FWIS: Growing Your Story

7 Dec

FWIS (From Where I Stand) is a monthly piece I’m doing with Abby Mumford & Jessica Corra… all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. Check out their links for this months FWIS from their point of view!

So, growing my story….

No matter who you talk to, each writer is going to grow her story differently. Even if you found two people who were 100% plotters, they’re still going to go about it in different ways. That’s one of the beauties of writing – there are very few “wrongs” out there (although, I’m sure we’ve all felt like we’ve hit one or two along the way!).

I’ve talked a lot about my process over the couple years I’ve been blogging here and at the Purple Hearts, but that’s not really what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the story itself.

One of the huge turning points for me my first year of writing was getting to study under the absolutely amazing Jenny Crusie at one of the Low Country Master Classes with four other women. It was intense, eye-opening and boundary pushing.

And Jenny managed to not push me off the balcony when tool after tool didn’t work for me. I realized I needed to stop trying to use tools ahead of time to create my story. Tools were for cleaning up my writing.

For me, the story is something that’s in me already. It’s living there like a long forgotten memory, buried under all the daily to-do’s and more urgent or frequently discussed memories. It’s like the thing you have in the back of your mind and haven’t thought of in years, and then one day…


Something triggers that memory.

We’ve all had this happen. Someone says something a particular way or we catch a whiff of a scent that brings us back. Maybe it’s an old song that never gets played or even a piece of clothing that reminds us of a place and time. But there it is, that long forgotten memory drifting to the front of your brain.

Once it’s there, it starts to dig in, popping up in the strangest places throughout the day.

Picture my life as a dinner party (I know, aren’t I fabulous) where somehow this memory from wayyyyy back gets mentioned.

One tiny part opens up to another tiny part and the more we talk about it (think about it) the more the memory becomes fleshed out… Things that would be tiny details in writing are just bits and pieces. Right now, my characters are reminding me of that night they went skinny-dipping and the clay-mud bottom of the pond oozed between her toes holding her in place as much as her fear or embarrassment would have.

Then I mull that, as I remember that night, it grows and builds till I’m dreaming about it like I do my own memories. One small thing leads into another, Oh yeah! I remember that. Once it takes hold, there are dreams that push the story along as I rush to keep up each day writing it out. It never feel like thinking… I know this sounds odd. It feels like remembering. It’s real and vivid and feels like it couldn’t have happened any other way.

When I get to the end, very occasionally I have another Oh, yeah! moment  – Just like I would after leaving the dinner party.

And then, it’s all there – the big picture, the quirky little things that would have only been remembered by my character, the bits and pieces of maturity that distance can bring —– It may look like a mess because it’s written in a crazed race of 9-12 days, but it’s all there. The guts.


The rest, as I keep telling myself (and anyone else who will listen) is in the edits.

6 Responses to “FWIS: Growing Your Story”

  1. Jo Ramsey December 7, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    That’s similar to the way I write. The story exists, I just have to remember it and write it down. Or listen to my characters when they dictate it to me… Great post. It’s important to remember that what works for one author–or even most authors–won’t work for everyone. We all have our own processes.

  2. abby mumford December 7, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    this idea of remembering a story instead of thinking about it is very provocative. i haven’t ever thought about it like that nor have i ever heard it described as such. thanks for making my brain work early on a wednesday morning!

  3. briaq December 7, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    JO!!!!! I love that even other writers think I’m nuts – thank you so much for being there with me – I agree, we should never let anyone tell us what’s working for us is wrong… It’s just wrong for them. 🙂

    Abby, writers think I’m nuts when I talk about remembering my story. Jenny went on to tell me that I’m an “intuitive” writer like her lovely friend Susan Elizabeth Philips… I’ve never met her, but I worship both of them, so it’s nice to fit both names in one post 😉

    Come to find out, intuitive writers are a small, odd group. I’m not surprised I fit in there *sigh* or maybe *giggle*

  4. Kat Cantrell December 7, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Here’s the interesting thing – I TOTALLY feel this way about the occasional song (not ones I’ve written, ones I hear on the radio). I just never had a good way to describe it other than yes, this song has always existed out there in the universe and thank goodness this person or group snatched it from the air and recorded it. It’s just a perfect blend of lyrics, music and emotion. Everlong by the Foo Fighters is a good example of that (for me). No matter how many times I hear it, I still get chills during the opening bars…

    I never thought about my writing process as being similiar and now I want to examine it with your post in mind. I’ve always seen the story unfold in my head like a movie and that’s why I try so hard to get the first draft right – which I know you’ve questioned – because I have a hard time seeing it unfold a different way once I’ve got it captured. Maybe I need to think about it like you say, as remembering something that I forgot, not as it being “different.”

    You’re so good at making me think. Glad you’re back from the land of no social media. 🙂

  5. briaq December 7, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Kat! Another one sucked to the dark side.

    And thanks – I needed a break. Sometimes, all that noise is just bad for the creative (and life-balance) juices!

  6. Content Writers December 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much. You have excellent content on your blog.

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