I had this idea for an amazing scene. A great love scene, that would happen sometime in the last quarter of the book to kick start the climax, but I hadn’t even started the story yet. Normally I would have ignored it. I thought I had to start with the first chapter. But this love scene was so powerful it wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to write it down. After I finished that scene, I had to write the ones around it, and another one in the beginning that is mentioned in the scene. And so on and so on. I wrote the book slowly around this one scene, building the whole plot around this one pivotal moment in the character’s lives.

When it was all said and done I written the entire 110,000 word novel in about three months, oppose to the previous novel that took two years for me to finish from all the down time I needed to figure out what would happen next. Each page was more passionate, the characters were more true to my original vision. They didn’t change half way through because I’d decided some new piece of information I didn’t have in the beginning.

To me the results were simple, I wasn’t supposed to write chronologically. It was another few years before someone else gave me the word for the way I write. I’m not a pantser or a plotter, I’m an inspiration writer. Meaning I write based on what’s inspiring me at that moment. I have a basic idea of the story before I sit down, just a few bullet points, but after that I just let inspiration follow me.

It took me years to find other people that write like I do, but I’ve learned there are more of us out there than you think. The most famous of which is Stephenie Meyer. And that there are a million other ways to write than my original vision. The more writers I know, the more ways to write I discover. Everyone seems to have their own path, and their own distinct way to coax the muse out of her shell.

For me, the two writing choices that have made all the difference for me and probably resulted in me being published were, deciding to write romance instead of the horror/paranormal/historical novels I was writing before (that were filled with sexual tension, love scenes and longing looks). And deciding to write in my own way, based on my inspiration of the moment.

So my number one piece of advice to every writer, new and experienced, is to try new things all the time. Try writing out of order, trying writing the synopsis first. Try writing a kind of character you would never consider or a genre you never thought you’d like. Make each scene its own document. Try new things and stretch as an author, because you never know what might click for you and open up a whole new world. Even though I feel as though I’ve found my niche, and have had success with my method, I still try new things. I still add something to my journey or rearrange my normal routine because there’s always room for improvement. No system’s perfect. And sometimes just the right thing can trigger a whole new path you never knew existed before.

And most of all I always follow my writer’s path, and don’t let misconception, or what I’m supposed to be doing deter me for what feels right to me.

Willa has wanted to be a writer since she was four years old typing away at her grandmother’s typewriter. She wrote her first novel in fourth grade about the trials and tribulation of twin alien princesses. Since then Willa has dabbled with many different genres, including sci-fi, paranormal, mystery and suspense. When she read her first romance at fifteen she knew she’d found her place, and she’s never looked back. Willa is now a contemporary and historical erotic romance writer who lives in New York. When she’s not writing you can find her curled up in bed with her two fur babies, her nose pressed to her e-reader.

BLURB for Midnight Mirage:
Lincoln and Gabe, best friends and the hottest new alt-rock duo Mirage, only want one thing. Mallory. They’ve been waiting a year for Mallory to open her heart to both of them and accept the alternative relationship they wish for.

Mallory’s flattered by their attentions but can’t believe they’re any more than sweet words. They’re rock stars, surrounded by beautiful woman. They can’t possibly want a plain-Jane reporter like her.

When a crazed fan forces their hand, their protective instincts take over. Gabe and Lincoln aren’t willing to wait for their woman any longer. They initiate her with intense pleasure, ringing in the New Year in the naughtiest way possible. But when they whisper words of love and forever in her ear, she runs away.

Will Mallory be able to open her heart and return their affection, or will insecurity keep her from the men who love her?

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Nina Pierce said...

Excellent post. I remember when I first started writing people were talking about working on the fourth draft of their book. I thought I was doing something wrong because when I got to the end I was finished. No more drafts. But what I discovered is I edit as I go. I rarely move onto a new scene until the one before is polished. I don't like it. I wish my internal editor would let me spew, but I don't. It's something I've come to accept about myself.

Tina Donahue said...

Great blog, Willa - and your advice is right on the money. :)

jean hart stewart said...

Great advice. I'm still evolving after 20 some books. Certainly no method fits us all...Jean

Vivien Jackson said...

Great post, Willa, and great advice.

Cassie Exline said...

Great post. You've found another one! I write the scenes that pop into my head and work them somewhere in the story. When I stay true to my vision, everything comes together just like magic. I'm never sure how it works just that it does. Loved your excerpt.

Willa Edwards said...

Thank you Nina. I remember people telling me that a writer could nevere write without knowing what was coming, but for some reason it works for me. I remember in one of my unpublished historicals I wrote a scene where two characters were sword fighting with sticks, two weeks later I write the earlier scene that explained why. I had no idea the earlier scene was coming. Did I write the earlier scene because of what I'd already written, or was it always meant to be there, I don't know. But it seemed like confirmation that this was how I was supposed to work, it was definitely working for me. Every novel has some moment like that, reconfirming I'm doing the right thing.

You do just have to accept the way your mind works and just do the best you can to improve the process. Because we certainly don't want to wait for your next book Nina :)

Thanks for stopping by Nina.

Thanks Tina. It sounds so simple but it really did take me time to accept it. Now that I have, I can't imagine going back. Thanks for coming by.

Jean, that's the part I didn't even get into, with each new book you have to evolve for that work. Like children, each has their own personality, and you have to learn a way to just go with flow.

Thanks so much for commenting, gives me hope these much further to go. I'd hate to ever be standing still, I'm always moving forward and evolving.

Thanks Vivien. Its really a passion of mine, and even is a theme in many of my novels.

Yeah Cassie! Another compatriate. I agree. Its the same for me. I don't understand how it works. I probably don't want to, but it just does. And there's always a few spots where I'm afraid it won't but it comes together. You're right, like magic. I've tried writing outlines, but as I write they just change. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one.

Sandy said...

Willa, you're so young and so smart. I tried to follow all the rules when I started writing, and I was almost twice your age.

Great post. You're excerpt caught my attention.

Nancy said...

Ha, ha! I ALSO thought a book was written Chapter one to The End! Took me FOREVER to finish my first novel because I almost did not GET to the end. Thanks for the laugh.

JoAnne Kenrick said...

So true, in any profession...there is always room for improvement, always something new to learn! The way I get from start to finish is different with each book I've written so far, and each time I've learned something new about myself and my writing. I absolutely love this post, thanks for sharing with us xx

Fiona said...

Fantastic post, Willa. As I read along, I nodded and gave a rueful chuckle. I'm working toward the end of my first m/s and have just started to break a few of those "rules" as I push toward the end.

I'm a sequential scene writer, at least on this first novel. Who knows, maybe I'll write a bunch of novels and try a new approach with each one. ;-)

The comments from other ladies here prove we all have our own kink (don't we ever!) on how we navigate our journey. The most important thing is to write and not let ourselves get caught up in so called rules.

Looking forward to your new release in August!

Kaye Spencer said...

I saw myself in your post. I am an inspiration writer through and through. A sentence, a picture, a passing comment inspires me to write the scene around it then the story develops. I've never successfully written a story in linear fashion. The one time I made a valiant effort, it was a miserable failure. My muse was so upset, he packed his bags and took the first stage out of Dodge. I didn't see him for months. lolol

I remember how flabergasted one of my publishers was when I explained that I write the way a movie is filmed: disjointed scenes that are spiced together later.

It's comforting to know there are more of "us" out there.

Janice said...

Good for you, Willa. As a writer you have to develop your own style of writing. I think you are well on your way. :)


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