On Writing, Random Thoughts

Q&A With A Wordsmith: On Manuscript Failures

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad topics which you can find here—LINK and I’ll continue to shed some light on further questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:

How many unpublished drafts and unfinished manuscripts do you have? Did the process of writing these differ from your published books?

Answer:

Imagine this scenario — a brilliant I’m a genius idea comes to mind and you begin writing. But halfway through (sometimes less, sometimes more) you lose all your steam and grasp at empty space on where the plot will go next. Or there’s just this nagging feeling that something isn’t right, yet you can’t put your finger on it. That genius feeling quickly sours into one of those Debbie Downer waw-wah sounds. 

That was me for most of my life. Without so much as brainstorming the evolution of the plot, developing characters, or anything really. I just started writing, pantsing my way through the whole thing. I truly thought, with every new attempt, that the characters would reveal themselves and that the story would carry them through to The End. But that was never the case. 

In 2014, when my health — both physical and mental — took its toll and forced me out of work, I decided to do it right. Giving myself plenty of space to rest through those wicked migraines or relax after a panic attack, I studied the craft. I read advice written by authors I knew and admired for their stories. I took diligent notes. Read up on the Snowflake Method, and much more. 

Once I felt like I had the tools necessary to actually write a manuscript from beginning to end, I began the plotting phase. The genesis of the idea was there for a few years after a dream and I knew at least where I wanted to start. 

In order to keep a digital record of the plotting process, I created a comprehensive OneNote template that allowed me to assess each aspect of the story I needed to understand and cover — which I will share in more detail in a separate series if you’d like to learn about it. 

I remembered reading this tidbit from a now defunct blog from Maggie Stiefvater. In it, she said Divine Coincidence should be rare and that a story’s characters need to go from A (the beginning) to Z (The End) through their own motivations. 

So that’s what I did. 

The brainstorming took the bulk of the plotting time. As I moved from characters to settings and back to the plot, I filled in what I could in my fresh template, and even used a fresh notebook to jot down notes, writing in any big events I already saw in my head. Then I tried to find scenes that would bring my characters from one event to the next.

I created the stepping stones my heroine needed, while still providing her arc. Once I felt the story was more or less ready, since I already knew what needed to happen with each scene, I began writing. 

That process hasn’t failed me since. 


Coming up, I’ll explain the time it takes to go from plotting to The End … for now, the editing to published as well, and give you some insights on how that has changed since Just Breathe.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Q&A With A Wordsmith: On Writerly Evolution

Heya Lovelies,

As a writer taking a rather unique path, I often receive a wide range of questions. So far, I’ve covered some broad personal writerly things like my museinspiration, and process. I’ll continue to shed some light on these questions. With luck, you’ll gain some understanding and insight along the way.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Question:

How did you write your first published novel and what, if anything, has changed since then?

Answer:

My first published novel was approached with equal parts immense trepidation and fierce determination. I knew that I had a story worth telling and I needed to do it right so that I could share it with the world. So I was careful, meticulous with my plot and character development and when I understood that, logically, I was ready to begin writing, I began.

However, rather than delving into my development methodology — which I plan to delve into in the future — I’m going to discuss the tools I implemented in the drafting and editing processes.

First, since I am proficient with a keyboard (hello instant messaging from around the turn of the millennium) and have experience with editing, I worried that I might run into a self-editing spiral if given the opportunity to dwell on my draft, which I had done before. So my solution was to write the draft long-hand.

Yes, you read that right.

I still divided everything into manageable scenes, as I mentioned in last week’s Q&A session but I ended up with about two reams of filled, one-sided loose-leaf paper. At the end of the day’s writing or in between scenes, depending on how the day progressed, I typed them out, leaving the majority of the glaring issues intact for a later date. 

When the draft (and the subsequent emotional outburst of happy exhilaration) was finished, I printed those scenes out, double spaced and invested in about two dozen red pens to hack, slash, refine, and perfect (it was a mess, to say the least). Upon completing that arduous task, I created a new file, compiled the same scenes I printed into one large document, and then I implemented those changes. Though I refrained from printing out the book multiple times, I did create new files with each subsequent pass of editing that came afterwards. 

I didn’t stop that process until I felt confident in the story — that I could replay it in my head as if I was watching a movie and have everything lined up just so. 

It wasn’t until I reached roughly a third of the draft from my second book, that I decided the hand-written-to-typed approach wasn’t necessary. Mostly because it felt more redundant than helpful. I’d somehow broken that dreaded cycle of editing. So I put the blank pages back on the shelf and just typed as fast as my fingers could go. 

That process of writing individual scenes separately never changed, but I still feel comfortable with skipping the pen and paper routine. 

The same holds true with the completed first draft. Rather than printing that beast, I edit the files, saving those versions individually to keep the various drafts intact. That way I can go back to check the evolution if I ever need or want to do so, while at the same time, hopefully preventing the death of a few trees in the process.


Coming up, I’ll share some thoughts about my previous book failures and elaborate on why they landed in my discard pile, so to speak.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Q&A With A Wordsmith: On The Process

Heya Lovelies,

I’m often asked a series of questions that revolve around my muse and how my prose poems and books come into being. So far, I’ve covered the muse that speaks to me and my overall inspiration. I’ll continue, over the course of the next few weeks, to shed some light on them in hopes that you’ll see a little deeper into who I am and all that I do.

If you find that the question of the week stirs your mind, feel free to comment with your own thoughts, or answer it for yourself. If you do the latter, be sure to link back to me so I can see it. 


Question:

What’s the creative process look like when you sit down to write a new story, book, or poem?

Answer:

When I write a poem, I try to hone in on some kind of focus. Be it a topic, a photo, or even a song. Something I can use as a spring board to get me started. When my mind shifts focus and starts forming words, I know I’ve found what I need. From there, I move quickly, dictating on paper or on screen everything that comes to mind. 

Then, once it’s out, I reread it, analyze its structure, edit and adjust. Perfecting it until it’s finished. Bringing out any themes, metaphors, or the like, as much as possible (within reason of course). Sometimes this process takes minutes, sometimes days. When I feel like it’s polished and speaks to my muse accordingly, I know it’s finished.

Fiction is much different. Whether it’s a short story or a full-length novel. I was a pantser before, which means I would make up the story as I went along. Most of the time, however, I would get stuck or lose track of where I wanted to go with the tale as it progressed. Now, I plan and plot. While some things may change as I move along, I know the story and the characters first, and then I write it with far less difficulty. 

Because my mind plays it out like a movie, I consider it my job to translate it into words. To keep my novels from overwhelming me, I divide everything into scenes, with each one as its own, separate document. This way, it feels like every scene is just writing a new short story each time. When the whole book is finished, I create a new file for all the scenes together before beginning the editing process.

No matter what I’m writing, good music is key. Consider it like the musical accompaniment to a movie. The emotions are brought out that much more with the tone of the music. So, if I’m writing something sad, I need sad music. Listening to something that feels like peppy rainbows and sunshine when I want dark and gloomy doesn’t work. 

I find that when I feel the emotional connection, my writing will hopefully convey it with better effect to the reader. For me, at least, it feels more potent than if I’m working in silence or listening to the wrong type of song.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free, ever-growing resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Q&A With A Wordsmith: On Inspiration

Heya Lovelies,

I’m often asked a series of questions that revolve around my muse and how my prose poems and books come into being. Last week, I introduced this series and covered the muse. I’ll continue, over the course of the next several weeks, to shed some light on them in hopes that you’ll see a little deeper into who I am and all that I do.

If you find that the question of the week stirs your mind, feel free to comment with your own thoughts, or answer it for yourself. If you do the latter, be sure to link back to me so I can see it. 


Question:
Where do you find inspiration for all your stories and prose? Is it all based on personal experience?

Answer:

For the most part, when inspiration strikes, I’m often blindsided by it. It could be something (or a combination of somethings) of the following:

A dream that occurred just prior to waking up, like the one that introduced me to Connor from my books. Some dreams, no matter how brief, can almost scream out to you through the darkness in a silent, eerie wail that demands attention. I have found that the key to these infrequent episodes is writing down everything I can remember, with as much detail as possible, upon waking. A dream journal could prove to be quite useful in a writer’s career.

Alternatively, some bit of dialogue, or an interaction that I either experienced or witnessed could prove useful. If it’s the former, I try to catch each relevant detail to that moment as possible. For the latter, I try to replay it in my mind as if I was one of the people involved in it. This is where empathy comes into play — a writer needs to be able to don someone else’s shoes, so to speak, to better grasp the situation.

It could also be something stirred up by music. Have you ever heard a new song and all your focus just shifts to it? Like you just can’t do anything but listen and feel it? Often, when my own past begins to claw at me, and the words just aren’t there to put on paper, music is my next best option to shut it all out. But when my muse is aware and it pricks its metaphysical ears at some new melody or some moving lyrics, I, too, pay attention and let the words come to me.

When it comes to personal experiences, I am often able to draw from them and transplant them into my writing. In some form or another. Overall, however, sometimes my truth could be something as little as an emotion, or enough to fit a whole book.

Most often, though my muse is often taking the form of someone else in my prose, the experience drawn from it is likely mine. Conversely, when it comes to fiction, Stephen King described it as the truth hidden within the lie. That often holds true to my fiction. There’s something of me in those lines, but you, Dear Reader, will either have it smack you upside your head as it says, “Duh”, or you may not notice it lingering in your periphery at all. That is only part of the fun when it comes to weaving a story together.

In other words, my inspiration may come from anywhere at anytime, but it is safe to say, Dear Readers, that to assume any piece is one hundred percent a fabricated lie is furthest from the truth.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Q&A With A Wordsmith: On The Muse

Heya Lovelies,

I’m often asked a series of questions that revolve around my muse and how my prose poems and books come into being. Over the course of the next several weeks, I’m going to shed some light on them in hopes that you’ll see a little deeper into who I am and all that I do.

If you find that the question of the week stirs your mind, feel free to comment with your own thoughts, or answer it for yourself. If you do the latter, be sure to link back to me so I can see it. 


Question:
How does it feel when your muse runs his fingers through your hair, resting his palms bare on your crown?

Answer:

My muse is androgynous, taking on the form of whatever is necessary to fulfill the task. But when it comes out, it’s a rather strange feeling. It’s like my intrusive thoughts cease and words from another mind begin to form in response to some form of stimulation (one or more of the five senses, sometimes including synaesthesia). 

In terms of poetry, I try to ensnare one moment and throw as much authentic feeling (including those senses) into it as I can. 

When I’m writing my fiction, I transcend myself and become whoever it is I’m narrating. As they go about their lives, my goal is to transcribe those events in as much detail as possible.

In doing so, I’m able to breathe. Because it’s both freeing and relaxing. And that’s something I can’t live without.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Earthen Witch, On Writing, Random Thoughts

Why My Books Are Free

Heya Lovelies,

Even after all these years, I’m often asked why I don’t sell my books. Why they’re free.

Let me start out by saying every writer is different. They take a lot of time, countless hours to create their books, and they make their own choices on how they will share their work. And in turn, they may elect to charge a price for them.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I fully support whatever decisions they make, because it’s theirs to make.

But my answer is simple. I write because it helps me. It’s my therapy. I crave the creative process, the ability to unplug from life and become someone new. Marketing and advertising are added stressors that often leave me feeling overwhelmed, so the idea of throwing sales into the mix is, simply, too much.

Have you ever heard the concept of benefits should outweigh the complications? That’s exactly where the scales list in the wrong direction for me, negating the most important aspects of what I do.

My stories help me. Give me hope that my future might one day be better. Why jeopardize that?

On the other hand, readers may feel something similar. The escape for a reader may be therapy for them. And that shouldn’t come with a price tag.

Often, money is something that’s very precious to people, and not a luxury to spend. Especially now with our new post-COVID reality.

I don’t want money to stand in the way of someone’s escape. What use is it off they cannot read them? I want anyone who wants to delve into the world to have that opportunity. I want them to feel that escape, to enter that new world. And not worry how much money is left in their bank account.

Giving my books away is something I chose to do because I hope, maybe, they’ll touch someone like they’ve touched me. And everyone deserves that chance to see it. Feel it. Experience it.

Perhaps one day that will change, I don’t know. But for now, that’s why I do what I do, and will continue to give them away.

Until next time,
Sarah

P. S. If you want to see for yourself what books I have to offer, find your FREE copies at your favorite retailer.

P. P. S. If you are interested in learning more about me, my books, and other various, important topics on a monthly basis, along with access to a free resource library of downloadable content, sign up for my newsletter.

Random Thoughts

The Dreaded Block

“The words may be on a break. But they’ll
be back. They always come back.”
Returning

I’m often asked about writer’s block. What to do? How to overcome it? How long will it last? These are all good questions, but they only really need one answer. Keep writing. Every day.

You may feel uninspired, like nothing you put on paper or type on the screen holds any value, but odds are, there is something there. Don’t delete them or throw them away. And the worst thing you can do is to put the pen away and do nothing.

There’s millions of things you can try to wake up your muse, but even if your mind comes up blank, you should write something. Even if it’s only a journal of what happened during your day.

My first fiction novel, Just Breathe, was based on a dream. Back then, I tended to forget my dreams and move on, but I was fortunate enough to journal the next day, and my mind kept going back to that scene. My focus shifted, and the story began to unfold. So, lovelies, don’t ignore your muse when it stirs, you might miss something incredible.

© Sarah Doughty

In the comments, let me know what you do to overcome creative blocks.

Poetry, Random Thoughts

Pretty Lights

“Don’t put dangerous things under
a pretty light and call them beautiful.”

If fiction is truth disguised in a lie, then poetry is the same, on a much smaller scale. But there should be a line no one crosses. If you don’t have intimate knowledge of something, don’t write about it. Don’t tell lies as truths. And don’t romanticize something dangerous. Ever. Especially if you know little or nothing about it. It’s not only irresponsible, but it’s reckless and could cost lives. Be careful what you put out into the world. You never know what your words will do to someone.

© Sarah Doughty
2018

Self-harm might be better than suicide,
but it’s still incredibly dangerous
and needs to be treated
by a licensed professional.

Poetry, Random Thoughts, Updates

Two In Twenty-Four

It’s been so long since the pandemic started raging through countries and cities. It’s spilled into every corner of the globe with no end in sight. And here I am, where I’ve always been. Except this is different. I’m not the only one in isolation. I’m not the only one that feels stuck with no hope of escape. I’m not okay. You’re probably not, either. And that is okay.

It’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to feel sad. Or scared. Or anything else. It’s okay to feel. Twice today, I was reminded of this fact. Despite my social distancing online — which again, I apologize for, people are still taking time to reach out and tell me how much my words have helped them. Different ways of helping, but helping nonetheless. I’d almost forgotten what something like that feels like, and I realized that we all probably need it, in some form or other, as well.

So, if you’re reading this and something has been on your mind, or you’ve thought about something someone is doing that you appreciate, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell them. Tell them how they’ve impacted your life. Even if it was only for a few seconds. Even if it feels inconsequential, it should be shared.

I, for one, cannot thank each and every one of you enough for being here despite my silence. Knowing you’re there waiting for me gives me hope to keep fighting through whatever this is I’ve been experiencing in different degrees of severity for nearly a year.

© Sarah Doughty

I’m still here
and so are you.
There’s hope left
for all of us.

Poetry, Random Thoughts, Updates

The State Of Things

“Here’s the thing: I’m not okay.
I haven’t been for some time.”

Here’s the thing: I’m not okay. I haven’t been for some time. And it seems that it’s only been getting worse as the days go by. I am at a loss for what I should do. Let me restate that. I know what I should be doing, but I cannot seem to force myself to do it. Instead, I’m seeking reprieve from life in something I never thought I’d enjoy instead of writing out my thoughts and really doing the thing that has always helped me — write. Yet here I am. Not writing. Well, I’m writing this little update, it’s been years since I’ve written fiction with any substantial amount of time. And I honestly don’t know if or when I’ll be able to snap out of this funk and just do it.

So that’s where I am. Don’t give up on me yet. I haven’t admitted defeat.

© Sarah Doughty

I don’t think I ever will.