Join me in welcoming Mary Eastham to The Roses of Prose.
Whenever I want to write faster, my go-to challenge is NaNoWriMo, a free contest held every November challenging you to write a book in a month. I wrote the first drafts for my books The Shadow of A Dog I Can’t Forget and Squinting Over Water during a NaNo challenge. I finished a first draft of my third book Little Earthquakes– Fast Lit To Go in the November 2016 Nano contest. Here’s the plan I followed. Hopefully it makes you a faster writer too:
1. Each night, an hour or two before I fell asleep, I wrote down what I wanted to accomplish in a story the next day. I brainstormed the perfect conflict for my character, the highlights of scenes I wanted to write. I tried to determine how he or she loves ‘cuz come on, isn’t that at the core of most good stories?
2. If I got stuck in my writing, I followed the good advice of an L.A. screenwriter who suggested writing down the words AND THEN and keep going. If I’m still stuck, I ask myself: What are my story’s interesting events? Do my character’s meet randomly or is there an interconnectedness nobody saw coming? Does the story have any dark secrets, any crash and burn moments? If I was really stumped, I got some exercise, either a fast run or some jumping jacks and push ups! I try to remind myself often of why I write –for me it’s to find out what every story is about.
3. During this manic fast writing month, I kept a fragment file. Good ideas are everywhere, sometimes you just don’t know where to put them. I found the name for my narrator in Little Earthquakes, Holliday Crisp, on a discarded apple crate in a Whole Foods parking lot! As writers, we’re all little spies. Nothing is ever lost on us.
A good resource book I found is Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan. If I found myself using too many he said/she saids, I’d open up Bryn’s book where she’s got lists of everything we need to create a great story broken down into sections:
Descriptions (Gestures, body language, emotional descriptions, evocative images);
Settings – (Sounds, scents, 100 interesting settings for scenes); Plotting; Action – (Words for action scenes, sex scenes, that show attraction, etc.); Dialogue; Character Names; and Character Traits. I never used an exact idea Bryn suggested but just reading through some of her lists got me back on track with my story.
Here’s my quick take on what fast writing is to me:
F= Feel your character’s mood & emotions. What does your character want? What obstacles are in the way? Get that all out on the page.
A= Accountability. Nothing keeps me writing faster than deadlines like NaNo.
S = Scenes, surprises, side trips & set backs, your story needs all of this.
T = Try to thread what matters most to your narrator throughout the story. Like the hem on a dress, you can’t see it, but it does an important job.
Thanks for having me! READ…READ…READ… & WRITE…WRITE…WRITE.
For inspiration anytime, please contact me -firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @WordActress Instagram: wordactress/Mary Kennedy Eastham
Thought I’d share with you a story from my third book Little Earthquakes:
A human life lasts an average of 30,000 days. The man on the phone said it was Exit 89. I asked him to repeat it twice. We’d know it, he said, when we crossed the line from California into Nevada and saw the giant drive-in theatre screen they forgot to tear down. It’s just a truck stop now, he said, an easy in and out for guys like him, too long on the road. His voice softened. I can still remember wiping the extra butter, melting down the sides of those big tubs of popcorn from my baby girl’s pretty lips. She’s a teenager now, making bad choices. He blamed himself. A lawyer already told him all about us. There wasn’t much else to say. We arranged to meet on Wednesday, early evening.
The summer wind was easy that night. I hung my head out the car window
ready to puke, thinking we should turn back. The exchange was quick. He handed us each a twin baby and that was that. Kentucky Fried Chicken Wings and a warm Coke split between us and we were a family. The babies whimpered in my arms, a first cry for us, that sound like fireworks in the crescent mooned sky. My husband found an easy-listening station, something he thought the babies might like. Driving away that night, SUV tires crushing tiny pebbles under us, the lights on the freeway were firefly eyes open to young strangers making babies they couldn’t afford at a truck stop, and me with a dream in each arm, the Ziploc bag I’d crammed half our savings into blown flat against the windshield as the radio announcer said we were now 280 days into the year and they’d just felt their first little earthquake on the California/Nevada border.