Sunday, 27 January 2019

How I usually write a story.

This is my second post about my personal journey in publishing, writing, and marketing.

I decided to write these posts because I get a lot of questions from both writers and readers wondering about my writing process, how I can write (sometimes) four books a year, and where my inspiration comes from.

This post is about how I write stories – my own journey. It does not mean my way, is the right way.

Also, while there are many readers who enjoy reading my stories, I am in no way an expert on writing. I enjoy getting lost in my stories when I write them, to take words and shape them into an imaginary world which only exists in my mind until I put them down on paper, and I hope readers enjoy being in that world I created when they read the story.

Lynette Ferreira: Imaginary Worlds

A bit more backstory on how I began writing:

I was born in 1967 in a small town in South Africa. However, we did not live in this small town. I am my parent’s first born and my mum wanted to be close to her mum when I was born, so we were only visiting. We lived in Durban until I turned about 9.

A year after I was born, my brother was born, and three years later my youngest brother.

When I was little we did not have TV or computer games, and we had to play outside or, when inside, with our toys in our bedrooms. I had a couple of Barbies and I used to transform my whole room into a town, with lots of houses made from cardboard boxes and cushions. I spend hours living in this pretend world.

My mum loved Clint Eastwood and we used to go to the Drive-In whenever a new movie with him in it was released, and when a Disney movie was released, my mum took us to the Matinee to watch it. I remember watching 101 Dalmatians, and Cruela De’Ville scared me so badly I could not sleep for about a week.

Understandably, my brothers clicked and they were always outside playing sports, or Cowboys & Crooks (inspired by all those Clint Eastwood movies, no doubt). So, I grew up rather lonely, always living in my head.

I remember once when I was about 7 years old, every one was outside, and I was running from one end of the garden to the other end twirling like a tornado, dashing here, then there, flailing my arms in the air because I was pretending to be a princess and trying to escape being captured by a dragon. My mum seemed a little concerned about me, and asked me what I was doing but I just shrugged. These stories always stayed in my head. I never shared them with anyone.

Now that I think about it, it's strange I never had an imaginary friend.

Many years later, when I sat down and wrote Recycled Souls, I had no outline, no idea where the story was going to go. I just wrote the story from my heart, and I really, really enjoyed that process. This process continued for the first 9 or 10 books I wrote, until I went on a course teaching me how to plot a story and how important it is to have an outline.

In all honesty, for me personally, this stifled my creative process. Prior to this, I could write a 50,000 word story in three weeks. Now, I struggle to find the motivation to write. (Then again, my struggle to focus could also be due to my little foray with depression).

These days,  my stories start as a small idea, and the story will expand out of that. I get my story ideas from a line in a song, movies when my mind takes me to a plot twist of how the story should have been, or a line from a book I am reading will spark an idea in my head. Most of the time, these stories seep back into the Neverspace from where they came.

When I decide on a story idea, I begin with how I want the story to start and how I want it to end, and then I let it percolate in my mind for a couple of weeks. My mind will start forming cloudy worlds and I’ll have these ‘people’ living in my head, sometimes even while I am writing a completely different story. It will be as if there are two dimensions/worlds (besides reality) in my head.

Lynette Ferreira: Become a Reality

Sometimes, the story in the background will just die, and that means it was never meant to be because when the time comes for me to sit down and put my ideas to paper, I like the story idea to just rush from me like a waterfall cascading over a cliff, unable to contain itself in its need to become real.

After I do the outline of my new story with pen in my notebook, which is always within reach of my hand, I do character descriptions, which helps me when it comes up while I am writing the story (especially when there are loads of characters) and I don’t have to scroll back to see who had blue eyes or, was it green. I figure out all the important info there is to know about a character – eye color, height, birth date, middle name, family members, jobs, any distinguishing marks, etc.

Even when places are only mentioned in one of my stories, I will search it and learn more about it (unless, of course, the story is set where I live or, it is an imaginary place) In Perpetual Midnight (previously called: Changed) the story takes place in Australia. I took a full day to walk through the town where my story is set on Google Maps to get to know it. If I walked home from school, how long would it take me? What is there to do in town? How do I feel walking along the streets? How do I feel when I stand next to the river?

In another new story due this year, called All The Empty Space, I had to research spaceships (although, in the end, I decided not to get too technical) and black holes, and space clouds and how they are formed.

Being an author, you learn so much about things you would never have thought about was it not that you wanted to write the best story you can.

Lynette Ferreira: Knowing many little things about lots of things

I keep all these notes with me, and then I start writing. Sometimes, I have a playlist and other times I prefer it to be quiet.

It’s like when you want a vedgetable garden. You cannot take a few seeds and scatter them on the ground. The ground needs to be prepared, and I think all the years of making up imaginary worlds in my mind, naturally evolved in me becoming a story teller.

I think that’s all I can say on how I write a story or, where my inspiration comes from.

Next time, I look forward to tell you about my typical day.