The Writer’s Mind—A Literary Vitamix
I love blends. I don’t like pure cotton, because it shrinks. I don’t like plain chocolate–I like to have some nuts thrown in there (I don’t like pudding for the same reason, I like assorted flavors and textures). I love the new Coca Cola machines I see in fast food restaurants because I like Coca Cola and I like cherry, and I don’t want to have to choose.
I’m the same when it comes my writing, which makes it hard for me to pigeonhole whatever it is I’m working on (besides the broad category of novel, poem or short story). Me, I’m “V.C. Andrews meets Mormonism”, or “Fractured Fairy Tales” twisted with Biblical allegories. I even came up with a Shaggy God story told from a grown-up Alice (of Wonderland fame).
Blending genres starts off as an art (like cooking) and ends up being a science (like baking). You not only have to have the raw materials, you must make sure they’ll work together. If writing is painting with words, my palette is the Crayola 64-count.
What helps me most with novel writing is to make a full outline (and back story, though you must be careful with this—a reader is supposed to get to know the characters as they would a real person, a little bit at a time), and make sure something happens in each chapter. Each of my chapters is like a mini-short story, instead of just a continuation of the previous. That keeps me on track, and it’s also helpful if you want to have a cache of short stories on hand for contests (before the book is being considered by an agent).
Though it’s still a challenge to convert chapters of a book into stand-alone short stories, this way makes it easier.
If you have imagination, you can find the extraordinary in the ordinary. You won’t even need to look, because writers see what non-writers see. When I see an apple, I don’t just see a red, green or yellow (or candied) apple, I see Eve’s curiosity, the legend of William Tell, the story of Johnny Appleseed…
Sometimes just one word can be an inspiration. Think acrostic poetry.
Other times, a person, no matter how small, can be one of our greatest inspirations. Before my child was even born, I wrote her a nursery rhyme, which inspired me to write forty-nine more for a collection. Rather than putting my fifty eggs in one basket, I’ve been trying to publish them individually (while seeking a publisher who would consider publishing them as a book). That inspiration led to writing personalized nursery rhymes for my friends, who have been having babies.
Building up and then breaking down (whether it be books into chapters, or collections into individual short stories or poems), that’s what I do. You must be flexible that way. I’ve had novel chapters that make better short stories.
Like poetry, I used to think short stories were waste of time (at least commercially), but then I read an article where many big movies had been made from short stories. Even if no one else reads them, Hollywood does. Look what Tinseltown has done for Nicholas Sparks.
As a writer, I go through phases—I went through a Harlequin romance phase, then a creative nonfiction phase, and now I’m going through a poetry phase. I love having lots of different projects going on at once, which is ironic, as I can only read one book at a time.
Though many authors are known for one genre, I must stay versatile, or I get bored with my own writing, and if you’re bored writing it, “they” will be bored reading it.