Writers–Embrace the Weirdness

Just turned in We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. It is going through the final edit before production, and I am fried. It is a really good feeling to, not only finish something, but to finish something you are proud to call your own. So what now? On to the next book.

I have two non-fiction books in mind to write. That won’t be for a while. I miss working on my fiction. Need something else to wrap my mind around. My goal is to pitch my novel this February at the DFW Writers Conference where I will be teaching. I figure I‘ve edited enough authors and gotten enough other people published, it is time to do it myself.

But, I am finished with the social media book and that’s good. Been resting. Also been reading fiction. I haven’t done that for a long time now. I feel that the best writers are insatiable readers. We love stories, crave them. Writers must study. There is no way around it. We must read and read voraciously because the more stories we are exposed to the better we get at our craft.

I study everything. I watch movies over and over looking for plot arc, character arc, pacing, setting, symbols, and Jungian archetypes. I write in all my books, use sticky notes, and highlight. I break plots apart and put them back together. If a movie or a book sucks, I see if I can figure out why it sucked and if I could fix it. I eavesdrop when I’m shopping or at restaurants for dialogue. I study people’s body language and make notes. There are no random events in my life. I have stories swirling through my gray matter at all times.

Last week I found a driver’s license in a parking lot. Instead of bringing it to customer service, I decided to put it in a nice card and mail it so it didn’t wind up in the wrong hands. Then I thought, What if a Good Samaritan mailed back a driver’s license, and, out of habit, put a return address? And what if the person who lost the driver’s license then decided to hunt the Good Samaritan down and kill her?  Don’t ask me why I think these things. I can’t help it. And I have no idea if that would even make a good story, but it had me occupied the entire time I was grocery shopping.

Why would he want to kill her? Serial killer? She is blonde. They always kill blondes.

Who is she? Hmmm. Kindergarten teacher. Pollyanna personality. Naïve. Believes the best in everyone, which is why she used her Nature Conservatory sticky address label when she mailed his DL in a cute kitten card. Okay, well, at the end she will have to blow him away with a shotgun. Cool. Now she can do a REAL good deed. This guy has been killing young women for years and now he’s a red mist. Double cool.

Saran Wrap. Make sure you pick up more Saran Wrap and paper towels, you have a coupon. Okay, back to the shotgun.

Yeah. We aren’t normal. Suffice to say that I hear a lot of writers bemoaning that they can’t have five hours a day to just sit and create. That does stink. I love it now that I write full-time. Best job in the world. But the weird truth is that I have always been a writer full-time, and believe it or not, so are you. Writers study everything. We are sensitive to every detail, emotion, and event. We see the world through eyes the rest of the world doesn’t comprehend…which is why we never truly fit in.

Writing is more than word count, although you do have to sit your butt in a chair and get it done. Crappy writers never run out of drivel to put on a page. The great writers are always working even beyond the desk chair. They read, watch movies, eavesdrop and their minds are only gently tethered to this plane.

So don’t feel guilty for reading or sitting and enjoying a movie. When you read articles, pick out what might make a good plot or a scene. I happened to watch a documentary on the Devil’s Bible. I had a writer at WWBC who was able to use that information because I thought it would be neat in a story. Don’t bemoan the time stuck in traffic. Slow down. Breathe and study what other people are doing while they wait. What do they look like? What is their story? Exercise those story muscles so when you finally do get time at the keyboard, you are stronger and stronger and stronger. Embrace the weirdness. It’s what will make you a great writer. Normal makes boring fiction.

So we have all admitted we are not normal. What are some ways you guys work your creative muscles when you aren’t at the computer? How weird are you?

Happy writing. Until next time….

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  1. #1 by roughdraftwriter on June 25, 2010 - 11:49 pm

    Congrats on being finished!!!! I need to develop the habit of actually writing down those randomly inspired moments when my mind is only “gently tethered to this plane” (great turn of phrase there). I’m trying to carry around a small notebook to jot down anything remotely creative as a way of keeping the creative juices flowing – and you never know when a random idea may come in handy! With my sieve-like memory, a notebook will be KEY.

    -Corey

    • #2 by Kristen Lamb on June 25, 2010 - 11:56 pm

      Thanks! Great to know your name, Corey,😀. I have a recorder on my Blackberry that I use because I NEVER have a pen.

  2. #3 by Myne Whitman on June 26, 2010 - 12:18 am

    I have been on your blog for almost an hour. For a self published author, this is a great resource.

    Congrats on finishing your non-fiction and good luck with the novel.

  3. #4 by Ashley on June 26, 2010 - 12:25 am

    I actually wrote about how weird I am this morning. I am constantly dreaming up alternative realities and thinking about them as I go for a walk or shower or lay in bed trying to fall asleep or while I’m at work. I’ll do online research to support these alternative realities. I’ll go online shopping for my characters. I have been known to even create a blog for one of my characters!

    I just never live in this world.

  4. #5 by Jamie D. on June 26, 2010 - 2:20 am

    One of my favorite phrases is, “There’s probably a story in that.” Ideas are everywhere…and when I’m doing chores or mundane tasks, I’m usually thinking about one of my WIPs, and what I can throw at my characters next.

    So…you’re telling me not everyone discusses whether or not it would hurt to get your throat cut, or how much blood would come of a black bear attack with their spouse?

    That’s weird.😉

    • #6 by Kristen Lamb on June 26, 2010 - 2:39 am

      Now it seems so much clearer why writers hang out with writers, LOL.

  5. #7 by Jenni Holbrook-Talty on June 26, 2010 - 2:56 am

    I’M NORMAL. Just saying…

    • #8 by Kristen Lamb on June 26, 2010 - 12:47 pm

      Yeah…*backs away slowly.*

  6. #9 by Karennina on June 27, 2010 - 3:07 am

    Congrats on finishing your book!

    At first glance, I thought the kindergarten teacher’s name was Sarah Wrap. LOL

    Great point about watching movies and studying them for plot. I saw Toy Story 3 this week. It’s an awesome example of escalating conflict/stakes/tension. I don’t want to put spoilers, but if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.🙂

    • #10 by Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2010 - 12:36 pm

      Children’s movies are some of the best to watch and study plot. They almost always employ mythic structure. I actually recommended someone watch G-Force (movie with the Guinea Pigs as spies) for help on their antagonist (this person writes historicals). But this kid’s movie did an excellent job and the antag was very well done. Worth studying. Bob Mayer also turned me on to watching series and looking for the arc in individual episodes, and then over the span of the series. Talk about working your writer muscles! Thanks, Karennina for taking the time to comment,😀.

  7. #11 by Jason on June 30, 2010 - 3:50 pm

    I am ruined! After Warrior Writer, now when I get a cool idea, it sucks.

    Like the other day, I saw a show on wormholes and came up with a creeepy psuedo-sci-fi story, but after the initial thought passed my mind, I started thinking: What’s the inciting event? Who’s the antagonist? (Original idea had no antagonist or protagonist) Where’s the conflict?

    After thinking all those thoughts, I freaking just threw my hands up. Wtf? I mean, now I can’t just have a cool idea, I have to hack the crap out of it before it’s even out of diapers.

    • #12 by Kristen Lamb on June 30, 2010 - 4:02 pm

      No…you can have a cool idea, but it is just the BACKDROP for the core story. Those core stories are generally timeless. That is why Shakespeare will always be relevant. Just start thinking of the characters first and then lay them OVER the cool idea. You’ll get there Jason, I have no dount,😉.

  8. #13 by Amanda on January 11, 2012 - 12:23 am

    I guess I should mention that I’m not ‘normal’ & that life set me up early to not want to be either. I’ve gotten so used to considering myself not with that crowd that I consider the ‘normal’ people boring. Cuz to me they are vanilla. Vanilla’s fine for ice cream (used to be my favorite flavour!) But once you stop and think about how many beauty products come in vanilla you’ll start to see how boring it is too.
    Although to be fair I totally though I was the only one to create entire tangents (stories) out of nowhere because I heard a strange noise while I was in the shower! But my though childhood is why I’m sitting on a gold mine now. But not in the way you’d think…

  9. #14 by submeg on October 4, 2012 - 5:24 am

    I am always thinking ideas, I can’t help it! They pop into my head when I’m driving, eating, sleeping, working. I can’t turn it off! Need a scribe to write them all down for me I think.

    • #15 by submeg on October 4, 2012 - 5:26 am

      and of course, when listening to music! This gives me the most motivation and I find myself flying through different landscapes, periods of time, where I turn into an apple, then a bird, then a pile of toxic ooze. Weird? Definitely!

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