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Writing Life

Area Author Says Developing Routine Is Essential

For as long as Stephen Kanicki could remember, he wanted to be a writer.

Writing was everything to him.

And it still is.

“I remember when I was 10 years old, I wrote a story about a NASA space mission that went terribly wrong,” he said.

That piece of writing, which he said was a real tragedy, foreshadowed his later work.

“I recall stapling the handwritten pages together in a makeshift binding,” he said of the NASA text. “The next 40 years passed before I wrote anything creative again. Then, one morning, I woke up and said, I think I should be a writer. I don’t know. I think it was just one of those things I felt inside from a very early age and though it lay dormant for many years, it eventually resurfaced.”

For Kanicki, he said he taught himself the discipline that is needed to be a writer. He said his latest novel, a psychological thriller, “The Seven Experiments” is about his character Dr. Gary Miller. Miller is introduced to the world of self-help in the form of seven experiments, and each experiment is designed to focus Miller’s mind, so he can realize his dreams through the power of thought alone: conceive it, believe it, and achieve it.

“It was no small miracle that I was able to teach myself how to write and become a published author in a span of four years. I’ve read accounts of experienced and formally trained writers who spent 12 years or more before landing their first publishing deal. I’ve heard of authors receiving a 100 rejection letters before finally getting a ‘yes’,” he said.

Kanicki added that he was extremely fortunate that he only received six rejection letters.

“I sometimes regret waiting so long before taking it seriously, but then I remember the past 40 years was dedicated to research, and I was simply gathering material to write my novel. There’s no way I could’ve written the ‘Seven Experiments’ when I was 20; not a chance. In a way, the research, all the experiences, both good and bad prepared me as a novelist,” Kanicki said.

The author said his writing routine is simple where he begins with a story idea which is a combination of real-life events and his active imagination. He lets his ideas grow for some weeks or months. During that period he will define the plot, the setting, the characters, and the situations in which they will be placed. He said before writing a single word, he has a feel for where his story is headed.

“Once I start the actual writing, new ideas will form and take root and I’ll add to or delete from as needed,” he added. “A lot of writers want to rush through the process, but I’ve found writing is a lot like cooking. The best flavors come from a slow process that allows time for the chemistry to work its magic and create something truly special. Well, in writing, a slower, more methodical approach allows the story to evolve and meld together in ways it never could when rushed. It’s amazing to see the story evolve over time. New ideas will pop into my mind, and these ideas provide the glue to a finished, cohesive product.”

Kanicki noted his process takes just over a year to complete. He’ll write the rough draft in about six months. The next six months, he said, is when he spends time rewriting and editing.

“The rewrite is when the real work is done. That’s when I take the rough draft and turn it into something somewhat readable. Then, I’ll rewrite the manuscript several more times, editing as I go; adding and deleting, fixing and polishing until I’m satisfied it’s the best story I can tell at the present time,” he added.

When Kanicki is not writing from his home in Ashville, he is teaching Information Systems Technology at the Penn State Beaver Campus, near Pittsburgh, Pa. During the school year, he is busy teaching, but he uses his summers for writing as well. He writes year-round and rarely spends more than an hour a day writing or two hours if he is writing under deadline for his publisher.

“I found an hour is about right for me. It’s manageable within a busy schedule and besides, I get tired-lose my mojo-after about an hour. The key is to write every day. I tell writers to put their butt in the seat and start typing. If I just start typing, whether I want to or not, my muse will show up. She always has. I don’t know what writer’s block is,” he noted.

Kanicki equates writing as being a muscle where the more one works a muscle, the stronger the muscle becomes. He said a writing routine provides the opportunity to exercise one’s writing muscle. He works his muscle in the morning at the kitchen table while sipping his coffee, but, he said, he uses any available time.

“Whatever your routine is, it’s important to overcome the fear inherent in any artistic pursuit. A blank canvas or blank screen can be intimidating and the demons whispering, ‘you’re not good enough. This is too hard,’ don’t help. My advice is to find a routine to shut those demons up and begin your masterpiece,” he said.

In February 2021, Kanicki will release another novel “There are no Saints.” It’s about a demonologist who visits Titusville, Pa., during the oil boom. He said it’s more of a romantic comedy. “Picture ‘You’ve Got Mail’ set in the 1800s; throw in ‘The Exorcist’ and you have the gist of my novel,” he said.

His books are available at online stores including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Google Play and Kobo. For more information go to stephenkanicki.net.

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