Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

The Rules Of Writing And Why I Break Them

Today’s Brew:  Cherry Chip Swirl.  It’s every bit as good as it sounds.  ‘Cuse me while I go make my third cup.  OK, I’m back.

by Kristen

You were always my late adapter.  I couldn’t tell you what to do, so I just let you do your own thing.  And you always got everything done, it looked great, and you’d sell a ton of stuff.

—Dora, my old boss at Piercing Pagoda and one of my very best friends

Wow, you both work so differently from each other.

—Julie, when I had her assist me on a job that another makeup artist worked as well

It’s no surprise I march to the beat of my own drummer. I read magazines from back to front.  When I did the art portion of my makeup classes, my brain wouldn’t let me do things the way the teacher showed us.  I had to do it differently.  That’s when I realized it was art, and there were no rules to creativity.

YOU MUST WRITE EVERYDAY!  LET’S SPRINT!  TWEET OUT LINES! WRITE CRAP!  JUST GET WORDS DOWN!  

I won’t lie, I tried to do all these things.  But they gave me anxiety attacks.  It just isn’t how I work.

Some days, life just gets in the way.  Sure, I know, I should be treating writing like a job.  And I couldn’t call in to my paying job and say, “Oh, sorry. I can’t come today because the house is dirty.”  But I will clean my house before I write, because the mess will distract me to the point I won’t write anyway.  And speaking of that day job thing, sometimes I put it super long hours and all my brain can do is take a shower and go to bed at the end of the day.  Other times,  I need to do other creative things to inspire me to write. As I’ve mentioned before, I love decorating my house.  I just glittered all my switch plates. They make me smile.  I need to get out of the house and experience things.  All of this helps my writing.

Julie loves sprinting.  It helps motivate her.  Sometimes I participate, but I don’t kill myself if I’m not feeling it in that half hour time slot.  Even before we were the Twitter side show we’ve become, Julie would just tell me to “Go!”  And I’d panic.  I can’t write like that.  I have to think about it, know where I am going.  Because The Night had a solid plan.  I even wrote some of it out of order.  Night Moves is being sort of pantsed.  Way out of character for me.  I need to think about what happens next, then write it.  I have to have some control.

My writing is more conversational.  I write like I talk, as if I was telling a story.  Julie comes up with these great word combinations and works with those.  They work great as tweets.  Mine, not so much.  It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it’s just a different way of getting to the same place.  I love Julie, and she’s an amazing writer, but I don’t want to write like her.  I want Julie to write like Julie and Kristen to write like Kristen.

When I start each of my writing sessions, I read over what I wrote last time.  I tweak as I go, I know, another big writing no no.  But it helps me get geared up for the flow of the next piece.  I can’t write for the sake of writing, words that might not make sense.  Sure, sometimes I don’t exactly know where I’m going and my characters surprise me.  For as much of a control freak as I am, I do let them take control.  It is their story.  But I like to have some hints about what will happen next.  Editing as I go helps me have a more complete piece even at the end of the first draft.  I know that this first draft won’t be perfect, but it’s not going to be a steaming pile of cow patty, either.  I fix plot holes as I go and add and subtract as I work.  When I do go back and read for consistency and to reconnect with the earlier parts of the book, I feel pretty good about it. And that keeps me writing.

All of that being said, I do write most days.  But I don’t beat myself up when I can’t.  I keep notebooks everywhere and voice text myself ideas while I drive.  When I do write, I can write fairly quickly and get a lot of words down in a sitting.  Yesterday I clocked in at about 2500 in two small sessions.   I do my best to treat it like a job.  With every job, there comes a time of the day you put it down and live the other parts of your life.

Once I became active on Twitter, I saw how different my process was than a lot of other people’s processes.  At first it made me feel like I was doing it wrong.  But it’s art, a creative process, and whatever way is best for you is the way you should be creative.  I can’t be the only one who has a different way of doing things.  Creatives don’t like to follow rules.  So if you are doing your own thing, keep doing it.  Just keep getting the words down.

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10 thoughts on “The Rules Of Writing And Why I Break Them

  1. Kristen, my writing process is identical to yours! I edit as I write. I’m constantly reading what i’ve written, and if it doesn’t sound right or give the effect i’m after, I change it there and then. I guess that’s why my output isn’t so great when it comes to volume, but the quality is there, and i’m happy with what I write.

  2. Yay! Sometimes it’s hard not to do what everyone else is doing, but if it doesn’t work for you, it’s useless. It’s great that all of these things work for some people, but I know that there’s got to be other people out there who can’t work that way. It’s not wrong. Nothing’s wrong. It’s a story, and it belongs to you.

    Kristen

  3. It is hard sometimes, and I wish I could sprint and do all of these clubs and challenges and stuff, but it’s not how my mind works. I’m wired up differently and a lot of things that most people like, I simply detest! I’m just a guy who does his own thing and at a pace that’s right for me. Sometimes I have a frantic burst and can write lots, but most of the time it’s a few paragraphs here or a couple of sentences there. I recently had a complete block for 2 weeks, then I came out of it, wrote an awesome story for an upcoming anthology and then in a single morning wrote a nasty short story in honour of James Roy Daley, who thought it was great. It’s being published in July in James Ward Kirk’s Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology, which is awesome!
    We do it our own way, and we’ll keep on doing it, Kristen! Yay for us!

  4. Jillian on said:

    I do everything out of order. I’m new to this gig but my drafts are full of notes and errant thoughts… I’ll get there someday, but for now I just HAD to get them in there.

    Keep doing what you’re doing you fantastic lady, you. 🙂

    • Get the thoughts down on paper. That’s the most important thing. If you don’t write them down, you’ll lose them. I think that’s the only constant for everyone. You’ll work through it your own way.

      K

  5. Yes, yes and more yes. I love that you write differently than other people, and especially me. I think when we’re together we both take a weird pride in what we do because it is exactly that…what we do. It’s ours. And creativity is nothing if not ownership of what you do. I’m proud of you for standing up to me, too and telling me to shut up when I tell you to write.

    Keep in mind, I will be writing at your house, and will Sheen as see fit.

    –Jules

  6. I’m always working on my stories mentally, if not physically. Life does get in the way of physical writing, but you can always plot and scheme.

  7. I like editing while I write, but I think that sometimes it provides a false comfort. For me, at least. I feel productive but at the end of the day I have negative seventeen words when I should have advanced seventeen pages. But I haven’t really figured it out yet – I’m just starting. I have noticed that, whenever I set myself a word count goal, I’m 1,000 words short. Which sucked when I was trying to write 1,000 words a day, but it’s still only 1,000 words short when I shoot for 5,000. So that’s definitely a strategy/shortcoming I keep in mind when I try to work.

  8. I don’t beat myself up too badly over number goals. I figure it’s quality of work over quantity. Sure, you could jam 1000 more words in for the day, but you’d probably have to edit them out because they’d just be fluff. I keep an eye on my word count, but it’s not the end all be all for me. If I’ve got a solid day or work done, whether I’m adding or subtracting, it’s getting me closer to the goal of completion.

    Kristen

  9. I can’t sprint for my life! That’s simply not my writing style. I also do everything “the experts” warn not to do – including editing as I go. It works for me, and by the time I get a full draft cranked out, it’s in decent shape, not by any means ready for prime time, but something I can work with. I procrastinate and need to earn my writing time by taking care of every little chore that may draw my weak little attention span away from the keyboard first. Good for you for finding your path. That’s what matters.

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