Sunday, April 13, 2014

Between the Bindings with Krista Walsh

Krista is one of my favorite people.  And I happened on her friendship purely by chance.  I won one of her books over on BookLikes and when she sent it to me, a conversation ensued.  I ended up reading another book of her's as an r2r and loving it.  Plus I've had plenty of conversations with her and she is an amazing person.

I wrote my first stories at 6 years old.  They were ghost stories: one about a deadly kiss, one about a little girl ghost (which at the time I guess didn't scare me?  What was I thinking?), and one about a monster who died because he ate Oreo cookies.  I still have these stories and think they're some of my best work.

If my math is correct (and it's possible it's not.  I'm a writer, not a mathematician), that means I've been writing for almost 22 years.  Plays, novels, short stories, and goodness knows the millions of essays that got me through university.

For all this practice, do you think I feel comfortable giving people advice yet?  Nope!  The reason is that writing is personal.  It's a solitary craft that each person develops differently, finding their own pitfalls and tracks that form their voice and style.

That being said, if my experiences are helpful in any way to those of you just getting started, then fantastic!

So we'll start back at those three short stories that got me started down this roller coaster path.  There's a reason I love them as much as I do, and why I wish I could find that ease again with which I wrote then: I didn't overthink them.  I had an idea and followed it through, in a way that became much more difficult the older I got.  The brain gets in the way, trying to force scenes/plot lines that we want instead of stepping back and allowing the story to tell itself in its own way.

So that's the first piece of my writerly advice.  I do believe in outlines to an extent, but I trust my instincts (and my characters) when I write.  It's a difficult practice, but shutting off the brain and listening to the voice in my head helps tap into the voice of the story, of the characters.  It becomes easier to spot inconsistencies in writing, because it's no longer YOU behind the words, it's the people you're moving around on the board.

When I say it's a difficult practice, I really mean it.  The brain likes to judge and overthink, so ignoring the loud bossy voice to listen to the quieter ones takes time.  I  have 2 tricks that I use to get around this:
  1. The first happens in the brainstorming phase.  This is where I make all my point form notes and usually plan the beginning, the end, and maybe a few scenes in the middle.  I call this my "connect the dots" method.  How I reach those middle points could be completely different than how I originally thought it would happen, but they give me focus points to aim for, keeping my story from going all wiggly.

    During this phase, music is key.  I buy a whole bunch of new tunes, throw on my headphones, and create scenes that go with the songs, pulling ou the emotions and tensions, conflicts and resolutions.  With a soundtrack to go along with the outline, the emotions are closer to the surface and, therefore, easier to describe. 
  2. Don't stop, just write.  NaNoWriMo is a great motivator for this sort of writing, but I've now adopted this method every time I draft.  Never mind the daily word count of the 50k if those cause too much stress - it's more the idea of writing without taking the time to edit.  It does mean a bit of extra work at the end, but I've been surprised more than once by twists my stories have taken.  My characters love to throw things at me out of left field, and nothing makes me happier during the writing process than discovering their secrets.
Even if neither of these methods work for the system you've developed, I'll leave you with one final piece of advice that should apply no matter if you're an outliner, a punster, or somewhere in between.  HAVE FUN!  If you're not enjoying what you're writing, it means you've taken a wrong turn in the plot somewhere along the way.  Love your characters, because they'll get you through those days when you feel you can't squeeze out another word because everything you write is rubbish and you're a failure and will never succeed as a writer, etc.  Your characters will make it worthwhile to come back and get them to the end (can't leave them stuck up a tree, after all.  I've tried.  I'm still haunted by them until the day I can go back to finish what I started).

Happy Writing all!

22 years, huh?  That's about the same amount of time I've been writing too.  And I don't know about anyone else reading this, but I really want to hear about this monster who died eating Oreo cookies.  Something about that has completely caught my attention. :)

Great advice, Krista!!  And I thank you so much for coming by. 

Until next week, y'all... 


Krista Walsh said...

<3 Thank you so much for having me! I'm so glad that you won the giveaway and even happier that a friendship came out of it!

Meghan H said...

Me too!! :) And you are welcome here any time :)