Monday, February 2, 2015

MONDAY MUSINGS—LETTING IT FLOW







The first Wednesday of the month is IWSG. This month mine will be on Monday, instead of Wednesday as I have Holly Jacobs visiting.
Holly’s topic will be on writing category romance. Category writing sounds easy to break into but ask any successful author and they’ll tell you a different truth. Stay tuned for her visit Wednesday and Joanne Kennedy and her cowboys on Friday.




IWSG:

I have great story ideas and a lot fun ideas of what if...?  I’ve played around with different genres to stretch and learn. I’ve also been challenged by writing friends to write in a different genre. The ideas are there. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t even have a problem verbalizing the story outline including characters. But recently, somewhere between orally sharing a couple scenes that have been living in my head as well as the general outline of that story and putting them in words on the page… I run into a problem.

I didn’t used to have this problem. I just told the story. It was like my fingers took dictation from the scenes in my head and I’d surface several hours later thinking, wow, what a ride! It wasn’t ever perfect, but who cared? I was totally involved in the story and having fun.

Most of my life writing has taken place in solitary. No writing buddies or writing conferences just me and the story.  Professionally, I’ve written for radio, newspapers, and magazines and had no problem with editors slashing my copy and no problem coming up with something good in a short period of time to meet a deadline. Meeting other professionals and pitching ideas or marketing a company? No problem.  Then I decided to go back to college. This was only exception to not being around other fiction writers. I had a solid English background (previous college) but needed current credits so I took various writing classes as electives for my English core. Writing has always been fun and easy for me, so why not?

I don’t say this as a pat on my back and oh, look how good I am.  It’s a matter of knowing your strengths and recognizing your weaknesses. Some of this is reflective thinking on what happened.

What changed? 

How did that dam get between my fingers and the scenes in my head and getting it on the paper? How did I lose that flow?

I have a good friend who tends to tell it like it is and doesn’t pull any punches. She’s writing professional and published. We go back a lot of years. She’s seen quite a few of my stories (and has harangued me for not going for publication). We were talking about my problem and I asked for her input. She’s one of those types you don’t ask unless you really want hear truth. What she told me was this.

You’re getting too bogged down with the rules of today’s fiction writing. It stifles you and you’ve lost your relaxed writing zone. The joy of the story. I actually want to strangle you because you aren’t writing how you talk it or like you wrote in story [A or B]. I loved your proposal which had zing and your rich voice was so clearly present. You're pushing too hard to make [your writing] fit into a nice little mold. Let it flow out naturally. I know if you wrote this story the same way you explained it to me, when you weren’t concerned about rules, it would be very powerful.  I think the worst thing you did, for your writing, was entering contests with all these wanna be writers critiquing and judging it.  These people have you writing like you're writing a textbook.

Sia, just tell the story and forget about the rules and making it perfect on the first draft. If you beat yourself up over every sentence you will never get the story out. It makes you stiff. Mistakes in grammar can be fixed later but you can’t fix stiff and boring. I want you to write this story without filters. Write it like you were telling me the story. Show me what you see in your head.

That’s a lot to think about. She made sense and I understand where she’s coming from. God knows, she’s seen a enough of my writing over the years to see the difference. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to turn off my inner critic and connect again with the flow of my characters and my story.

Sure. Got it.  Simple, right? (Cue maniacal laughter).

12 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Loved this post and learning more about you. Have confidence because you are a talented writer. We all go through challenging times with our writing and get through them. I know you will too. And that's great that you have a good friend who can give you good advice to help you through it.

shelly said...

Your friend sounds very wise.

Karen Walker said...

Sia, I, too, went back to college in my 50's and took all the writing courses and had similar issues to you afterwards. One of my favorite writing books is Voice of the Muse by Mark David Gerson. It helped me just allow the story to come through. You are lucky to have such a wise, honest friend.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You learned so much that it inhibited your writing.

A Beer For The Shower said...

Yes, a firm amen to that! Things like "the rules of today’s fiction writing" always make me cringe. I don't know who made these so-called rules, but they should be slapped. Putting rules into writing is like telling Picasso that what he painted was wrong.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good thing I don't need no stinking rules.
Now you know and can start writing freely again!

~Sia McKye~ said...

NATALIE--Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I think we all have a public persona and real time persona. The public is always a blend of both but I'm always careful with what I share.

Yes, she is a good friend and I'm glad I spoke with her because I was getting so frustrated. I just have to figure out how to reconnect and ditch the inner critic. She even suggested set a timer to bypass the critic. Might work. I'm still thinking about it all.

SHELLY--she is. She also knows when to give me a good swift kick too. :-D

KAREN--sounds like a good resource.

DIANE--definitely been inhibited. Sheesh.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I hear ya on this one!

There was a time when my writing was being stifled by the input of too many other writers who wanted to tell me "the rules."

I think I finally snapped out of it when I posted the first 5 pages of The Caged Graves on Write On Con, and several writers gave feedback that said: "You need to get the graves into these first 5, preferably on page 1, or you'll lose your audience."

What?! I KNEW that was wrong! I was writing a mystery, a story I hoped would be suspenseful. Where the heck is the suspense if I put the graves on page 1? They are in the title ... it's not like the reader doesn't know they're coming. Make them wait for it. That's what a mystery is about!

This is when I knew that story-telling was way more important than a bunch of guidelines made up by (well-meaning) people who want to turn a story into a recipe.

Your friend is right. Tell a story that only you can tell.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Beer guys! Yah, that's a good analogy. Yes, we need some rules, but I think she's right. Don't worry about it while you're writing.

ALEX--My mom said, what? You're following rules now? I'm working on writing freely. :-)

DIANNE--too many opinions and consequent suggestions is like having too many cooks in the kitchen to create a dish you've known how to make. Nothing blends because of all those 'cooks'. I'm learning to pick and choose my 'advisors' better.

cleemckenzie said...

Rules? Those are only to be broken, right? Wonder if Picasso had any rules he started with?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think your friend gives perfect advice. Those first drafts just need to get done. Fix 'em later.

Stephen Tremp said...

I'm always stepping back away from my story and characters. Might be three days. maybe two weeks. But you have to do that from time to time.

And thanks for stopping by during the Blitz and saying hello.