Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Writing Life of Author Vanessa Alexander Johnson

As a writer, I’m often asked various questions about my writing life, i.e., how do I come up with story ideas, where do I get my titles from, are my stories purely fictional or are they based on real life people, do I do character outlines or just write off the cuff, have I ever experienced writer’s block, and many people say they want to write a book and ask where do they start. Well, today, I’m going to try and answer those questions in hopes that they may help reduce the fear that many of these writing quirks for someone who’s contemplating putting pen to paper, or with today’s technologies, fingertips to keyboard.

Many people have frowned, looked at me sideways or backed away from me when I say my characters talk to me. But it’s true for me, as it is for many if not all writers. When a story idea comes to me, the main characters will begin having dialogue in my head. No, I’m not crazy, so don’t call the people at the nut farm yet (LOL) and believe me when I tell you, the characters don’t know anytime about time either. An idea can come to me during the day, but often times they begin their chatter when I’m in bed about to go to sleep, or in the middle of the night if I wake for a bathroom break.

When this has happened at those odd times, I’ve resisted the urge to run to my computer or grab pen and pad, telling myself that I’ll remember it in the morning. Most times, I do remember some of the information, but not exactly as it was transpiring inside my head when the idea was initially sparked.

Where do the ideas from my stories come from, you ask. The answer is it varies. My first novel, Sacrifices In The Name of Love was sparked from a conversation I had with my son while he was in college. The conversation centered around girl groupies waiting for athletes to get their autographs or whatever else the athletes wanted as they left the football field, even from the athletes who didn’t get any playing time, although the sport was changed to basketball in the book instead of football. My second novel, Uncommon Bond that was released on my birthday (07282011) was sparked from an incident similar to the one that Uncommon Bond is based on, although names have been changed and details embellished to make the story more intriguing. My next book, Tempted By Love is purely fictional and is based on two high school sweethearts who split due to an indiscretion, with one keeping a secret and all hell breaking loose at their 30-year class reunion. I love attending my class reunions and I’m always threatening some of my closest high school classmates that I’m going to put them in a book, and so I did..

I’ve ever experienced writer’s block, (Thank God!), but if you do, try doing what I do as I ponder what my next ‘conflict’ in the story will be. I move onto another story as I have many story ideas and incomplete works stored in a file on my computer that I may work on, or I may be inspired to write poetry as my muse might dictate. I don’t force my writing. If you find yourself bored or stuck, back away from the story until you are inspired to get back with this. There aren’t any time restrictions to complete a story unless you place them on yourself.

I don’t do character outlines when I begin to write a story. I write off the cuff and allow the characters to dictate the story, even the conflicts, and this practice hasn’t let me down yet. If I have one pet peeve in writing, it is doing rewrites. I hate doing them but I know they are a vital part of the writing process especially if you want to put your best work out.

When people say they have a story to write and ask where to start, I always say, “Start at the beginning and just write. Don’t worry about things being in the right order or spelling errors. Those things can be corrected later, just write when the must strikes. My first book, When Death Comes a Knockin’ started off as a 7-page article about my journey through the grief process after the loss of my mother and son 33 days apart. I just kept adding to it and the first seven pages were broken up into chapters and thus the end result.

Do I have a regular writing routine? No I don’t, although sometimes I wish I did. I write because I love to, not because I NEED it to sustain my way of life. I write when my writing muse dictates. If only one person ever reads what I write or I’m able to inspire just one person with my writing, I’m okay with that. With my writing I write to Entertain, Inspire and Encourage.

I hope I’ve been able to answer many questions for you or calm whatever fears that holding you back from starting your writing life. The main thing is for YOU believe in YOURSELF and YOUR WRITING.

Thanks for visiting. Have a blessed day.

**One lucky commenter will receive a copy of my latest ebook release, Uncommon Bond.** The winner will be announced on the blog on Sunday night (08072011 at 10 pm. Good Luck!**


Doreen McGettigan said...

I have a routine for writing. One hour in the early morning and 2 hours at night. I always have my notebook at my day job so if I have free time I write. If I get stuck; I blog or play scrabble blast.
It is very nice to meet you:)

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Hi Doreen,
I'm retired now, but I had much more time for writing then...more of a routine than I have now...Great tip about always having pen and notebook handy. Thanks for stopping by.

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Excerpt from my newest release, Uncommon Bond
“Hello,” she returned his greeting and her eyes met his briefly. She hurriedly averted her eyes back to the ground.
Lillie Mae silently prayed her face wasn‟t as flush as it felt. She shuffled her weight from one leg to the other, then folded her arms in front of her as nerves

consumed her entire body. Lillie Mae unfolded her arms and let them dangle at her sides.
“I‟m David, David Johnson.” He extended his hand to her.
Lillie Mae accepted his hand. “I‟m Lillie Mae Woods. Nice to meet you, David.” She giggled inward.
“Are you from around here?” he inquired.
“Yes, right down—” Lillie Mae stopped short as she realized she was about to tell a total stranger where she lived.
David chuckled. “What about you?” she asked. “Yes, all my life,” he responded. Lillie Mae remembered seeing David one or two times previously, but they‟d
never spoken to each other. Suddenly, her mother was standing beside them, her eyes bulged, lips
quivering, and nostrils flared. “I don‟t ever want you having any contact with HIM ever again.” Her mother‟s lips closed and then twisted up into a pout. Her jaw was as hard as steel.
Her mother didn‟t offer any further explanation and Lillie Mae didn‟t dare ask for any, mainly out of fear of further embarrassment.

Lillie Mae was completely thrown off guard by her mother‟s actions. Maybe stunned was a better word to describe what she felt.
Ashamed, Lillie Mae turned and ran back to her house without uttering a word. Her heart raced with each quick step she took, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. She‟d never heard her mother speak with such hostility, for no apparent reason, and to someone she didn‟t even know.
Lillie Mae thought she heard her mother grumble something else, but couldn‟t distinguish if her mother was talking to herself or to David. She wouldn‟t look back.
At this point, it didn‟t matter.
But, upon reflection of the events, maybe it should have mattered. Maybe if I had turned around, I might not be in the situation I am in right now, she regrettably concluded.
Lillie Mae would later learn from David that her mother issued a stern warning to him after she ran off that day. He recalled her saying, “And you stay the hell away from my daughter” before she stomped away. David admitted he only nodded in agreement to her mother because he was as stunned and as speechless as Lillie Mae was by her mother‟s harsh unexpected words.
When Lillie Mae reached her bedroom, she allowed the episode to play over and over in her mind, searching for a clue, something said that would help her
understand what had just transpired. But there weren‟t any clues, any explanations for her mother‟s behavior.
She‟d always thought of her mother as an affectionate, caring individual. Although she stood only five-two and had a sharp, firm tone to her voice, she was loving in nature. Her bark was definitely worst than her bite. Lillie Mae had never witnessed that type of behavior from her mother before. It’s not the first time she’s seen
me in conversations with guys. Maybe she’s just being over protective. Is it because he’s White? But she‟d never heard her parents speak negatively towards people of other races. Lillie Mae was convinced that her heritage could somehow be linked to the White race, mainly because of her light complexioned skin.
It had to be more than that, but what?
Her bizarre bazaar behavior made Lillie Mae more curious about the intriguing, handsome, and suddenly forbidden David.

Jen B. said...

I am always intrigued by the writing process. I have tried to write out the ideas in my head but I never get anywhere. The thing is, I would probably have to plot out the whole book in advance because that is how I do everything. I have never taken the time to try. Thanks for the insight and the giveaway.

Na said...

I don't have a routine for writing but I definitely realize the importance in having one. A writing process that is personalized will really help and guide those thoughts into a great story. Thank you for sharing yours.

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Different strokes, for different strokes, Jen. whatever works for you. Just start writing, the rest will follow. Thanks for stopping by.

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

You're welcome Na. Thanks for your insight and for stopping by. Have a great day.

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Here's the link to the book trailer I created this week for Uncommon Bond:

Hope you enjoy it.