Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Crazy thoughts about writing ~ by guest blogger Michelle Stimpson

Bestselling author Michelle Stimpson has penned several works, including Boaz Brown, Divas of Damascus Road, Last Temptation, and her upcoming release, Someone to Watch Over Me. She has also published more than forty short stories through her educational publishing company. Michelle holds an English degree from Jarvis Christian College and master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is a part-time language arts consultant and serves in the Creative Tyme ministry at her home church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. Michelle lives near Dallas with her husband, their two teenage children, and one crazy dog.

Crazy Thoughts about Writing

1. You don’t have to like your first draft. Just write it. You can fix it later.
I have fallen out of love with everything I’ve ever written about 2/3 of the way through the first draft. I take a step back and say, “This is terrible! No one’s going to buy this! I wouldn’t even buy it!”

At that point, I’m always tempted to go back and rewrite, but the truth is: If I stop 2/3 of the way through, I’ll probably never finish. I’ve taken advice from Toni Morrison who says the most delicious part of writing is rewriting. I agree. But you can’t rewrite if you don’t have a write, right?

2. You can skip around a little.
I absolutely abhor writing descriptions. What people wear, how hard the wind was blowing, the décor in a restaurant—all that kind of stuff slows me down. Especially if I have no idea what restaurant or how the restaurant looks.

Sometimes, I just need the main character to get in that restaurant with her hunk of a man so he can so he propose. If I get stuck on the setting, I’ll lose time. What I do when I’m stuck on something this simple is just write “Add Description Later” in red letters in the draft and I get back to it later. No biggie.

3. If you don’t write something in your novel every single day, it’s not the end of the world.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t in writers’ circles before I wrote my first novel. I probably would have felt like a big failure before I ever started, because there was no way I could write every day like other “real” writers claim to do. I had a life!

What I tell aspiring authors is to write something every day (whether it’s a journal, a blog, or whatever), but keep a realistic writing schedule when it comes to longer works. If Tuesday won’t work because your daughter has gymnastics, then just don’t plan to write on Tuesdays. Sure, you could take your laptop to practice, but that time might be better spent doing your weekly grocery shopping while she’s at practice—then you’d free up Thursday to write!

Be realistic about the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, and don’t discourage yourself by having unrealistic expectations. Sandra Cisneros, one of my students’ favorite authors when I taught, said that she only writes on days when she can stay in her pajamas. Granted, she doesn’t publish as often as many other writers, but she’s enjoying life.

4. Sometimes I feel like an outline, sometimes I don’t.
While I do some amount of character research, I sometimes I don’t create an outline until I’m about 1/3 of the way through writing a novel. By that point, everything is all crazy and twisted, and I’m starting to confuse myself (not to mention the fact that my main character has been pregnant with the same baby for two Christmases).

Other times, I create a pretty detailed outline, knowing that things could change at any moment. Vicki Spandel (an educational writing guru) says that writers should think of an outline like a grocery list. You put milk, bread, and cheese on your list because you don’t want to forget those three things. Now, if you get to the store and find cookies on sale, feel free to get the cookies. But don’t come back without the milk, bread, and cheese.

5. Consider self-publishing.
This is a crazy notion, I know, but times are a-changin’. Thankfully, I’ve been published by some great publishers. But before I ever got a contract for my novels, I wrote a number of high-interest stories for high school students. A major New York educational publishing company expressed an interest in the stories, but shortly thereafter, 9-11 happened, and I never heard from the publisher again.

In 2008, I started selling those stories online ( It took a while to get the ball rolling, but it’s a nice ball. A steady ball. I can safely say I’m glad I didn’t sell these short stories to a publisher. Plus, the opportunity to experience publishing from the other side has given me a greater understanding of how the industry works.

Someone to Watch Over Me

Tori Henderson is on the fast track in her marketing career in Houston, but her personal life is slow as molasses and her relationship with God is practically non-existent. So when her beloved Aunt Dottie falls ill, Tori travels back to tiny Bayford to care for her. But when Tori arrives, she's faced with more than she bargained for, including Dottie's struggling local store, a host of bad memories, and a troubled little step-cousin, DeAndre. Worse, the nearest Starbucks is twenty miles away...

Just as Tori is feeling overwhelmed, she re-connects with her old crush, the pastor's son, Jacob, who is every bit as handsome as to remembers. As the church rallies for Aunt Dottie's recovery, Tori realizes that she came to Bayford to give, but she just might receive more than she dreamed was ever possible for her.


PatriciaW said...

Great post, Michelle. I like to say I'm now in my "unlearning" period. Learning not to go by all the rules and "shoulds" I've picked up in the past ten years. Just write.

Kathy Harris said...

Michelle, I related to SO much of what you said! Especially the part about falling in/out of love with a work-in-progress :) Thanks for sharing your inspiration.

Michelle Stimpson said...

So glad you enjoyed the post, ladies!

Elaine Cooper said...

Michelle, thank you for your practical and honest tips! I appreciate authors that are candid and realistic. And "Someone To Watch Over Me" sounds lovely. Blessings!