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Finding Your Creative Process by Melissa St. Hilaire and Scarlett Amaris

Finding your creative process is a crucial step in writing a novel. Writing takes time, energy and lots of concentration. You need to ask yourself if you work better in the morning, afternoon or evening, then you need to get everything outside of writing done for the day so you can sit down to your task without disruption. Maybe you prefer silence or music, but either way, shut out the world, turn off your phone, and forget the internet exists. Allow yourself to daydream, to conjure up new ideas for your characters, but don’t daydream too long, because you’ve got to get some words down on the page.

Maybe you’ll write in chronological order or maybe you’ll write scenes all over the place and need to stitch them together. Either way will work. When Scarlett and I wrote the first Saurimonde book, we sketched out all the major plot points in an outline, then she tackled the first half while I wrote the second half. When we were finished, we traded halves and made whatever changes we felt necessary. However, the second book was quite different. We’d discuss a scene over Skype, Scarlett would pound out a few pages, then send them to me for changes. For the most part we wrote chronologically, but sometimes we’d skip a scene here or there if we weren’t feeling it, then go back to fill it in later. We changed up our process to suit the material. We didn’t hold ourselves to any one way in which to create. There are myriad ways to approach writing a book. Find the one that works for you and the story and go for it, but don’t be afraid of change and don’t worry if the way you chose doesn’t work. Find another way. Find what works specifically for you. I had a friend, a fellow writer, who often worried that I had too much on my plate because I’d be balancing so many different writing projects simultaneously. She often told me I should pick one and stick with it through to the end. I tried her way and found myself becoming less productive, so I went back to my chaotic way of juggling multiple stories and was instantly productive again.

Speaking of juggling, while working on the Saurimonde books, Scarlett and I have also been working on solo projects. She’s been delving more into the esoteric mysteries and mythologies of France, while I’ve been writing a science fiction epic called Xodus. I’ve found that my approach to writing Xodus differs vastly from writing with Scarlett. The Saurimonde stories seemed to reveal themselves to us seamlessly from all the characters’ perspectives. Whereas Xodus seemed to speak to me in huge chunks from different points of view. I wrote the first 50 pages all from one character’s perspective, then hit a wall. I wondered what happened next and found no answers. I grew increasingly impatient with myself. So, I put the book down for awhile, turned my attention to other projects, then returned to it. I reread the first 50 pages and it hit me – I needed to show what the other characters were going through, what they were thinking, and how they were reacting to the events that unfolded. I scribbled more scenes down in my journal, typed them up, and added them where they fit. Finally, Xodus became a whole story, not too one-sided, and then the rest of the plot fell into place like magic. Don’t fight your natural tendencies. Go with the flow.

Inspiration, of course, is also a huge aspect of telling a story. You need to be initially inspired to even want to write a book. However, inspiration is not a constant. You need to be able to write even when the Muse isn’t whispering sweet nothings in your ear. There will always be bad days when the words don’t seem to flow. Don’t let that stop you. Fight through it. Write anything that pops into your mind, even if you think you’ll never use it. Always keep writing. The next day you may reread your words and trash half of what you wrote, but at least you wrote. Better to have words to cut than nothing at all.

Beware of distractions. They may come in all shapes and sizes bearing signs of great importance. There may be a knock at the door from your neighbor who wants you to write an email for him because he knows you’re a writer. He may flatter you with praise. Ignore him. Or tell him you’ll attend to it later. Emails, texts, and phone calls may stream in from friends and family with their drama for the day. While you don’t want to alienate them, you need to set boundaries for yourself. Unless it’s a life or death situation, they can wait. Write first, deal with them later. It’s extremely easy to become distracted as a writer with the blank page glaring at you, teasing you, taunting you, questioning your abilities, and filling you with self doubt. Ignore it all. There will always be something out of the corner of your eye that begs your attention. You may think to yourself, “Oh, I’ll write, but first I need to vacuum, do the dishes, scoop the kitty litter, organize my inbox, rearrange my books, dust my shelves, etc.” Ignore the mess and keep writing. I struggle with this daily and I don’t always win the fight, but I try not to beat myself up over it anymore. Stay positive, focus, and write.

Set goals for your writing, too. One friend once told me he forced himself to write 15 pages per day. Whether it took him 1 hour or 20 hours, he was going to meet that objective no matter what. That can be a lofty aspiration for some, but it worked perfectly for him. Create a goal you’re comfortable with and stick to it as best you can. Maybe you’ll write 8 hours per day, no matter how many pages, or maybe you’ll write 1,000 words per day, no matter how many hours. Experiment. Test out different plans. You don’t want to face each day with dread, so don’t force yourself too much, but you also need to get some writing done, so find a balance that works for you.

Some days when it all gets to be too much, I go out onto my porch with my headphones and write there. I’ll even set a timer on my watch so that I have to stay out there for at least 25 minutes and force myself to write the whole time. But you also have to allow yourself some breaks. Sit for 25 to 30 minutes and, if you’re on a roll, continue, but if you’re struggling, take a 5 to 10 minute break to stretch your legs or grab a snack. Change your scenery. Listen to music. Play a quick video game. Watch a clip from a movie that inspires you. Scroll through artwork that matches the mood of your novel. But set a timer! Don’t fall down a YouTube rabbit hole for 4 hours. Then, after your break, sit back down and write, write, write.

AuthorsPhotoSMScarlett Amaris likes playing devil’s advocate on the dark side of the moon. She spends a large amount of time tracking through ancient ruins and decoding old texts in the Pyrenees. Her more esoteric work can be found at www.shadowtheatre13.com and www.terraumbra13.blogspot.com. She’s also co-written scripts for the infamous horror anthology,The Theatre Bizarre (2011), the  award winning, critically acclaimed documentary The Otherworld (2013)  and the upcoming feature films, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space (director:Richard Stanley),  and Replace (director: Norbert Keil). Saurimonde is her first novel and she’s currently finishing up Saurimonde II before getting started on Demon Priest – The Misadventures of Abbe Sauniere, her next erotic horror endeavor

Melissa St. Hilaire likes to bask in the center of chaos watching supernova explosions. She spends most of her time daydreaming, researching, and scribbling. She wrote film and music reviews for The Heights Inc. Her poetry has appeared in the periodicals Shards, The Outer Fringe, and The Laughing Medusa. She co-authored several scripts for Tone-East Productions. Her debut book, a memoir titled In The Now, was released in 2012. In 2013 she released Saurimonde, a dark fantasy novel, with co-author Scarlett Amaris. After finishing up Saurimonde II, her next projects will include a follow-up to In the Now called Medicated and a sci-fi epic called Xodus.

 

SaurimondeIICoverSMAfter becoming suddenly human again, the tragically lovely Saurimonde, and her handsome consort, Sordel, realize their overwhelming attraction for each other despite the unnatural way in which they met. All goes well until Saurimonde discovers the terrible truth about Sordel’s birth, which causes him to fall prey to his now demonized aunt, the wise-woman Elazki, as circumstances conspire to make Saurimonde believe Sordel has left her for another woman.

With the aid of a not so innocent priest the wise woman spends her nights converting the young women of the village for their own nefarious plans. Will Saurimonde be able to overcome the demons and find Sordel in time to save him from a malefic fate? Or will she succumb to the answering of an ancient rite, a Beltane bacchanal, which promises to leave none of them alive?

 

 

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