Wednesday, January 25, 2017


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

Twitter: @WordActress  Instagram: wordactress/Mary Kennedy Eastham


Thought I’d share with you a story from my third book Little Earthquakes:

                                                TRUCK STOP

            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.


Leah St. James said...

Welcome to the Roses, Mary! Fantastic writing advice. Although I have to confess I am an annual NANO failure. It seems the word NaNoWriMo has the opposite effect on me, and it's usually my least productive month. (Maybe I have some kind of oppositional disorder.) I took pity on myself this year and skipped it. :-) So glad it works for you though. I'm going to check out the Bryan Donovan book. Thanks!

Wonderful story excerpt. You definitely hooked me, and I'm going to check out the book!

Wishing you tons of success.

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds like you have a successful process. My goal is to write clean not fast. The first draft takes longer, but edits are quick and easy. I'd fail Nano. Wow, I'm guessing the couple in your excerpt has a heap of heartache in their future!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks for joining us, Mary. Love the titles of your books and your careening comparisons in your prose. I'm so happy you've found an approach to writing that's glove-fit for you. Those days we write and smile the whole time are precious.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

How nice of you to join us on the Roses, Mary. Every November, I'm always in the middle of a book with a deadline looming, so I never participate. My hat's off to those who do. Like Jannine, I have to write a clean chapter before I can proceed, even if it means 6 rewrites like the chapter I just finished...and I'm still not sure. It's chapter one. I think I have too many people in it. Maybe after I write the next two chapters I'll go back and see. It's a compulsion. I can't write fast and move on, knowing all my typical mistakes are there, laughing at me. We each have our own way. Your excerpt was very intriguing and tugged at my heartstrings. So well done.

Alicia Dean said...

Welcome and thank you for the fantastic post...great advice! I need to do some serious fast writing, so I'll give your tips a try. Enjoyed your story!

Barbara Edwards said...

Great advice. I have to use that list.

Margo Hoornstra said...

First of all welcome to The Roses of Prose. Thanks for all the valuable info. I'm another namowrimo dropout. Maybe some year. Your excerpt was excellent. A real page turner in my book.

Diane Burton said...

Welcome and thanks for sharing your writing process. I checked out Master Lists, liked what I saw and bought it. I think I have a hard cover of that book somewhere. I got the ebook so I have it at hand. Best wishes.