Writing Rituals

If anyone had asked me if I had any writing rituals, I would have answered with a resounding NO. I would have been lying.

As I was reflecting on how I started on Up Pops the Devil , I realized that at some point early in the process, I pulled out Donald Maas’ Writing the Breakout Novel and gave it a review. Then I realized I do this with EVERY book!

As one would expect, the book is BIG on conflct. One of the things Mass talks about is  "inherent conflict." The best examples I can give of this are the growing numbers of books set in churches, or what I call, "church fiction." Placing characters with severe moral problems and hypocrisies in a church immediately heightens the conflict. It’s one thing to have adultery, fornication, lying and deceit going on, but it’s taken to a whole other level when it’s going on among folks in a church because church is not the place you would expect to find such activity. Or most people wouldn’t. The same could be said for the "urban lit" phenomenon. If your story takes place on violent streets or in violent neighborhods, you’ve heightened its conflict. With "inherent conflict" you add to the tension of your story because of the setting you choose. John Grisham did it with his mob lawyers in The Firm.

You can do this in Christian fiction by putting your Christian characters in situations that are or seem to be at odds with their faith. In Up Pops the Devil, my protagonist, Preacher, has a jailhouse conversion. Right off the back, you begin to wonder if it’s real.

Another thing that Maas discusses is "advanced characters," or something like that. Here he talks about having characters take on multiple roles to enhance conflict. For example, the antagonist and protagonist are related or have some shared history. Or the hero and heroine come from fueding families.

I used this one a lot in Up Pops the Devil . The story is about Preacher, his sister, his fiancee’, one of his old girlfriends and a new friend. It’s one thing to become a Christian and have to deal with friends who aren’t Christians. In that case, you can cut them off. It may be difficult, but you can do it. You can’t exactly cut off your sister or your fiancee’ or doing so is much, more difficult. Because of the difficulty, the conflict/tension is heightened in the story. Then there’s Preacher’s old girlfriend. Well, it’s one thing to have to deal with her, but it’s a whole other thing if she’s married to his Christian mentor. Again, heightened conflict.

Those are just two points from the Maas book. I think it’s good reading for any writer so consider giving it a try.

Now that I’ve told you about my writing ritual, you can tell me about yours. Who’s going first?

9 thoughts on “Writing Rituals

  1. Hey Angela,

    Currently my “writing ritual” consists of a data dump onto the pages 🙂 My writing consists of journaling and the “writing” that I do for work. In both cases I try to get everything out onto the paper before I forget!


  2. Angela,

    I’m only on my second book, but in between I pulled out my craft books again, of course Donald Maas being number one. I also like his teaching about the use of minor characters as not just being sounding boards, but pivotal in helping to drive the action (of course without taking over the story).


  3. Hey Angela,

    I just started reading Writing the Breakout Novel and it’s great. It’s making me examine my characters more and I know the way I think about and approach writing will be better because this book.

    God bless and keep you,


  4. Ros, I’m a bit like you. It’s important for me to get the first draft done. Then I can go back and fix it.

    Rhonda, I find the Maas book an excellent one for new and established writers. The title can be off-putting but it’s really for everyone and helpful with every book.

    Veronica, glad you’re enjoying the book. It really does make you think about what you’re doing and gives some pretty straight-forward ways to improve.

  5. I’m too new to have a ritual but I start by pouring everything in my head about the main characters on to the page. This is background stuff that may never make the book but it might be as much as 10-15 pages each.

  6. Wow! I’m impressed, Patricia. I think that’s a great way to get to know your character. I tend to let mine roll around in my head for a while but I don’t really get to know them until I write the first three chapters. After I do that, I really flesh out a character bio. I guess my characters sorta come to life in those first three chapters.

  7. I’m still new to the writing rituals myself because I’m working on my second WIP. One thing that I did do in the past few months was purchase an Olympus digital voice recorder. This little baby goes everywhere with me. Whenever I have ideas about my characters, possible clues (I’m writing a mystery now) and possible twists, I pull out the recorder and record my ideas.

    Between my recorded thoughts and my chapter outline, when I do sit down to write the scenes flow.

  8. Hi Angela! This is only my first book, but I’m almost embarrassed by something I do, something I’m sure that must seem archaic. Okay, here goes. . . I write (yep, with a pen) my characters’ names and descriptions. Then, I actually take a pad with me and as I think of scenes or descriptions that I don’t want to forget, I write them on a pad. Something about a pen and paper is still very appealing and concrete for me.

  9. The thing about a ritual, Marita, is that it only has to make sense to you! I love that. I’ve learned that you have to do what works for you, regardless of how strange it may seems to others. As long as you aren’t breaking any laws–God’s or man’s. (smile)

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