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A lot of people talk about being writers but how many of them actually spend a good amount of time flinging words at their computer screens? So I thought to myself,
“Self, should you be brewing coffee at 11PM? And who do you know that is a productive word-slinger? Oh, Lex! And she has a book coming out soon too!”
So I called up one of my favorite writing buddies, Lex Chase (author of the Checkmate series e-books from Dreamspinner Press), to talk about what she does to produce work. What did I learn?
#1) Notebooks Are Our Friend, Not Food. Oh, Wait…
There are so many reasons why we (as writers) should be writing in notebooks. So many. We don’t always have access to our laptops/desktops. Notebooks are easier to carry. You can’t always type up your work on an airplane or while riding in a car. It helps in your editing process. It helps with revision. (Yes, they are two different things.) It could also aid in allowing the story to flow from your fingertips.
“When you’re typing your brain cramps up. You feel paralyzed until you find the very right word. You lose your momentum. When I write by hand, I’m less judgmental of my work.”
It’s scientifically proven that writing by hand will help slow down and manage your thought process. Words come easier. Scenes flow well. It’s a magical process filled with unicorns, bacon, and ninjas that sneak into your office and rain pads of free Post-Its all over your desk. Pure. Magic. …but I digress.
One of the things that I remembered about writing with Lex in Pensacola (I loved our write-ins so much), was that she would hand-write a lot of her work. When I tried to do the same, I couldn’t seem to keep all of the sections straight. My scenes were everywhere and there would be pages of notes in between chapters. Lex’s solution to that?
“I highlight the corner of the page. Each section would be in a different color. It helps me keep track of the sections and it is really satisfying to see shelves full of notebooks with the corners of the pages highlighted in different colors.”
Genius? Yes, I think so.
Fun fact time. Did you know that Neil Gaiman wrote The Ocean at the End of the Lane by hand first before typing it up? The. Whole. Novel. He kept track of his words every day by writing in a different color of pen.
#2) Invest In A Good Notebook
If you know Lex, you know that she loves her Moleskins. They can be pricey but she says that they are worth it because they are durable. The only problem with Moleskin is finding a pen that works. Her suggestion? Inkjoy from Papermate. The ink flows smoothly so even if you’re a fast and messy writer, it’ll keep up with you.
My personal fav? I like Rhodia Writing Pads. They come in different formats (top flip or side flip, soft cover or hard cover), different sizes, and in different colors. If you find them in a store near you, they will probably be in their classic black or orange though. If you want more colors, shop online.
Anyway, I like them because they are reasonably priced and are well-crafted. They don’t look super-fancy which I like too. Whenever I get a nice notebook – I’m talking leather-bound, with the fancy papyrus or whatever – I get stage fright whenever I have to write in it.
But every now and then, I’ll treat myself to a Moleskin because they are pretty awesome little notebooks. Hey, Hemingway wouldn’t steer you wrong.
#3) ”The Writer’s Compass” Is A Godsend
It’s a Writer’s Digest special by Nancy Ellen Dodd. Look it up. Buy it. Read it. Love it. Live it. Lex swears by it. She says the most important lesson that she learned from it was her current planning process.
”The more you plan ahead of time, the less you have to revise. I wrote a ten-page character profile for Hogarth. When I wrote the first one, [the characters] were caricatures and as the stories went on, they gained more depth.”
#4) Dry Erase Boards and Post-It’s Are What Dreams Are Made Of
I’m going to be honest. I’m an office supply junkie. I never leave Staples or Office Depot empty-handed unless my boyfriend is dragging me out, kicking and screaming. When I heard that Lex swears by dry erase boards (as a planning tool), I started to plan my trip to Staples in my mind.
She has a fantastic planning process. It reminded me a lot of “The Board” that screenwriters use to plan out their projects. Each scene is written out on a Post-It and then placed on “The Board.” You can rearrange them. You can crumple them up and throw them at your smelly neighbor. You can stack them. You can pluck them off and put them back.
#5) Action Scenes Are A B*tch To Write
I’ll tell you the truth. When she said this, I felt a sigh of relief leave my lips. I’m glad that I’m not the only one that has trouble with them. As far as action scenes go,
”I always type [action scenes] out and I write love scenes by hand.”
Ideas flow differently when you’re working with different tools. It’s like doing leatherwork. When you change up your tools or change up the angle or slant, they carve different designs.
#6) Love Your Work
It’s much easier to dedicate time to write if you love it. It is evident that Lex loves what she does when you talk to her. The worlds that she creates when she writes are filled with such vivid detail and her characters are just so loved. Her enthusiasm is contagious. I always feel like I need to work on a story after we hang up the phone.
Anyway, it seems as though she always makes time to write because she loves it so much. Writing is one of those professions that you have to enjoy. Why put yourself through the torture of edits, revisions, rejections, and editors ripping things to shreds if you don’t love it? Writing is hard work and you have to put in the time and effort in order to be successful.
If you want to check out some of Lex’s work, you can find it here.
The first book in the series is called Pawn Takes Rook. It’s filled with pop culture references and is amazingly funny. Book 2 of her Checkmate series (Pawn Takes Rook: Cashing In The Reality Check) just came out and book 3 (Pawn Takes Rook: Conventional Love) should be available next year. I don’t know if I can wait that long!
You can also find them at barnesandnoble.com and on Amazon. Happy reading, everyone!