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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Widdowson

The Indie-Author's Arsenal:The Writing Process

Laptop on desk with peonies in crystal vases

Welcome to “The Indie-Author’s Arsenal: The Writing Process”. This is the third in a series I hope is beneficial to first-time self-publishing authors. I started with “Writing Tools”, and “Templates”, and now I’m moving on to the writing process itself.

The synopsis is written. The outline is done. You’ve chosen a writing application and know how to use it. It’s time to write. Maybe you’ve written a book before and don’t think you need any help. But even if you’re a seasoned veteran, I think you never stop learning. I’ve read many books on writing, but I am nowhere near as good as I want to be.

Even if your writing is going well, there are tools and resources available that can help you write even better, which means less editing later. In my blog “Practice Makes Perfect”, I said I found Stephen King’s book, On Writing, particularly helpful. It’s a fun read. It doesn’t read like a book about how to write, but it has a lot of very useful tips that apply to any genre. 

Maybe one of your characters is scared, but you’ve already used the word afraid in the chapter. You could go to a thesaurus and look up some other words or phrases that mean the same thing. But if you want to really engage the reader, it’s always more effective to show the reader how a character is feeling rather than tell them.

The Emotion Thesaurus, from a series of thesauri written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglissi, might be just what you need. It’s not just a simple thesaurus. It provides suggestions beyond just alternative words. You will find it might recommend you show your character’s fear through trembling, feeling rooted to the spot, or wiping their clammy hands on their clothes. Alternatives are offered under specific categories like Physical Signs and Behaviors, Internal Sensations, and Mental Reactions—ways to show that the character is afraid rather than just saying they’re afraid.

Other books in this Ackerman and Puglissi thesauri series that help you with emotional wording in your novel include The Conflict Thesaurus (Volume 1 and 2), The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, The Negative Trait Thesaurus, and The Positive Trait Thesaurus. It’s not all about wording, however, the authors explore what causes conflict and how these conflicts can shape personalities. In other words, they’re not just books of lists, they have some real meat in them.

There are also two books about settings—The Rural Setting Thesaurus and The Urban Setting Thesaurus—that discuss how to use your setting to help set up conflict. They also provide information about things you would find in these types of locations—different housing, schools, businesses, nature–and how you can use them to evoke specific moods and emotions. They provide not just a list of sights, but also of smells, tastes, textures and sounds that are commonly found in these environments.

Everyone has their own style, but most authors want readers to be so involved in the story that they look up from reading and are surprised when the clock says two hours have passed. They’re that absorbed in the story. You want them to suspend disbelief. To forget that the story is just fiction. The phrase, “suspension of disbelief” was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817. According to Wikipedia, “suspension of disbelief” is the avoidance—often described as willing—of critical thinking and logic in understanding something that is unreal or impossible in reality, such as something in a work of speculative fiction, in order to believe it for the sake of enjoying its narrative.

My goal, as an author, is for readers to be so engrossed in my book that they forget about their ordinary life. I want them to escape from their normal worlds and go on an adventure in mine. To do that, I use all the tools and resources I can. And besides books, there are several YouTube channels that I’ve found especially helpful. One of them is Abbie Emmons. She has a playlist of videos about “How to Write a Novel With the 3 Act Story Structure”.

If you’re a visual learner, check out the Quotidian Writer channel hosted by Diane Callahan. She is mostly a short story and poetry writer, but her videos are informative and beautiful and she has a podcast as well. In fact, there are tons of great podcasts, but I have yet to find a good time to listen to them! If you want to get more educational, check out Brandon Sanderson’s videos of his college course on writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy fiction. He also has lots of other very helpful info on his channel.

Into humor? Check out Jenna Moreci’s channel. But I have to warn you, she holds no punches. She tells it like she sees it, and she doesn’t hold back on the swearing. She’s funny and informative, but I have to admit the background music drives me a little bonkers. Check out her short video on “10 Worst Female Character Pet Peeves”, and see what you think. Maybe the music won’t bother you at all.

Alexa Donne is also a great YouTube channel for writers, and she has a great video called, “The WORST Amateur Writing Mistakes” that I’ve found very useful. I knew most of her tips already, but it’s easy to forget about them when you’re spewing out words. It’s a great idea to go back and look over some of these tips after you’ve finished the first draft and are moving into the editing stage. But the more you can learn to write correctly in the first place, the less editing you’ll have to do later.

Of course, blogs are a great resource, too, and some of the YouTube creators mentioned above also have blogs. One of the most entertaining ones I’ve read is, written by Chuck Wendig. Chuck also touches on things other than writing, but he’s very entertaining. Like Jenna Moreci, he doesn’t hold back on the cussing and ranting, so be forewarned.

I am going to mention one other resource that I use that may upset a few people. It’s ChatGPT, the AI chatbot that answers your questions by scouring the internet and consolidating the information it finds. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, But you’re a writer! Isn’t that sacrilegious, or plagiarism, or something? Not if you use it the way I do. I don’t ask it to write my book for me a chapter at a time, although I guess you could do that. I use to help me brainstorm—as a jumping-off point—taking whatever bits and pieces I find interesting and let them spark my own original ideas. 

If the idea of using AI to help you write feels wrong, don’t do it! These are simply suggestions. Take them or leave them as you like. 

There is no way I can cover every beneficial writing resource I’ve found in a single blog. But these are some of my favorites. I’m sure there are many, many more. And perhaps what I like isn’t your cup of tea. Everyone’s different. Do what works for you.

I share my suggestions with a caveat. If you’re on a roll, don’t stop to check in on these resources. If you’re pouring words out onto the page as quickly as you can think of them, stopping in the middle of your flow is one of the quickest ways to halt your progress. So, don’t do it! Just keep on writing!

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