Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Writing Again

Finally, after months of not writing (long story, health issues, couldn’t be helped), I looked through my work that’s been in perpetual progress for what seems like an eternity and began to write again.

Granted, the creative juices didn’t flow back in all at once.  No, it was more like a trickle, drop by drop until I found my voice and got back into the character’s head again. 

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. My writing was always in the back of my mind. Its absence was as painful as the anticipation welling inside a child's head while he sits in his doctor's office waiting to get a shot. I knew my return wouldn't be easy and I was right. It took a lot more than desire to force myself into the old chair in front of my computer to concentrate on the plot.

Just like a runner warms up before getting on the track, I had to prep my mind which had turned to mush over the past several months I spent dealing with matters that had nothing to do with writing. Life and family comes first and don't we all know it.

At any rate, the best way to “prep” is by reading. Sometimes, I’ll read random chapters from my favorite novels and let the author's words soak in.   I also love reading about unsolved crimes and turn the clues around in my head and wonder why.  It makes for a great, “what if.” And then there are the how-to books and journals.  I have more than I can count and a few of my favorite are stacked up on my desk now as I write to remind me that if I did it before, I will do it again.
Sadly, that first chapter I’d written months before—the one that seemed so perfect didn’t feel terribly right any more.  It’s not a bad chapter. In fact, I actually like it. It's just not the perfect beginning. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with it. It’ll probably get bumped down possibly to third or fourth. The important thing though is that after a few days, I wrote a new beginning. It's short and may not the best--it is after all a first draft. Ironically, but not news to any writer, I spent more time on the opening paragraph—that all important portal to the rest of the book, than I did on the remaining 800 words.

Time will tell if they are the perfect opening words. Still, I tend to beat myself up when I can’t get it “right” and when that happens, I love reading quotes about writing from other author. That's when I know I'm not alone. 

Consider these little gems a pep talk.

“Never polish the first chapter until the last chapter is written.” –Tony Hillerman
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” –Earnest Hemmingway.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” –Sylvia Plath

“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.” –Tim O’Brien

“To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it all my life.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Writer's block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber's block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?

The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don't want to do it, and you can't think of what to write next, and you're fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don't feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP. I like the reply of the composer Shostakovich to a student who complained that he couldn't find a theme for his second movement. “Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!” he said.

Writer's block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren't serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they're not inspired as when they are.” ― Philip Pullman

“Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.” ― William Goldman

About the author:

Marta Stephens writes mystery/suspense.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

Her books are available in paperback and most electronic format. Find them online at , Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Books-a-Million. For more information about Stephens and her writing, visit


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I'm so glad you're back in the writing saddle, so to speak. I read that new first chapter (lucky me!) and I loved it, truly loved it. I've missed Sam Harper, Marta, and I know he's glad to be free again, too! Kudos and congrats!

Ron Adams said...

Hey Marta, welcome back!!! Love the return post, extremely relatable. I'll add my own favorite quote to your list:
"Literature is a luxury. Fiction is a necessity." G.K. Chesterton

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Love reading your posts. I don't usually have time or enough pep to reply, but I think this deserves a resounding YAY! So thrilled you're feeling better. And thanks for the gems. I don't agree with them all, but that's the wonderful thing about writing. We don't have to all think alike.

Happy writing, Marta.

Marta Stephens said...

Thank you all! It's good to be back. :) Funny how one word, one thought sparks another and another!