Style

When I was in college, I met this guy at a party.  We talked for maybe two minutes because everything he said translated in my mind to, “Hi, I’m a jerk. You don’t want to know me. I am physically repelling you with my voice right now.”

It happens.

Anyway, in those two minutes, we ended up talking about writing styles.  Specifically, we talked about JK Rowling’s writing style.

I don’t remember how Harry Potter came up, but considering it’s me, it’s not very surprising.  I’ve mentioned how the Harry Potter books got me through some of the hardest parts of my life. https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/i-believe-in-dragons/

It was JK Rowling and her style that inspired me to begin writing my own stories.  Granted, back then it was just for fun.  I had absolutely no intention or inclination to consider becoming a writer full time, or even part time.  It was just something I did for me.  The guy that I met that night at the party, however, apparently had had it in his head for a while that he was destined to become the next Tolstoy or something.  Let me tell you, he had an ego on him the size of… well… Texas.  I was going to say Hogwarts, but Texas is way bigger than Hogwarts.

Anyway, the moment I mentioned Harry Potter, this guy goes all out, trashing JK Rowling and her horrible, juvenile, dialogue-based writing.  I was appalled.  For one thing, it was the first time I’d ever heard someone say anything even remotely negative about Queen Rowling.  For another, I love the way that JK Rowling writes!  It was so personable to me, so easy and fun to read, so truly and uniquely in her own voice.  I much prefer reading books with narrators who speak to their readers like old friends rather than narrators who are aloof and above it all, which that guy at the party definitely was.

It’s weird to think that a two-minute conversation I had with some jerk at a party would stay with me for eight years, but that conversation is wildly relevant to my life as a writer now, mostly because I want to be everything that he trashed that night.  I want to write like I’m friends with my readers.  I want them to read my stories and feel like it’s a real person telling them.  I want my characters to have lives personalities of their own and I want their dialogue to reflect it.

I love writing dialogue.  It’s my favorite thing to write.  I’m very mediocre when it comes to action and descriptions, but dialogue is my thing.  And you know, when it comes to writing, there is no right or wrong.  There is no such thing as too much dialogue or not enough dialogue.  It fully depends on the author’s intention for the story.  I’ve read and enjoyed books that are almost all dialogue and I’ve read and enjoyed books that have very little.  Not every book is meant to be written a certain way.  In fact, if they were, reading would be terribly, terribly boring.  I love that every author of every book I’ve ever read has their own style that makes them 100% unique.

As for me?  I know I tend to hover around the more dialogue-based narrative.  I love characters.  Even when I was little, I had four or five imaginary friends running around inside my head at once.  It’s really no wonder I became a writer.

That all being said, I hope you all have a fantastic Wednesday!  This week is going so slowly for me.  Is it for anyone else?  It’s probably because my sister is coming home this weekend and we’re going to see Ed Sheeran and I’m dying to see her.  I also have a very good friend taking some pretty intimidating exams at the end of the week and I keep wanting them to be over for him.  Hurry up, weekend!  We’re all ready for you!

Answers Part I: Writing

Hi, everyone!  

Thanks to all who commented on my blog post and left me questions!  Today (and probably tomorrow since there are a lot), I’m going to answer them!  I’ve broken the questions down into two different categories, Writing and Publishing.  Basically, two of my favorite things!  I think I’ll answer writing today and publishing tomorrow.  So, without further ado, here we go! 

Writing

Do you get mired in details during the writing process?

Yes and no.  A lot of writers talk about how the first draft of your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect, and it won’t be.  If something isn’t right, you can go back and fix it later.  The important thing is to keep writing through to the very end and not to let minor details stop you from moving forward.  I struggle with this.  If I’m not completely 100% happy with something, I will dwell on it and stick with it until I fix it, and I do think that tends to hold me back a bit when I’m working on a new project.  It’s something I’m trying to work on, but it also might just be a part of my own personal technique.    

What inspires you?

Everything.  Music, books, other movies, places, people I love, pets I love.  Cemetery Tours was inspired first of all, by the sudden loss of someone I loved very dearly.  I needed to reassure myself that they were still close to me, so I decided to write a ghost story.  I’d always loved ghost stories and been fascinated by the idea of an afterlife, but I’d never felt compelled to write one until after he died.  I was also inspired by my love for old cemeteries, the television show Ghost Adventures, and a bridal barn where I once photographed a wedding.  I would list out all the inspiration for my current projects, but I don’t want to give too much away!  I can say they involve William Wordsworth, Doctor Who, and the San Antonio River Walk.  

Once I’ve got an idea for a story in my head, I do two things.  First, I make an iTunes playlist that serves as my writing soundtrack.  

Once I release a little more information about the sequel, I’ll post its soundtrack.  You can find my soundtrack to Cemetery Tours here: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/soundtrack/ 

After the soundtrack is finished, I head over to Pinterest and make an Inspiration board.  Several of these are secret and will stay that way until the books are finished.  However, you can find both my Cemetery Tours inspiration board and the Sequel teaser board on my site: http://www.pinterest.com/jackiesmith114/  

Is outlining really important or is there really a “right” way?

Confession: I’m a terrible outliner.  I prefer to do what I call a “brain-spill.”  I open up a blank word document and just type.  I don’t bother with things like punctuation or spelling or chronology or anything of the sort.  I just type until every idea surrounding a story is in writing for me to see.  I can always go back and organize it later.  I spill out characters, their relationships, their backgrounds, what’s going to happen to them, the world they live in, what’s going to happen.  To be honest, I don’t always know what’s going to happen or how a book is going to play out.  One of the projects I’m working on now is still surprising me and I love it!  That’s the problem I have with outlining.  You can plan ahead to an extent, but the truth is, you never really know where your story is going to take you.  In the sequel, one of my characters ended up in the hospital, and I never intended that to happen!  It just does.  As a writer, you have to acknowledge that you’re never fully in control.  It’s a weird thought, but sometimes the book is going to play out the way it wants to and you just sort of go with it.  Usually, it works out for the better.  I do try occasionally to plot out chapters, but they almost always end up changing.  Truthfully, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “right” way to write.  Just like every book, every writer is different and what works for one person will not work for another.  I’m sure there are writers out there who would absolutely cringe at the way I do things.  In writing, do what works best for you!  

Does the 3-act structure have to be as blasted complicated as some authorities make it?

Again, answering honestly, I didn’t give the 3-act structure even a fraction of a thought.  When I write, I don’t think about what I’m “supposed” to do as a writer.  I just write out what I think will make a fun and interesting story.  I don’t remember where I heard this, but I read or heard somewhere, “Write the story you want to read.”  That’s what I try to do. I basically write stories for myself and hope and pray that others like them too.  I’m not a big fan of rules or structure, especially when it comes to something as personal and unique as writing your own story.  And if those authorities want to tell me I’m wrong, well, I have a Master’s Degree in Humanities, so surely there has to be some merit to the way I do things.   

What are your thoughts during the writing process?  

Oh, thoughts.  So many thoughts.  Usually, it goes something like this…

Hey, that’s a neat idea.  I should write a book about that.  But you have so many other projects already.  Oh, that’s okay, I can handle it.  Who should the hot guy in my story be?  You know there doesn’t have to be a hot guy.  Oh please, I’m a girl.  Of course there has to be a hot guy.  I hope no one else has written a story like this before.  What should the title be?  You can think of a decent title later.  Oh, but I like knowing the title.  You’re going to change your mind a million times.  Why don’t you get the story written and then think of a title?  Okay, fine.  What should my characters names be?  I suck at thinking up good names.  Those will probably change a million times too.  Alright, I’m going to write the first sentence.  I can’t think of a first sentence.  Writing a first sentence is the hardest thing ever.  Why can’t I just be brilliant like JK Rowling?  I’m going to check Facebook.  Okay, back to that first sentence.  I bet if I could just write one thing, the rest of the book would flow like that.  What if I end up hating my characters?  What if everyone thinks this is the worst book ever?  What if this becomes the next Percy Jackson series?  That would be so cool!  I wonder if people will write fanfiction about my characters?  They won’t unless you actually write the damn book.  Oh, I have plenty of time to write.  Not if you want to be a New York Times bestseller by the time you’re 30.  I don’t want to be 30…

Yeah, that’s basically how it goes.  Sadly, I’m not trying to be funny with this.  Maybe I am a little, but there is not a whole lot of deep stuff that goes on when I’m trying to write.  I’m probably the most neurotic person alive and my writing style and technique reflects that.  However, if there’s one thing I know when I begin a manuscript, it’s that I’m going to finish it.  I like to think I’m a follow-througher.  I hate beginning things and not finishing them.  I’m not sure if that has to do with my control issues or the fact that I like to do what I say I’m going to do, but I will do everything in my power to see that manuscript through to the end.  It might take years.  The idea for Cemetery Tours was conceived in November 2010 and I wasn’t fully satisfied with it until 2013.  I started writing it at least 4 or 5 different times before I was finally convinced yeah, this is the story I want to write.  This is the direction it needs to go.  Writing is hard.  Anyone who thinks you’ve chosen an easy path by dedicating yourself to writing is wrong.  You might have to try several different methods or pathways before you figure out what your story needs to be, but when it’s right, I promise you’ll know it.  I remember the exact moment I realized exactly what Cemetery Tours needed and I had the first chapter written that night.  It’s all a journey, but it’s always interesting, and that’s what I really love about it.  I don’t do well with stagnancy.  I need things to be constantly changing and evolving and moving forward.  Writing gives me all of that and more.  I’m never in the same place twice.  I’m free.

Thank you all for your questions and stay tuned tomorrow for Answers Part II: Publishing. 

See you then!